Weekly Letter to the President
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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
July 6, 2018
Mr. President: The US celebrated the glorious Fourth, the nation's independence day
and the myths going along with it. The fight for independence was no exception to
most wars, for the elite prospered, the poor shed blood, and, most shamefully in this
case, the slaves remained slaves. Dissenters in this war, dubbed Royalists, were
killed or fled to Canada, a country later peacefully independent from Britain and none
the worse for it.
Back to the revolutionary war, let us not forget the French, their navy, their army
without which, well ... . Having suffered a reverse against the British in India, the
French were thirsty for revenge, and America gave them the ideal opportunity.
Oh yes, India. It, too, celebrates independence from Britain a little more than a month
hence. However, in the process it managed to shoot itself in the foot and elsewhere
severing itself into three countries and a very painful digit called Kashmir that still has
not healed. How did England manage to conquer such a large sub-continent? Well,
in actual fact, it didn't.
We have heard of the Rajahs, Maharajahs, Nawabs and so forth. Large sections
remained independently run by these rulers under certain restrictions. This included
Hyderabad and its Nizam (ruler) who allied himself with the British in the 18th century
Deccan peninsula wars against Mysore, which fought the British and its Indian allies
until its ruler died fighting.
The British used skillful political manipulation and Indian soldiers in a land divided by
language, custom, religion and even race. America on the contrary favors force,
often brutal force, usually effectively as in the Philippines. It did not work in Vietnam
but Central and Latin America have been another story. If Cuba bucked the trend,
Venezuela and Ecuador have tried, and their story continues to unfold.
Just the 21st century list curdles the blood. Afghanistan, its people and its
government, had nothing to do with 9/11, so why attack them when a maverick from
Saudi Arabia and Arabs. mostly Saudi, were the perpetrators. Yes, the leader Osama
bin Laden, fostered by the CIA, was based in Afghanistan, but then why not attack his
base instead of making new enemies and getting trapped in the US's longest war.
Why Iraq? Why Libya? And many others including a coup to remove an elected
government in Ukraine. The extremist fundamentalists are no longer kept in check by
Libya's secular Gadaffi and are mushrooming in Africa, while China might get the oil,
and it looks like Iran has become the big winner in Iraq. The answer? Why, of
course, another war. This time with the Saudis against Iran despite the Syria
misadventure. Can reason and foresight prevail as dead bodies pile up and refugees
So here we are 242 years later ... in a land governed by corporate greed and
economic malfeasance centered on unsustainable growth; facing rising global
temperatures; an earth already in the sixth mass extinction and rapidly declining wild
Have you seen many butterflies this year? I notice the milkweed bush outside in the
yard is still awaiting its first monarch. But I cannot end a Fourth-of-July piece on a
sour note. The robin pair visiting us annually, nesting under the eaves in the crook of
a storm drain pipe, has been particularly successful this year, hatching its third brood
a few days ago.