obama_changeDear Mr. President,

As a Democrat, as your constituent and as your voter, I congratulate you on having ascended to the office of the President of the United States.

When Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, said in his letter to you that “What you do or say affects my country”, he was reflecting the sentiments of millions around the globe who welcomed your electoral victory. In my case and in the case of your many other Pakistani American supporters this holds particularly true, as the words and deeds of your predecessor directly affected our former motherland and our kith and kin that still live there. We have seen Bush’s misconceived war on terror jeopardize the security environment of our former motherland, which we love as much as we love America.

What concerned us deeply was the threatening language you used about Pakistan and in so doing you echoed the actions of George W. Bush, whose futile and failed military adventures you persistently ridiculed. But then your own rhetoric against Pakistan was in line with Bush policies and at odds with your own argument that ‘four more years’ of Bush policies under McCain would destroy America. We ignored your threats of attacks on Pakistan as posturing, perhaps necessary for you while playing to the gallery. However, there were those who felt that you remained wedded to the crucial elements of the war on terror during your campaign and you even paid obeisance to it by calling it a turning point in global politics, equating it with the danger posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This was in the footsteps of your Republican presidential opponents which was very disturbing indeed, as this made your position no different from that of Bush.

Now that elections are behind you it is time to be pragmatic and objective. It is time for an in-depth and objective review of policies and actions of your predecessor, for undoing the wrongs he and his cronies did, for healing wounds that they inflicted and for leading America on the new path to recovery. America and the world have suffered enough at the hands of the neo-cons and everyone is anxious to see the change you so ardently promised.

Mr. President, all those who voted for you are eagerly waiting for you to get to the bottom of the major falsehoods perpetuated by Bush administration and change course. They voted for you because you convinced them of your commitment to a substantive and meaningful change that will apply to all facets of American policies – internal and external. We are delighted to see that you got down to business right away by reversing some of the discredited Bush policies, including the rolling back of the war in Iraq. We are anxious to see that you do not lose this momentum under pressure from vested interests operating inside the Beltway. We are conscious that you have a long road ahead but we also trust your ability to address issues that so deeply affect the destinies of the American people, as well those who live beyond the borders of America.

Among the major fiascoes of Bush administration, the most damaging was the war on terror. The usual rhetoric fed to the world for the past several years notwithstanding, there is a growing conviction within America and outside that 9/11 was staged by the neo-cons mainly to secure energy resources and dominate the Muslim world, waging wars in the process. This served a four pronged strategy: firstly, it promoted the big American oil interests; secondly, it enabled America to tighten its grip on the energy tap to the world; thirdly, it aimed at stemming the rise of Islam which is perceived a threat by the West, and fourthly, it kept feeding the military industrial complex. No wonder then that during Bush era we saw the biggest expansion of American military bases and the largest troop deployment in areas of conflict in recent history.

Serious doubts are being expressed by a growing number of American scholars and journalists about the very existence of Al Qaeda, which they believe to be a ploy, a smoke screen, designed to implement the neo-con agenda. They used Al Qaeda to justify an attack on Afghanistan, use its soil to destabilize adjoining target countries and use it as a stepping stone for attack on Iraq. That Al Qaeda is a phantom enemy, is a conclusion that gains credibility by the failure of coalition forces to get Osama Bin Laden – a very sick man, or his second-in-command, even after six years of supposedly intense search with the finest war machine and surveillance technology. Osama, except for an odd mention, has not been a priority for them for several years now. It is now widely believed, and it stands to reason, that if this ‘elusive Osama’ had been captured, the neo-con game would have been over, with no enemy left in whose name they could continue to fight. One wonders if you also plan to continue searching for the black cat in the dark, which might not be there, and go off the tangent in the process.

And if the coalition forces are not aiming to seek out Al Qaeda and destroy it, then why is America engaged in combat with the Taliban, one might ask, wasting American lives and emptying our coffers. The Taliban have neither done any harm to America nor have they threatened our security. If their primitive outlook and style of governance did not meet Western standards, so be it. There are hundreds of primitive societies around the world that do not live by our standards. Do they not have a right to exist as they choose, as long as they do not pose a threat to our peace and stability? How has it become America’s responsibility to go out and set things right in Afghanistan or for that matter in any other country? Have we already set our own house in order and done away with social injustice at home that has been eating into the vitals of our society, which entitles us to claim the moral high ground to preach that our model be followed? Does a man who stole the 1999 presidential elections have an ethical right to go out on a crusade to democratize other people?

