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
March 2, 2012

Mr. President:  As Republicans coalesce around Mitt Romney, it becomes increasingly
likely he will be the Republican nominee.  The question is, who and what are we
voting for?  Is there any real difference between the parties on major issues
(excluding social issues)?  Despite Republican rhetoric, there is a continuum through
Bush II/Obama on defense and the economy.  The consonance (bailouts and wars)
runs into trillions while the differences (so-called high-speed rail, alternative energy
and the like) is over a few billion.

To this observer, the real decline of America is not in hard power -- the military
remains unassailable -- but in soft power.  American values have been shredded and
when we preach freedom and democracy, we are open to snickers and contempt.  
What has happened?

Instead of a clear democratic victory, in 2000, we had an election decided by an
unelected Supreme Court that half the electorate believed was prejudiced.  In
2002/03, we had the huge frauds by Enron and WorldCom exposed.  The subsequent
2008 financial crisis extended the decline in trust to the source of capital.  
Guantanamo destroyed the world's confidence in our role as a torch bearer for liberty
and the new law going into effect this week shreds habeas corpus.  True, the
internment of Japanese in the Second World War was similar and on a larger scale,
but one had the belief and assurance it would not occur again.

Should we not have a say when our allies commit atrocities against women?  The
status and condition of women has deteriorated hugely in Afghanistan since the first
U.S. supported Mujahedin war against Soviet occupation; the same in Iraq, since our
invasion; and now in Libya as girls in tightly wrapped headscarves are segregated in

Today there is a Parliamentary election in Iran, one of the few countries in the Middle
East that holds regular elections.  There is in fact a tussle between conservatives,
namely, the Supreme Leader and the President,  and fraud would be difficult with both
sides watching over each other.  On Sunday, Russians will be voting for a new
President.  As with Iran, our press will continue to question the legitimacy of these
elections despite the fact that Putin in Russia is far ahead of his rivals in every poll
undertaken and will certainly win.  Contrast also the elections with the new, essentially
Brussels' appointed, unelected Prime Minister of Greece, and the current unelected
government in Italy that warrant almost no criticism.

When the world hears the drumbeat of media incessantly repeating points of view
inconsistent with observation, our moral authority erodes, which, in turn, impedes the
exercise of soft power.  Thus we attack countries, win/lose wars, without material
benefit and with the loss of moral ground.  To what end?

Where is this country headed?  How do we restore moral respect?  Given the
importance of soft power and its infinitely lower cost, when will the political leaders
vying for the nation's top job address and debate these issues?