My show will focus on the historical backgrounds of peoples and nation-states of the Middle East. Discussion will be guided in the spirit of open-mindedness and fairness to include all peoples of the Middle East many of whom have been mired in conflicts for decades, and some, for centuries. After obtaining more hands-on experience and familiarity with the equipment, I will invite guests for the show and will also include one or two songs.
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Today’s discussion concerned a touchy subject that has become sensitive only recently; namely, return to a former enemy country, the Republic of Iraq, in order to reclaim it from rogue warriors and terrorists who climbed out of the woodwork soon after our troop withdrawal. When wars broke out in Europe and Asia in mid-20th century, United States did not get involved immediately. However, many of our leaders foresaw what was happening in Europe would ultimately affect the United States. The world had become highly destabilized as a result of militarization of four industrially-advanced nations; Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Soviet Union, and Fascist Japan in Asia. In most instances, each had attacked and occupied its neighbors.
Political scientists tell us that well-being of a nation depends on its political and economic stabilities. Both systems must entail freedom; citizens’ rights and separation of power in the political sphere and a free marketplace in the economic domain. In United States and the West such guarantees resulted in enormous prosperity and advancement of sciences. However, the sudden emergence of belligerent states at the time threatened this process. As predicted war broke out–Italy’s Fascist leader Mussolini attacked Ethiopia with plans to attack Sudan and other African nations; Germany’s Nazi leader Hitler attacked ALL countries of Europe, Asia, as well as Africa in order to appropriate their resources. Russia’s Communist leaders at first conspired with Germany’s Hitler to divvy up the world but then, as is in the tradition of villains, one betrayed the other and Communist Russia itself became a target of attack by Nazi Germany. The civilized world could not tolerate such barbarities. With United States at the helm of leadership, the West in alliance with the lesser-evil Communist Soviet Union, intervened and defeated all the belligerent states:
And, We Are Still There … in a Democratic Germany
And, We Are Still There … in a Democratic Japan
And, We Are Still There … in a Democratic Italy
But to guarantee stability for the future, United States had to first TEACH the ideals of Western democracy and freedom to the surviving and up-and-coming leadership of the defeated nations. Thus, we left many hundreds of thousands of troops in each of the occupied country in order to assure social, political, and economic stability.
Today, over half-a-century later, those nations are robust economically as well as politically in that average individuals not only enjoy basic elements of human freedom but also are free to pursue their economic dreams. In essence, those countries have become regional power houses.
However, the most interesting fact is that despite their prosperity and democratic self-rule, they insist on American military forces to stay around! This is unprecedented in the politico-military history of the world were an invading nation is welcomed to stay in the invaded nation long after enemies had been eliminated and the occupied have evolved into free-willed nation-states. In any of the aforementioned countries, their freely-elected Parliaments can easily vote to request expulsion of the United States armed forces from their country.
The principle involved in today’s broadcast as well as blog is that when, at the turn of the 21st century, two states essentially went to war against the United States; Afghanistan by harboring terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in New York, and Iraq through its 12-year-long campaign of missile attacks to shoot down American planes assigned to prevent the Iraqi mad man, Saddam Hussein, from massacring his Shia and Kurdish minorities.
However, after our occupation of Iraq and establishment of stable government, our biggest political mistake was to prematurely withdraw our forces from Iraq after IT SEEMED the country had become secure. Presently, President Obama, as commander-in-chief who had made the decision, now seems highly distraught and appears to regret his earlier decision. He has ordered some of our military elite units to return to Iraq to help establish control or what so many of our soldiers endeavored to do when we were stationed there after invasion and occupation. However, only our sharp-shooting air force pilots have become directly involved in combat while our ground forces have been assigned to training, protective, and observatory roles.
