What is it Like to be a Lebanese-Syrian American Today?
The other day, my good friend, Cliff, knowing that while I am a native-born American, my family tree is of Lebanese-Syrian heritage, asked me, “Sandy, what is it like for you and other Americans with your heritage to witness the constant media coverage and political polemics coming out of Washington?”
A bit caught off guard by his question, I replied, “I am an American, Cliff. And while I am deeply concerned about America’s interest in Syria and Lebanon, I am frustrated because I’d like for the American people to learn more about the Syrian and Lebanese people, their culture, their similarities to Americans, and their desire for peace and freedom to live without fear. The constant drumbeat of cable news networks seems to stay focused on the politics, government actions, terrorist activities and the harsh polemics that emanate from Washington about the Syrian government, depicting Syria as an enemy of the United States.
“As you know, Cliff, I grew up in a home of Syrian/Lebanese culture, values and food, that most delicious ingredient of life! Syrian/Lebanese mothers prepare meals for their families as, my mother always said as ‘labors of love.’ Food to our heritage is truly a means of communicating love. I grew up on such foods as homemade yogurt (laban), Hummus, Kibbee (lamb or beef mixed with bulgar), rolled grape leaves (yabrah), and wonderful pastries like Baklava (Bahlawa). And today, it makes me proud that so many Americans find these foods appealing and in good demand.”
After a minute of thought, I continued, “What troubles me though is the tendency of some in America to stereotype almost any group, including Syrians and Lebanese, mostly because of the politics, not of the people’s making.
“I have found my many trips to Syria and Lebanon to be amazing experiences. And I also found that what it’s like there often contradicts what our politicians rant about and what the media describes. Lebanon and Syria are very Western in their culture, political alliances and economy.
Almost all women in Lebanon and Syria dress freely in Western attire and are certainly equal to men but are erroneously stereotyped in America.
Labeling any Syrian/Lebanese-American political candidate as an Arab terrorist, anti-Semite or un-American is unjust and ignores the beauty, love, compassion and peace-loving characteristics of the Americans of Syrian/Lebanese heritage and their love of and loyalty to the United States.
And while some politicians and news media analysts opine and stereotype, the sad thing is that Americans have not had the exposure nor inclination to visit and experience the fullness of the Syrian and Lebanese people and their culture.
“In my travels, I’ve visited all of both countries, especially Damascus, Beirut, the fertile Bekaa Valley, and Palmyra, the ancient Roman city-oasis in eastern Syria. I have driven along miles and miles of pistachio groves, vineyards, and wheat fields of Syria and Lebanon’s Bekka which compares favorably with California’s San Joaquin Valley. I have shopped in the Damascus souk where one can buy anything from rubber sandals, ouds (guitars), carpets, brass pots, food, nuts, and mosaics to the finest gold jewelry. These realities are quite contrary to the images we see in our news media.
“As you know, I have served with great pride and honor on the Board of Governors of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital founded by my dear friend, Danny Thomas. That iconic American institution, now more than fifty years old, is meant to be the gift to the American people from Lebanese/Syrian Americans in gratitude for their freedom, liberty and opportunity this country has provided them. I don’t think the general public is aware that there is also a branch of St. Jude’s at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
“There are so many bonds that bind the cultures and people of America to their counterparts in Syria and Lebanon. I hope soon there will be peace in Syria so the people can live their lives free to be, to feed their families. And I hope soon that Americans will afford themselves visits to Lebanon and Syria to enjoy the antiquities, historic examples of ancient Roman and Islamic art.
“Yes, Cliff, I have many mixed and contradictory feelings as I and others like me must endure the incorrect stereotyping by self-serving politicians and some news media. I hope that the American people can experience that fullness, beauty, humanity of the Syrian and Lebanese people not only in Lebanon and Syria but also in our United States as they get to know them as fellow human beings and American citizens.”
What Can We Learn from the Recent Supreme Court Nomination Process?
