THIS TALK by Mark Bruzonsky was delivered at the CENTER FOR GLOBAL STUDIES
at Purdue University, Calumet Campus, on 27 September 2013.  

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Mark Bruzonsky bio: MarkBruzonsky.com
Talk Announcement:  http://middleeast.org/Purdue.doc


AMERICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST.  Why So Much WAR?  Why So Little PEACE?

Mark Bruzonsky*

It really is my great pleasure to be here this evening with you at Purdue.   I'm very grateful to Professor Kamalipour and to the Center for Global Studies for inviting me.

My way of expressing this gratitude is to have a very candid and serious discussion with you this evening about our country's policies in that critical area of the world known, thanks to the British,  as The Middle East.  

Right from the start let me say, so you can put all I will share with you this evening in perspective, that overall I believe our policies in the Middle East to be grossly misguided, to be dangerous to ourselves as well as to others, and to be the result of ominous special interests that are out-of-control in our country and need to be checked. 

When we Americans talk about the Middle East and about foreign policy in general we do so in a kind of sanitized way making terrible realities and our complicity in causing them much more palatable for ourselves.   

We talk about such things as whether we support one political party or the other, one leader or another,  one policy or another.    We understandably respond to slogans about "duty, honor, and country" and we too often innocently accept what we know to be exaggerations, misleading simplifications, and falsehoods.   We understandably mourn the thousands of Americans who are killed and injured.    

But somehow we rarely seem to realize that the people who live in the Middle East cherish their own cultures, religions, families, countries and lives just as we do.   We fail to realize that it is they who feel invaded and violated and that they feel they have been forced to fight for their "duty, honor, country and freedom".  

Rarely do our public officials or corporate media talk about us as the rest of the world has come to know us -- as neo-imperialists,  as a superpower that uses its vast spying and military capabilities to infiltrate and control, to coerce and bribe,  to co-opt and take out those who refuse to succumb and comply to our interests and dictates.   

Rarely is a John Perkins, author of the CIA tell-all CONFESSIONS OF AN ECONOMIC HIT MAN, or a Chris Hedges -- or Arundahti Roy or Paul Craig Roberts or Robert Fisk or Noam Chomsky or Ramsey Clark or John Pilger -- invited on our major news programs and never ever as regulars as are so many far lesser others.   Indeed many of you may not even know many of these names though they are all giants around the world and students in Europe and the Middle East know them!

Indeed for the people of the Middle East everything is far more serious, far more real, and the order of magnitude of death, destruction, and suffering is far far greater.    In the Middle East the actual result of our policies, of our mistakes,  even in just recent years is quite mind-boggling.   We are talking about, literally, millions of people who have been killed, many more millions who have been injured for life, many more millions who have become destitute refugees, once normal middle-class families forced to sell their own daughters into prostitution to survive.  Most of us have no comprehension what it means to suffer in such ways, or even to face "crippling sanctions" so there is not even affordable medicine or baby food.   Most of us have no idea what it means to go to sleep at night haunted by anxiety that a mysterious American drone will attack before we awake.

In the Middle East we are actually talking about whole countries that have been destroyed and about American culpability, complicity, and responsibility that we rarely if ever hear seriously discussed by our leaders in Washington or the corporate media that so caters to them.  

Let me give just one telling example.  In the years before we invaded Iraq the policy was to sanction, weaken and cripple Iraq.   When an Assistant Secretary General of the U.N. was sent to Baghdad in 1995 and learned first-hand what was happening -- that every month 5000 children alone were dying because of the sanctions -- he not only very publicly resigned in protest he very publicly charged the U.S. with "genocide."

Asked about this the American Secretary of State at the time, Madelein Albright, said that though she was sorry, this was necessary and "worth it" to punish Saddam Hussein...who by the way just a few years before had been our own strong-man ally!   And so Denis Halliday resigned from his top U.N. position, and like John Perkins, has been speaking and writing in atonement ever since.   A few years later his successor, Sergio De Mello, a man many thought might one day be U.N. Secretary-General, was blown up sitting in his office in Baghdad.

We are all here tonight because we want to know more and understand more about what our country is really doing in the Middle East.  And we want to know more about what we should support and what we should oppose....and why.