This is a mistaken strategy, as with every one of the nations we liberated previously, we must return to Iraq to assure that its budding democracy and free enterprise system would survive. Our present strategy of “financial, diplomatic, and military” strategy is tantamount to treating a cancer patient with medicinal herbs, psychotherapy, and occasional chemotherapy. The patient would not and will not survive; the enemy, the cancer cells are merely too powerful. As with Iraq, the terror cells are far too ruthless to be intimidated or scared by tactical aerial bombings.
This is not a matter of pride. The future of the Middle East as well as the entire Muslim world is at stake. Perhaps no place in the world could benefit the most from a Western permanent presence, in form of American military installations, than the Muslim Middle East. We stayed behind in Europe, Japan, and South Korea and they survived and have prospered. We could plant the seeds of moderation and civility in the Middle East once and for all with our military return.
But this is not this host’s singular opinion. As a U.S. Army veteran of the Iraq war, I do know that a great majority of veterans feel that we withdrew from Iraq prematurely. And, that a return to Iraq is of paramount importance and the sooner the better.
Our today’s guest was a United States Army Reserves and veteran of Iraq war, Sgt. Brain Sanshuck, who agreed that we withdrew far too early from Iraq and that a complete return to our former bases and installations is of utmost importance to assure that (a) democracy would survive in Iraq, and that (b) territorial integrity of Iraq would be assured because dividing up the country, on basis of insipid parochial preferences, would only play into the hands of the terrorists as well as the wishes of former warlords be they Sunni, Shia, or Kurd.
This week’s show was a rebroadcast as a result of the host being absent for a family visit.
While striving for diversity in our modern institutions today, one may be surprised to learn, that the practice is an ancient endeavor. In the first millennium before Christ, there existed two superpower empires; one that of the Persian Empire and the other, that of the Greek’s. Centuries later, Persia arose from ashes and faced the Greeks’ imperial inheritor, the Roman Empire. And finally, the ancient world became a second time divided among two last empires, that of the Persian and the Byzantine Empire. The former fell to the Arabs and the later to the Ottoman Turks.
However, as early as 550 B.C. before the Greeks and Persians had begun to maneuver for dominance, the first king of the Persian Empire, Cyrus, had put out the first declaration of human rights thereby abolishing slavery and instituting paid labor. Many men, and women, from the world of ancient time, flocked to Persia in order not only to obtain freedom but to start earning spending income.
In the Middle Eastern community that followed, many languages and cultures began to be clustered closely to one another. However, in Greece, each city-state was fairly independent until Alexander the Great forcibly united the city-states into one Greek-Macedonian empire. However, slavery and social stratification not only had been practiced among the Greeks, such practices continued to persist even after the rise of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander.
The succeeding Roman Empire had followed suit in that social and servitude classifications and even put them into codified laws. But after the fall of Rome, the invading barbarians, simply because of their population makeup, created diversified populace in the vast Roman dominion in Europe and North Africa. The invaders consisted of a myriad of tribes such as Visigoths, Franks, Burgundians, Lombards, Allemanni, and Vandals.
In the Middle East, Cyrus’ legacy had persisted and multitudes of peoples and customs continued to interact with one another. This practice persisted when the Arabs laid ruin upon the Persian Empire in the 7th century A.D. Despite their monolithic tribal customs and precepts, a bona-fide Arab rule did not truly last even in Persia and in less than a century, in 750 A.D., a mixed indigenous Arab-Persian rebellion overthrew the exclusivist-oriented Umayyad Arab rule.
Life under the new Abbasid dynasty began to flourish once again culminating in what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. It is highly plausible that the catalyst for 750 revolt was the diverse and mixed race traditions and practices that nomadic Arabs had violated in favor of their single-minded rule. Those traditions had been in practice since Cyrus’ proclamation of human rights.
By contrast, the divisive nature of the Middle East today dates its origin to the 1979 revolution in Iran where a Shia Islamic government became the law of the land and thereby disenfranchising many non-Shia and non-Moslem members of various societies. But even that episode did not survive the times, for as in 2014 World Cup, one could witness how the Iranian soccer team was made-up; its team captain was a non-Moslem but native-born Armenian!
