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
May 20, 2011

Mr. President:  The two stories dominating the news this week are
Dominique Strauss-Kahn and your speech on the Middle East.  Mr.
Strauss-Kahn, considered a shoe-in for the French Presidency to replace the
widely disliked Mr. Sarkozy, chose to fall on his sword ... inexplicably,
inadvertently, in a mix of hubris and prurient appetite.  Mr. Sarkozy breathed
a long sign of relief amid the shock and dismay of the French public.

Our own politics have Republicans with checkered histories hoping
desperately for collective amnesia as they succumb to Presidential
ambitions.  As they set about berating your speech, they seem to forget it
was more or less an explicit exposition of the American position of the last
two decades.

Mr. Netanyahu's unseemly White House lecture focused on the 1967 borders
but omitted the land swap qualification that negated his thesis of
indefensible borders.  Nobody stood to correct the misrepresentation.  As
Uri Avnery, the noted Israeli commentator, has often noted, as far as the US-
Israeli relationship is concerned, it is the tail wagging the dog.  In Israeli
politics itself, the extreme right wing parties have a swing vote in
Parliament, so in effect an extreme right-wing wags the tail that wags the U.S.
dog.  Peace is at a standstill and will remain so until AIPAC realizes it is
shooting itself in the foot.  In the meantime, the Palestinian population
(Muslim and Christian) continues to rise rapidly in proportion to Israel's
Jewish numbers leading eventually to a South African problem.  We all know
how that ended.

What your speech reflected was an effort to project American power in a
region where the U.S. has lost influence.  The cast of villains had little to do
with a consistent approach to democracy or human rights, rather an attempt
to use the latter as a club to beat autocrats too independent for our liking,
while ignoring despots who do our bidding.  Many independent journalists
including Robert Fisk have pointed out the inconsistencies - hypocrisy they
say - of our positions.  As far as Middle East peace goes they say, it will take
a President brave enough and smart enough to successfully take on AIPAC
and they do not foresee it in your tenure.

When you talk about 'trust going both ways' and equate U.S. policy with the
terrorist acts of a marginalized lunatic fringe, you raise the latter to an
undeserved level.  If we had treated them as extremists, we would have
chosen police action and employed targeted raids instead of all out wars
against whole countries not directly -- and in Iraq's case not even indirectly -
responsible for the violence against us.

Our misguided approach has cost trillions, killed hundreds of thousands and
displaced millions.  In Iraq, women's rights have been pushed back a
century; in Afghanistan, we are stuck -- so are the Afghans, drawn closer and
closer to religious fundamentalism as their only channel to fight occupation
forces.  The longer we stay, the stronger become the religious extremists.  It
is a problem with only one solution and, as yet, no one with the courage to
implement it.