So for this one night please allow me to take you away from the daily headlines, the swirl of current events, and to explore with you the deep historical roots of what we are all collectively living through.    We need to free ourselves from the daily chatter in order to explore why what is happening today is happening.  How did we get to these events?   What alternatives did we have in the past?    What alternatives do we still have today rather than the tragic and quite possibly cataclysmic course we are on?   

There is a central basic question we should keep in mind tonight as I remind you of many events.  Why are we so focused on the Middle East in the first place?  Why is there such escalating what we call "terrorism" in and from that region?   Why all the hatred for our country -- policies not people -- that causes us to make our Embassies into fortresses, to barricade ourselves in fear,  to super spy on everyone, friend and foe alike, so that even many of our own citizens believe we have become an Orwellian state, a disguised police state,  so much so that we are in danger of no  longer being the home of the brave and the land of the free?   

The situation we are living in today didn't start with 9/11.     Indeed 9/11 was far more a result of our policies than a cause.   And not just our own policies but those of our key allies in the region, the two most important of which are Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which have very powerful but very different lobbies in Washington where I have now lived and worked for more than 30 years.   

Nor did today's situation begin as some suggest with the creation of Israel and destruction of Palestine in 1948.   That too was a result, not in itself the cause.

The phase of world history with the centrality of the Middle East really began about a hundred years ago at the time when the entire region was called the Ottoman Empire and when it was far easier to travel between Cairo and Jerusalem and Damascus than it is today.   

For we "New World" Americans, a hundred years ago is a very long time.  But for the people of the Middle East where there are churches and synagogues that go back thousands of year into pre-Islamic times, a hundred years is a relatively short period in their own history.

Now quite obviously I am going to have to tremendously summarize much in the next minutes.   What I'm going to share with you is not just a bunch of  events and dates but also my own conclusions about what really happened and with what lasting impact.   I'm well aware some of you will find some of these conclusions troubling.  And rightly so.   Indeed when I first heard others speaking about and explaining what has happened I remember myself being quite upset and skeptical. 

But serious learning is a struggle and we have to be able and willing to alter our thinking and conclusions along the way.   That's what real education is about...not just talking with each other in our own society but meeting other people on their own turf, engaging in honest exchanges with them, relating to them, respecting them, and trying to share and appreciate their own fears, pains, and aspirations.    We who are such priviledged citizens of the superpower whose actions impact not only ourselves but the entire globe bear the greatest responsibility of all to truly educate ourselves.

Like many of you I should mention I come from the Midwest, grew up in Duluth, went to college in Appleton Wisconsin at Lawrence University where I first studied government and economics.   Then I left for law school at NYU and then graduate school at Princeton.   What changed me, what led me to different conclusions than I would have otherwise  reached I'm sure, was not just being so fortunate to go to such great American universities.  What really changed me was getting to know people and having relationships with people around the world -- especially those I had been taught to believe were supposed to be my enemies as an American and especially as an American Jew.   Such changes for me started when I lived for two years at International House in New York with 600 graduate students from all  around the world.   The changes escalated greatly when I became the U.N. Representative of the International Student Movement and in four years traveled to 35 countries at a critical time in my own life.   Overall I have made about 200 international trips, about half of them to countries in the Middle East.

Now, let's get to the origins, to the heart, of what's wrong in the Middle East and why there is so much war and so little peace in our lifetime. 

It was on one of my many trips to the region that I found myself in a large Tel Aviv bookstore searching for an adventure novel to escape with on the long flight home.   I had learned to decompress after going to refugee camps and conflict areas by usually spending a few days in Tel Aviv before flying back to Washington.  Like a deep-sea diver having to come up slowly or risk getting the bends, I felt this was a way of dealing with psychological bends.   Not finding a novel that got me excited I ended up in the history section and came upon a book titled THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE.  BUT it was the subtitle that got my attention,  THE PEACE TO END ALL PEACE.   By the time I got to Washington the next day historian David Fromkin had provided so much important perspective, a framework for overall understanding that I realized I had been missing.

What is happening in the Middle East today began with the Peace to End all Peace nearly a hundred years ago.  At the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson spent 6 months in Paris determined to construct a peaceful, lawful, prosperous, brave new world.   But Wilson's grand vision, his 14-points anchored in self-determination, were in the end buried in plots and sub-plots that prevented the promised Arab State from ever coming to be -- now as well as then.

