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
November 13, 2020
Mr. President: It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the guns
fell silent on the killing fields of the First World War. Some 20 million died, about half
of them civilians. Such is modern war. Noncombatants are not spared for they are
the economic glue holding the military together, supplying food, clothing and
The horror of WW1 was not enough for two decades later the same adversaries were
at it again. WW2 lasted six years, two years longer than WW1. The dead this time
numbering over 50 million. And there have been wars since with the US assuming the
mantle of a defender of democracy against the villain of the day be it communism or
Middle East terrorism.
Whatever may be said of Donald Trump -- and there is plenty -- he has more or less
kept the US out of war. The new president-elect anointed by the press, which has
hardly ever before been quite so one-sided, has been a vociferous backer of wars.
He was a leading Democratic backer of Repurlican George Bush's war on Iraq. As
part of the Obama-Biden team, he supported their so-called "good war" in
Afghanistan and the troop surge. That administration bombed Serbia and Syria,
decimated Libya, a prosperous country that has since then still not found peace.
Sub-Saharan Africans who sought temporary work there could easily return home.
Now they are forced to cross the Mediterranean with no easy return.
The Obama-Biden administration initiated US support for the Saudi coalition's
intervention in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Now he says he is
going to end it on day one. The question is how? Would he be willing to sacrifice the
present momentum towards an accord with Israel led by some Gulf states and a
tentative hand extended by Saudi Arabia motivated as it is by a mutual antipathy
Does Mr. Biden want to broker a peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Israel's
Swiss cheese of illegal settlements has made it almost an impossibility, and somehow
it is difficult to imagine Mr. Biden standing up to the Israeli lobby in the US.
Between China and India, Trump has chosen India and is currently in a stand-off with
China through an ongoing trade war. Biden's foreign policy advisers are a throwback
to the Obama administration, and as these will ease into significant administrative
roles when he takes office, one can expect a policy of mutual coexistence with China
instead of Trump's protectionism. If he wants to, he can even use Trump's tariffs as
bargaining chips in negotiations . . . perhaps renewing Obama's attempts to stimulate
human rights and democracy in China.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had an Indian mother and there have been wild
celebrations in their ancestral village in Tamil Nadu. The vision of Trump and Modi
traipsing hand-in-hand is unlikely to be repeated with the same warmth, and certainly
not with the VP as Indians frown on holding hands with women in public.
There should be a reset with Iran, which could of course put Syria in the crosshairs.
More bombs? Let's hope not.