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 31, 2012
Mr. President: There has been another shooting; this time at a New Jersey
supermarket leaving three dead as reported early morning today. Apparently an
argument among coworkers led to one of them going out to his car, returning with an
assault rifle and an automatic and shooting up the place. It used to be, people would
withdraw and calm down; some might resort to fisticuffs or damage property. But the
kind of random shootings now commonplace were extraordinarily rare. So what has
Violence is now pervasive and often mindless, particularly in entertainment and video
games. Worse, the government's real life wars, proxy wars, use of torture, abduction,
mercenaries, private security firms whose personnel have frequently grabbed
headlines for killing innocent civilians, the recent summary execution of a citizen by
drone strike, all indicate a preference for violent resolution rather than strict
adherence -- albeit cumbersome -- to the legalities.
Not surprisingly, the latest arms sales figures are also indicative of a marked
propensity to promote the use of force among allies. World arms sales in 2011 were
$85.3 billion of which Russia (our new whipping boy) sold $4.8 billion, the rest of the
world accounted for $14.2billion, and we sold the rest -- a whopping $66.3 billion.
Among the major purchasers, Saudi Arabia bought $33.7 billion, India $6.9 billion and
tiny Gulf States' UAE bought $4.5 billion. Saudi Arabia's population of 16 million
nationals is miniscule in comparison with India's 1.2 billion, so one wonders at their
inordinate need for arms until we discover their role in the violence in Syria. It is also
worth noting that in these matters the Gulf States tend to follow the Saudis' lead.
If the commander of the Libyan revolution's ground forces (Khalifa Belqasim Haftar)
was a 20-year Vienna / Langley, Virginia transplant with CIA ties, the head of the
rebel group calling itself the Syrian National Army is equally lacking in homespun
credentials. Mr. Burhan Ghalioun is the president of the Executive Committee of the
Syrian National Council. He is resident in Paris and has not given up his day job as a
professor and director of the Center for Contemporary Eastern Studies at the
According to an article by Professor Thierry Meyssan, the founder / director of the
Axis for Peace Conference and the Voltaire Network, Mr. Ghalioun was previously an
adviser to Abbassi Madani, a prominent Algerian Islamic fundamentalist leader, who
fled following the civil war and is now a refugee in Qatar -- a sheikhdom supporting
the rebels in Syria as it did in Libya. In 2007, the Islamic faction was renamed Al
Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. It trained with Al Qaeda in Libya and now the two
groups are fighting together with the rebel Free Syrian Army.
It all begs the question: How long will it be before these groups turn on their erstwhile
supporters, as they have in Afghanistan? And why do we find horrendous civilian
casualties acceptable in an uncertain cause -- Libya is not over by any means --
instead of consistent non-violent pressure? Of course the end game seems to be a
compliant regime not a democratic one. But even that is not guaranteed -- witness
The Republican Convention was relegated to the cable stations by the major
networks, except for PBS of course. Their judgement in this instance ... unerring. No
doubt the same fate awaits the Democrats next week.