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
October 12, 2012
Mr. President: This week happens to be the third anniversary of your Nobel Peace
Prize. As you yourself noted, you had not accomplished much to deserve it. It stands
to reason then that the prize was prospective and acceptance implied sealing a
bargain tying you to Alfred Nobel's legacy; instead, the failed escalation in
Afghanistan, the war in Libya, the insurgency in Syria employing non-Syrian Islamic
fundamentalists, the exponential rise in drone attacks amounting to an undeclared
war against several countries, all are diametrically opposed to Nobel's intent. Added
to this, the targeting of individuals marked for assassination by the President -- who
becomes judge, jury and executioner -- seems counter to a 200-year valued right to
habeas corpus in the U.S.
The escalation in drone strikes coupled with forcing the Pakistan army to intervene in
tribal areas has brought terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. It is a country where girls
have been educated for many years, and women play an important role in politics.
Benazir Bhutto who once ruled Pakistan is well known, but the current Foreign
Minister is also a woman, and there have been many others. A few days ago,
however, the Taliban targeted 14-year old Mallala Yusufzai who had spoken out
against the Taliban trying to force closure of girls schools. Seriously wounded in the
neck and head, she was flown from Mingora, a small town in Swat, to the city of
Peshawar and then to Rawalpindi where surgeons have been battling for her life.
The fact is there were no terrorist attacks in Pakistan, no burning of girls schools, no
threats to girls attending school before this war on terror. And the escalations since
2009 have worsened the situation to the point where, Imran Khan, held a march, last
weekend of at least a hundred thousand including Americans and others from around
the world, against drone killings. Imran Khan spent his youth playing professionally in
England, is a beloved cricket icon who led Pakistan to world championships. He is a
liberal -- open-minded enough to have been married for many years to the Jewish
heiress Jemima Goldsmith -- independent politician, and likely to play a major role in
Pakistani politics for many years. We appear to have alienated someone who one
would have thought was a natural ally, and quite possibly a helpful bridge as he is by
heritage a Pashtun. It is probably why the drone killings have so disturbed him.
Life in Waziristan has become hellish. Families in groups of dozens have always lived
in large walled compounds. The drone strikes killing indiscriminately wreak havoc.
Even the subsequent funerals have been targets -- also weddings -- and have
become of necessity small, attended only by close family members. People there
according to a recent Alternet article by Leah Bolger, a retired U.S. Naval officer, think
of their life as 'before drones' and 'after drones'. Drones circle overhead 24/7 and
the psychological damage, specially to children, has been debilitating. In a culture
where revenge by fathers, children and their children is a duty -- one reason for the
walled compounds -- we are busy generating enemies where there were none. The
Waziris never attacked us; they never sheltered al-Qaeda. All they want is for foreign
troops to stop bossing them around and leave. Unfortunately, the departure will leave
behind a thirst for revenge quite likely to resume a pointless cycle unless wiser heads