Since the creation of our beloved United States of America, we have enjoyed liberty and opportunity. Among those most important pillars that citizens of many other nations do not enjoy are trust in our justice system and freedom of the press. Our nation is a Republic whereby we freely elect our representatives who make laws in our name. We are a democracy in that each of us has the right to vote as we choose. But that right has a concomitant responsibility that requires all of us to vote in our elections. Democracy works only when we vote!
In our 250-year history, only twice have all our qualified citizens in every town, hamlet and village voted: first, to sever their colonial status with King George in 1776 and again to confirm our Constitution and create our United States. Theirs were united goals. Imagine, the people of the thirteen colonies with little but their small farms and simple lives challenging history with an experimental form of government.
“We the people of the United States…” How quaint to us today. But these opening words of the Constitution that created a new form of government have enabled us to become the most powerful economic and military nation in the world. Our democracy works!
But it only works when the citizens assume their responsibility to protect these liberties by VOTING and being actively involved in their government at the local and national level in midterm and general elections.
Over the past sixty years, an average of only 40% of eligible voters cast ballots in midterm elections. In Presidential elections, just 60% of registered voters actually participated. These turnouts are too low to reflect the opinions of independent/moderate citizens and others who are not hard core members of the two main political bases. We should become at least 80% active in our electoral process.
During the past four months, all American have witnessed the tribal wars as our two major political parties with their counter prejudices battle each other in the “Advise and Consent” responsibility of the U.S. Senate Judicial Committee and Senate to approve President Trump’s proposed appointment of Circuit Court Judge Brett Michael Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
We cannot allow anyone but the best, most independent, non-biased, wisest individual to be seated on the U.S. Supreme Court. No selection should satisfy prejudices of any political party.
During recent years, these painful and fruitless political wars between our two political parties are driven by the so-called base of each; that is, the “extreme right” of the conservative Republican Party and the “extreme left” of the liberal Democratic Party. It has become clear that the governance of these United States of America has been left to the most active, most vociferous and extreme elements of both parties.
Since the years of the Richard Nixon era there has been a noticeable absence of the so-called “silent majority” including Independents and Moderates. As a result, by default, they have forfeited the governance of our country to the tribal far left and far right.
So, what can we learn from this debacle of the current nomination process of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and his confirmation by the Senate Judicial Committee and the full Senate?
We must learn that it is imperative all Americans cast their ballots for their Congressional Representatives and Senators in primary and general elections just as the colonists in favor of the Revolutionary War of 1776 and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1783.
All Americans must accept the responsibility and blessing of the right to vote for the candidate of our choosing. That is what liberty is all about.
The electorate of the United States is at a crossroads as evidenced by these political, prejudiced tribal wars that cause unnecessary gridlock and lack of wise and proper compromise. The powers of the extremists must be reduced by the simple addition of a more diverse electorate that is composed of Moderates, Independents and others.
By understanding the current political issues, listening to various arguments on all sides, and casting our vote, we, the American people, will add our silent majority vote to those of the far left and far right.
Our opinions do matter! Participation in our electoral process will bring diversity and broader representation of all the people and truly fulfill the opening words of the Constitution: “We the people of the United States!!”
Exercising your freedom to vote is an important lesson we must all learn!
Sandy Simon has begun his fourth career now Sandy is purchasing, renovating and upgrading older buildings in the downtown sections of Clayton, Rabun County, Georgia This follows his career as real estate broker, large scale real estate developer, author, business manager and civic activist.
As project manager at 29 of the successful Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah he was instrumental in the redevelopment of historic homes in the original settlement of Savannah.
He has been business manager for wealthy clients has authored 12 books and been an active artist all the time being a very active promoter of Delray Beach.
Sandy became a promoter of Rabun County Ga having purchased a “River Cottage” on the Tallulah River. With his companion Christy Collins they participate in the Outreach benevolent programs of the community and St James Episcopal church.
