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
December 18, 2015
Mr. President: This week the U.S. toned down its demand for Mr. Assad to step
down. At the talks in Moscow, Secretary of State Kerry appeared to accept the
Russian stance, at least for the time being, saying, 'we see Syria fundamentally very
similarly.' The old demand and policy were clearly getting us nowhere, and in the final
analysis not much, short of risking a nuclear war, was left after Russia with its 2000
warheads laid down a marker, undeterred by economic and military provocations.
Yesterday was Pope Francis' 79th birthday. His encyclical on climate change issued
in June was informed by the scientific mainstream, and his views compassionate. He
has repeatedly called for urgent action with justice for the poor.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded in Paris
with agreement on a goal to hold the rise in temperature this century to less than 2
degrees Celsius, and for an effort to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees
Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Yet there are no mandates and, despite the
name, certainly no framework to achieve these goals. The struggle continues.
Meanwhile the Republican candidates debating in Las Vegas had little time for climate
change. Their 'Campaign for America's Future' became a display of hysteria feeding
on irrational fear. The chances of an American being killed in a terrorist attack are
probably even smaller than winning a prominent lottery, yet the whole evening was
characterized by these putative presidential candidates wanting to carpet-bomb ISIS,
destroy Iran, shoot down Russian planes, take out Assad, etc. The Paris attack was
of course the trigger for this focus. But the attack was carried out by ISIS, while
Russia, Iran and Assad are fighting ISIS. Logic was not of any particular concern in
the candidates' indiscriminate assault on all the parties. Climate change which affects
all life, got nary a mention.
Wednesday, December 16, marked the first anniversary of the worst Islamist terrorist
attack in Pakistan. A school in Peshawar was the target and 129 were killed, some as
young as six. There is one unassailable fact: Before the war on terror and the
invasion of Afghanistan, terrorist attacks in Pakistan were a rarity. Since then
Pakistan has become the victim of a set of circumstances comprising ethnic
differences, jihadism introduced with CIA support to fight Russians who had occupied
Afghanistan, the Taliban trained to fight them, the Arabs and other jihadis also sent to
fight Russians (who in a turnabout after the Russians had departed) attacked the U.S.
on 9/11, etc. etc.
Like Laos and Cambodia, the countries on the periphery of America's wars are also
victimized. This is as true after Iraq and Libya as it is after Afghanistan.
As has been said before, one way to stop this current terrorism is for America to start
minding its own business. It is something to reflect upon as Christmas the season for
joy and peace draws near.
One final note: The question remains, where were all these jihadis and their
extremism spawned? For this we have to look at the relatively recent - 18th century --
Arabian peninsula Wahhabism, and its spread of religious schools proselytizing it
throughout the Muslim world particularly after the Russians entered Afghanistan. In
many countries like Pakistan it was in cahoots with the CIA.
And in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia had always felt threatened by secular
governments, as of Iraq, Libya and Syria. They are also opposed to their religious
brand of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and to Shia Iran.
While the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia has condemned ISIS, geopolitics results in
support. From a primitive interpretation of Sharia law to the destruction of historical
monuments, extremism spreads boundless like a virus. Nowhere is any of it
prescribed in the Koran. The wrath is reserved for idolaters. Moreover, Christians
and Jews have always occupied a special place as 'the people of the book' and thus
found sanctuary in Muslim lands. The Koran in fact insists against coercion in
religious belief (2:256) -- one reason why Hindus remained a majority in the Indian
subcontinent despite a millennium of Muslim rule.