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
April 26, 2019 (posted April 28, 2019)

Mr. President:  The horrendous Easter bombings in Sri Lanka make little sense; the
question remains, why?  Following 30 years of civil war between the majority Buddhist
Sinhalese (75%) and the minority and mostly Hindu Tamils (11%), who felt
discriminated against after the country won independence from the British, it had
enjoyed a decade of peace.

The Muslims are another minority in Sri Lanka.  They have been under attack in
recent years by a new aggressive Buddhism rearing its head.  So why should Muslims
attack Christians a fellow Abrahamic minority who could be natural allies.  When ISIS
claimed responsibility displaying faces-covered photos of the bombers (except for the
leader whose face was uncovered), the murkiness of the circumstances precipitated
out.  He who pays the piper calls the tune they say, and the local group (National
Thowheed Jam'aath) who were the instruments, did not have the wherewithal or the

According to ISIS, it was revenge for the New Zealand mosque bombings but it was
also designed to hit the tourist trade.  Then too, Zahran Hashim the leader of the
group, and who himself is thought to have carried out the attack on Colombo's
Shangri La Hotel was of Tamil background.  The cycle continues.

Needless to say the attack on Christians also wrong-footed the security forces for
they had intelligence reports since January, but clearly had little or no security
presence.  Will there be retribution?  That is what Muslims fear (and ISIS wants) for it
generates more recruits to continue the madness.

How did ISIS emerge?  It might be repetitious to say so, but it takes the brutality of war
to generate extremists.  Think of the IRA, or the Tamil Tigers who invented the suicide
bomber.  The crazed path of destruction created in the Middle East and North Africa
by the US will leave a trail many years hence.

And not only there, as the revolution fomented in Ukraine has led to a civil war, with
Russia backing the ethnic Russians of the Donbass region in East Ukraine.  Just this
week,  Russian president Vladimir Putin issued an order simplifying the procedure for
them to obtain Russian passports.  Is this another step towards eventual annexation?

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin has decided to fill the void left when Donald Trump in Vietnam
walked away from what he called a bad deal with Kim Jon Un of North Korea.  Kim had
demanded an end to all economic sanctions before he would begin to dismantle his
nuclear weaponry.  Kim had a point:  it is clearly not easy to replace destroyed
armaments unlike sanctions.

Putin is now playing the role of global power broker with North Korea drawing the
attention Trump had received briefly until the falling out.  A new bromance?  Perhaps,
and one important enough for Putin to travel across seven time zones for the
meeting.  Kim was met with great ceremonial pomp and treated to a lavish banquet
laden with delicacies; thus indulging his twin weaknesses for deference and good
food.  No cheeseburgers, thank you -- in marked contrast to Trump's favorite food.

What does Putin get?  Along with being seen as an influencer in North Korea, he
could well become its intermediary, the go-to guy.  The wily Putin seldom loses.  He
waits and watches, watches and waits.  For Kim, his two neighbors Russia and China
have been his strongest support for generations, to which he now returns.

He tried to emulate China, wanting capital and western firms to invest and kickstart a
commercially moribund economy.  But Trump's price was too high.  One wonders
whether Trump will expound on the Art of the Missed Deal if he loses the next
election.  But then the 'curiouser and curiouser' Democrats might ensure that he does
not have to.