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 23, 2015

Mr. President:  Four years ago, a bad harvest and economic problems in Syria
predictably led to demonstrations, but they were far from a popular uprising against
President Bashar al-Assad.  It explains why the rebels and the US refuse to agree to
his proposal for an election where the people can choose between him and the
rebels.  More popular than ever in government areas, he is most likely to win.

Four years, a quarter million dead, one in two internally displaced, and millions of
refugees ... now Russia has entered the war on the side of the government and its
airstrikes have been effective.  The Russians are Mr. Assad's insurance no matter
how much the West demonizes him.

After Iraq, Libya and Syria, is there any humanitarian credibility left for these military
interventions?  Meanwhile, Mr. Kerry is running around having talks with the major
proxies in Syria.  But the major fighting opposition is the Islamic State, which no one
claims to sponsor.

Whenever the war heats up, refugees flood out.  The 600,000 asylum seekers in
Europe are causing rallies for and against, mostly the latter.  The formerly Communist
Europe never a bastion of liberalism is causing chaos.  Hungary has closed its
borders forcing the refugees to seek alternative routes.  They are now jammed up in
what used to be Yugoslavia, behind the border fences of its parts.

The consequences of another war -- the so-called good war -- continue to bedevil.  
The Taleban briefly captured Kunduz causing the US troop withdrawal schedule to be
extended.  And Pakistan's leader Mr. Nawaz Sharif was invited to Washington.  The
terrorist attacks in Pakistan are a direct legacy of helping the US in its Afghan war.  
These are destroying the country, and the disunity and animosity has reverberations
far across in cities like Karachi, where internal migrants from the Pathan tribal areas
have settled in search of work.  Among the minor inconveniences:  Everyone has to
be careful what they say or write.  The National College of Arts in Lahore, built in
1875 by Rudyard Kipling's father, has had to shut down the school's journal Sohbet --
an article on homoerotic art offended fundamentalists.

Border states in America's wars (where lengthy) have suffered far worse -- Laos and
Cambodia for example.  Pakistan is unlikely to be appeased with the sale of a few
outdated F-16s.

In Canada this week, the long-suffering Canadians under Stephen Harper and his
rural constituency gave everyone, including pollsters, a surprise.  The Liberals under
Justin Trudeau won an overall majority beating Harper's Conservatives and Thomas
Mulcair's New Democratic Party -- the latter had been given the best chance of
ousting the Conservatives.  The Liberals have always stood for a generous Canada,
free national health care, multiculturalism (Mr. Trudeau does a keen Bhangra), and
women's rights.  Our schools are at the bottom of the industrialized nations' list,
Canada's near the top.  Unlike the Canada of the past, Mr. Harper's Canada joined
America's wars with enthusiasm, all the while cutting public spending including on
health care.  The Canadians clearly had had enough.  Mr. Harper, also rumored to
have hidden in a closet when a deranged gunman shot at security forces outside the
parliamentary building, can now empty the closets and pack up.

The incoming Liberals and Mr. Trudeau are also not great fans of TPP.  One wonders
what will happen if the new parliament is unable to ratify the agreement ...