In addition, continuing his real estate preferences he has purchased four commercial buildings, restored them with upgraded their facilities and infrastructure and then leasing them to local tenants at below market rental rates.
a graduate of Georgia Tech’s School of Architecture and after a career of large
scale real estate development and community involvement in Savannah, Atlanta,
Newnan, Georgia and Delray Beach, he is bringing these same efforts to Rabun
County where he has become involved in the community affairs in an effort to
help Clayton and Rabun County to experience the growth and cultural change of
his hometown Delray Beach. Sandy has leaned that communities can change
dramatically and that is his hope for the modest town of Clayton and Rabun
ABOUT SANDY TODAY
Currently, Sandy is spending six months a year in his hometown of Delray Beach, Florida, where he remains active in civic affairs and he participates in his family’s real estate holdings in the city.
Delray Beach is experiencing, as is all of South Palm Beach County, incessant population growth above 5% per year, meaning the population of the area will likely double each 14 years pushing prices of real estate ever higher. It also brings with it significant cultural change, ever increasing traffic, and a heavy impact on mobility and the community’s quality of life. Still, Delray Beach has become a major dining and entertaining mecca of southeast Florida, an exciting city.
The other 6 months of the year, Sandy lives in the small village of Lakemont, Rabun County, Georgia just two hour’s drive from the city of Atlanta, in the far northeast part of the state which is totally different than South Palm Beach County. The region experiences very slow growth, with a village culture and high quality of life, ease of mobility and an area where 85% of the land is in Federal and State forest, holding rapid growth to a minimum. Sandy is enjoying his fourth career in Rabun County, where he has purchased several older commercial buildings, renovated them and leased them as an active
investor. His efforts are aimed at attracting young, entrepreneurs to the county to better serve the citizens and their upscale taste. He has eschewed the roll of developer to become an investor landlord. (He has come to realize having recently celebrated his 80 th. birthday in November 2017, that he as active as he was 50). His residence is in a modest cottage on the Tallulah River where he enjoys bird watching and attending St. James Episcopal Church where he has found many friends. He still is a man of business, philanthropy, words, colors, and is very much at peace and happy.
Sandy is one of the first generation in his family not born in the Middle East but he has always been closely involved in learning and studying that area. Additionally, Sandy maintains a close contact with family and friends still resident in the Middle East area.
"After consulting with family members around the world, our personal legends indicate ancestries on both sides of this family lived in Phoenicia (now Lebanon and Northern Palestine) as early as 1000 years before Christ."
Sandy's family has lived in Delray Beach since 1912 when his grandfather arrived from the mountains of northern Lebanon. In 1920 his father and namesake arrived in America and in 1924 his parents were married in Canton, Ohio but all four sons were born in Delray Beach.
The family has prospered while investing in farming and real estate. They also contributed their energies, time and wealth to their church, St. Paul's Episcopal church and to their community which resulted in them being honored by Old School Square Cultural Center "Lifetime Achievement Award”.
At the age of 56, Sandy suffered a life threatening, life changing hemorrhagic stroke that caused his doctors to declare him 100% Disabled for Life." Since then, following his own vision of what his life should be, and with the Lord's guidance, he has indeed created a new, better and more creative life painting and writing and has published twelve books.
Growing out of his family history, his work and his contacts he is considered an expert on Middle East politics. In 1978 he was asked by the Carter administration to be part of a fact-finding group that traveled to the Middle East.
The story of this trip is recounted in one of his published books – “The Camp David Peace Accords 35 years later: No War, No Peace.”
Sandy has also written a book on his family history “Who am I An Ancestry Story”
Currently, Sandy divides his time in Delray Beach, Florida and Lakemont, Georgia where he has become active investing in real estate in Rabun County located in NE Georgia.
Published below is an up to date summary of the present state of the Middle east and suggested action that are overdue made by the Syria Solidarity Movement.
Syria Solidarity Movement Statement
9 October 2017
Russian military forces in Syria have successfully constructed a bridge across the Euphrates River near the city of Deir-Ezzor, recently liberated by the Syrian Arab Army. Currently, the main body of the Syrian Arab Army is crossing or has crossed that bridge northward into the northeastern part of the country where the US has built a number of illegal military bases and has enlisted the support of mainly Kurdish mercenaries, who are moving south. The US would like to establish, in this oil-rich area, a Kurdish separatist state similar to the one it has strived for twenty years to create in Northern Iraq. However, the Syrian government has pledged to liberate every square inch of its national territory and has the strong backing of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in Lebanon to do so.
