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
September 13, 2013
Mr. President: This week we remembered once again the victims and heroes of 9/11.
For a country not at war, the live images of an airliner crashing into a skyscraper, the
collapsing twin towers, the simultaneous attacks, was surreal. The surreal became
real, the shock turned to fear then anger. Unfortunately, a criminal act perpetrated by
an al-Qaeda gang was treated by the U.S. as an act of war by the Taliban-led,
ethnically Pashtun government. The latter, prisoner to their own code of honor, were
unable to surrender the chief perpetrator who had helped them against the Soviets.
And the scene for a tragedy was set. So twelve years of ravaging war against a
people, who have never heard of the Twin Towers (99 percent in a recent poll) and
do not know why the U.S. is in their country. Technology and resources in
abundance but not time, not for a President, himself also a prisoner to the collective
anger. Twelve years and many hundred billion dollars later Afghanistan is unstable
(as Iraq, as Libya), wretched with suffering, yet the Pashtuns remain unyielding and
the U.S. is desperate to pull out.
In my childhood, Afghanistan was a land of orchards exporting dried fruits and nuts --
a winter after-dinner treat beside the warming glow of crackling logs in the fireplace.
But trees so easily destroyed in war take years to replace, and families must eat.
Thus the fast growing crop of choice: Afghanistan is now the world's largest source of
There are no right wars. Bombing is not civilized. Killing civilians is not civilized.
Chemical weapons kill just as explosive bombs kill. Both are tactical, both lethal, both
undiscriminating. Some of the handiwork of drone strikes is far more gruesome than
the horror of a child gasping for breath.
September 11 is another anniversary, and to the Chileans a day forty years ago when
their democracy was violated. The coup engineered by Nixon and Kissinger killed the
democratically elected President, who, instead of yielding, said he would fight with his
life for his country's constitutional democracy. Physician, politician, the 65-year old
Salvador Allende was killed, helmet on his head, machine-gun in his hand. The
number of people murdered, an order of magnitude greater than the other 9/11; the
effect magnified another ten-fold in the much smaller population. And years of misery.
Guatemala, Iran, Indonesia, Congo, Pakistan and Latin American countries too
numerous to mention -- cozy dictators and snuffed out democracies. There is a
reason why the world responded negatively when you brought up Syrian intervention
at the G20 Summit. And this week at the Shanghai Economic Cooperation Summit (in
Bishkek, Krgyzstan) representing half the world's population, not a single voice in
The chemical weapons treaty (CWC) has to be signed and ratified. Five countries
have not signed on but seven i.e. two more have not ratified. Guess who? How
about a chemical weapons ban across the region? Better still, a ban on the only real
WMDs there might well bring sanity and stability. By the way, in addition to use, the
CWC also bans production and stockpiling both of which you carefully omitted. The
media never called you on it, and who else has time to investigate such issues.
Of course, if one country decides to violate the UN charter and international law, will
smaller threatened countries try to retreat behind the ultimate defense shield? The
answer might be obvious.