Dear Mr. President

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


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

Invading Pakistan
December 2, 2008, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Afghanistan, Bush, news, Pakistan, peace, politics, U.S.A., war | Tags: , , ,
Dear Mr. President,
     Since we attacked Afghanistan because it was harboring terrorists, what’s to stop India from invading Pakistan for the same reason?  After all, for the past few weeks, we have been commiting what used to be considered acts of war against Pakistan ourselves, killing many civilians there with our clever little drones.   Don’t you think India will feel that’s the least it can do?   You have always wanted us to be an example to the world.   Well, the proof of the pudding…
Inquiringly, VNV

Afghanistan’s Women

Dear Mr. President,
  What can I say?  Innocent young girls, just walking to school, and
someone, probably from the Taliban, attacked them with acid.   One report
said shot with a water pistol, another said just “tossed in their faces.”
Two of the girls are now blind.  These girls were on their way to school.
In Afghanistan, where we actually did liberate a country for a while.  We
liberated it from those forces we supported during the time that the
Russians liberated it.  We supported the Taliban so that it could help free
Afghanistan from the Russian occupation.  Now the Taliban is trying to
liberate Afghanistan from our invasion.  In doing so, they will be
de-liberating all those women and girls we tried to liberate.
     It’s just plain horrible.  Oh what a tangled web we weave.  Or you
wove, anyway.  You have another 70 days.  Maybe you can think of something
constructive to do.  As horrible as the idea may seem to you, I think Hamid
Karzai should do as he wants to and talk to Taliban representatives.  Not
all Taliban are going to want to return Afghanistan to the Middle Ages.  I
can’t think of any other good solution, apart from sending in hundreds of
thousands of more troops, not to pacify the country, but to rebuild it.
     Sincerely, VNV

P.S.  I wrote this yesterday but was too disheartened to send it.  Today I was going to write about the lack of plan Secretary Poulson seems to have, but I’m also too disheartened about that, so I’ll send this.  You certainly are leaving what my Dad would have called “a mell of a hess” for Obama to clean up!

Afghanistan Murder
November 6, 2008, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Afghanistan, Bush, crime, death, ethics, news, peace, politics, terror, U.S.A., war | Tags: , , ,
Dear Mr. President,
     What if the Mexicans flew missions across our border and killed, oh let’s say around 60 U.S. civilians, including women and children, whilst trying to fight some pesky Communist terrorists hiding in the hills near San Diego?
     My God Sir!  60 people! people! humans! civilians! not fighters!  And we just say “Oops!  Sorry!”  How can we? 
     Maybe you could imagine it better if you tried to picture those Mexicans sending an armed drone over Crawford, Texas.  Picture the people, running, screaming, bleeding, dying.  Maybe imagining the deaths of citizens of Crawford, of friends of yours, or even of your own family will help you to understand why even our good buddy Hamid Karsai wants us to stop those awful raids.
    So stop them!
Sincerely, VNV

Almost out of Time
October 25, 2008, 6:51 pm
Filed under: Afghanistan, Bush, election, finance, Iraq, news, politics, war

Dear Mr. President,
     It’s been a long time since I wrote, and I do apologize.  Like Barack
Obama, I had to visit my aged and ailing relative – in this case my mother.
And I had a lot more time to be with her than Obama had; I got to stay over
three weeks this time.
    And after that – well – I just haven’t quite known what to say.  The
economy is in a shambles.  The war in Afghanistan is just not really working
out.  The agreement with Iraq about the status of our troops doesn’t seem to
be working out, either.
     In fact, all in all, the world is so depressing that I almost can’t
believe it’s all your fault.  And yet, you know, most of it is your fault.
You got us into this mess; now you have very little time to get us out.

Sincerely, VNV