Weekly Letter to the President
Copyright © 2017
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 11, 2017 (posted August 13)
Mr. President: It has been a week of barking out military options, a week of
'everything is on the table', a week of threats no longer veiled. Not an example of
'cool as a cucumber', rather a red-face turning to purple with the intensity of the
What brought on this apoplexy, the 'fire and fury' to be unleashed not just at North
Korea, up to its usual blustering, but also on poor Venezuela. Why Venezuela?
Because it held an election to find some kind of solution to a recalcitrant right-wing
opposition (unable to come to terms with election losses) which has mounted an
unceasing campaign of disruption causing economic havoc.
What of North Korea? They claim to be readying plans to attack Guam. Doesn't take
much readying to send a missile, which will be just the excuse the U.S. needs to
flatten Pyongyang. Or are they readying plans to send an armada? Really? Of
course all the warmongering has given Mr. Trump a boost in his poll ratings with his
supporters viewing him more favorably again. And, it's a welcome distraction from
the Russia story.
The good news is that a back channel to the North Koreans is back in operation.
They had closed it after sanctions by the Obama administration. At the UN, Joseph
Yun, the U.S. envoy for North Korea has been doing the groundwork with North
Korea's Park Song Il, a senior diplomat with the country's UN mission. A reasonable
foundation can form the basis for future serious discussions.
If Mr. Yun is offering carrots, then it would make sense for Mr. Trump to wield a stick,
and it would be perfectly natural for him to brandish the biggest imaginable.
Economic carrots and a military stick brought the North Koreans to heel during the
Clinton administration when it sought closure of a plutonium plant. Estimates vary but
it's not impossible for it to have produced enough fissile material for fifty bombs were
it still in operation.
At the time, the U.S. wielded the stick and South Korea offered the economic carrot.
President Kim Dae Jung announced his "sunshine policy' leading to a meeting with
North Korea's Kim Jong Il. Within a few years the Kaesong Industrial Region was
established. South Korean companies installed factories taking advantage of
cheaper North Korean labor, and inter-country trade grew to make South Korea the
North's biggest trading partner.
So matters stood despite President George W. Bush and his inclusion of North Korea
in the notorious Axis of Evil in 2002. In 2007, Presidents Roh Moo Hyun and Kim Jong
Il signed a peace declaration with the intent of following up with an eventual formal
Sadly for peace, a religious-conservative wind rose in the form of South Korean
President Lee Myung Bak and blew the plans away. He abandoned the policy in early
2010. The North responded quickly, sinking a South Korean navy ship the Cheonan
with a torpedo. The feud continued, and we now have a nuclear missile armed North
If there is a silver lining, it is the new South Korean President Moon Jae In, a protege
of Roh Moo Hyun. President Moon is a proponent of the 'sunshine policy' and will be
happy to supply the necessary economic carrots.