But even before 1979, nearly every nation in the Middle East consisted of diversified communities. They included not only Imperial Iran, but also Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and most notably Lebanon. So, when today one looks at the ugly and hateful landscape of the Middle East when terror groups such as al-Qaeda, the Talibans, and ISIS terrorize civilian life and …
… where other exclusivist armed movements such as Hamas in Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran have taken rule, one wonders what caused the longstanding tradition of tolerance and acceptance that Cyrus had instituted and had been the modus operandi in the Middle East, to wane and disappear.
It might be refreshing to note that even though institutional and governmental systems have established segregation, the Middle Eastern peoples, the civilians, persist in practicing open-mindedness. As such, today’s guest, Armen Khosrowbeik is one such example. This gentleman hails from the officially-established theocratic Shia society in Iran but with a name that is part Armenian (Christian), part Persian (Shia Moslem), and part Turkic (historically Sunni Moslem)!
Back in 1986 when work on restoration of the Statue of Liberty was being conducted, Ellis Island was going through a face lift as well . I recall reading a feature-article on the project when my eyes caught the part where one of the workers acknowledged that his grandparents had come to America, from Iran, through the Ellis Island.
We all remember the 1980s, a very sad and difficult time. Iraq, under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship had launched a pre-emptive massive attack on its neighbor, Iran, which was going through a very rough convolution very much like what France and Russia had gone through in 1789 and 1917 respectively. And, despite Iran’s unpopularity in the world because of holding 52 American diplomatic personnel hostage, many folks sympathized with Iran because of Saddam Hussein’s sneak attack especially at the time when Iran was experiencing regime change and internal lawlessness. Saddam’s violent tendency manifested itself again about a decade later when he launched an attack on the tiny Kuwait kingdom in the hope of annexing it. That attack eventually led to the American and Allied invasion and liberation of Iraq and subsequent trial and execution of Saddam by the Iraqis.
During a four-day celebration at the Statue of Liberty, American businessman and hero, Lee Iacocca, introduced President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. Lee Iacocca’s father had actually arrived in America through the gates of Ellis Island and Lee had grown up to become an engineering and designing genius. He’s credited with the design and manufacture of the American iconic automobiles, the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental. Later in life, Mr. Iacocca was asked to rescue the Chrysler Motor Company which was on a deathbed. With a monthly salary of one dollar, he set the precedent for union workers whose demands for higher wages and increased benefits had brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy. In a matter of few years, Lee Iacocca rescued the motor company from oblivion thus saving many jobs and further strengthening the U.S. economy.
Present with Mr. Iacocca and President Reagan was the French President François Mitterrand whose country had handed over the Statue of Liberty to the United States in 1884 to honor the American dedication to liberty and freedom.
With all the joy and celebration and stories of struggles to reach the shores of the Promised Land, I was speechless when an American history professor stated verbatim that Ellis Island was the place where arriving immigrants were “tortured.” Now, I am from the Middle East and I can assure you I know what torture is! It is the act of inflicting excruciating pain and cruelty to someone in order to extract confession or information.
Are you kidding me? Do you mean to tell me that all the historians and public opinion makers present at the time of the celebration had missed that bit of history, that is torture at Ellis Island? I then was assigned a book called Destination Culture authored by a Canadian professor of history; named, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who further suggested that Ellis Islam was essentially a sham. It is noteworthy that Prof. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is celebrated as a lecturer all over academia as an acclaimed authority on public history.
However, as a newcomer to the United States, such as myself, Prof. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett would fall only into three categories – a naturalized citizen of the United States, a visitor to America, or an illegal immigrant. In so far as the first scenario is concerned, I do not believe if a willingly-avowed naturalized American citizen could possibly make such brash and purposely incorrect statements about an innocuous but extremely important American historical edifice as the Ellis Island. In the case of the second scenario, I quote my parents who always tried to instill in us children good morale and values; one of the things they said, and roughly-translated, was one does not break a guest’s salt-shaker when one is at a guest’s house. The moral of the axiom is that, salt, once having been a valuable commodity, should not be dissed when one is at a guest’s home. Therefore, Ms. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett would need to learn some manner. As for the final situation, well, we’ll that to the law enforcement officials.
