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
August 9, 2013
Mr. President: Today, August 9, is the day Nagasaki was incinerated sixty-eight
years ago. Thousands vaporized instantaneously. They were the lucky ones for
many were to die more painfully worse deaths from burns, radiation sickness and
other ills in the next few months. Hiroshima suffered the same fate. The fire
bombings of Japanese cities, then consisting mostly of wooden structures, caused
horrendous loss of life. Just a few months earlier, over a 100,000 were killed in one
night in Tokyo.
Dresden, a beautiful baroque city with no military value and thus packed with
refugees, suffered a similar fate. Its horror was chronicled by Kurt Vonnegut, a POW
there, in "Slaughterhouse Five" -- essential reading for modern leaders it would seem.
Germany did not surrender because of the bombings, and now new evidence
unearthed from the diaries of Japanese wartime leaders shows that it was the Soviet
Union's physical entry into the war -- they had abrogated their non-aggression treaty
with Japan a few months earlier -- that convinced the Japanese High Command to
surrender quickly to the Americans.
How did wholesale slaughter of civilians become a civilized way of war? Civilized only
in the sense of developed (mostly Western) nations deciding it was an acceptable
norm of behavior. At least, in the bad old days, civilians were preserved for they
produced the wealth, while the fighting and rivalry continued between the warrior
class nobility for the right to control that wealth.
Ever since WW II, the immense destructive power of heavy weaponry and the
concepts of total war have combined to escalate civilian casualties. Not only do they
outnumber the combatants, but they are often several times their number. Over
twenty million Russians perished in the aftermath of the German invasion. In Syria,
the death toll exceeds 100,000, and over a million formerly self-supporting productive
civilians, now reduced to the generosity of international donors, have sought shelter
in neighboring countries. Before them, Iraqis fled to Syria and many have been
forced to flee again. The wars in Afghanistan caused millions to come to Pakistan
where they stayed for decades.
How does one explain to a six-year old without the home he lived in, who has lost
members of his family, that it was a decision made by policy gnomes in Washington?
And to the seven-year old, who is hurried past the row of dead bodies, covered in
blood-stained white sheets, laid out on cots in front of his physician father's surgery;
yet the scene remains seared in memory. How do you explain to him it was a decision
in London, in haste, to wash hands off India as it became an economic burden; a
hasty Lord Mountbatten, a careless incompetence, a disregard for common people,
where the single row of blood-stained white would grow to over a million before it was
No one heeds these questions as the politics of advantage trump everything else.
And what advantage when the end result of war is almost always unexpected. Iran
has the most influence in Iraq; Italian Fiat now owns Chrysler; Germany has wiped-out
the British auto industry, and Japan has done the same to the U.S.
What is the definition of someone who does the same over and over expecting a