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 20, 2013

Mr. President:  At its best, this country offers values, generosity, compassion, an
engaged civil society, and to many a popular pop culture.  So why do we export
suspicion, mistrust, military instead of economic aid, and violence?  Dilma Rousseff,
the President of Brazil has just cancelled a U.S. state visit, the only one with all the
trimmings scheduled in 2013.  We have been spying on her emails and offer no
apology, no promises and no future guarantees.  It left her little choice.

Nicolas Maduro, the democratically elected President of Venezuela has been denied
overflight rights over the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico for his forthcoming visit to the
UN General Assembly meeting next week.  He will still come, but his plane will take a
longer way round.

Not so long ago, the Bolivian President's plane was denied landing or overflight
permission by several European countries at our behest.  President Evo Morales was
stranded in Austria for many hours.  He, too, is a democratically elected leader.

In Egypt Mr. Morsi, the country's first democratically elected President was removed
by the military in a coup which your administration refused to call a coup because that
would stop military aid.

On the one hand, there seems to be a complete inability to deal with elected leaders
who respond to the will of their people; on the other, we are busy prescribing
democracy to countries ravaged in the quest for this elusive Valhalla.  Libya, Iraq, and
now Syria ... countries that had become middle-income, now shattered.  Millions of
refugees, thousands and hundreds of thousands dead, millions of lives destroyed, a
generation lost, all for the ostensible goal of a democracy.

So why do they hate us?  The people of Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil are certainly
not enamored by the recent behavior of our government.  They feel insulted.

The situation in the Middle Eastern countries is incomparably worse.  Iraq,
Afghanistan and now Syria are devastated.  Even Pakistan, where bombings, now
common, were non-existent just a few years ago before the 'war on terror' began.  But
the war against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan had already changed a relatively
quiet place.  Fruit trees destroyed, Afghans turned to poppies.  The only way out for
the heroin was through Pakistan, leaving its own detritus of addicts and crime and
their adjunct, violence; an escalation to levels unimaginable as surplus firearms
supplied for the Mujahideen became easily available.

There must be a rationale for policy, but it seems the world would be a better place,
and we would be better liked if we began to mind our own business.  Humans can
generally resolve their local difficulties themselves over time.  Yet for some reason,
the lessons of the Vietnam war have to be relearned time and again.

If Iraq or Syria have been disasters, Iran could be worse.  Something to bear in mind,
sitting down with President Rouhani, the newly elected President of Iran, who has held
out several olive branches recently.  And as in the cases cited earlier, there is a
tendency here to overplay a hand.