Weekly Letter to President Obama
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INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
February 12, 2011
Mr. President: A remarkable two weeks, and now, a momentous day. Mr.
Hosni Mubarak has resigned, his duties assigned to the Supreme Council of
the Armed Forces -- actually five of Mubarak's hand picked military chiefs.
The reformers are likely to keep a careful watch, and might even demand
inclusion in this caretaker government. Omar Suleiman, close to our military
and the Israelis, and the former intelligence chief, has been sidelined. As
Mubarak's intelligence chief and right hand, his chances were slim at best,
but diminished to nothing after his condescending remarks about Egyptians
being not "ready for democracy."
The concerns of our government have been two-fold: Egypt's role in the
fight against terror, and its peace treaty with Israel. In the former, it has
supported the rendition program through the torture of suspects deposited
in their jails and through close intelligence cooperation. While the peace
treaty with Israel may not be in jeopardy, the throttling of Gaza is highly
Meanwhile, demonstrations continue in Algeria and Yemen, while Jordan is
not immune. Our policy in the Middle East has favored dealing with
strongmen who can deliver our dictates. It has focused on the short term
over the long and even medium; it has followed the model laid out in Latin
America. But our experience there should have been a harbinger, for quite
clearly the era of dictatorial satraps is fast ebbing. The military junta we
have maneuvered now in Egypt is again a short term perspective for having
tasted power the mass of the Egyptian people will not tolerate a return to the
old Mubarak days.
The leading party among the opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood. It is an
organization long stigmatized over here. Yet, as a leading Israeli
commentator, Uri Avnery, points out in his latest Gush Shalom column, it is
quite moderate, along the lines of the ruling party in Turkey. And, yes, they
are unlikely to ride roughshod over the wishes of their people particularly in
relation to Israel. But that is democracy. If Israel is thereby goaded into
peace with Palestinians, that too would be best for Israel.
In the past, we have radicalized Hamas by refusing dialog and isolating them
following their victory in free and fair elections. We cannot afford to make
the same mistake twice.