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 22, 2014
Mr. President: An interesting equation has developed in the Middle East. There is
ISIS, and then there is everyone else ... or almost. Everyone is against ISIS: the US,
the UK and EU countries, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Iraq, the Kurds; and Saudi
Arabia remains silent. Yet, by all accounts, ISIS is organized, well-trained and
well-armed, possessing sophisticated weapons. The Iraqi army and the vaunted
Kurdish fighters were no match in its lightning advance until US airpower blunted their
It leads to the obvious question of who armed and trained the ISIS fighters if everyone
is opposed to them. Perhaps the answer lies in the curiously silent Saudis, the
arming and training of Syrian rebels, and the schizophrenic US policy within the
region. In Iraq, the US is bombing ISIS and has inserted Special Forces to advise,
train, and assist the locals; in Syria, where the US wants the Assad regime deposed,
ISIS is not touched, although ISIS does not respect borders and its arms and fighters
move freely across. But here is the worst: ISIS weaponry is US, and consequently
there is a strong likelihood of US Special forces opposing US equipment and possibly
training. Such are the alignments, realignments and misalignments of US policy. It is
also not new. Think of the Afghan fighters paraded at the White House and likened to
the US founding fathers by President Reagan.
So Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Bush holdover, opposes the Libyan
intervention, but Hillary Clinton, the original hippie, anti-war activist becomes the
pro-war hawk and wins the support of the President. The results are transparent as
the Islamist extremists spread their virus south. Libya itself is a wreck, the
infrastructure destroyed by bombing, including a precious water delivery system. How
that protected civilians (the UN mandate) is not clear; it certainly cannot have
improved their health or welfare or chances of survival, remembering that most
casualties of war are indirect. Libyans are fleeing the chaos, and Europe, particularly
Italy, is the destination of thousands of new refugees -- many have died trying. In
comparison during the Gaddafi regime, few Libyans, if any, sought shelter abroad.
They did not need to, for Libya boasted the highest Human Development Index in
Millions of refugees from Iraq; millions from Syria, millions from Afghanistan -- into
Pakistan which still harbors the highest number of refugees of any one country
according to UNHCR figures; and tiny Lebanon is overwhelmed. Yet, the story does
not end. We now have thousands of refugees pouring out of eastern Ukraine. Were
these displaced and victimized humans to voice complaint about their misery, almost
all would be writing to the same address ...
But the word 'refugee' does not convey a face, a name, a person. James Foley does,
and we are outraged. It's a natural human response. Our hearts go out to his family,
and to a life cut short brutally.
The brutality of war has come home. Not just for the Foley family, but also to Britain.
The sickening beheading was carried out by a British national. It has come back to
Ferguson, Missouri in the militarization of its police force (and across the US), in the
indoctrination of police officers into a war mentality, in the numerous "wars" waged by
law enforcement -- the 'war on crime' the 'war on drugs'; it is no longer a fight but a
war. SWAT teams in full combat gear breaking down front doors, throwing in smoke
and stun grenades, all to serve a warrant, could not have been imagined by the
founding fathers seeking to protect our person, papers and privacy in the courteous
manner of the eighteenth-century English gentleman.
Are we more civilized? We don't fight duels it's true, although one wonders if we did,
would we have better behaved politicians?