Dear Mr. President

Amnesty in Gaza
January 30, 2009, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Israel, justice, news, Obama, Palestine, peace, politics, U.S.A., United Nations, war | Tags: , , ,

Dear Mr. President, I just sent a message to Secretary of State Clinton and Ambassador Rice from Amnesty International. The letter, which I have appended to this, is pretty long-winded. What I’d like to say is that, while we continue to support Israel in its very real struggle for survival, we need to recognize that Hamas is not going to disappear. It is the legitimately elected government of Gaza, eyeless or not. And in order to help the people of Gaza, who have just been through hell, we need to work with Hamas. So let’s do it.

Here’s the letter from Amnesty:

“Now that the fighting between Israel and Hamas has largely ceased after their declaration of separate ceasefires, the true scale of devastation wrought on civilians in Gaza is becoming increasingly evident. Our researchers in Gaza and southern Israel have this week found first hand evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law by the parties to the conflict, including possible crimes against humanity, as well as abuses of human rights. Amnesty International believes that long-term peace and security cannot be found in the Middle East unless accountability is established for crimes under international law. The United Nations Secretary-General has already called for an urgent, impartial investigation into the shelling of UNWRA schools, including with the use of White Phosphorus munitions, and other attacks on UN buildings and personnel in Gaza. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently briefed the Security Council on his return from Gaza and emphasized: “where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.” In adopting resolution 1860 (2009), the Security Council called for a ceasefire, for the unimpeded provision of humanitarian assistance and the re-opening of crossing points into Gaza. But the Security Council failed to address the question of accountability. Amnesty International believes this is critical—that those who have committed possible war crimes should not be given impunity. Considering the mutual recriminations that may affect the impartiality of national investigations, and the poor record of investigations by Israel into violations by its forces, Amnesty International urges the US to support the establishment of a comprehensive independent international inquiry – set up by the UN Security Council – into all allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups participating in the conflict. An international fact-finding team of qualified experts should carry out its investigations on the basis of the highest international standards. It must have powers to gain access to all relevant documents, other evidence and persons, and its report and findings must be public so that follow-action can be taken. As Israeli attacks in Gaza have used US made weapons, the US must not fail to respond to domestic and worldwide expressions of concern that international humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld in Gaza, that accountability for violations be established and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. For more information, please see Amnesty International’s latest report: The conflict in Gaza: A briefing on applicable law, investigations and accountability (, which we hope you will find helpful in your further consideration of the grave situation in Gaza. Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter. ”

Sincerely, Margaret Sacht

Press Briefings
January 29, 2009, 8:30 pm
Filed under: news, Obama, politics, U.S.A. | Tags: ,

Dear Mr. President,
Thank you so much!!!  You have put the press briefings on the Whitehouse website!  Excellent!  Makes it much easier for someone like me, living abroad, to read them.  Good job!
Sincerely, VNV

So far, so good…but questions
January 28, 2009, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Bush, economy, environment, finance, news, Obama, politics, U.S.A. | Tags: , , ,

Dear Mr. President,

     Why don’t you put your press briefings onto the Whitehouse website?  I can only find them on the website of the Press Corps.  And why don’t you ever answer your mail?  George W. always did, don’t forget!

   Otherwise, you’re doing  fine things out there in Washington!!!  Great interview with Al Arabia.    Good stuff on the economy and the environment. Nice tries with non-partisonship.  Or at least, tries.  Maybe “nice” is the wrong word.  So keep up the good work!

Sincerely, VNV

Environmentally sound
January 26, 2009, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Bush, environment, news, Obama, politics, U.S.A. | Tags: , ,

Dear President Obama,

How refreshing your environmental policies are turning out to be! Like a glass of clean, clear water. It seems as if the whole world is sighing with relief, taking good deep breaths full of hope.

Oh dear I am waxing effusive. But I can’t help it. It’s been such a depressing time, particularly for us Americans abroad. It’s been awful having a President who blocked every environmentally sound idea.  

