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Speaking Engagements, Iraq, 9-11 Conspiracies

July 2, 2007

The invitations to speak about the Middle East keep coming. I do not solicit them. They are not every day but about once every two to three weeks. I am surprised at their consistency and have begun to farm out some to others, both on the principle that there are other voices that need to be heard on the Middle East and due to time constraints. There are already two upcoming events just in July – a radio interview on KGNU (July 10) with LeRoy Moore and a talk at the Boulder Unitarian Church (with Ibrahim Kazerooni) on July 22. Three others for September are shaping up – one in Colorado Springs, another organized by Jewish law students at D.U. and a third, it appears, a panel discussion by the Mizel Museum in Denver, none solicited by me.

The last two were interesting.

In early June (June 2) I spoke to a United Church of Christ group in Denver, thanks to Kate Goodspeed. I turns out that her daughter Sarah, was a former student of mine at Metro State College and one I remember well. Hadn’t seen Sarah for a long time but she once gave me a Buddhist prayer flag which hangs on a basement wall and it was good – even moving to see her. The event went well – it was to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Occupation and the 1967 War. It was well attended 35-40 people in the room coming just after the Sunday morning service. I spoke for about a half hour – main points: there is no way to hide that what Israel is doing in the West Bank and Gaza is an Occupation, it is cruel and oppressive and should end, that a framework – UN resolutions (242, 194) exists to provide a solution and has for decades but that the clock is ticking and time is running out. Oh yes, I also sang a song – Le Deserteur – sang it in French, and then translated it. Seems that both the audience and I survived that experience. The questions centered around suggestions that Israel had no one on the Palestinian side with whom to negotiate. I tried to address them. Ibrahim K. was kind enough to show up despite his bad knee and participated. I believe that on the whole the audience was receptive to the talk. Have to ask Kay for feedback but have been too busy till now. I was impressed with the seeming fact that when not addressing either a predominantly Jewish or Arab audience that people are receptive and open to my remarks and that Americans want to hear more about it. The questions are honest and even the hard ones are not difficult. It seemed an educated audience.

2. `Frequently Wrong But Never In Doubt?’
Last night (July 1) Ibrahim Kazerooni and I spoke in Boulder at a Veterans for Peace meeting on current US policy in Iraq. It was at a condominium club house, a very hot evening (temperature in the high 90s) but again, good attendance 40-50 people. The organization is made up of mostly Vietnam era vets. Because they know the horrors of war and have no illusions about the political excuses used to cover wars of aggression, they tend to be a savvy group. Our basic message – told in somewhat different ways – but coming to the same point was that the US might downsize the troop levels in Iraq but that they will not give up the bases which are being consolidated into a number 4-5 mega bases and that all appearances suggest that these bases are there to stay and the US will let Iraq descend into more chaos. From their bases – modern version of Crusader fortified castles – the US will intervene in the region as they see fit. Virtually none of the major presidential candidates are addressing this issue – save Kucinich and much as I like him he does not appear to be a `major’ candidate again. The Colorado Congressional Delegation – in particular Udall and Salazar but also the others – are consistently lousy on these issues. Salazar, a freshmen Senator seems to take his lead from more experienced Democratic Senators and Udall, with an eye on the presidency, will not do anything too principled on this issue.

Ibrahim put his remarks within the context of US imperial domination of the region. I spoke about how US military strategy shifted after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to a more direct military presence.

Overall the talks seemed well received although there was one outburst.

Dr. Bob McFarland, something of a fixture in the Boulder progressive community, who has a regular radio program on KGNU, lost his cool and presented his version of the 9-11 conspiracy theory which he sees as key to understanding the present mess. Later I asked him why he had gotten so angry, why couldn’t he simply present his position more calmly. This provoked another outburst, reminding me that McFarland seems to have been pickled in conspiracy theories for as long as I have known him, which is several decades.

To give him credit, he comes by it honestly. Early on, before many others even suggested such a possibility, McFarland argued that the US had plenty of information that Pearl Harbor would be bombed, and essentially let it happen to provoke public opinion so that Roosevelt could enter World War II. If this is today not a hard core theory, still, it is not an argument that can be simply dismissed. Is he simply stuck in the same paradigm and sees it repeating itself everywhere? Perhaps this has colored his thinking on other events since, but he has latched on to the 9-11 conspiracy theory and basically lives for it. He’s become obsessed with the issue. Chomsky, who doesn’t take seriously the idea that Bush was behind 9-11, is referred to as `a double agent’, a suggestion that there are certain flaws in McFarland’s thinking. I doubt I’m seen in a much different light.

It must be admitted that McFarland is not alone; he has a fair amount of support within the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center and my sense was, more people agreed with him in the room than with my sharp criticisms of this movement. Still, 9-11 conspiracists have a factional manner of people who are convinced that they have found THE issue, the truth and then become true believers. Reminds me of a line from a Cheryl Wheeler song of one of her friends who was `frequently wrong but never in doubt’.

These ideas permeate the peace movement in Colorado and from what I have heard from a few friends in other places (California) elsewhere as well. By way of example, had a long talk with a Denver friend this morning about this (and other things) – someone for whom I have a lot of respect and she defended McFarland too.

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