Rather than independence demanded and expected by the Arabs, the European powers at the time were determined to take control of the region for themselves.   Like most things in life there were multiple intertwined reasons.   The French were connected to Africa as well as the Levant and European "colonialism" was still the mindset of the day.   For the British the Middle East was on the way to their sub-continent jewel, India.  Additionally there were religious teachings and attitudes going back to the era of the Crusaders.  And more and more importantly, the industrial revolution was becoming dependent on oil and that black gold was in Arabia and the neighboring areas that made up the heartland of the Middle East region.   Wilson was preaching self-determination and democracy but that's not really what he and the West were practicing -- then or now. 

And so THE PEACE TO END ALL PEACE instead led to an era of plots, revolutions, coups, wars, covert ops and more recently drones.   Overall it has been a century of Western neo-colonialism masked by mandates, misnamed peace conferences, and "Arab client regimes" doing our bidding in return for money and special priviledges from Western capitals.   Regional leaders as well as academics and journalists who have stood up against this arrangement have been dealt with one way or another through co-optation, intimidation, black-mail, slander, and in some key cases assassinations.    Those who have accommodated this arrangement have benefited considerable -- the Saudi Royals, the Mubarak regime and Generals for decades, the Hashemites of Jordan, the small Gulf protectorates, and the Israelis of course but they are a very special case.

Even before the Paris Peace Conference while Colonel Lawrence on behalf of the British Government was promising the Arabs independence if they fought to defeat the Ottomans, the British and the French were secretly plotting to take control of the region.  The key document at the time,  top secret then of course back in 1916, is known today as the Sykes-Picot agreement and it essentially carved up the region between the two colonial powers behind everyone's back.   

Also at this time the world Zionist movement, itself with origins in colonialist-minded Europe, was plotting to take over Arab Palestine.   The key document for this came in 1917 and is known as The Balfour Declaration.  While named for the British Foreign Minister, it was really the first Jewish Justice of the American Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, a close confidant of President Wilson, who as much as anyone authored it.

And so, in 1919 In Paris and in follow-up conferences in Cairo and throughout the region,  THE PEACE TO END ALL PEACE was crafted and then codified in a system called Mandates supposedly legitimized by the new League of Nations.  But in reality it was the victorious armies of the British and the French that enforced the new arrangements in the now severely fractured Middle East, with ten thousand French troops soon to invade Damascus when the Arabs attempted to establish a regional government there.

These are the years and the means by which the artificial borders of key countries including Iraq and Syria were defined by the Western powers for their own purposes.  With continual divide and conquer schemes the Ottoman Empire was carved up with new entities becoming Western enclaves and protectorates including TransJordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE.  Key countries became "Arab client regimes" -- Saudi Arabia and Iraq among them and in later years, Iran under the Shah.  Most of these areas became saddled with Royal families or ruthless dictators empowered by the British and French and then in the years after World War II by our own country.   

For an American analogy just imagine if foreign powers had manipulated our states in our formative years so that places called West Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, California and New Mexico had all become nominally independent countries but were actually controlled and played of against each other from abroad.  Imagine if our continent were consumed by divisions and feuds and we had border checks and visa requirements and numerous armies all arming against each other.

Arab protests and demonstrations began immediately as rumors swirled what was happening.   The first Palestine Assembly was held in 1917 to renounce the Balfour Declaration and demand immediate independence.

In 1929 anti-British anti-Zionist demonstrations erupted in what was still known then to the entire world as Palestine.  

A few years later from 1936 to 1939 the Palestinian people again rose up in a remarkably sustained rebellion suppressed by the British with mass killings, arrests, and hangings, and then more promises of Arab self-determination that were soon betrayed.

After World War II in 1946 the new United Nations desperately tried to square the circle and prevent what we have come to know as the the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  In the process the first U.N. peace envoy, Count Folk Bernadette, was assassinated by Jewish paramilitary in Jerusalem, the famous King David Hotel was blown up, and the era of modern-day "terrorism" began.

