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Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac. (Norton: 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4) – An Extended Review

April 30, 2017

Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac. (Norton: 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4) – An Extended Review


One comes across good histories of the Middle East infrequently. Books are rare that offer some perspective on the current mess in the region, that provide some insights into how the history of the past 150 years can be explained to develop a framework to understand the present realities. But every once in a while a gem is produced that hits the nail on the head. Needless to say, no 423 pages of text can cover more than an outline of the region’s history, yet, a well-structured book can help readers make some sense of it all.

Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair-Brysac have produced such a volume in their Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East which was published by Norton in 2008. Nearly a decade later, the book still resonates. Were I still teaching “History of the Modern Middle East Since 1800″ Meyer and Brysac would be one of the chosen texts, if not the main one. Besides the fact that it is gracefully written and well researched, in probing the lives of the so-called “kingmakers” it provides biographies of some of the people in the context of the times in which they lived and worked. The book focuses on mostly British colonial administrators with a few American C.I.A. operatives thrown in towards the end. They were all instrumental in shaping the region since the late 19th century. Read more…

Support Our Lady of Visitation in its Protest Against the Archdiocese’s Decision To Close It – Tomorrow – Sunday, April 30 at !2:45 1300 S Steele St, Denver, CO 80210

April 29, 2017

OLV parishioner at April 27 press conference outside the church hall. The Archdiocese prohibited the parishioners from holding it in the hall itself

Dear Friends…

Tomorrow, Sunday, April 30 at around 12:45, after what might be the last mass that the Archdiocese will permit at their church, the congregation of a small Catholic parish< Our Lady of Visitation, just north of Denver in an overwhelmingly working class Chicano neighborhood called Goat Hill is going to engage in what they call a “prayer-vigil-demonstration” at the residential complex of the Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila at 1300 S. Steele Street.
The parish is the center of this community. The community itself is quite unique – as if northern New Mexico (Taos-Mora) and Southern Colorado was transplanted in this small but lively neighborhood (approximately from 64 to 72 avenues east and west of Federal Blvd in Adams County. It was built by the parishioners who are, to put it mildly, deeply upset that it is being closed down by the Archdiocese. It is unusual to see a Catholic congregation to oppose a local archbishop and even more so that deeply religious Catholics would protest at his residence. Deciding to do so was not easily arrived at.
Of course the religious element of what the OLV parishioners are doing is central, but beyond that I want to emphasize that this is more than a church – it is the heart of a community. I don’t need to emphasize that in the era of Trumpty-Dumpty how vital it is to maintain such institutions that by their very nature will be in the forefront of defending the economic, social and spiritual rights of this population.
The parishioners and Church Council of OLV have asked for public support. I hope that you will join me in a show of solidarity.
My support is guided by knowing how precious this church is to its membership and of course, by the famous quote by Bonhoffer, on display at the U.S. Holocaust Museum

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Hope to see you there.

For more information I include the following links:


Rob P.

Poetry Reading: May 4, 2017; Westside Books.3434 W 32nd Ave. Denver, CO 80211 (303-480-0220)

April 29, 2017

Goat Hill and Our Lady of Visitation Parish: Part Two: Remarks of Federico Pena – Former Denver Mayor at a Press Conference at Our Lady of Visitation Parish (actually outside of the Parish), Protesting the Archdiocese of Denver’s Decision to close the Parish.

April 27, 2017

Parishioners at Our Lady of Visitation Parish listening to Parish member and former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, criticizing the Archdiocese of Denver’s decision to close their parish.

Federico Pena: I am going to begin with an apology. I apologize for having you stand here in the cold – let’s hope it doesn’t rain because yesterday we were informed that we could not use the parish hall. We were denied permission to use the facility. Very early this morning I called a good friend, Rudy Gonzalez, and he brought these chairs, a temporary podium, the microphone – so we could have our press conference outside.

So I apologize for the cold weather. Here we are and we are going to have the press conference nevertheless.

Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Federico Pena. For those of you who do not know me, I have been coming to this church for thirteen years. My wife Cindy and I have been working the pickle booth at the bazaar for thirteen years. Many of you have come and given your hard-earned money to a worthy cause (Our Lady of Visitation = O.L.V.) – we appreciate that. Over the last several years my wife and I have made significant financial contributions to this church. We do so lovingly and because we believe in the mission here. My father-in-law, Cindy’s father, Lloyd Quintana, is the deacon here and has been so for almost thirty years. We drive fifty miles to come here to watch him celebrate to watch him celebrate mass because it gives us a special joy. That is how much we honor him and everyone here who comes to this church. Read more…

Nuclear Breakthrough Endangers The World by Conn Hallinan

April 27, 2017

Nuclear Breakthrough Endangers the World Dispatches From The Edge March 20, 2017 At a time of growing tensions between nuclear powers—Russia and NATO in Europe, and the U.S., North Korea and China in Asia—Washington has quietly upgraded its nuclear weapons arsenal to create, according to three leading American scientists, “exactly what one would expect […]

via Nuclear Breakthrough Endangers the World —

The Life and Work of Robert Merle: A Lecture by Rob Prince at the Alliance Française of Denver. April 4, 2017 – Notes

April 12, 2017

Script – Merle Talk


Thank Martin Lafitte, Director, Alliance Française of Denver

Mention late Carole Ashkinaze, Judy Johnson, Dr. Oliver Andrews, Dr. Robert Carlisle..

