Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
May 27, 2011
Mr. President: This is Memorial Day weekend and quite naturally one's
thoughts turn to war and its inevitable consequences. To be frank, the
thought of eighteen-year old innocents (relatively) killing each other at the
behest of their leaders has never been appealing.
Not so long ago, one could drive by car from England to Australia with a sea
hop or two beyond Malaysia. It would require an intrepid adventurer willing
to take his life in his hands to do so now -- a testament to the failed policies
of war, coup and counter-coup, the use of hard power instead of soft power.
The sad fact is that our policies are not only a huge drain on the treasury, but
they have not made us safer. Our President now lives imprisoned in a
fortress, unable even to take a stroll, or buy a cup of coffee at the local
corner shop. He travels everywhere (even abroad) in a specially armored
car, not singly but with a decoy in a convoy of armed guards, electronic
counter measure vehicles and even a doctor with emergency equipment.
There is no just war, just war. Iraq has been devastated, Libya going through
the same, tribal rivalries exploited for disparate purposes. Mr. Gaddafi,
tolerated for four decades, through Lockerbie and Berlin, is suddenly
persona non grata. Why? Could it have anything to do with his latest
campaign seeking payment for African resources, including his oil, in gold
instead of dollars?
Afghanistan once renowned for its fruit and nuts now floods the world with
opium. Why? Because its orchards have been completely destroyed by war
and it takes years of careful tending for a fruit or nut tree to yield a harvest.
Like Iraq, there is hardly a family that has not suffered a loss.
In Pakistan, terrorist bombings, once unheard of, have become a daily
occurrence. The U.S. claims "elements" in authority were sheltering Bin
Laden; the Taleban instead consider the government complicit in his
assassination and the people are paying in blood -- hundreds have died in
several large-scale bombings and revenge attacks. Meanwhile, the drones
continue flying ... and killing. In 2010, drones killed 607 in Pakistan, reports
the New America Foundation of which two, 0.3%, were on the U.S. list of
most-wanted terrorists (National Counterterrorism Center at McLean, Va.) --
meaning 99.7% were not. According to the United nations, 2010 was the
deadliest year for Afghan civilians -- casualties soared to an all-time high; it
was also the deadliest year for American soldiers. Despite the trillions
expended, no U.S. President dare walk the streets of these countries
guarded or unguarded -- the armed convoy is used in Europe and other
"friendlies" ... and, of course, at home.
To those who call WW ll a "good" war, there is only one answer. No
negotiated settlement, no matter how dreadful, could have possibly resulted
in the extermination of European Jewry, the deaths of twenty million
Russians, millions of Germans, Japanese and Allies, and the horrors of
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and Coventry. Moreover, the bombing of
civilians in the "good" war has become a precedent for the appalling,
unnecessary destruction and killing that continues today. The irony is that
post-war the Germans and Japanese got what they wanted -- relatively free
access to markets -- and the Hitlers and Mussolinis would have died or been
kicked out and forgotten anyway ... not unlike Stalin, the one on our side.
The bomb and artillery shell do not distinguish between the combatant and
civilian, between Gadaffi and his toddler grandchildren, between the
terrorist and his pregnant wife, between a Hamas fighter and the daughters
of a physician peace activist.
Memorial Day commemorates veterans and so it should. They have gone
through hell because politicians proved unable to resolve conflicts;
politicians sitting in leather-bound armchairs in climate-controlled offices far
from desert heat or frostbiting cold; politicians fashioning justifications for
We will be civilized when just war becomes just peace ... .