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 18, 2015
Mr. President: President Karzai, the former Afghan leader, said in an interview this
week that he had never received any concrete evidence of an al-Qaeda presence in
Afghanistan despite all his intelligence sources. He is probably right as the few dozen
members of Osama bin Laden's self-styled group dissipated long ago. So why did we
pick a fight with the Taliban, who could not give up bin Laden in violation of their
traditions of duty to guests for they would have lost all credibility with their followers.
Moreover, a well-aimed cruise missile in the wake of a small team to identify and
locate the targets should have made sense, and was not impossible when Mr. bin
Laden occasionally sought publicity through interviews and media outlets.
Then Iraq, then Libya and an ongoing Syria; a media pounding the public with
anti-Muslim propaganda as if Islam is a monolith; and Gore Vidal's famous prediction
as the Soviet Union folded its flag and retired, that the "billion Muslims and the Arabs
in particular make a fine new evil empire to oppose." So the factories keep churning
out weapons and people keep dying. The cost of Afghanistan and Iraq between $4
and $6 trillion according to Linda Bilmes of Harvard's Kennedy School who was
formerly CFO at the US Dept of Commerce. No matter, vested interests remain
secure even if the social costs are horrendous -- shoddy schools, shoddy healthcare,
miserable retirement, unemployed youth with huge college loans -- for all except a
If one looks at Finland's school system -- the best in the western world -- the first thing
they talk about is equity. They focused on social equity and equal quality schools all
drawing from the same excellent pool of teachers. That's what they wanted and their
students' remarkable performance in PISA, the international tests, was as much a
surprise to them as to everyone else. Excellence became a side benefit of their
policies, and the constant stream of visitors who visit to tour their schools a routine.
And relating to the schools here this week, is the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a victim
of his name, ethnicity and religion. Thank you for standing up for this clever 14-year
old who built an electronic clock expecting kudos from his teacher; instead she called
the police thinking it was a bomb! The poor boy handcuffed, humiliated and in shock
ended up in jail. The police in the great city of Irving, Texas still feel they did nothing
wrong and their procedures ensure the safety of the community.
Most people would agree that courage in a politician is when they speak up for the
marginalized while they are up for elections. Had you stood up forcefully against the
barrage of anti-Muslim propaganda instead of assiduously remaining aloof for six
years, Ahmed would not have been humiliated and Muslims would not have to endure
unwarranted checks at airports where young women have been frequently
strip-searched for no other reason than their names and religion.
It's a free country they say ... is it? Ask Ahmed when he visits the White House.
Knowing his background, we know he will be too polite to answer.