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 26, 2013

Mr. President:  The juxtaposition of events yesterday were startling.  In Dallas a
celebratory event, the inauguration of the George W. Bush Presidential Library at
Southern Methodist University.  In Kirkuk, Iraq, the killing of scores of civilians by the
Iraqi army -- different in sect from the civilians and at the service of the Shia
government in Baghdad.  Also, ahead of provincial elections, the regular bombings
now run into the dozens every week.

A disproportionate number of the five million or so Iraqis displaced by the war and
dispersed across the world are the really small minorities.  They had made a home in
Iraq for millenia but are now almost all gone.  Thus the Chaldaean Catholics, of whom
Tariq Aziz the Prime Minister in Saddam Husein's government was the most
prominent, form a significant proportion of Iraqi immigrants accepted into the U.S.  
Others include Yezidis and the gnostic Mandaeans, tiny sects whose millenia old
cultures are now in danger of extinction.  The cultural destruction has also included
archaeological sites as well as the Baghdad museum, a treasure trove of one of our
earliest civilizations.

Prewar Iraq was a secular, countervailing force to the Iranian regime; now a Shiite
Iraqi government is allied with Iran and Syria and thus with Hezbollah (the most
significant military and political force in Lebanon labeled terrorist by us.)  Similarly,
Libya was secular and the most prosperous country on the African continent.  It is
now in shambles.  One cannot be sure where Syria is headed, but it looks more and
more on a path to destruction.  This week when Syrian government forces looked
likely to cut off a large segment of rebels from their supply lines, out came the threats
of intervention based on the possible government use of chemical weapons
established with "varying levels of confidence" by our intelligence experts.  In actual
fact, it was the Syrian government that first lodged a complaint with the UN about an
incident when a chemical device had apparently been employed by the rebels.  The
UN team and mandate we would agree upon would investigate throughout Syria and
not just the one incident.  To the Syrians, they could thus glean vital tactical
information (as happened in Iraq) as prelude to invasion.

The Iraqi refugees blame the U.S. for ruining their country; they are unhappy -- who
wouldn't be if they had led upper middle class professional lives at home and were
now cleaning hotel rooms on l2-hour shifts over here.  Soon irrespective of who wins,
they will be joined by Syrians and Afghans, and whoever else becomes a target of our
political elite's wrath.  More and more of the world is embittered as the waste of blood
and treasure continues.

In the meantime, our crumbling infrastructure has a grade of D+ -- have you driven on
the interstates lately? -- and the economy's groaning recovery is certainly not helping
the unemployed.  The situation seems ideal for a massive joint public and private
sector rebuilding effort.  But civil war in Washington and Congress takes precedence
over the country's welfare.

Not to worry, there is a bright side.  I have seen the advent of Korean, Vietnamese,
Iranian, Middle Eastern restaurants.  Now the Iraqis and Syrians can add their touch
to the latter.  And, of course, very shortly, we will have more Afghan cuisine to look
forward to ... Karzai's Kebabs definitely has a certain ring to it.