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
January 11, 2013

Mr. President:  Your picks for major cabinet posts have been announced.  My own
view is a President should have the right to appoint the people he believes will help
him best to carry out his agenda.  So good luck, even if I cannot agree with all your
picks.  In a time when the economy is in the doldrums and the Fed out of monetary
options, we need a man at the Treasury with vision, not one glued to budget detail.

In other news, the killing continues in Syria.  Unless some form of compromise is
reached, the violence is likely to continue even if Assad falls; the sectarian nature of
the conflict assures this scenario.  It is, after all, already being played out in Syria's
neighbor Iraq where weekly bombings have become routine and the Shia regime now
wants to arrest elected minority Sunni leaders.

Wherever we go it seems, bombings are sure to follow.  Pakistan, which had hardly
ever had a terrorist bombing now is deluged with them.  This week almost a 100
people were killed in a spate of attacks in major cities.  The country is paying dearly
for this 'War on Terror', and the leadership is squeezed between the demands of its
people and the demands of its ally, the U.S. ... if ally is the right word, given the
nature of the relationship.  Meanwhile, Mr. Karzai is here busy negotiating his or a
similar government's survival after U.S. withdrawal.  He is also cannily putting out
feelers to the Taliban.

We have a habit, an addiction even, of asking countries to do what we want.  If they
don't comply, we try to topple the government, or declare it a pariah state, the leader
is labeled crazy, extremist, hardliner, fascist curtailing freedoms, etc.  Often our
motive force is a lobbying group representing a powerful minority to the detriment of
the country as a whole -- the United Fruit Company in the case of the Guatemalan
coup against a democratically elected government demanding better working
conditions for banana plantation workers; the coup against the elected Mossaddegh
government in Iran, to install the Shah's dictatorial regime, at the behest of BP in an
earlier incarnation through the British government; Iraq -- pushed for by right wing
Israelis and their neocon allies plus the Saudis and the Gulf States, and the calls for
attacks on Iran by the same actors;  just about ditto for Libya and now Syria.

What is the record?  Vietnam was a losing proposition spreading chaos in Laos and
particularly Cambodia where millions lost their lives.  Iraq is a mess as is Syria.  Libya
left the fundamentalists stronger in Africa; they have spread from Libya to what used
to be a democratic Mali where they now control most of the country.  French forces
have now been dispatched to check their advance.  In Nigeria, the dying embers of
Islamic extremism have been reignited.  The three-decades long confrontation with
Iran continues.  Pakistan, a heavily nuclear-armed country is on the verge of chaos.

And the U.S. economy, also at the mercy of lobbyists, is dead in the water.  Jobs,
jobs, jobs, all ready and waiting with idle manufacturing capacity and a badly decayed
infrastructure, but no leaders to pull it all together.