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
January 5, 2018 (posted January 8)
Schoolyard name calling by an American president might be unusual, it might be
undiplomatic, it might even be childish, yet it had the world riveted -- if only for a short
moment -- on the antics of 'rocket man' and the Donald. The 'nuclear button is on my
desk says one'; 'my button is bigger than yours and works better', tweets the other.
Bandying about nuclear threats doesn't make any of us feel safer.
In all of this the South Korean president Moon Jae-in has taken up the North Korean
offer of a meeting before the winter Olympics, which are being held in South Korea.
In July last President Moon unveiled his policy towards North Korea in a speech in
Berlin. Long a believer in the Sunshine Policy of greater cooperation with the North
and eventual reunification, he chose the symbolic Berlin venue, for Germany has
reunited. Notably, he stressed the Sunshine's successes so far in the steps taken by
the North toward liberalizing the domestic market. In this it is also following China
although North Korea has a long way to go.
One can guess the North wanted to deal from a position of strength, and nuclear
armed it feels ready; hence the earlier reference to a nuclear trigger. Its position is
understandable as the South Korean government reneged on their agreement when
the right wing conservatives were elected. With the liberals back in charge, Moon
made clear his interest in reviving closer cooperation, with some caveats as he
outlined in Berlin.
Where does our tweeting president stand in this resumption of negotiations between
South and North? Nowhere. He has been side-stepped.
His stance on Jerusalem appalled allies throwing a wrench in the works ... the
hypocrisy and double-talk, even the self-delusion of Palestinians and its pliant, co-
opted PLO leadership. Now Trump has threatened to cut off aid to these leaders. If
he does, he might well take them off this opioid drip and rouse the population. The
total number of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied areas now exceeds Jews. The
obvious question for an Israeli government apparently drunk with power is how it sees
Mr. Trump has also threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan, a country that seldom
suffered terrorist attacks before it got embroiled in the Afghan war through supply
routes and trying and trying to keep its own border population in check. The
notoriously porous border has families living on both sides and were natural allies of
the Pashtuns taking on the U.S. supported Northern Alliance ensconced in Kabul.
The result of sending Pakistani troops into the self-administered border areas has
been a nascent civil war and terrorist attacks in major cities.
Trump tweeted a figure of $33 billion in aid to Pakistan in the 15 plus years. This
inaccurate figure appears also in the press sometimes and is often repeated by ill-
informed analysts. In fact, Obama put a sort of performance measure on the aid and
thus only $20 billion (very little in grants) has been disbursed. The Pakistan Prime
Minister said he was bewildered by Trump's figures for aid has been less than $10
million per year over the last five years.
In extraordinary contrast, the aid figure from China is more like $120 billion. Worth
noting that in 2011, China Kingho Group canceled a $19 billion mining deal because
of security concerns -- a direct result of Pakistan's participation in the Afghan
adventure and a sum equal to the U.S. aid figure consisting mostly of loans. The
world has certainly changed.
Pakistan's main battle tank manufactured in Pakistan is the result of a joint Chinese
venture -- the army used to be equipped with American tanks. The air force now
relies on the Chinese Chengdu J-108 which with stealth features and newer
electronics has an edge over the F-16. Also the JF-17 Thunder -- a joint Pakistan-
There goes another ally ...
Meanwhile 'Fire and Fury' is keeping Trump occupied as questions of mental illness
prop up. He claims his principal characteristics “have been mental stability, and
being, like, really smart,” adding that getting elected president on his first try should
"qualify as not smart, but genius ... and a very stable genius at that!” Perhaps some
enterprising reporter will ask him if his assertion also makes geniuses of the last three