By remaining illegally in this part of Syria, the US Coalition is risking direct military confrontation with Russia in a dangerous game of "chicken". Already three senior Russian officers have been killed in the last month near Deir-Ezzor, including a three-star general, the deaths of whom have been officially blamed by the Russian government on the USA. It's a very tense situation indeed.
That's why we say:
US COALITION OUT OF SYRIA NOW!!!
Syria is a sovereign country. The duly-elected Syrian government in Damascus has the right and duty under international law to defend its people and borders against foreign invasion and occupation. Furthermore, Syria is within its right to invite its allies to volunteer military forces in the defense of the Syrian nation. On the other hand, the US has committed an act of war against Syria and is creating the very dangerous possibility of direct conflict between the superpowers, the USA and Russia.
It is illegal for the US to be in Syria. The US has no more right to be in Syria without Syrian permission than Syria has to be in the US without US permission. This is a principle to which the US has agreed by treaty, namely by signing the UN Charter. It is therefore violating its own law as well as international law.
It is illegal and immoral to commit atrocities or to support those who do. The US has been supporting terrorist organizations who have committed many war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, and the current leader of the "Deir Ez-Zor Military Council", set up by US Special Forces, is Ahmad Abu Khawla, a former ISIS fighter. This is only one of the more recent and blatant examples of US use and support of terrorist mercenaries in Syria.
The US and its allies have spent billions of dollars for "regime change" in Syria. We are pleased that they failed, because the proposed cure of permanent chaos, bloodshed, and genocide has been much worse than the disease. However, the monsters in the US government who cooked up this hair-brained scheme, during both the Bush and Obama administrations, have acted on behalf of the oligarchs who run the military-industrial complex and haven't a care about the millions of American citizens who sacrifice health, education, and opportunity in order to finance this folly.
The US has also roped many other countries into its failed regime change operation in Syria. These include most of the member countries of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), most of the Arab monarchies, and the State of Israel, all of whom share the guilt with the USA in the deaths of nearly half a million Syrians, the transformation of nearly 12 million Syrian citizens into refugees and displaced persons within Syria, the destruction of vast swaths of Syrian civilian infrastructure, the human trafficking of Syrian women and children, the illegal trafficking in human organs, the poisoning of the environment through war, and decimation of the Syrian economy. For these crimes, the leaders of the other countries participating in the US-led coalition must be made accountable and their countries made to pay reparations to Syria.
The SSM calls on the people of the US and its coalition partners to do the following:
1. Remain on high alert. There is a dire and imminent risk of direct confrontation between the USA and Russia.
2. Circulate this statement widely through social media.
3. Contact elected officials and urge
them to bring their governments' troops and equipment home from Syria now, end
economic sanctions against Syria and Syrian individuals, and restore full
diplomatic relations with Damascus.
Let us work for peace and social justice. Let's try to prevent a possible third world war.
Please visit our website for breaking stories and analysis:
If you wish to support the work of the Syria Solidarity Movement with your donations, please go to
All donations are US tax exempt.
For decades, the Sunni countries have been seeking to slow Iranian oil and gas supplies to Europe and to create their own pipelines to Western Europe.
These adversaries are fighting a proxy war in Syria with Assad allies aligned with Iran and the Sunni aligned with the US.
For additional background and context I refer you to my book "The Camp David Peace Accords 35 years later: No War, No Peace” (available for purchase here in my web store page) and both the Mike Whitney article and Robert Kennedy thesis below.
They clearly explain how we got into the current situation in Syria.
Assad’s Death Warrant
by MIKE WHITNEY
“Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria.”
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria, Politico
The conflict in Syria is not a war in the conventional sense of the word. It is a regime change operation, just like Libya and Iraq were regime change operations.
The main driver of the conflict is the country that’s toppled more than 50 sovereign governments since the end of World War 2. (See: Bill Blum here.) We’re talking about the United States of course.