In the opening of her chapter on Ellis Island Prof. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett states that the 1986 celebration was participation in the “founding myth” of “America’s great immigrant heritage.” Founding myth? My understanding of a myth is that of an invented, false and/or imaginary story. When President François Mitterrand of France took part in the Ellis Island-Statue of Liberty celebration, I do not believe that he, for even a moment, entertained the thought that he or his countryman, Frederic A. Bartholdi who constructed the statue of liberty, had thought they were doing so because of a “myth.”
But the most razor-sharp opinion Prof. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett provides is her self-proclaimed definite conclusion as to why Ellis Island was finally closed in 1954. She sums up that Ellis Island was eventually closed down not because it had “outlived its usefulness” as an immigrant processing center, and which is United States government’s official position, but because the Island had been “the stranglehold of restrictive immigration policy” meaning America should have allowed in everyone who came knocking, to include, perhaps especially include, Communists as well as immigrants with contagious diseases in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Prof. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett then finishes up her conclusion by saying that Ellis Island is “a heritage, unworthy of shameless pride.” Wow!
During this episode of my talk show, I invited a fellow American, Brian Pupkiewicz, whose great grandmother had arrived from Poland at the gates of Ellis Island at age 16. Brian related that his grandfather had told him and his father captivating and endearing memories that his great grandmother had relayed about her departure from Europe, the oceanic travel, and final arrival at the Ellis Island. I encourage everyone to listen to the audio portion of the interview, which is attached to this week’s blog.
In the end, all I can say is God bless America and the Statue of Liberty for allowing and enabling all expressions of thought to include the most incorrect and the most asinine.
Speculations have run rampant about the intention of the United States to invade and temporarily occupy Iraq in 2003. Upon close analysis and scrutiny one can easily discern and conclude why the invasion took place. First, the invasion was merely continuation of the war that had started back on August 1990 when Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq at the time, invaded the tiny oil-rick sheikdom of Kuwait.
Aside from the cowardly nature of the attack, that is, an assault by a major regional power against a helpless tiny little nation-state about the size of Clark County, Nevada, the invasion signaled an affront against all that was honorable in Western as well as international values. Kuwait was and continues to be a developing pro-Western country whereas Saddam’s Iraq was a backward pro-Communist Soviet Union autocratic nation with a command economy. The United States in its role as the leader of the Free World could not stand still and allow such an unprovoked act to continue taking place . Upon gathering of a large number of allies and with the blessing the United Nations, the Allied nations under the command of the United States invaded and liberated Kuwait within 30 hours.
Then, Saddam Hussein, incensed and humiliated by the defeat turned his rage on his own people and began a systemic slaughter of the Kurdish and Shia Iraqis in the northern as well as the southern portions of his country. The world stood by watching the genocide take place helplessly. However, the United States in its traditional role that fairly resembles the mythical John Wayne approach to righting the wrongs delineated the areas populated by the Kurds and the Shias as no-flying zones by what had remained of Saddam’s Air Force.
Soon the United States Air Force pilots began round-the-clock flying missions over those forbidden zones. However, arrogant Saddam could not tolerate such a humiliation and thus began an all-out war against the American pilots through a continuous barrage of surface-to-air missile attacks against our war planes. Soon he put up a $100,000 and $1,000,000 bounties for the capture of any American pilot dead or alive respectively.
