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
February 14, 2015

Mr. President:  Mohammed Tuaiman of al-Zur village was all of thirteen years old.  On
January 26, he was incinerated by drone strike in Yemen.  The terse announcement
following it claimed three al-Qaeda militants had been killed.  The only reason we
know about Mohammed is because England's Guardian newspaper had interviewed
him earlier last September; his father was killed in 2011 by a drone strike.  At the time,
the boy had protested strongly they had nothing to do with al-Qaeda.  They were
merely a Sunni village fighting the Shia Houthis who have since taken over the
Yemeni capital.  We, of all people, can affirm a mutual enemy does not an ally make --
one needs only to think of Syria, the IS and the US.

Mohammed's late father had three wives and 27 children.  Imagine an outside agency
killing several members of a family here in this country.  The family would be
screaming for retaliation with the press as cheerleaders.  Mohammed's vast family
does not need to be al-Qaeda to hate the US.

Such is the problem with drones.  The intelligence on which action is based is far from
perfect.  Cheapened human life cheapens it for both sides.  And Mohammed failed
even to fit the notoriously broad definition of an insurgent as any male of military age
-- Mohammed was a boy five years short.

This week the UN decried human rights violations in Libya.  Gaddafi had kept a check
on Islamic militants, who we supported to overthrow him.  Now the country is in chaos
with two governments -- militants in Tripoli and a general who spent two decades in
Langley in the east.  We naturally recognize the general.  Meanwhile, Islamic militancy
of a particularly virulent variety has seeped down south to Nigeria and beyond --
Libyan weapons and example helping.   Boko Haram kidnaps 124 school girls (now
quite sometime ago) and the First Lady without irony brandishes the Nigerian slogan,
'we want our girls back'.  So do we all but we did not destabilize Libya.  Boko Haram
still has the girls.

The war on terror produces more terror it seems:  Iraq, where there was none before
the $5 trillion war; Pakistan and the $1 trillion Afghan war, ditto; Syria, Yemen,
Somalia ... chaos everywhere.  None, repeat none of our wars in seventy years has
resulted in victory -- not since the Second World War.  One would think we would
have figured alternatives ...

Now a war authorization request (to go back to Iraq!) has been sent to Congress by
the White House.  Some like the Wall Street Journal say it handicaps the generals by
its time limit of three years.  Others like the New York Times complain it is too broad in
scope, that it is a global license to conduct war.  How about letting the Turks and the
Arabs sort out IS by themselves?

Meanwhile from Israel comes news of another kind.  A usually well-informed Uri
Avnery who knows the country like the back of his hand, claims Sheldon Adelson the
casino billionaire (to whom all Republican presidential candidates tramp -- as if to
Moses -- to be quizzed and given a blessing) is behind the Netanyahu invitation to
address Congress.  Is it legitimate for a casino mogul to have this kind of influence in
Israel and the US?

The Minsk deal announced Thursday starts a ceasefire in Ukraine from Sunday,
February 15.  The sanctions have been hurting Europe as much if not more than
Russia, and European stock markets have bounded up since the announcement.  
Pressed from all sides, Angela Merkel traveled to Ukraine, Russia, the US and
Belarus in a four day whirlwind to push the deal.  Vladimir Putin has pulled our irons
out of the fire again -- now twice if we remember Syria after the poison gas episode.  
Who in their right mind wants a military confrontation with Russia, the other major
nuclear power?