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
September 11, 2020
Mr. President: This week refugee camps in Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos were
set ablaze rendering over 20,000 refugees homeless. Apparently the fires were
started by the refugees themselves who are sick of lives in limbo on the EU
periphery. They want to reach the heartland, get jobs, build lives for themselves.
An inevitable consequence of our modern wars, refugees have become an emblem.
Old newsreels show us their lined, worried faces in the Second World War and TV
has them live from Yugosloavia, a country disappeared and reemerged as several
ethnic parts, while numerous principal actors of the time faced judges in the
Then there is 9/11 in the US -- a term meaning September 11 as in the US, unlike
Europe and many parts of the world, the month is written first followed by the day and
year. Patriot Day, as it has been labeled, September 11 marks the day when
commercial airliners were used as weapons to destroy the World Trade Center, a
skyscraper in New York City, and attack the Pentagon, the military's headquarters in
If the mastermind of the attack was a turned, non-Afghan, Mujahedin commander
camped out in Afghanistan, who following Soviet withdrawal turned his attention to the
other major power ... committing, in his mind, the unpardonable sin of parking troops
on his native soil of Saudi Arabia -- no matter, they were there for protective purposes
from an increasingly belligerent Saddam Hussein.
The results we know. A naive George Bush and a populace thirsting for revenge
attacked Afghanistan leading to the longest war in American history. Many presidents
later, Donald Trump too is trying to negotiate a pull-out of US troops with the Taliban.
Yes, Afghanistan holds elections and has a president, even a military, but guess what
will happen if US troops leave without any resolution with the Taliban.
George Bush's rival for governor in Texas had a great line. 'Poor George,' she would
say, 'he can't help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.' So George went
after Iraq and lacking his father's good sense (who after liberating Kuwait withdrew)
he stayed to democratize Iraq without examining the country's demographics. Majority
Shia, it has a democratic leadership now that is Shia and closely allied with Shia Iran.
Fast forward to the present and the current president, Donald Trump, is withdrawing
troops from Iraq and is in a stand-off with Iran.
Anyone would be forgiven for thinking American foreign policy in the Middle East is a
plot from a Gilbert and Sullivan farce. Except for a sad and sobering fact. More than
a million lives lost, refugees still streaming out and many, many millions of lives
displaced ... including a Christian Iraqi from Baghdad who runs a 24-hour
convenience store a couple of miles from my house.