But perhaps there is more than meets the eye. It is believed that the neo-con action against Taliban did not actually result from their support to Al Qaeda but because of their disagreements with American oil interests over the arrangements related to pipelines transiting through Afghanistan. The decision to replace the Taliban with oil consultants Zalmay Khalilzad and Hamid Karzai is said to have been taken much before 9/11. During the 2008 election campaign reports came out that plans to attack Iraq were prepared by the neo-cons even before Bush assumed office in 2000 and that John McCain was privy to those discussions.

Mr. President, now that you are in a position to determine facts, you owe it to the American people to come forth with the truth. With the days of Bush-Cheney falsehoods over, the American people hold you to your covenant with them – ‘transparency in governance’. Having reposed their trust in you, they expect this promise fulfilled. Only then can precedence be set for future administrations to let truth prevail. Only then can the present tide be reversed.

Mr. President, the neo-con plans have gone sour both in Afghanistan and Iraq. By Robert Gates’ own admission the Afghan war is a losing war. Our troops are up against a ferocious tribal people who neither tolerate intruders, nor fear death and have no interest in imbibing your lessons in Western democracy. They have their own well developed religious, social and tribal structures, which they will heroically defend to the end. Despite their conventional military superiority, the coalition forces are fast conceding ground to the Taliban because this rag tag group of people excels in “irregular warfare” and whose insurgency is rooted in deep religious beliefs. It will be most unwise on our part to forget the ‘Vietnam lesson’ so soon. With the local populace against you, you stand no chance at all. According to General David Petraeus: “Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign of the long war. And I think that assessment has been confirmed by events in Afghanistan in recent months”.  

Mr. President, this assessment merits serious consideration. No matter how your generals portray the war on terror, it is a disaster. The military high command was chosen and tasked by the neo-con administration to follow the course set by it. The commanders remain honor bound to prove themselves no matter what the odds. Unfortunately, you have conceded by agreeing to a surge as demanded by your field commanders desperate for more troops. But whether it makes sense to continue wasting American lives and financial resources is a political decision that must take into account broader American interests. Granted that the hands of an American president are to a large extent tied by the long term policies and plans conceived and put in place by the State Department, the Department of Defense, the CIA and the think tanks, but when the nation is faced with desperate times, a president must assert himself and change course. This is one such occasion. The nation looks forward to see you lead, not to be led. Your priority at this time should not be to wage wars outside the American frontiers, but a war inside America on mismanagement, on corruption and on recovery of the teetering American economy. Your must focus not on putting the Afghans out of business, but on putting the Americans back into business. American revival comes first.

But Mr. President it seems that despite your good intentions, deviating from the course set by the previous administration will not be easy. You will be hard pressed to jettison the war on terror, although you have all the right reasons to do that. It is economically unsustainable, detrimental to American geopolitical interests and continues to inflame the Muslim world. You perhaps need to listen to saner voices too. The British commander in Afghanistan warned earlier that this war is unwinnable. George McGovern, former Democratic nominee for president in his letter to you has said and I quote: “To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.”

George goes on to warn: “True, the United States is the world’s greatest power — but so was the British Empire a century ago when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan, only to be forced out after excruciating losses. For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower when it poured some 100,000 troops into Afghanistan in 1979. They limped home, broken and defeated, a decade later, having helped pave the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Mr. President the entire American premise of fighting terrorism is wrong. America simply follows the dictates of Israel in using force to fight it. Military power cannot deal with terrorism. It only generates more of it. We have made more enemies and created more hatred against us the way we have tackled the issue. Unless America roots out the causes that breed terrorism, and you know where these lie and who stands in the way of resolving them, terrorism will not go away, dangers to our security will multiply manifold, our defense budget will spiral out of control and our social structures will keep crumbling.

Unfortunately, your enthusiasm to unduly please Israel at the cost of American national interests places you at the risk of failure in addressing this crucial issue. The world had not heard of terrorism, as we know it today, until Israel with American backing pushed the Palestinians to the wall. And the rest is history. Today, all over the world terrorism has become the poor man’s weapon to fight for his rights, to express his anger and to avenge injustice. It symbolizes utter desperation. And then it has come to be used by unscrupulous elements to create chaos in pursuance of their own ulterior ends. As long as America remains an Israeli accomplice, enabling it to pursue its wild dreams and perpetuate violence and injustice, there is no hope for a world free of terrorism.

And let me, in conclusion, again quote the senior Democratic leader – George McGovern who addressed you in these words: “The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East – our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel – that drives the terrorist impulse against us, would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.”

I rest my case, Mr. President.