Postscript to an Open Letter to President Obama: Mr. President, Know Thyself

By: Kathleen Kirwin

March 19, 2011

Mr. President, yesterday you proudly and vehemently “raised your voice against the violence of the oppressed” in Libya. You proclaimed:

All attacks against civilians must stop.

Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back… and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.

Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya or the “international community will make him suffer the consequences” with military action.

These words and sentiments are familiar to you, Mr. President, since you lifted them from Afghan President Karzai less than a week ago. The only discernable difference is that President Karzai was not railing about Qadaffi at the time—he was talking about you. In point of fact, he was talking directly to you. He spoke to you as he attended the memorials of nine children your military subordinates killed on your behalf and at your command on the 1st of March. [I feel compelled to offer a piece of free legal advice at this time: consider refreshing yourself on the law regarding “command responsibility” and the concomitant criminal liability attached thereto.] In that regard, you and Muammar Qadaffi are brothers.  He is killing civilians as we speak. You are killing civilians as we speak. He is bombing civilians. You are bombing civilians. It is your war which will not allow “water, electricity, and gas supplies to all, or hardly any, areas of Afghanistan.  It is your war which prevents humanitarian assistance from reaching the people of Afghanistan, just as you say Qadaffi’s does. And according to both of you, you justify your respective wars on fighting the threat of Al Qaida, the ubiquitous enemy.

You have demanded, backed by an unveiled threat of force, that a sitting president of a sovereign state, Muammar Qadaffi, “stop killing civilians.” The sitting president of another sovereign state, Afghanistan, has demanded the exact same of you–repeatedly–and yet how disparately you deliver and receive the identical message. Your arrogance knows no bounds.

In making that repeated demand as he did last week as he stood with grieving families of dead children, Karzai let it be known that, “This is the voice of Afghanistan.” And notwithstanding that it’s a voice you have ignored, flaunted, denied, and rationalized, for almost three years now, it is the one thing in Afghanistan you have NOT managed to kill or destroy. The Afghan “voice’ is the only “weapon” the people have left and you cannot take it from them. It’s theirs and you can’t have it, no matter how many individual voices you continue to silence by death. It is also the voice of America, but you are as deaf to that voice as you are to President Karzai and his people. But I know you will listen, ever so carefully, to every word and nuance of Muammar Qadaffi in the coming hours, and even before the last word is spoken, you will kill his civilians for him and save him the trouble. You expect, demand, and threaten, while even now your first bombs and those of your “allies” are falling on Libya, that Qadaffi do what you will not– stop killing civilians.

“…I knew that I could not ever again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greater purveyor of violence in the world: my own government.” Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, April 4, 1967.

Mr. President, know thyself.

       [Kathleen Kirwin is a trial attorney specializing in high-level civil rights and criminal cases and is currently based in Sarasota, Florida. She also practices international human rights and criminal law and has been an anti-war activist for the past 40 years. Kathleen can be contacted at  Her new website, The Revolutionary Legal Front, is under construction and will be online soon.]

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