 Thank you for bringing change!  Now if you can get us signed up with the rest of the world…   Sincerely, VNV

Diplomacy Begins at Home
January 25, 2009, 8:52 pm
Filed under: Congress, news, Obama, politics, U.S.A. | Tags: , ,

Dear Mr. President,
     While I applaud all you have done so far, I worry about the tone you
seem to be taking with your political opponents.  It used to get me riled up
to hear Bush say he had “consulted with the Democrats”  when all he had done
was issue ultimata.
     But now it sounds to me as if you were doing the same thing.   Saying
“I won” is not an argument that will win over Republicans; it’s  a
thrown-down gauntlet.  Please do as you promised and try to use diplomacy!

Sincerely, VNV

Ending the Global Gag Rule
January 24, 2009, 4:42 pm
Filed under: abortion, children, ethics, health, news, Obama, peace, politics, religion, U.S.A., United Nations, women's rights

Dear President Obama,

      All I wanted to do today was to thank you hugely and immensely for your executive order ending the ban on funds to international population support groups that mention abortion.  Bless your heart.  Finally.  My mother’s good friend Janet Roberts can now rejoice as well – she founded “34 millions friends” to try to fill that awful hole the Bush administration left in caring for women.

    I think that’s what people don’t realize.  Funding organizations like UNFPA that help women get legal and safe abortions is not about  funding abortions.  It’s about helping women around the globe have access to health care.  It means saving mothers’ lives and saving babies’ lives.  That’s what it all comes down to.   It’s pro-life, that’s what it is.

Sincerely, VNV

Congratulations, but stop the killing!

Dear President Obama,

     This being my first letter to you on this blog, I  congratulate you with all my heart on becoming President of our really fine country.    You’ve done good things so far.  You’ve stopped torture; you’ve set out to close Guantánamo; you named excellent envoys in George Mitchell and Richard Holbrooke.   But now I must ask you something.  This is what I wrote in the website
     Are you going to continue the irresponsible unmanned bombing missions over Pakistan?   I just read that today we killed 10 people.   We said we had killed 5 “insurgents”.   That leaves 5 non-insurgents, right?  Please do something to stop the killing.

Sincerely, VNV

The Last Day: The Sorrows
January 19, 2009, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Bush, children, crime, death, election, ethics, Iraq, justice, news, Obama, peace, politics, U.S.A., war | Tags: , , , ,
Dear Mr. President,
     Today is your last full day as President of the United States, and this will be my last letter to you.   Consequently, I wanted to be conciliatory.  I wanted to find something good you had done and praise you. 
    Unfortunately there isn’t much to praise, but a great deal to mourn.   . 
     And yet you seem honestly to believe  you have done a fine job..  You seem to believe you have stuck to your beliefs, and that may be true.  You seem to believe that you have acted honestly, and that, too may be true.  But Mr. President, history is replete with tyrants who believed in what they were doing.  It is this very belief that has blinded you to the evil you have committed. 
       You have done those things which you ought not to have done; you have left undone those things which you ought to have done.  This is the human condition.  We are all of us sinners.  It’s just that your great power has made your sins the greater.  
 A picture is worth a thousand words.



No one died when Clinton lied

No one died when Clinton lied

 I do not wish you great unhappiness, Sir, but look at these faces.  Think of what you have done that you should have left undone.  The evil you have done will live after you.   These children of our land and the thousands of other children will not.

    So I end our correspondence as sadly as I began it, over two years and over 600 letters ago, wishing it were otherwise.   And yet, perhaps there is one bit of praise I can utter, all going well tomorrow:  That nothing in your tenure in office became you like the leaving of it.
Sincerely, VNV

