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 7, 2016

Mr. President:  Mostly unnoticed by our media, today is the 15th anniversary of the
war in Afghanistan -- a war with no foreseeable end in sight.  The number of troops
due to remain in Afghanistan has been raised 50 percent to 8400.  Drones based in
Pakistan continue to play their deadly role.  Just today attacks on security
checkpoints in the Chashma area of Maiwand district in the southern part of
Kandahar province resulted in a gun battle lasting several hours.  Afghan officials
concede three soldiers died and four were wounded.  The Taliban claim the
surrender of an entire battalion and one tank.

Although a term seldom heard these days, there was much talk of 'nation building' in
the Bush years; instead the Middle East and large parts of North Africa have been on
the receiving end of death, destruction and displacement,  on a scale not seen since
the Second World War.  Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen,
even Ukraine are fractured states, the ensuing misery for their citizens a natural

Iraq is back in the news again not just for the reinsertion of U.S. forces, but also for a
new planned battle to recapture Mosul from the IS -- a battle likely to be another hell
for its Sunni citizens who probably do not relish a return of the now essentially Shia
Iraqi military.

Sectarianism, Balkanization of states, a rending of the delicate fabric of these
multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies may not have been the stated aim but has
certainly been the aftermath.  The fact is when the same scenario is repeated time
and again, many see it as the goal of U.S. policy disguised in platitudes.  Hence the
ill-will towards Americans across a wide swathe of lands running from North Africa to
India.  It is a sobering prospect in an inter-connected world.

The most troubling aspect of the Afghanistan war is one basic irrefutable fact:  Neither
the Afghan people nor their government had any involvement in the 9/11 attack.  Yes,
Osama bin Laden was a guest in the country but only because he had helped repel
the Soviet invasion.  The Afghan government requested evidence, the U.S. reply:
surrender him or else ... .  To neighboring Pakistan Richard Armitage delivered the
notorious line, 'we'll bomb you back into the stone age,' according to then President
Pervez Musharraf.

Were there no other alternatives to full-scale war?  How about a Special Forces
action targeting bin Laden's group?  Or, for a peaceful solution, how about the
possibility of surrender to an international tribunal that would have guaranteed no
death penalty.  He claimed to be a leader conducting war and, it is fair to say, many
other wartime leaders have ordered far worse.  A guest in a world where honor is
important might have been obliged to accept such surrender terms, but certainly not
the demands of a revanchist superpower intent on his execution.

The war made enemies out of friends, and left nuclear-armed Pakistan considerably
less stable by importing religious extremism -- bombings and terror attacks, once
almost unheard of are now quite common.

Based on lies, as the Chilcot report in Britain affirms, the Iraq war was even more
egregious and has left unimagined problems in its wake.  Given these experiences
and Libya to boot, one would have thought arming jihadi groups -- wasn't the Osama
bin Laden experience enough?-- was playing with fire.  But here we are again:  
fighting a secular government in Syria that was never a threat, and trying to replace it
with jihadis who harbor a visceral U.S. hatred.

The logic that prevails is of insiders, who, too, harbor visceral hatreds but cloak their
arguments.  Who ever heard of killing people to save them?