Washington is the hands-down regime change champion, no one else even comes close. That being the case, one might assume that the American people would notice the pattern of intervention, see through the propaganda and assign blame accordingly. But that never seems to happen and it probably won’t happen here either. No matter how compelling the evidence may be, the brainwashed American people always believe their government is doing the right thing.
But the United States is not doing the right thing in Syria. Arming, training and funding Islamic extremists — that have killed half a million people, displaced 7 million more and turned the country into an uninhabitable wastelands is not the right thing. It is the wrong thing, the immoral thing. And the US is involved in this conflict for all the wrong reasons, the foremost of which is gas. The US wants to install a puppet regime in Damascus so it can secure pipeline corridors in the East, oversee the transport of vital energy reserves from Qatar to the EU, and make sure that those reserves continue to be denominated in US Dollars that are recycled into US Treasuries and US financial assets. This is the basic recipe for maintaining US dominance in the Middle East and for extending America’s imperial grip on global power into the future.
The war in Syria did not begin when the government of Bashar al Assad cracked down on protestors in the spring of 2011. That version of events is obfuscating hogwash. The war began in 2009, when Assad rejected a Qatari plan to transport gas from Qatar to the EU via Syria. As Robert F Kennedy Jr. explains in his excellent article “Syria: Another pipeline War”:
“The $10 billion, 1,500km pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey would have linked Qatar directly to European energy markets via distribution terminals in Turkey. The Qatar/Turkey pipeline would have given the Sunni Kingdoms of the Persian Gulf decisive domination of world natural gas markets and strengthen Qatar, America’s closest ally in the Arab world.
In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.
Assad further enraged the Gulf’s Sunni monarchs by endorsing a Russian approved “Islamic pipeline” running from Iran’s side of the gas field through Syria and to the ports of Lebanon. The Islamic pipeline would make Shia Iran instead of Sunni Qatar, the principal supplier to the European energy market and dramatically increase Tehran’s influence in the Mid-East and the world.”
Naturally, the Saudis, Qataris, Turks and Americans were furious at Assad, but what could they do? How could they prevent him from choosing his own business partners and using his own sovereign territory to transport gas to market?
What they could do is what any good Mafia Don would do; break a few legs and steal whatever he wanted. In this particular situation, Washington and its scheming allies decided to launch a clandestine proxy-war against Damascus, kill or depose Assad, and make damn sure the western oil giants nabbed the future pipeline contracts and controlled the flow of energy to Europe. That was the plan at least. Here’s more from Kennedy:
“Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria.”
Repeat: “the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline”, he signed his own death warrant. That single act was the catalyst for the US aggression that transformed a bustling, five thousand-year old civilization into a desolate Falluja-like moonscape overflowing with homicidal fanatics that were recruited, groomed and deployed by the various allied intelligence agencies.
But what’s particularly interesting about this story is that the US attempted a nearly-identical plan, 60 years earlier, during the Eisenhower administration. Here’s another clip from the Kennedy piece:
“During the 1950′s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers … mounted a clandestine war against Arab Nationalism — which CIA Director Allan Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies which they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism.
The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949 — barely a year after the agency’s creation…. Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Kuwaiti, hesitated to approve the Trans Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria. (so)… the CIA engineered a coup, replacing al-Kuwaiti with the CIA’s handpicked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. Al-Za’im barely had time to dissolve parliament and approve the American pipeline before his countrymen deposed him, 14 weeks into his regime.
(CIA agent Rocky) Stone arrived in Damascus in April 1956 with $3 million in Syrian pounds to arm and incite Islamic militants and to bribe Syrian military officers and politicians to overthrow al-Kuwaiti’s democratically elected secularist regime.
But all that CIA money failed to corrupt the Syrian military officers. The soldiers reported the CIA’s bribery attempts to the Ba’athist regime. In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy taking Stone prisoner. Following harsh interrogation, Stone made a televised confession to his roles in the Iranian coup and the CIA’s aborted attempt to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government. (Then) Syria purged all politicians sympathetic to the U.S. and executed them for treason.” (Politico)
See how history is repeating itself? It’s like the CIA was too lazy to even write a new script, they just dusted off the old one and hired new actors.
