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


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

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

Final Press Conference

Dear Mr. President,

     Time’s a-runnin’ short now.  I’ve been gone a couple of weeks, caring for my Mom again, so I’ll have to try to write fast to catch up.  I just listened to your last press conference.  You may be thinking that you acquitted yourself fairly well.  You only got mad a couple of times.   I’ve included the passages at the bottom of this letter. 

You got mad about the “moral standing” question.  You said you “disagree strongly with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged”.  You said only an “elite” think that, only a few “European” countries. Sir:  Make that a lot of European countries.  Make that most Latin American countries.  Make that most Asian countries.  You say:  “Ask India”.  Yes do.  Ask Pakistan, too.  Ask Syria and, indeed, ask Iraq!

     You said sure Gitmo was contraversial.  Then you faulted other countries for refusing to take into their countries the people we have incarcerated, the people we refuse to take into our own country.  Mr. President, we are responsible for these people.  We have them in prison.  We must charge them or let them go free.  We must protect those of them who are under threat.  We must do this. Not Europe.  Not China.  Not Saudi Arabia.  We are responsible!

    The other question that really brought your dander up was about New Orleans – after you said that you had had good reasons for not landing there in Air Force 1.  Mr. President, no one wanted you to land there in Air Force 1.  People wanted HELP, not you.  You didn’t help them.  Your organization, FEMA, failed miserably.  Couldn’t you have found the words to apologize for that?  No one, repeat no one is faulting the helicopter pilots who rescued those 30,000 people from the roof tops.  People are faulting YOUR GOVERNMENT for putting people in asbesto trailers.  For not restoring power or running water.  For leaving hundreds of thousands of citizens in the lurch.

    So frankly, however well you may think you have acquitted yourself, I cannot acquit you.  I cannot acquit you of gross malfeasance in office.  I will not make the mistake of what you called “misunderestimating” you.  I estimate that you have damaged our beloved country far beyond what any President before you has done.

  HERE ARE YOUR VERY WORDS, some of the most ill-judged words of your horrible Presidency.  You should be ashamed of yourself, Sir.


THE PRESIDENT: I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite, but people still understand America stands for freedom, that America is a country that provides such great hope.

You go to Africa, you ask Africans about America’s generosity and compassion; go to India, and ask about, you know, America’s — their view of America. Go to China and ask. Now, no question parts of Europe have said that we shouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq without a mandate, but those are a few countries. Most countries in Europe listened to what 1441 said, which is disclose, disarm or face serious consequences.

Most people take those words seriously. Now, some countries didn’t — even though they might have voted for the resolution. I disagree with this assessment that, you know, people view America in a dim light. I just don’t agree with that. And I understand that Gitmo has created controversies. But when it came time for those countries that were criticizing America to take some of those — some of those detainees, they weren’t willing to help out. And so, you know, I just disagree with the assessment, Mike.

I’ll remind — listen, I tell people, yes, you can try to be popular. In certain quarters in Europe, you can be popular by blaming every Middle Eastern problem on Israel. Or you can be popular by joining the International Criminal Court. I guess I could have been popular by accepting Kyoto, which I felt was a flawed treaty, and proposed something different and more constructive.

And in terms of the decisions that I had made to protect the homeland, I wouldn’t worry about popularity. What I would worry about is the Constitution of the United States, and putting plans in place that makes it easier to find out what the enemy is thinking, because all these debates will matter not if there’s another attack on the homeland. The question won’t be, you know, were you critical of this plan or not; the question is going to be, why didn’t you do something?

Do you remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here? In press conferences and opinion pieces and in stories — that sometimes were news stories and sometimes opinion pieces — people were saying, how come they didn’t see it, how come they didn’t connect the dots? Do you remember what the environment was like in Washington? I do. When people were hauled up in front of Congress and members of Congress were asking questions about, how come you didn’t know this, that, or the other? And then we start putting policy in place — legal policy in place to connect the dots, and all of a sudden people were saying, how come you’re connecting the dots?

And so, Mike, I’ve heard all that. I’ve heard all that. My view is, is that most people around the world, they respect America. And some of them doesn’t like me, I understand that — some of the writers and the, you know, opiners and all that. That’s fine, that’s part of the deal. But I’m more concerned about the country and our — how people view the United States. They view us as strong, compassionate people who care deeply about the universality of freedom.



Mr. President, on New Orleans, you basically talked about a moment ago about the photo opportunity. But let’s talk about what you could have done to change the situation for the city of New Orleans to be further along in reconstruction than where it is now. And also, when you came — or began to run for the Oval Office about nine years ago or so, the James Byrd dragging death was residue on your campaign. And now at this time, 2009, we have the first black President. Could you tell us what you have seen on the issues of race, as you see it from the Oval Office?

THE PRESIDENT: Sure, thanks. First of all, we did get the $121 billion, more or less, passed, and it’s now being spent. Secondly, the school system is improving dramatically. Thirdly, people are beginning to move back into homes. This storm was a devastating storm, April, that required a lot of energy, a lot of focus and a lot of resources to get New Orleans up and running.

And has the reconstruction been perfect? No. Have things happened fairly quickly? Absolutely. And is there more to be done? You bet there is.

Q What more needs to be done?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, more people need to get in their houses. More people need to have their own home there. But the systems are in place to continue the reconstruction of New Orleans.

People said, well, the federal response was slow. Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed. I remember going to see those helicopter drivers, Coast Guard drivers, to thank them for their courageous efforts to rescue people off roofs. Thirty thousand people were pulled off roofs right after the storm moved through. It’s a pretty quick response.

Could things have been done better? Absolutely. Absolutely. But when I hear people say, the federal response was slow, then what are they going to say to those chopper drivers, or the 30,000 that got pulled off the roofs?

There’s a lot more I’d like to say about this, Mr. President.  I’ll just leave your words here for you and/or others to contemplate.  Don’t you ever really think about what you say and do?

Sincerely, VNV<!–


Thank you note 2
November 25, 2008, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Bush, ethics, politics, racism, United Nations | Tags: , , ,

Dear Mr. President,

     Today I want to thank you for one aspect of your Presidency that has made a huge, positive difference.  You have had many people of color in your government.  Admittedly, they weren’t always people I thought you should have chosen, but simply looking at a picture of your cabinet was heartening.  Condoleeza Rice, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell.  These people paved the way for Barack Obama.  I seriously believe that, whatever faults you have, racism is not one of them. 

    So I do thank you for your openness.

Sincerely, VNV

UNFPA or 34 Million Friends
Dear Mr. President,
    I just read that one of President-elect Obama’s first acts may be to rescind your order curtailing financing to international groups that give advice on birth control and have the audacity to mention abortion.  Thank heavens!  Now maybe we can get back to supporting the U.N. Population Fund, UNFPA, from whose resources we cut those $34 million dollars that my mother’s friend Jane Roberts has been trying to restore with her organization “34 Million Friends.”  If you don’t know about it, look it up:
Don’t you think it’s about time you took note of the women whose lives you have put at risk by your narrow-minded, vicious tactics?
Sincerely, VNV