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
November 14, 2014
Mr. President: Congratulations on the twin agreements with China at APEC. Both the
fossil fuel reduction and the trade tariff breakthrough to include 200 new products are
most welcome. And the subsequent visit to Myanmar for the ASEAN meeting was
highlighted in the media not by economics but the issue you raised of the
dispossessed Rohingya Muslims. High time that government was held accountable.
Unfortunately, as everyone knows, words are seldom enough; they have to be
followed by concrete action. What remains appalling and shocking (as these people
were being murdered and burnt out of their homes) is the startling fact that many of
these people had been living there for five hundred years -- longer than the history of
the US. The confusing acquiescence through silence of your fellow Nobel Peace
Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has certainly tarnished her image in many eyes.
There is a clear intolerance in Burma for the minorities resident in its periphery, who
have been used and abused by its military rulers. Nationalism of this nature is not
new -- Serbia in the former Yugoslavia comes to mind, and Mr. Modi the new Indian
PM was not averse to fanning anti-minority sentiment in his rise to power. Indeed, he
could not obtain a visa and was barred from the US for many years, until he became
India's leader, on account of the Gujarat pogrom of Muslims.
But there is a climate of Muslim bashing in the US media where all kinds of heinous
behavior is ascribed to Islam. And true Muslim heroes/heroines are portrayed as
refugees from Islam, when, in fact, they are escaping only a very small group of
extremists. A case in point is Malala Yusufzai, who is lauded across Pakistan.
Worse still, voices to counter the Islam bashing are not given a say in the mainstream
media. It brings to mind John Stuart Mill's age old essay on the subject of freedom
when he wrote:
"Protection against the tyranny of the majority is not enough: there needs to be
against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feelings; against the tendency of
to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices ..."
This week the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced "drills" to maintain
again a presence in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, the western Atlantic and eastern
Pacific. So nuclear-capable old Soviet-era bombers will be patrolling the skies. Given
the numerous accidents with our own nuclear weapons (including accidentally
dropped bombs), one cannot but be concerned with the aging Russian behemoths,
which could also pose a risk to commercial airplanes particularly in the busy
Even more worrisome, if we are returning to the cold war, are the poor strategic
thinking and inflexible U.S. plans for the actual use of nuclear weapons. Eric
Schlosser's disturbing 2013 book, "Command and Control" offers a glimpse of what it
was, and the possibility that our present arsenal is safer. At the time the book came
out, the cold war was a distant memory and we could set it aside with a sense of
relief. Now, thanks to the insatiable neocon appetite for American hegemony and a
policy establishment drunk with its own success (or, to some, failure) we have Ukraine
and a return (seemingly) to the cold war.