Fortunately, Assad –with the help of Iran, Hezbollah and the Russian Airforce– has fended off the effort to oust him and install a US-stooge. This should not be taken as a ringing endorsement of Assad as a leader, but of the principal that global security depends on basic protections of national sovereignty, and that the cornerstone of international law has to be a rejection of unprovoked aggression whether the hostilities are executed by one’s own military or by armed proxies that are used to achieve the same strategic objectives, while invoking plausible deniability. The fact is, there is no difference between Bush’s invasion of Iraq and Obama’s invasion of Syria. The moral, ethical and legal issues are the same, the only difference is that Obama has been more successful in confusing the American people about what is really going on.
And what’s going on is regime change: “Assad must go”. That’s been the administration’s mantra from the get go. Obama and Co are trying to overthrow a democratically-elected secular regime that refuses to bow to Washington’s demands to provide access to pipeline corridors that will further strengthen US dominance in the region. That’s what’s really going on behind the ISIS distraction and the “Assad is a brutal dictator” distraction and the “war-weary civilians in Aleppo” distraction. Washington doesn’t care about any of those things. What Washington cares about is oil, power and money. How can anyone be confused about that by now? Kennedy summed it up like this:
“We must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mid-East for 65 years. And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible.”
That says it all, don’t you think?
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].
Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria
They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil.
2/23/16, 8:50 AM CET Updated 9/16/16, 10:12 AM CET
In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I’ve made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil — and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.
America’s unsavory record of violent interventions in Syria — little-known to the American people yet well-known to Syrians — sowed fertile ground for the violent Islamic jihadism that now complicates any effective response by our government to address the challenge of ISIL. So long as the American public and policymakers are unaware of this past, further interventions are likely only to compound the crisis. Secretary of State John Kerry this week announced a “provisional” ceasefire in Syria. But since U.S. leverage and prestige within Syria is minimal — and the ceasefire doesn’t include key combatants such as Islamic State and al Nusra — it’s bound to be a shaky truce at best. Similarly, President Obama’s stepped-up military intervention in Libya — U.S. airstrikes targeted an Islamic State training camp last week — is likely to strengthen rather than weaken the radicals. As the New York Times reported in a December 8, 2015, front-page story, Islamic State political leaders and strategic planners are working to provoke an American military intervention. They know from experience this will flood their ranks with volunteer fighters, drown the voices of moderation and unify the Islamic world against America.
To understand this dynamic, we need to look at history from the Syrians’ perspective and particularly the seeds of the current conflict. Long before our 2003 occupation of Iraq triggered the Sunni uprising that has now morphed into the Islamic State, the CIA had nurtured violent jihadism as a Cold War weapon and freighted U.S./Syrian relationships with toxic baggage.
This did not happen without controversy at home. In July 1957, following a failed coup in Syria by the CIA, my uncle, Sen. John F. Kennedy, infuriated the Eisenhower White House, the leaders of both political parties and our European allies with a milestone speech endorsing the right of self-governance in the Arab world and an end to America’s imperialist meddling in Arab countries. Throughout my lifetime, and particularly during my frequent travels to the Mideast, countless Arabs have fondly recalled that speech to me as the clearest statement of the idealism they expected from the U.S. Kennedy’s speech was a call for recommitting America to the high values our country had championed in the Atlantic Charter; the formal pledge that all the former European colonies would have the right to self-determination following World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt had strong-armed Winston Churchill and the other allied leaders to sign the Atlantic Charter in 1941 as a precondition for U.S. support in the European war against fascism.
U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy gives a speech in September 1964
But thanks in large part to Allen Dulles and the CIA, whose foreign policy intrigues were often directly at odds with the stated policies of our nation, the idealistic path outlined in the Atlantic Charter was the road not taken. In 1957, my grandfather, Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, sat on a secret committee charged with investigating the CIA’s clandestine mischief in the Mideast. The so called “Bruce-Lovett Report,” to which he was a signatory, described CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt, all common knowledge on the Arab street, but virtually unknown to the American people who believed, at face value, their government’s denials. The report blamed the CIA for the rampant anti-Americanism that was then mysteriously taking root “in the many countries in the world today.” The Bruce-Lovett Report pointed out that such interventions were antithetical to American values and had compromised America’s international leadership and moral authority without the knowledge of the American people. The report also said that the CIA never considered how we would treat such interventions if some foreign government were to engineer them in our country.
