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
April 1, 2011

Mr. President:  Here is a question:  If Mr. Gaddafi is such an awful ruler, how
come Libya, a primitive place when he seized power, now leads all of Africa
in its Human Development Index.  It is ahead of Saudi Arabia and far in
advance of Egypt.  Unlike Saudi Arabia, women participate freely in society.
Yes, he has a feared security establishment but so did our friend Mubarak
(on whom was lavished billions of dollars over several decades, and who
served as the torturer of last resort for the hapless renditioned victims of
our paranoia); so did the late Shah of Iran who we installed after overturning
a democratically elected government; and so do many of the royals in the
region who find democracy anathema.

Before the then Afghan Government and its overthrown head asked the
Soviet Union to intervene, Afghanistan was undergoing a societal
revolution:  social progress in health, economy and education included
women -- women were being educated, many discarding traditional attire for
the convenience of Western clothes.  The cultural changes fueled
discontent among the conservative south urged on by village religious
leaders.  The U.S. sided with these fundamentalists groups, and Afghanistan
eventually ended up with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  Now we are fighting the
same conservative south to establish a more amenable regime, and we tout
women's rights among other goals like preventing al-Qaeda securing a base
-- hardly needed as it appears to have become a virtual organization.  Back
to square one, as they say.

In Libya, government forces are battling an insurgency led by the
conservative eastern tribes.  Ask the foot soldiers why they are out there,
and they respond because Gaddafi is a bad Muslim.   The ranks of al-Qaeda's
upper echelons are over-represented by Libyans from these Eastern tribes;
the Libyan fighters in Iraq's insurgency came from Eastern Libya and so on.  
Are we really sure what we are getting into?  One more thing:  about a million
people have been killed in the Congolese civil wars, yet it seems not to have
occurred to our interventionists to enter that fray.  But some hundreds dead
in a Libyan civil war (to which we are now contributing) and it becomes the
humanitarian's Armageddon.  If past is prologue -- Iraq coming to mind --  one
wonders where Libya is going to be on the Human Development Index when
we leave.

A final question, Sir:  How does dropping depleted uranium munitions --
forty-five 2000-pound bombs and over a hundred tomahawk missiles in the
first twenty-four hours alone -- with known cancer risk help Libyan civilians?

Syllogismum cornutum -- The Japanese engineers at Fukushima find
themselves on the horns of a dilemma.  The water used to cool the reactor
cores is leaking.  It has been confirmed by the presence of radioactive
Iodine 131.  They are unable to stop the leak without endangering the lives
of personnel, and they cannot restrict coolant flow for fear of a meltdown
and possible explosion.

If our reactors are safe, then surely the operators have considered this
possibility and devised a solution -- particularly as a couple of dozen
reactors are the same design as Fukushima.  The Japanese (and the rest of
the world) are anxious to hear from them.  But if not, how can anyone of
sober mind and unclouded judgment claim nuclear power is safe or clean?  
Whatever the problems of carbon dioxide, they pale before the horrors of a
serious nuclear accident.