Castles in the air - they are so easy to take refuge in. And so easy to build, too.

आम्हां घरी धन शब्दांचीच रत्नें | शब्दांचीच शस्त्रें यत्न करुं ||
शब्द चि आमुच्या जीवांचे जीवन | शब्दें वांटूं धन जनलोकां ||
तुका म्हणे पाहा शब्द चि हा देव | शब्द चि गौरव पूजा करुं ||
- abhang of Tukaram Wolhoba Ambile of Dehu

There's No Freedom Like That of a Child's Imagination

கடலுக்கு உண்டு கற்பனைக்கு இல்லை கட்டுப்பாடு

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Open Letter to Thomas Friedman

Dear Mr. Friedman,

I have always been a great admirer of your column, of its clarity and erudition, but I am now appalled at the overt imperialistic tone of your latest column in the New York Times of October 10, 2009.

In that you wished that President Barack Obama accept the Nobel Peace Prize "on behalf of the most important peacekeepers in the world for the last century — the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps." It is sad that you have taken so blind and one-sided a perspective of the role played by United States armed forces in conflicts throughout the world in the previous century.

The American forces that fought the Nazis and Japanese in the Second World war were never alone. You have negated the contributions of the Free French Forces, the Australian and New Zealand corps, the thousands of Black soldiers from the African colonies of France and Britain, and the many hundreds of Indians who died fighting for their colonial master, both in the swamps of East Asia and the fields of Europe. You complete erase the memory of the millions of Soviet soldiers who perished fighting the Nazis. They were all soldiers, and they were all honourable men fighting for a just cause. Some ended on the winner's side (The USA), most perished into oblivion.

Your appreciation of American soldiers' role in Afghanistan hides the role the US armed forces played in training and arming the anti-Soviet Mujahideen, one of whom is now your deadliest enemy - Osama bin Laden. Having driven out the Soviets, the Afghans were abandoned to face years of civil war. The unquestioned and continuous support given to Pakistan has resulted not only in continued terrorism against India and the rise of the Taliban, but has also contributed to terror in China (Xinjiang) and Russia (Chechnya).

Your praise of American soldiers' role in missions in Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan or the Middle East neglects and thus humiliates the role played by the armed forces of other countries - Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Japan and many other countries - who have made uncounted sacrifices on United Nations Peace Missions, keeeping the peace in Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, East Timor, the Falklands, the solomon Islands, Palestine, Congo, Rwanda, The Korean DMZ, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabagh and many other conflict zones.

You have failed to acknowledge the role played by the United States armed forces in the disastrous war against Vietnam (who outside of the United States' borders can ever forget Agent Orange, for which there has never been an apology?). You have failed to acknowledge how the United States armed forces withdrew from Somalia in a cowardly manner leaving that country to face continuing anarchy. You have failed to mention that the United States is not a part of the International criminal Court, in order to shiled its armed forces from being prosecuted for their war crimes. But most unpardonable of all, you have utterly failed in acknowledging the role played by your allies in Iraq and Afghanistan - Britain, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Japan and others - who have made as many heart-rending sacrifices in keeping the peace and protecting the 'freedom and democracy' that you cherish so much.

Further, can you morally justify accepting the Peace Prize on behalf of a military that has, overtly and covertly, been responsible for the suppression of democracy in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and Latin America in the name of fighting Communism, and now, Islamic Fundamentalism? Can you justify the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, Daniel Ortega, Salvador Allende, Nawaz Sharif and many other democratically elected leaders, orchestrated or sponsored from within the Pentagon, because these leaders did not kowtow to American interests?

Ultimately, in giving this call to Obama to acknowledge the role of U.S. 'peaceekeepers', you have negated the very purpose for which he was deemed worthy: that he considered the rest of the world as equal and worthy as his home nation, and that he abjures the notion of using the United States armed forces as a tool for achieving his aims, a behaviour all too often seen in earlier administrations, whether it be Bush's Iraq, Clinton's Yugoslavia or Reagan's Grenada. May we remind you of the words of another young and path-breaking president the United States had - John Fitzgerald Kennedy - about the peace the world seeks with America:

"What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children -- not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time."

Yours truly,
A citizen of the world beyond the borders of the United States

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