This is the bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mideast nationalists “hate us for our freedoms.” For the most part they don’t; instead they hate us for the way we betrayed those freedoms — our own ideals — within their borders.
For Americans to really understand what’s going on, it’s important to review some details about this sordid but little-remembered history. During the 1950s, President Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers — CIA Director Allen Dulles and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles — rebuffed Soviet treaty proposals to leave the Middle East a neutral zone in the Cold War and let Arabs rule Arabia. Instead, they mounted a clandestine war against Arab nationalism — which Allen Dulles equated with communism — particularly when Arab self-rule threatened oil concessions. They pumped secret American military aid to tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon favoring puppets with conservative Jihadist ideologies that they regarded as a reliable antidote to Soviet Marxism. At a White House meeting between the CIA’s director of plans, Frank Wisner, and John Foster Dulles, in September 1957, Eisenhower advised the agency, “We should do everything possible to stress the ‘holy war’ aspect,” according to a memo recorded by his staff secretary, Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster.
The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949 — barely a year after the agency’s creation. Syrian patriots had declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model. But in March 1949, Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Quwatli, hesitated to approve the Trans-Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria. In his book, Legacy of Ashes, CIA historian Tim Weiner recounts that in retaliation for Al-Quwatli’s lack of enthusiasm for the U.S. pipeline, the CIA engineered a coup replacing al-Quwatli with the CIA’s handpicked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. Al-Za’im barely had time to dissolve parliament and approve the American pipeline before his countrymen deposed him, four and a half months into his regime.
Following several counter-coups in the newly destabilized country, the Syrian people again tried democracy in 1955, re-electing al-Quwatli and his National Party. Al-Quwatli was still a Cold War neutralist, but, stung by American involvement in his ouster, he now leaned toward the Soviet camp. That posture caused CIA Director Dulles to declare that “Syria is ripe for a coup” and send his two coup wizards, Kim Roosevelt and Rocky Stone, to Damascus.
Two years earlier, Roosevelt and Stone had orchestrated a coup in Iran against the democratically elected President Mohammed Mosaddegh, after Mosaddegh tried to renegotiate the terms of Iran’s lopsided contracts with the British oil giant Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP). Mosaddegh was the first elected leader in Iran’s 4,000-year history and a popular champion for democracy across the developing world. Mosaddegh expelled all British diplomats after uncovering a coup attempt by U.K. intelligence officers working in cahoots with BP. Mosaddegh, however, made the fatal mistake of resisting his advisers’ pleas to also expel the CIA, which, they correctly suspected, was complicit in the British plot. Mosaddegh idealized the U.S. as a role model for Iran’s new democracy and incapable of such perfidies. Despite Dulles’ needling, President Harry Truman had forbidden the CIA from actively joining the British caper to topple Mosaddegh. When Eisenhower took office in January 1953, he immediately unleashed Dulles. After ousting Mosaddegh in “Operation Ajax,” Stone and Roosevelt installed Shah Reza Pahlavi, who favored U.S. oil companies but whose two decades of CIA sponsored savagery toward his own people from the Peacock throne would finally ignite the 1979 Islamic revolution that has bedeviled our foreign policy for 35 years.
Mohammed Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951-1953, pictured left in 1951, the same year he was named TIME Person of the Year, right. His tenure was cut short by a United States-led coup in 1953, which installed Shah Reza Pahlavi
Flush from his Operation Ajax “success” in Iran, Stone arrived in Damascus in April 1957 with $3 million to arm and incite Islamic militants and to bribe Syrian military officers and politicians to overthrow al-Quwatli’s democratically elected secularist regime, according to Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA, by John Prados. Working with the Muslim Brotherhood and millions of dollars, Rocky Stone schemed to assassinate Syria’s chief of intelligence, the chief of its General Staff and the chief of the Communist Party, and to engineer “national conspiracies and various strong arm” provocations in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan that could be blamed on the Syrian Ba’athists. Tim Weiner describes in Legacy of Ashes how the CIA’s plan was to destabilize the Syrian government and create a pretext for an invasion by Iraq and Jordan, whose governments were already under CIA control. Kim Roosevelt forecast that the CIA’s newly installed puppet government would “rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power,” according to declassified CIA documents reported in The Guardian newspaper.
