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
August 8, 2014

Mr. President:  This week the Russians imposed their own sanctions:  on fresh food
from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- the principals of the
'international community', a term that has become essential in the lexicon of
mainstream media.  While the sanctions inconvenience the urbanites in Russia, they
are likely to bite hard in Poland and the Baltic states;  Holland too will feel the pinch.  
These are, of course, only a foretaste for a banning of overflights for airlines from the
same countries is contemplated.  A glance at the globe shows how travel from here
and Europe to east Asia will be affected, hurting the airline industry.  The stock
markets have been signalling their displeasure at all the tit for tat.

Europe was always a reluctant partner in the Ukraine tragedy, as the notorious 'f**k
the EU' comment confirmed.  Unfortunately, it is exactly what will happen as they
suffer the worst pain during a period of economic vulnerability.

In Israel, a casualty of the war is freedom of speech.  Gideon Levy a prominent
commentator and critic needs a bodyguard.  Israeli Arabs expressing opposition are
frequently fired from their jobs, and students have been expelled from universities.  
The propaganda for war is intense; peace activists are shunned.  Inordinate civilian
casualties -- mostly women, children and old men -- are blamed on Hamas.  Yet
support for Hams is increasing.  Gazans agree with its demand for removal of the
seven-year blockade.  The say, better to die than to return to it.

Aside from the inherent racism of the remark (attributed to Golda Meier, the matriarch
from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) that we will have peace when the Arabs start loving their
children more than they hate us, the general idea that Hamas wants civilians killed as
it helps in the propaganda war, was answered by Uri Avnery, the prominent writer,
original member of the Jewish underground fighting for a state, former member of the
Knesset, etc.  He likened these oft-repeated 'human shields' comments to accusing
Winston Churchill of using the population of London in a similar manner.

Yes, 'Israel has a right to defend itself', but from what?  In this unequal contest, the
Hamas missiles against civilians are about as effective as fireworks.  The casualty
figures speak for themselves.  Only two Israeli civilians and one east Asian worker
have been killed, and over sixty soldiers in the ground war.  In contrast, nearly two
thousand Gazans are dead, the vast majority civilians of women, children and old men
outnumber the rest.

Is this carnage to be repeated every two years as seems to be happening?  It takes
leadership to force sense into the Israeli government, particularly one of right wing
ideologues, to prevent it from overplaying its hand.  The window for peace is closing,
while the demographic trend puts Israel at risk. And judging by some of the rhetoric,
the ideologues could do with a reminder that the world is unlikely to tolerate anything
like an ethnic cleansing in the twenty-first century.

In Iraq, all sides in the current ISIS crisis are using American weapons.  Why?  When
Hillary Clinton was predicting the imminent demise of Assad and his regime, we in
concert with Saudi Arabia were arming these ardent Wahhabi (a Sunni form dating
from the eighteenth century and adopted by the House of Saud) fundamentalists to
fight the secular Syrian government.  But softer targets in Iraq beckoned.  It has led to
the ludicrous scenario of fighters armed and supplied by us in Syria being fought
against in Iraq.  So far only bombing and some special forces but given the usual
mission creep, it would be no surprise if US soldiers are soon fighting American arms
and training.  Your spirited defense in today's New York Times of these policies
including Libya where you speculated on having averted a 'massacre' avoided the
cause (destabilization as in Syria) and the catastrophic result.

Your predecessor's well-known phrase, "mission accomplished", and your own less
well known statement, "We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant
Iraq" mock this country and epitomize the naivete and vacuous ineptitude of US policy
in these two administrations.