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
June 5, 2015
Mr. President: Tomorrow is the seventy-first anniversary of D-day -- the largest
amphibious assault in history. It marked the beginning of the end of the war. Would
the landings have been successful if the Wehrmacht had not also been bogged down,
or more accurately, being destroyed in Russia? By far the heaviest losses in the war
were borne by the Russian people. They lost twenty million -- a sacrifice Europeans
especially should be grateful for.
Meanwhile, the Germans behave as if an alien entity, the Nazis, controlled Germany --
the whole country's war effort, the millions in service, the millions on the home front,
the celebrations of victories in the early years, the blitzkrieg, the fall of France ... all
amnesia, including the bombing of London and the destruction of Coventry.
The air war from the allied side was even worse. The pointless destruction of
Dresden, with the loss of hundreds of thousands seeking shelter, in the belief no
civilized nation would bomb the beautiful baroque gem, is vividly portrayed in Kurt
Vonnegut's "Slaughter House Five." As has been noted on these pages earlier, it
should be bedtime reading for American presidents. Then we might not get an order,
'Kill anything that moves', as happened in Cambodia along the strip being used by the
Vietnamese to transport supplies. But the Vietnamese were transitory. What about
the farmers who had farmed there for centuries, their wives, their children?
Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne ... I visited some of the cities in the late fifties.
They were still almost all rubble.
The new construction in Cologne stood out, centered along the railroad station. The
famous Cologne cathedral was being restored and Eau de Cologne still being sold.
In Japan, the fire bombing of Tokyo, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and (the
subsequent and completely unnecessary) Nagasaki stand out.
A bomb dropped from the air is so indiscriminate; falling on a city, what is it likely to
hit? Guernica, Picasso's famous painting memorialized what happened to that city
one afternoon. It horrified people because it was first, the aerial bombardment of a
city, the killing of countless civilians. But the Second World War was to make it
commonplace. And now this human atrocity is accepted practice, with increasingly
clever euphemisms. Civilian casualties are collateral damage -- as the haystack goes
up in flames while trying to hit the needle. The first step in returning to a civilized
world is to make aerial bombardment of civilian areas a war crime.
The lessons of war long forgotten, we are back to belligerence. Japan must be
allowed to play its part ... change Article 9 of its constitution to be able to project
force. China must not build an airstrip on reclaimed land on one of the Spratly Islands
in the South China Sea ... .
On the last one, what are the facts? Well, actually, a more appropriate question
might be, who doesn't have an airstrip in the area? Everyone does. Malaysia has
one, plus military aircraft, on Swallow Reef. The Philippines have one on Thitu
Island. On Taiping, Taiwan has military planes. And Vietnam has one on Truong Sa.
Yet the propaganda mill keeps turning.