It is interesting – if one doesn’t dwell on it too much – to look back on one’s life at the age of 72. It struck me a few years ago that there were a number of experiences in my youth which to some degree shaped a good part of my life in one way or another.

– Of course, there is my family and class background
– Where and when one grows up – myself, in Brooklyn and Queens New York in the 1950s and 1960s
– My education in the NYC public schools of those years – PS 170 Queens, Van Wyck Junior High School 217 and Jamaica High School, where I would argue, a person got the best education public education had to offer anywhere in the country, now or then.

There were two other experiences that it is only later, I realized, had an influence on the rest of my life. They were

1. A year (August, 1964 to late July 1965) spent in Paris and Rouen France at St. Lawrence University’s first Junior Year Abroad program in France. Especially important was a class I took on the poetry of Robert Frost, taught by none other than Robert Merle.

2. My two and a half years spent in the Peace Corps in Tunisia as a volunteer and later staff member in both Tunis and Sousse, Tunisia.

I mention all this because as the 50th anniversary of the year spent in France came and went, I decided I wanted to show my appreciation – a kind of intellectual payback if you will – to those last two experiences. As a part of that I decided to read the entire thirteen volume epic series that Robert Merle work – his masterpiece – Fortunes de France – and read it in French, which I did over the course of two years.

I have written some about Merle, his life and work. This is the third public presentation that I made on Fortunes de France. The fact that the first three volumes of this series have been translated into English by Pushkin Publishers made my remarks more timely.

Robert Merle


Why give a lecture on Robert Merle?

– The series “Fortunes de France” – well-known in France – is an extraordinarily rich portrait of 16th and early 17th Century France – historically, sociologically, religiously. As a whole, the series sold more than 5 million copies. Read more…

Trump’s Middle East Policies – The Blind Leading The Blind; The Military Takes Over Foreign Policy, Diplomacy Out The Window: KGNU Hemispheres “Middle East Dialogues” with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Part Two

April 11, 2017

Partition of Syria as envisioned by the United States. Zone A in the north by some combination of Turkish-Kurdish control. Zone B in the East, a safe area for ISIS, Al Qaeda across the Syrian-Iraqi border. Zone C in the south, joint controlled by Israel and Jordan, leaving Syria, should it succeed little more than a rump state, no longer a major geo-political player in the region. The recent liberation of Aleppo from ISIS hands through a monkey wrench into Washington’s plans. The U.S. “lost a battle” but has not given up on the plan (the Doha Plan) and is reorganizing its allies for another round of fighting.

KGNU – Interview, March 28. 2017 – Part Two

Part One of the Interview.

Now fast forward comes Iraq. After the initial honeymoon period after which the United States thought they were going to receive red roses and a red carpet welcome. Who pops up in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador to Iraq in 2004-2005, but the same John Negreponte accompanied, as in Central America with Robert Ford. When the Sunni resistance began to develop, they started – the first thing that was done under Negreponte – they started establishing death squads in Iraq. The idea was exactly the same (as in Central America): hit squads of Kurdish and Shi’a fighters to target leaders of what they called “the Iraqi Insurgency” in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against the leftwing guerillas in South America twenty years or so earlier.

Rob Prince: With that said, let’s look at some of the developments taking place in the Middle East itself. Ibrahim where do we begin looking at how all this (unfolding Trump foreign and Middle East policy) is playing out on the ground in the Middle East?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s a good question Rob. To answer it we have to make a few things crystal clear.

Remember during the Iraq War how everyone was talking about, searching for a single reason why the United States went to war against Iraq and occupied it. I believe that approach is limited in scope because to understand the dynamics of many of the “operators” in Washington one has to consider that each one has different objectives and goals. The military has different objectives from the oil industry or the supporters of different religions. The same goes for the politicians.

So when it comes to American foreign policy and how it unfolds. its effects and ramifications within the Middle East, I think we have to downplay whether there is a specific policy or goals. They vary. Rather, it is better to focus on the strategy and, quite rightly, Rob, you alluded to it.

The strategy has not changed. Read more…