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
September 12, 2014

Mr. President:  Three decades ago, this country was aiding Saddam Hussein in Iraq's
war against the then new fundamentalist regime of the Ayatollahs in Shia Iran.  At the
time, Iraq's government was secular with a Christian prime minister.  US help blunted
a final Iranian offensive resulting in a stalemate and the end of the war.  Thereafter,
lacking clear signals from the US, the uncontrollable Saddam was off his leash.

US failure to clarify its position led to his Kuwait adventure, and subsequently to the
first US-Iraq war.  Saddam's defeat, however, was followed not by Saddam's removal
but by more suffering for the Iraqi people through economic sanctions.  One result
was the death of a half-million children for lack of medicines and other necessities.

It did not stop there.  In the wake of 9/11 came Bush II's mega-dollar war based on
false claims.  Iraq was occupied.   However, the fateful and disastrous decisions
following (de-Ba'athification, the disbandment of the old Iraqi army and political
sectarianism) have led to what is essentially a Shiite regime and a Shiite army
hounding Sunnis.  That some Sunni force would emerge was inevitable; that it came
from Syrian rebels assisted indirectly by the US is not only tragic and ironic but also
the result of a continuing deeply flawed policy targeting secular regimes.  We are now
back in Iraq fighting fundamentalist Sunni forces in the form of ISIS the so-called
Islamic State.

US policy in Iraq has been a succession of failures:  failure to impress on Saddam the
unacceptability of a Kuwait invasion; then, after the first war became inevitable, the
failure to remove Saddam and continue a secular regime under another leader; and
the appalling failure after the second war to maintain a secular regime (like the Ba'ath
Party which kept fundamentalists in check).  The first would have prevented two
expensive wars; the last the necessity for the present one.  The lessons have still not
been learned for the US continues its effort to oust a secular government in Syria.

The latest Iraq intervention, namely, the plan to fight ISIS, is irrealizable both
operationally and strategically.   On an operational level, it relies on arming and
training the moderate almost non-existent Syrian rebels of the Free Syrian Army.  
One need only consider the time, training and money spent training the Iraqi army
and its abysmal performance against ISIS to assess the chances of success.

Strategically the situation is almost farcical:   Fighting ISIS in Iraq, the US is placed on
the same side as Iran and its Shia sphere of influence, i.e. the Iraqi Shia-dominated
government in Baghdad, the Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad.  In Syria, from where
ISIS originates and is the strongest rebel group fighting the Assad regime, the US is
on the opposite side, i.e. against the Assad regime and its supporters (who happen to
be the same Iran, Hezbollah, and the Shia government in Baghdad).

Thus the policy upends itself with the invisible wall of the Syria-Iraq border.  About the
only consistency for the Democrats recalls the so-called invisible wall, between
commercial and investment banking, for which the Democrats traded the real wall of
Glass-Steagall.  The financial disaster was not long in coming.  The global fallout of
fighting Sunnis with Shia help (even when it is together with others) can also be
similarly catastrophic for the resentment it will cause in the Sunni populations.

There are over a billion Sunnis to about a 100 million Shia in the Muslim world who,
until recent fundamentalism took hold, lived fairly peaceably together, or in their own
countries -- principally Iran for the Shia, and the rest of the Muslim world for Sunnis.

In a recent Vice Media documentary many in the Sunni population under ISIS control
in Iraq actually favored ISIS rule over what they characterized as Baghdad's Shiite
Army.  It is not unlikely then that US actions will anger the Sunnis in Iraq and
elsewhere.  Concurrently, arming Syrian rebels against the Shia-backed Assad
regime, will inflame the Shia.  Piling on sectarian hatred raises the danger level for the
US in an already steaming Muslim world that blames it for Israel's recent pointless
Gaza invasion killing over 2000 -- pointless because Israel in the end was forced to
accede to Hamas' demands for easing some of the border controls imprisoning

Meanwhile, the Iraq-Syria two-step is being lauded by the same Washington pundits
who brought us the multi-trillion dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their Islamic
fundamentalist consequences, as well as the chaos in Libya and its aftermath ... a
fundamentalist resurgence in Central and West Africa.

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