In any diplomatic tradition such deeds are considered acts of war. After 12 years of continuous attacks upon our pilots, the Americans elected a no-nonsense politician from Texas as President who upheld many positive cowboy attributes such as having a “moral certainty amidst the horde of terrorizing evil-doers.” President George W. Bush basically told Saddam Hussein that he was not going to play Saddam’s cat-and-mouse game for the next four-to-eight years of his presidency. Who knew, Bush speculated, perhaps this charade might continue up until the death of Saddam and accession to power of one of his two sons, which basically would have meant that the travesty could continue for the next 40 years.
Therefore, President Bush gave Saddam a 48-hour ultimatum to leave or face the iron wrath of the United States military. Saddam foolishly refused to so and thus began the invasion for the Liberation of Iraq.
So, really, all the talks about the WMDs that took place were redundant. Saddam had chosen to enter into a belligerent state of war against the United States of America and our country could not simply stand still.
The noble and exalted intentions of President George W. Bush were offset by a set of unintended mistakes. President Bush by nature was a very trusting man and turned over the control of our military to colleagues whom he knew and trusted that they would a good job, that is, would do the right things. His Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had come from President Reagan’s administration and Ms. Condoleezza Rice had been a self-made African-American woman scholar—she headed the State Department.
Somehow, a warm-hearted and highly intelligent former general, Jay Garner, became the American envoy to Iraq, which meant he represented the civilian as well as the military components of what the United States was about.
Throughout his stint as head of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq, Garner held many American-style town hall meetings in various cities throughout Iraq. He became enormously popular among the Iraqi citizens and particularly television crews. Even his administrative position had a friendly tone to it, the emphasis being on reconstruction and humanitarian assistance. Many ordinary Iraqis were baffled by this friendly grandfatherly American civilian who would put the microphone in front of their faces in order to solicit their opinion about the reconstruction of Iraq.
However, somehow somewhere in the State Department, Ms. Condoleezza Rice allowed a career diplomat by the name of L. Paul Bremer to prepare a different approach for reconstruction of Iraq. He arrived in Iraq to replace Garner and the world completely changed for the GIs. As a result of Garner’s enormous and renowned popularity among the Iraqis, the GIs had been roaming and patrolling Iraqi cities without having to dress up in “battle rattle.” GIs wore boonie headgears, the type worn by recreational fishermen in the States, and there was no need for anti-shrapnel vests. Those were the good ole days in Iraq.
Dressed in suit and tie, upon arrival in the combat zone that was Iraq, Bremer dismantled Garner’s reconstruction agency and replaced it with his own office and called it Coalition Provisional Authority, notice the change in language. But that was not the only disaster; Mr. Bremer then dismissed the whole of Iraqi police and armed forces! In a country that was based on command economy, government jobs such as law enforcement and the military were the primary bread-making positions for the average Iraqis. During the previous wars such as World War II, the United States armed forces never dismissed the German and Japanese military or the police personnel. We used them, unarmed, to help us move through the maze of enemy forces and the bureaucratic and urban configurations.
Upon being dismissed, anger and resentment became palpable throughout Iraq. Third country nationals (TCNs) told the GIs, to include this author that rage was brewing all over Iraq. Sure enough, IEDs followed so did mortar and rocket attacks on our positions. American troops began to don their Kevlar headgears and put on their anti-shrapnel vests. And the number of American causalities began to soar.
After the sad withdrawal from Iraq, the Iraq war veterans who fought in Iraq for the United Sates and the dignity of the Iraqi people undoubtedly cheered President Obama’s decision to redeploy some troops back to Iraq to monitor the crisis situation there.
One must think in long term, and we must rescue Iraq the way we did Germany, Japan, and Italy in World War II. With an initial dispatch of a battalion of paratroopers near the ISIS-infected areas, the United States can begin the process of mopping up northern Iraq. It behooves us to redeploy our forces back to Iraq, this time for good, the way we did so in Japan, Germany, Italy, and South Korea. Unquestionably, no place on Earth can benefit more from a Western presence than the purposely-smudged Middle East.
 The World Needs Cowboys: http://www.belcherfoundation.org/world_needs_cowboys.htm