Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
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 16, 2013
Mr. President: When I was a young man, many of my compatriots, who had ventured
to the United Kingdom to pursue higher education, would return home with a car,
generally a modest affair like a Morris Minor. Most would ship the car home. Some
would travel through Europe, expecting it to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and
embark in Genoa for the final leg of the trip home via the Suez Canal to Aden, then
on to Karachi or Bombay. Imagine a ship as a necessary means of travel and not a
pleasure cruise as we know it today -- well, it was a long time ago.
The intrepid among us however, chose to drive home. The trip was fraught with peril
as a couple of flats or engine trouble could leave one stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Yet all in my acquaintance arrived safely. We thought that a few years into the future
the journey would be as safe as driving to work, the roads would be much improved,
the countries prosperous and stable. But then in an idealistic post WWII era, we
forgot the hunger and greed of developed nations buttressed by force of arms, and
the petty jealousies and venalities in the underdeveloped.
The horror is the realization that only a madman would consider undertaking the
same trip today -- especially on an American passport. If you weren't spat upon in
Turkey, or had your heart cut out by a fundamentalist in Syria, you would certainly be
lynched in Iraq. Iran, despite the propaganda, is probably the best bet, but you would
only be heading to a beheading in Afghanistan.
So, why am I thinking of all this? It was brought on by Mr. Kerry's remark that the
military has to restore order (at least 600 have been killed) to pave the way for
elections leading to "genuine" democracy. No doubt the previous elections bringing
to Egypt, what some called the first real elected government in its 6000-year history,
gave us by inference an ersatz democracy in the Kerry lexicon. And when is a coup
not a coup? When the military, that supreme arbiter, decides such a democracy must
It is clearly why our government refused to call it a coup when the Egyptian military
overthrew its elected government in the wake of protests ... protests fed by shortages
that vanished, miraculously overcome, the day after the coup.
So while we are into fairy stories, here is another one from this week:
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks (I should say 'process' because for over twenty years
that is the centrality not actual peace). At the same time, Israel announced plans for
more settlements on occupied land (this time in East Jerusalem, the most sensitive of
all areas) in violation, as always, of international law ...
"Stop gobbling up the pie Moshe while we talk about how to share it."
"There you go again, trying to put up preconditions. We can never have peace that
The peace process has had many beneficiaries; some have even made a career out
of it, notably Dennis B. Ross. Yet again, he is our representative and what a stellar
background ... an American diplomat and a co-founder of the AIPAC-sponsored
Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Nothing like naming a well-known Israel
backer and champion as an honest broker.