Two Days: The Prisons, The Torture, The Trials
Dear Mr. President,
     It was under your watch that, for the first time in history, America openly tortured prisoners of war.  Yes.  That’s what we did.  It was torture.  We tortured.  No matter how often you say “We do not torture,” we have tortured.  
     From the very beginning of our “war on terror” we have done this.  We have incarcerated hundreds of people, calling them enemy combatants.  We have imprisoned them at Guantanamo.  We have imprisoned them at Abu Ghraib.  We have allowed them to be “exported” – “outsourced”, so to speak, to countries that are even less squeamish about torture than we are. 
     We have imprisoned hundreds of people  without the possibility of a writ of habeas corpus.   We have denied these people access to legal representation.  We have held them without charge, many of them for years and years.  We have imprisoned and tortured youngsters aged 14, including one lad who now, after 6 years, should soon be finally released. 
     You are saying that we cannot release those prisoners still left in Guantánamo because a) no one will take them and b) they may upon release turn against our country (as who could blame them?). 
    Mr. President, we can’t keep people in prison because they might commit crimes upon being released.  We don’t get to do that.  We only get to keep people in prison if they are found guilty of having committed crimes.  Only if there is evidence of their having committed crimes are we allowed to punish them.  If people are accused of having committed crimes, then they must be brought to trial and the evidence of their guilt must be shown.  This is what is called justice.  this is what is known as “innocent until proven guilty”, a great Anglo-Saxon tenent.
     You have broken with this idea of justice.  You have set yourself beyond the law.  Even in those cases in which there have been trials, such as the case of Saddam Husssein, there has been no justice.  His trial was a farce; his hanging was a lynching.  And what has happened to those other members of his government who have just sort of disappeared?  How is Tarak Aziz doing, for example?
     And what is happening to the thousands of other prisoners in our prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Are they “enjoying due process”?  What about those in the prisons of the “fledgling democracies” themselves?
     Mr. President, you have made a mockery of the law.  You have condoned illegal imprisonment and torture.  You have demolished our Constitution.
     You have made cruel punishment usual.  You have denied a writ of habeas corpus.   In America we live by the law, but you have set yourself beyond the law.
    You have, in fact, made yourself an outlaw, deserving of arrest and trial and, the evidence being pretty evident, punishment.   It is my hope that, once your “reign” is over, you will be brought to justice.
     Sincerely, VNV

Three Days left: The Wars
Dear Mr. President,
     I believe you are the first President of our country to start two wars and finish neither of them.  I hope you are the last President to do so. 
     The war in Afghanistan was at least sanctioned by the United Nations.  It was at least a multinational effort.  It was, if not justifiable, since no war of aggression is justifiable, at least understandable.  The world could make the connection between Al Qaeda in America and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  There seemed to be evidence that the Taliban, those freedom fighters we once championed, were harboring the very terrorists who attacked us.  It did seem hard on the civilians, more of whom did die just in our original attack than died in the Two Towers, but the cause appeared just, the results at first good.
     But that wasn’t enough for you, was it?  We could have stayed in Afghanistan.  We could have used our resources to rebuild that country, not just to fortify its capitol.  But no.  You had to attack Iraq, on the totally specious pretext that Iraq was a threat to us.  You engaged in pre-emptive war.  You illegally attacked a country that had not attacked us. Even if Iraq had had weapons of mass destruction, our attack would have been illegal, immoral, and evil.  Shock and Awe.  You shocked a lot of people, and it surely was awful.  But that’s about it.  You lied.  Your government lied. 
     And, as a result, by very conservative estimates, 98,000 Iraqi civilians have died.  Of course that’s nothing compared to how many, say, Vietnamese civilians we killed.   And we have always been very sorry.  Tell that to the mothers without children and the children without mothers. 
     All this is the result of your machinations.   You maneuvered Congress into this.  I don’t absolve Congress of blame, but your lies were the basis for their shameful decisions. 
     Now you are about to leave office.  In your Farewell Address, this is what you said about your two wars and their results:
“Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.”
     Balderdash!   Iraq is a mess.  The heroic efforts of those soldiers General Petreaus sent in on the surge have improved matters somewhat, but they haven’t made Iraq a democracy and a friend.  The puppet government in Iraq has about as much stability as our economy.  
      And as for Afghanistan, women are still being stoned in the streets.  All you have to do is leave Kabul to find this out.  If, as I suggested back then, you had taken 150,000 American soldiers and set them to work rebuilding Afghanistan instead of demolishing Iraq, we might at least have helped establish one viable democracy in the Middle East. 
     Your legacy, Mr. President, is death and more death.  In your objectives you have failed abjectly.  I wish it were not so.  I wish I could harbor at least a vague glimmer of hope for those tried peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq.  And I wish I could hope for the safety of our young men and women so rashly stationed in those countries.  But I fear my hopes, as well as their lives, will be dashed.
Sincerely, VNV