Interestingly, in those days, a major debate was underway in Washington over what policies the U.S. should pursue in the Middle East -- and in some ways this debate has continued in starts and stops until today.   George Marshall, then Secretary of State after his role as the most senior war General, even threatened to resign because he felt what President Truman was doing was dangerously politically driven rather than in the best interests of the country and world peace.

Exhausted by World War II the British Empire had to pull back from both Palestine and India -- but it left in its wake the two conflicts which even today could erupt into regional, even nuclear, confrontation -- the Arab-Israeli conflict  and that between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.  

A few years later, in 1953, the Iranian people tried to assert their independence and democracy only to have their efforts undone by the CIA which reimposed the ruthless Shah upon them for another generation!  

Then a few years later in 1956, the Brits and the French colluded with the Israelis to put down Arab nationalism, then centered in Egypt, by concocting a war to seize Sinai and the Suez Canal.  In this rare case the American President, Eisenhower, put his foot down and stopped that war -- but in doing so he greatly escalated U.S. involvement in the region which also then became embroiled in the Cold War with Russia. 

Eisenhower devoted his final speech to the nation not to smiles and platitudes but rather to an unprecedented warning that there was a dangerous military-industrial complex that had to be brought under control.    Immediately upon taking office President Kennedy, fearing the ramifications of a Middle East regional arms race, tried to stop the Israelis from building nuclear weapons.   But the Israelis not only defied Kennedy they tricked the inspectors he insisted on sending by constructing false doors and passageways and secret hidden underground facilities that successfully hid their secret nuclear weapons facilities.

Then came the Israeli-instigated 1967 war whose ramifications we still live with as that is when the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Syria's Golan Heights all were occupied.  Rarely spoken about and still unadmitted is the considerable U.S. complicity in what happened.   The U.S. sent highly valuable secret spy equipment and de-uniformed military personnel that made it possible for the Israelis to quickly win the war and take possession of all of historic Palestine west of the Jordan.

A few years later, in 1971, the Egyptians began the War of Attrition along the Suez Canal and then the 1973 War during which the U.S. sent a vast air bridge of military equipment to the Israelis and faced down the Russians in what was called a "nuclear alert".   After the war the Israelis raced ahead with settlements and escalated their occupation policies on the path that has led to the worse-than-apartheid situation of today.

The Iranian Revolution and the taking of American hostages came in 1979 greatly changing our own history as these events led to Ronald Reagan becoming President.  The same year the U.S. orchestrated the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty and then caved when the Israelis backed out of the key Palestinian provisions.  A few months later, masterminded by National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Soviets were trapped into invading Afghanistan and then the next year, 1980, the U.S. pushed our ally at the time, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, to invade Iran with the aim of upending the Islamic revolution.  That horrible war went on for 8 awful years, millions were killed, and before it was over the Iraqis used chemical weapons clandestinely supplied by the United States and killing many thousands of civilians.

Then in 1981 the Israelis attacked Iraq destroying a nuclear reactor near Baghdad and the next year they invaded Lebanon, repeatedly breaking promises to the U.S. about their intentions.    Israel's invasion and the subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon led to the creation of Hezbollah and the era of suicide bombers who first struck both the American Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut killing hundreds.

In 1990, still then our strong-man ally, Saddam Hussein was manipulated into invading Kuwait and the Saudi King was deceived to get his OK for American troops to be stationed in "The Kingdom" for the first time.   That set the region and the world on the course to 9/11 a decade later. 

The next year Islamic parties won a democratic election in Algeria but with help and support from the Americans and their Arab client regimes a military coup led to a brutal Algerian civil war...something a kin to what is happening these days in Egypt.

Then came another another kind of PEACE TO END ALL PEACE.   In a one-of-a-kind White House event 3000 people celebrated the hand shake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin presided over quite graphically by Bill Clinton.    But earlier this month on the 20th anniversary of this unprecedented event there were no celebrations.  Indeed rather than peace, that conflict has greatly escalated and may now be intractable.   Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, was assassinated a few years later by a right-wing Israeli.  And after squeezing him for all they could get the Israelis stealth assassinated Arafat in 2004 after he defiantly refused to sign away Palestinian rights and give up the struggle.

