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
October 5, 2012

Mr. President:  The first debate is over.  The overall impression was of Romney being
a nice, warm person very capable of holding his own, and certainly not of the guy who
"like[s] to fire people."  You, Sir, appeared cold, aloof, emotionless, even when talking
about the deceased grandmother who brought you up.  Maybe it was stress and lack
of sleep but the tone and expression was as if she were a cord of wood, or some
policy item.  The impression was accentuated at the end when Romney was
surrounded by a large, clearly loving family embracing him.  As for policy issues, I
seem to remember a candidate Obama promising to raise the minimum wage to
$9.25, close Guantanamo, stop torture, etc.  By the way, the short answer to
Romney's tax cutting, deregulation theme is the colloquial response, 'been there,
done that.'  Dodd-Frank is toothless as it continues unchecked derivatives trading
(Chase's recent huge losses should be a warning), and Bush tax cuts can now be
called Obama tax cuts.

The news from Afghanistan continues to be bad.  In the three days preceding the
debate, two soldiers were killed in another "green on blue" insider attack; another
three plus a translator lost heir lives in a suicide bombing.  American dead in
Afghanistan went past the 2000 mark this week.  Other non-U.S. NATO deaths now
number 1066.  How this became the "good" war is difficult to understand when
Afghans themselves have never participated in any terrorist attack on American or
European soil.  And the plan to leave, in what appears as unseemly haste, does not
seem consistent with a satisfactory conclusion when the Taliban are not going

Mr. Gaddafi was in power for forty-two years.  Despite his rhetoric, his government
respected diplomatic sovereignty, and there was never any question of an
ambassador being harmed.  Yet now we have a slain U.S. ambassador in the city we
helped to defend against Gaddafi forces.  Our policy of supporting fundamentalist
gangs, exploiting religious factionalism and ethnic rivalry is bearing its ugly fruit.  
Americans are no longer safe in the countries where we have inserted ourselves.

Of course, in these days of instant communications, the anti-Muslim rhetoric prevalent
here is not lost on Muslims elsewhere and adds fuel to the fire.  Odd that if the word
"Jews" was substituted for "Muslims", the articles and comments would be considered
hate speech; yet when the targets are Muslims, it is instantly defended as "freedom of

Drone strikes are again in the news.  The famous (former) Pakistani cricketer, Imran
Khan, who was married to Jemina Goldsmith a liberal Jew, and is about as secular a
politician as one will find in Pakistan, is leading a march in Waziristan against drone
killings this weekend.  There is something seriously amiss when the U.S. cannot find
common ground with a secular liberal politician, but supports religious fundamentalists
in Libya and Syria.

The moral and legal ambiguities of drone strikes also pose a problem.  The U.S. is not
at war with Pakistan or Yemen.  Yet it freely engages in attacking their populations.  
Not only does this appear to breach international law and civilized norms of behavior,
it is setting a precedent allowing other entities when they have access to drones, to
attack us using the same convoluted logic.

Perhaps it is the continuous cold killing, the checking off of who shall live and who
shall die, that drains away the emotion.

A final note:  Mahatma Gandhi's 142nd birth anniversary fell this week (October 2).  
When he was asked what he thought of Western civilization, he famously quipped, it
was an excellent idea.