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 26, 2012

Mr. President:  A bomb attack at a mosque in northern Afghanistan has left at least 45
dead and many more injured.  Most of those attending Eid prayers at this mosque
were police and soldiers including the police chief (who was wounded) and the
provincial governor.  Like others in the north, this province was once considered
peaceful.  In addition, attacks on U.S. and other NATO soldiers continue to take their
relentless weekly toll.  Edicts are issued on the increasing competence of the 'Afghan'
army run by the Northern Alliance, whose behavior forces the ethnic Pashtuns into
the arms of the not particularly liked Taliban.  They, like everyone else, are jockeying
for post U.S. withdrawal advantage.  One indicator is the number of insider attacks
which are at their highest this year accounting for 1 in 5 U.S. fatalities.  Tip-offs to
rebels by Afghan soldiers before operations are common, highlighting ethnic divisions.

Drone strikes do kill civilians (often in large numbers) because Pashtuns commonly
live in extended family compounds; also families inhabit both sides of a notoriously
porous (until now) Af-Pak border.  A direct consequence is the worst ever anti-U.S.
sentiment in Pakistan according to polls.  This is a country with about a hundred
nuclear warheads, and an economy in serious trouble because of the war.

This week also brought reports of another 200 Rohingya Muslims killed in Burma's
western Rakhine State.  Compromising just 0.7 million out of a 75 million population,
they had lived there for generations, quite peaceably, until the military in a burst of
ethnic nationalism (which included changing the name of the country to Myanmar and
of its largest city to Yangon from Rangoon) began to target them as well as ethnic
tribes on the eastern border.  Amnesty International accuses security forces of
beatings, rapes and killings.  The Nation magazine calls it unabated genocide where
militant Buddhist monks are calling for them to be interned in concentration camps.  
They have also blocked humanitarian aid.  As Burma seeks economic re-entry into
the West, surely there is enough leverage to stop the horror, which also brought
harsh condemnation by the U.S. Secretary General a few days ago.

A stone's throw from my alma mater and notable also for the presence of Mick Jagger
who obviously could 'get no satisfaction' there for he left after brief attendance, the
London School of Economics (LSE) is in the news.  It has issued an extensive report
on the global war on drugs.  In sum, the war has been a dismal failure.  In the western
hemisphere, the principal cause of the drug problem is the demand pull from the U.S.  
Instead of dealing with our end, we blame the suppliers.  Legalizing drugs could raise
hundreds of billions in tax revenue, enough to make a serious dent in the deficit, and
also put an end to the ravages of gang warfare particularly in our neighbor, Mexico.

The me-too debate on Monday laid bare the lack of any bold political agenda.  It
reminds one of John Kerry who agreed with the ill-conceived and costly Iraq war, but
claimed he would do it better, who always had a plan that no one could find.  No
wonder voter registration is way down.  Perhaps they agree with the sentiment
echoed by the publisher of Harper's, "I have no horse in this race!"