Weekly Letter to President Obama
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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
July 1, 2011

Mr. President:  Independence Day is upon us but it has not engendered any
sense of unity of purpose among our political leadership.  Each side digging
in their heels -- too bad the Democrats did not dig in their heels on the tax
breaks for the really rich or the wars that have brought neither safety nor
reward.  We would not need to borrow as much if they had.

Boston University has just concluded a "Costs of War" project.  It is
comprehensive -- involving twenty economists, lawyers, anthropologists,
political scientists and humanitarians.  It compiles all military, civilian and
contractor casualties.  It includes the hidden costs of war like veterans'
benefits and interest on debt.  In sum, the cost can be rounded to $4 trillion.  
We have paid $185 billion in interest costs and another $1trillion is likely to
accrue by 2020.  Who said the wars' impact on the economy is negligible?  
Libya, almost a non-event in comparison, cost us $100 million in the first
week just in the costs of the missiles alone at $1 million a pop.  Since then,
many more have been fired.

The human costs of these wars is quite horrendous.  The wars have created
7.8 million refugees among Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis.  The most
conservative estimate has at least 225,000 people killed of which 31,000
have been contractors and military personnel including those allied with the
U.S. (coalition forces plus Iraqi and  Afghan security forces).  A few years
ago, Johns Hopkins issued a report (published in the prestigious academic
journal "The Lancet") estimating the most likely (not the most conservative)
count of Iraqi dead at 450,000 with a fair chance it could reach a million.

All of this because 19 men, nearly all from Saudi Arabia, attacked us.  Surely
there was a better way to get to the root of the problem without bankrupting
us and killing poor peasants trying to scratch a parched living who have
never heard of the twin towers.  What is the CIA for anyway?

For those who refuse to believe in the high numbers of civilian casualties,
here is a passage from former Marine Jess Goodell's new book, "Shade It
Black", recounting her experiences.  She describes what "clearing a village"
means.  If there are houses beside a road, they can be used to hide
attackers.   If the military intends to use the road for supply, it needs to be
"cleared" and the structures razed.  As she explains ...
   The reality of it is that there is a house with a
   family in it and a bunch of marines kick open    
   the door and maybe throw in a smoke grenade,
   maybe not.  They have their rifles loaded and
   ready and are pointing them at the mother or
   father or kids and are yelling at them to get out.
   You know that there were people who did not
   want to leave.  
How could there not have been?  
   There had to be some who refused to go.  
   could there not have been?
The people who
   refused to go were the corpses we saw as
   we drove through what had been their village.
   Killed.  Splattered. There was blood on the walls.
   On the doors.  In the streets.  On the cars.  It
   wasn't Marine blood.  It was civilian blood.  There
   were bodies.  
Who was going to pick them up?
   (p. 21)

The book should be required reading for politicians who have never been to
war, and for military brass who have never seen combat.  It is why 'winning
hearts and minds' is incompatible with a military whose first aim is to
minimize its own casualties.  It is also why combat veterans never talk about
their experiences, and why innocent young Iowa farm boys come back with