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 18, 2014
Mr. President: It was not long ago that Ukraine had an elected government and
peace. But then the President sought to move away -- away from a western ambit
and look east. It was rational. Russia gave cheap gas and real economic aid; the EU
promised loans and austerity. Not acceptable to the US, very soon demonstrations
were organized exploiting the populace's love affair and imaginings of an opulent
When that did not work, provocations, violence, and a self-confessed (cost of $5
billion) coup organized by the State Department's Victoria Nuland led to a fractious
government and a civil war. In this mess an airliner has been shot down killing 298.
Why did the Ukraine aircraft controller send it on such a path? Who has the
capability? Ukrainian government forces clearly do and the rebels claim they do not
(but might) and cannot shoot down an airplane flying that high. Clearly, an
international investigation is necessary.
The media blame the Russians. Just a few months ago, people in Ukraine were living
regular lives. Now there are thousands of refugees across the border in Russia.
Many are dead on both sides of the civil war with no end in sight. Superpowers and
global ambitions, and ordinary civilians pay the price. They continue to do so in Iraq,
Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan (which still hosts the largest member of refugees
of any country according to the UN's latest report) and others. That all these
interventions have a common US footprint should be a cause for shame but they do
not because the destruction is all the result of a 'war on terror' supposedly necessary
to keep us safe. In fact these governments have been secular or posed no threat.
And Ukraine is an obvious power play.
Nelson Mandela once said, what matters is not how long you live but the difference
you make in peoples lives. After the destruction of Libya and the brutal death of the
man who supported him and the ANC (African National Congress) when the West
labeled them terrorists, it was no surprise you were not able to see him on your visit to
The hundreds killed in Gaza is the latest atrocity. You support Israel's right of
self-defense. Who does not? The only problem with that logic is that you cannot
start a war and then protest the rockets fired in response. One gets tired of talk of
human shields in a densely packed Gaza (4505 persons per sq km vs 366 in Israel) --
a prison in recent years because of the Israeli blockade. Fully a quarter of the
200-plus dead are children. The latest horror is four boys (aged 9 to11) on a Gaza
beach killed by gunboat shelling. One wonders how children playing soccer on a
beach could have been human shields when they were right in front of a hotel used
by foreign journalists.
'Our war is not with civilians' is a refrain in Gaza. 'Acting to protect civilians' was
purportedly the purpose in Libya. Then why bomb the water supply infrastructure in
both places. Inflicting pain to force acceptance has not worked in forty years. But it
might confer advantage in domestic politics. And so a Gazan five-year old will have
experienced this horror three times in his short life.
Children and women are the major civilian casualties in Gaza, the heated-up crisis in
Ukraine has led to further tragedy, and the US President's schedule takes him to
California for three days of fund raising . Such is the state of American politics in
2014 with confidence in Congress hitting 7%, in the President 29%, and the latter's
approval rating at an all-time low.
Not capturing big headlines in the US media is the news that the BRICS leaders at
their meeting in Brazil agreed to open a bank to rival IMF and the World Bank; some
have already started to trade in local currencies -- actions threatening the dollar's
role as the world's reserve currency.