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
Oct 7, 2011
Mr. President: We have arrived at the tenth anniversary of the war in
Afghanistan; no end in sight. General Stanley McChrystal's rather frank
remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday paint a somber
picture. By saying, "of the remaining tasks ... the most difficult may be
creating a legitimate government that ordinary Afghans can believe in and
that can serve us a counterweight to the Taliban", he delegitimizes the
Karzai government, legendary in corruption even by Afghan standards, and
at the same time admits the Taliban operate a parallel authority.
As an Afghan explained to a BBC interviewer recently: If he goes to the
Taliban, he knows he can get honest if harsh justice; on the other hand, the
government authorities respond only to the biggest handout. Mr. Karzai's
brother, until he was assassinated, was the drug kingpin in Afghanistan.
Sack loads of cash have been smuggled out of Kabul to the Gulf states; all of
this information documented by new sources. To top it all, the government
and the army are dominated by the Northern Alliance, a Tajik-Uzbek minority
detested by the majority Pashtuns straddling the nominal border with
Pakistan. What prospect for long-term peace does such a scenario offer, or
is our policy an attempt to keep the lid on until the next election?
The PBS NewsHour remembers and honors our dead whenever the
Pentagon releases the casualty lists. It pains me to see the pictures of
young men and occasionally women cut down in their prime. To what end?
Al-Qaeda has become an idea and extremist groups setting up anywhere in
the world use the name as it brings instant notoriety. Al-Qaeda does not
need Afghanistan. Moreover, the Arab Spring has done more to neutralize
its influence than anything we have done; our actions, according to many
reports, serve to inflame emotions.
The Nobel Peace Prizes were announced today. The Committee has an
attraction towards Heads of States, who unfortunately carry unsavory
baggage sometimes. This year, one of the three women winners is President
Sirleaf of Liberia, an erstwhile supporter of the notorious Mr. Taylor of the
same country who was brought up before the International Criminal Court
charged with war crimes.
Two years ago, you, Sir, took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and used
your acceptance speech to talk about "just war", claiming one could not talk
to the likes of the Taliban and Hitler. Well, we were talking to the former until
they discovered we planned to keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014. So
they left the talks and responded in their own way. On the Second World
War, let me recommend the late historian Howard Zinn. As he notes the
obvious, the choice of "just war" did not save Germany's Jews, nor the
twenty-plus million Russians who perished or the millions of other civilians
killed in Europe and Asia through the ravages of war including barbarous
The "Occupy Wall Street" movement is gaining momentum, and one can but
admire the Democrats' deft judo-like move to position itself alongside. Who
can forget Bill Clinton's repeal of Glass-Steagall ably assisted by, if not at the
behest of, your famed mentor Robert Rubin and his sidekick Larry Summers,
the latter obligingly hired by you. Of course, their protege still heads
Treasury. The demonstrators are out there and not lining up to join the
Democratic party because they know. They also know Dodd-Frank is
toothless, and Elizabeth Warren has been eased out.