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 21, 2013
Mr. President: The visit to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin following the G8 summit
bore a very different complexion from the two previous such occasions (Kennedy
1963, Reagan 1987). Not only was the crowd significantly smaller and by invitation
only, but the signs of the protesters around the corner were indications of a weary
and disillusioned European public. Imagination, however, was not in short supply with
signs like "Yes we scan" and "I have a drone". Others likened the behavior to the
STASI, the notorious East German secret police, and the commonplace "Leave my
data alone" or "My data belongs to me" were numerous.
Are we now on our way to becoming the former Soviet Union where people used
public telephones to ensure they were not spied upon, and for a safe private
conversation would choose a public place like a park? Like the Soviet dissidents,
whistleblowers are being pursued, persecuted and prosecuted as harshly as possible,
while perpetrators often remain free. This when the only concrete evidence of harm
is embarrassment for some governments.
This week we have also learned from the head of the FBI that drones are being used
to spy on individuals in the U.S. Hardly anyone is surprised at "Uncle Sam wants you"
turning into "Peeping Tom is watching you".
The proposal to reduce nuclear weapons while admirable is loaded with irony. When
the Russians were ahead with Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) technology, we persuaded
them to sign the ABM treaty, which they did in good faith, only to face later a unilateral
abrogation of the treaty by the U.S. Now that the U.S. is ahead in ABM development,
your proposal leaves Russia at a disadvantage. It is about as disingenuous, if not
quite so blatant, as stationing ABM batteries (next door to Russia) in Poland and
claiming it counters a nonexistent Iranian threat.
Karzai's government just walked out of the peace talks with the Taliban. The mess in
Libya, the weekly multiple bombings in Iraq, the fourth generation victims of agent
orange in Vietnam point to the on-going tragedies of our wars -- many innocent
victims yet without desirable or desired outcomes. Despite the history, more weapons
are going to be supplied to Syrian rebels using the excuse of sarin gas use by the
government when no conclusive evidence has been provided. Is it going to be this
administration's Colin Powell moment? Are we being drawn into another war?
The death toll in Syria is now over 93,000 according to the U.N., an unproportionate
number since last summer after the last agreement brokered by Kofi Annan was
sidelined in the U.N. by this country and the British. Instead the war was intensified
when more weapons were supplied to the rebels. They enter and ensconce
themselves in undefended cities, towns and villages which then turn to rubble in the
fighting as government forces try to retake them. The civilians are the victims through
actual violence, disruption of food supplies or medical services and the loss of home
and possessions. As refugee numbers swell to one-and-a-half million from less than
half that number a year ago, one wonders if the promise of so-called democracy is
worth all the suffering ... after all we have a democracy and we still have unwanted
wars; a nightmarish healthcare system with no hope of a single-payer plan the vast
majority wants; income inequality greater than some developing countries; soaring
poverty levels -- up 50 percent in the decade since 2000; and the strangling of public