Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
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
October 25, 2013
Mr. President: Democracies die in darkness. That was said by a U.S. judge once, in
what seems a different world ago. If Edward Snowden has exposed embarrassing
behavior by our government, it should not have occurred in the first place. Not so
long ago, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff discovered that in addition to all the
other spying, her own cell phone was being monitored; she was so infuriated she
canceled her state visit including the only formal state dinner at the White House this
The Europeans might have been smug then, but Chancellor Angela Merkel just
discovered her own cell phone has been tapped; she has changed her tune. Gone is
the forbearance she displayed when almost everyone else in Germany was exposed.
Next door in France, newspaper headlines proclaimed the vast extent of surveillance
on its population. It is now being called an "Anglo-Saxon problem" as the principal
perpetrators are NSA here and Britain's GCHQ. Nevertheless, British PM David
Cameron has expressed support for the French and German position.
At the EU Summit in Brussels this week, leaders expressed outrage while news media
across Europe headlined the issue. Some claim at least thirty-five heads of state
across the world have been spied upon through their cell phones or emails. Those
discussing motives claim the purpose is generally commercial -- attempting to get
inside knowledge in a deal. If so, one can only wait for the other shoe to drop -- at
the stalled Trans Pacific Partnership talks one can only speculate on the targets ...
The French and German leaders now want a written agreement before the end of the
year on surveillance similar to the arrangement the U.S. has with the U.K. They
require assurances outlining the scope of surveillance to prevent any repetition of
what has happened.
These incidents continue to undermine trust in the U.S. as an ally, although some
cynics have observed that after the noise has died down, things will return to where
they were because everybody does it, if they can.
Is it then just a storm in a teacup and grandstanding by political leaders? The leaders
of Brazil and Mexico can hardly spy equally effectively on the U.S., thus the image of
the overbearing, not-to-be-trusted northern neighbor is reinforced. And it will spread
across Latin America and other developing nations ... the fire stoked by rivals to their
advantage in trade and commerce.
The meeting with Pakistan's leader Nawaz Sharif received little press attention But
relations there are crucial not only to a smooth troop withdrawal, but also for a stable
Afghanistan. Mr. Sharif wants accommodation with the Taliban and as a firm peace
without some agreement is clearly unlikely, it is in everyone's interest to help him.
Drone strikes make his job that much more difficult, if not impossible, to everyone's
Mr. Sharif also brought up the issue of Kashmir. There really can never be a trusting,
stable peace between India and Pakistan without some resolution. The simple
solution is to leave it to the Kashmiris themselves in a free vote. They will probably
choose autonomy, and both sides can then reap the economic benefits of a