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
Sept 21, 2012
Mr. President: Today September 21, is UN Peace Day. Not many people are aware
of it; even fewer observe it -- a minute of silence at noon to honor the victims of war.
Almost everyone would if a siren reminded them.
It has been a difficult week in Afghanistan. In Helmand province, Camp Bastion, which
hosts the U.S. Camp Leatherneck, was attacked leading to the biggest single loss of
U.S. fighter planes since the Vietnam war. They destroyed six Harrier jets, heavily
damaged two others plus several helicopters, three refueling stations, and six
hangars. A Marine Lieutenant Colonel and Sergeant were killed.
Yet again there have been more "green on blue" attacks, where Afghan soldiers turn
on their U.S. or other ISAF trainers -- the total so far ... greater than twice that for all
of last year. The increasing frequency of these attacks has led to the indefinite
suspension this week of all joint NATO/Afghan National Army operations. It is a
serious blow undoubtedly to the strategy of training Afghans to protect the Kabul
government after U.S. withdrawal. By its own admission, the Afghan National
Army(ANA) lacks the equipment and expertise to conduct these operations by itself.
Thus not only will it forgo essential training, but the Taliban will soon be aware that
effective operations against them are on hold. It also puts a damper on efforts to
recruit more Pashtuns into the predominantly Northern Alliance dominated ANA, and
there is the additional fear, now enhanced, that different elements in the ANA might
turn on each other after U.S. withdrawal because a genuine esprit de corps has not
The futility of the Afghan intervention has been clear from the start as the tactical
methods employed conflict with the strategic goal. Allied with the Northern Alliance
composed of minority ethnic groups, we used their forces to help defeat the ethnically
Pashtun Taliban. The Northern Alliance then assumed a central role in government
and the ANA.
The Pashtuns have so far resisted all efforts to bludgeon them into submission.
While the Taliban happen to be Pashtun, their brand of Islam and their harsh rule
were never popular. But the brutalities of a guerrilla war have succeeded in driving
almost all Pashtuns into their arms. As the Pashtuns comprise the largest ethnic
group, the shortcomings of our approach might have been transparent.
An exit strategy in such wars is almost always problematic, but doubling up in this so
called "good" war has been sheer folly. Among a few other commentators, this letter
pointed out the flawed logic three years ago. Now we are leaving, the Taliban are
staying, and everybody knows it. Moreover, adjacent Pakistan with a traditionally
porous Afghan border -- the Pashtuns and their families live on both sides -- is being
radicalized and destabilized. It has close to a hundred nuclear weapons.
Such are the unexpected consequences of military intervention. Another example is
the current ludicrous situation where we are fighting fundamentalists in Afghanistan,
have supported them in Libya (including some Libyan veterans who had volunteered
to fight in Iraq ... on the opposing side!), and despite the recent blowback in Benghazi
(the killing of the U.S. Ambassador and three consular officials), are supporting
Libyan fundamentalist elements to fight in Syria.
War ravaged Afghanistan, bombed out Iraq and Libya, their infrastructures destroyed,
and now the destruction in Syria, do not make life better for ordinary people, and
certainly do not win us many friends. Perhaps a puppet government in Libya is better
for some but the locals are not stupid. Which senior U.S. official would dare to drive
in a cavalcade on the streets of any of these countries?
It is surely time we focused on domestic issues given the $16 trillion national debt, the
decayed infrastructure and the standstill economy. And one does not mean larding
out our Social Security payments and taxes to gambling banksters -- funds are
fungible in the budget.