During the Clinton years the U.S. attempted coups to topple Saddam, then used brutal economic sanctions, no-fly-zones, and bombs so that by the Bush/Cheney years Iraq was ripe for American invasion.   Before he left the White House Clinton made one final grasp for another Israeli-Palestinian agreement, desperately trying to get the man who was his most frequent foreign guest in the White House, none other than Yasser Arafat, to do what the U.S. and Israel demanded.   That too failed and soon exploded making everything still worse.

And that brings us to this 21st century in which General Ariel Sharon was soon to became Prime Minister of Israel, with Bush/Cheney and the Neocons fully empowered in the United States.  That's when 9/11 came.

Now for a few final minutes before I turn the evening over to you and your questions -- which I urge you to make serious and pointed and no holds barred -- let me share with you some conclusions about 9/11 and how our country and world changed as a result.

As for what really happened on that date I like many others have great doubts about the government story.  But that's not what I'm here to talk with you about tonight.   Even the Co-Chairman of the 9/11 Commission have major doubts about their own report as they have admitted they now believe they were purposefully "set up to fail".   What we all know is that as a result of 9/11 our country has been involved in Middle East land wars and what is called the "War on Terrorism" -- millions of people are dead, countries are destroyed, millions more are homeless refugees, the whole region is in chaos and turmoil, and what we are told is the enemy, al-Qaeda, whatever that is, has spread and metasticized and we are it seems less secure and more fearful than ever.

What we know for sure is that the Neo-cons and the associated Military-Industrial complex that Eisenhower so warned us about were all set to pounce as soon as 9/11 happened.   They had put all the pieces in place.  They had even published a major document saying that a new Pearl Harbor was needed so they could pursue the policies they advocated.    Whether by coincidence or design a small cabal of like-minded friends, nearly all with intimate connections to Israel, held most of the key positions in government at the White House, State Department, and the Pentagon, as never before or since.

Let me share with you an extremely telling story about 9/11 told by General Wesley Clark a few years ago, himself the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO:
"About 10 days after 9/11 I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz and I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who use to work for me and one of the Generals called me and said 'Sir you've got to come in and talk to me a second.'

And he said 'We've made the decision to go to war with Iraq!'  This is on or about the 20th of September (2001).  I said, 'We're going to war with Iraq?  Why?'  And he said, 'I don't know!'


'Well did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?'  He said "No no there's nothing new that way.  They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq!'

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan.  And I said 'Are we still going to war with Iraq?' 

'Oh its worse than that!' he said.  He reached over on his desk and picked up a piece of paper and he said 'I just got this down from upstairs today (meaning the Secretary of Defenses Office).  This is a memo that describes how we are going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and then finishing off with Iran.'

I said 'Is it classified?'  He said 'Yes Sir'!   I said 'Then don't show it to me!'

And I saw him a year or two ago and I said 'Do you remember that?'  And he said, 'Sir I didn't show you that memo!   I didn't show it to you!'

Now, before your questions some things for you to ponder after I'm gone:

Imagine a different country and world if President Eisenhower and Secretary of State Marshall, both the most senior Generals of our Army before their days in political positions, had been listened to and our military-industrial-corporate complex and war lobbies had been brought under control.

Imagine if we hadn't been so lied to and manipulated by our own government about 9/11 and about how we should respond to it.

Imagine if we had accepted the Afghanistan offer to turn Bin-Laden over to an international court and let the evidence be presented.   Imagine if we had avoided all these years of killing and hatred and so much money wasted, after all of which the same Taliban and the same Mullah Omar are waiting to come back when our chastened military soon departs.

Imagine if Bush/Cheney/Powell/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz had not insisted on invading Iraq at any cost and if the huge unprecedented peace demonstrations around the world had prevailed.

Imagine what a better country we would be today if the $2 trillion dollars and the vast amount of time and energy of our leaders had been spent on building up our own society -- on education, health-care, industry, polution control, global warming prevention, and the social and economic infrastructure that is so desperately now needed for our future.

And yes, I purposefully repeat, imagine how much better, stronger, more self-respecting, and more respected and admired in the world, our country would be today if the military-industrial complex and the special-interest foreign lobbies had been effectively checked by an aroused and informed citizenry, by a Congress truly of the people, by a free rather than captive media, and by educators at universities not fearful but encouraged to speak up about what has really happened in the past, what is really happening now, and most importantly of all about why.







Mark@Bruzonsky.com
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