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
July 4, 2014
Mr. President: Happy Fourth of July. Like everywhere else, in my little neck of the
woods we celebrate with outdoor games for children, petting zoos, music, live bands,
picnics, and, of course, fireworks. All that was yesterday. Today is the parade.
Everyone loves a parade, the clowns, the old cars, the bands and other miscellany.
The veterans deserving respect for their sacrifices are honored. They march with
I think of war and the havoc it causes, of the ninety percent of casualties that are
civilian. It is to be expected when food and medicine supplies are disrupted, when
electricity or gas supplies to the home become infrequent, when farmers are unable
to plant or harvest. Imagine the elderly and the daily pills keeping them alive, the
diabetics requiring insulin, those with kidney disease requiring dialysis, or the
susceptible very young; all these go first. Then even the young and healthy unlucky
enough to catch a bacterial infection succumb to it without antibiotics. As war
continues beyond the annual harvest cycle and food stocks disappear, malnutrition,
hunger and starvation take their toll.
It is easy then to imagine how a half million Iraqis lost their lives (epidemiological study
published in The Lancet) or twenty million Russians in the Second World War. That
war in the east was so vast it occupied most of the German army. No wonder Stalin
wanted a second front. We celebrated the seventieth anniversary of D-Day last June
6th, where the Russian leader was snubbed. But would D-Day have been successful
if most of the German army had not been tied up in Russia? Same question for the
Italian landings and North Africa.
There is now a tendency to underplay (underestimate) the Russian military's capacity
for war among State Department senior officials as they play their hand in Ukraine.
Mr. Kerry was notable in his absence as the foreign ministers of France, Germany
and Russia met in Berlin last week with Pavlo Klimkin their new Ukrainian counterpart.
That and a further flurry of diplomatic activity over the weekend failed to persuade the
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko into continuing the ceasefire in the east. He is
set on following the U.S. lead despite the glaring example of Iraq currently in the news
where the war cost hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and the country is torn
asunder. No one in their right mind can think of Iraq as being better off than even in
the days of Saddam Hussein. Tell it to the Christian Iraqi who had a successful
business in Iraq but had to flee in the post-invasion democracy and tried to run a 7-
Eleven in my neighborhood -- sadly unsuccessfully.
One wonders sometimes if our wars will ever end; one wonders also at the thinking
behind them and exactly who they benefit. Exactly how much better off are the
countries where we intervened and how much safer are we? If the intent is to help the
civilians, it is somehow incomprehensible why water-ducts (in Libya) bringing precious
water are bombed and civilian infrastructure destroyed. As waves of these civilians,
their lives uprooted, seek shelter elsewhere, how many might be susceptible to the
call of a militant group pointing its finger at the U.S. as a direct cause of their misery.
How then do these wars make us safer when none have the desired outcome? In
fact, often it's the opposite.
This week intelligence reports of a stealth bomb undetectible by scanners resulted in
even longer lines and wait times at certain airports. Perhaps the best way to be
secure is less intervention. After all, no one is bombing Switzerland. Will the next
bomber have his origins in Eastern Ukraine?