But all that CIA money failed to corrupt the Syrian military officers. The soldiers reported the CIA’s bribery attempts to the Ba’athist regime. In response, the Syrian army invaded the American Embassy, taking Stone prisoner. After harsh interrogation, Stone made a televised confession of his roles in the Iranian coup and the CIA’s aborted attempt to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government. The Syrians ejected Stone and two U.S. Embassy staffers—the first time any American State Department diplomat was barred from an Arab country. The Eisenhower White House hollowly dismissed Stone’s confession as “fabrications” and “slanders,” a denial swallowed whole by the American press, led by the New York Times and believed by the American people, who shared Mosaddegh’s idealistic view of their government. Syria purged all politicians sympathetic to the U.S. and executed for treason all military officers associated with the coup. In retaliation, the U.S. moved the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, threatened war and goaded Turkey to invade Syria. The Turks assembled 50,000 troops on Syria’s borders and backed down only in the face of unified opposition from the Arab League whose leaders were furious at the U.S. intervention. Even after its expulsion, the CIA continued its secret efforts to topple Syria’s democratically elected Ba’athist government. The CIA plotted with Britain’s MI6 to form a “Free Syria Committee” and armed the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate three Syrian government officials, who had helped expose “the American plot,” according to Matthew Jones in “The ‘Preferred Plan’: The Anglo-American Working Group Report on Covert Action in Syria, 1957.” The CIA’s mischief pushed Syria even further away from the U.S. and into prolonged alliances with Russia and Egypt.
Following the second Syrian coup attempt, anti-American riots rocked the Mideast from Lebanon to Algeria. Among the reverberations was the July 14, 1958 coup, led by the new wave of anti-American Army officers who overthrew Iraq’s pro-American monarch, Nuri al-Said. The coup leaders published secret government documents, exposing Nuri al-Said as a highly paid CIA puppet. In response to American treachery, the new Iraqi government invited Soviet diplomats and economic advisers to Iraq and turned its back on the West.
Having alienated Iraq and Syria, Kim Roosevelt fled the Mideast to work as an executive for the oil industry that he had served so well during his public service career at the CIA. Roosevelt’s replacement as CIA station chief, James Critchfield, attempted a failed assassination plot against the new Iraqi president using a toxic handkerchief, according to Weiner. Five years later, the CIA finally succeeded in deposing the Iraqi president and installing the Ba’ath Party in power in Iraq. A charismatic young murderer named Saddam Hussein was one of the distinguished leaders of the CIA’s Ba’athist team. The Ba’ath Party’s Secretary, Ali Saleh Sa’adi, who took office alongside Saddam Hussein, would later say, “We came to power on a CIA train,” according to A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, by Said Aburish, a journalist and author. Aburish recounted that the CIA supplied Saddam and his cronies a murder list of people who “had to be eliminated immediately in order to ensure success.” Tim Weiner writes that Critchfield later acknowledged that the CIA had, in essence, “created Saddam Hussein.” During the Reagan years, the CIA supplied Hussein with billions of dollars in training, Special Forces support, weapons and battlefield intelligence, knowing that he was using poisonous mustard and nerve gas and biological weapons — including anthrax obtained from the U.S. government — in his war against Iran. Reagan and his CIA director, Bill Casey, regarded Saddam as a potential friend to the U.S. oil industry and a sturdy barrier against the spread of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Their emissary, Donald Rumsfeld, presented Saddam with golden cowboy spurs and a menu of chemical/biological and conventional weapons on a 1983 trip to Baghdad. At the same time, the CIA was illegally supplying Saddam’s enemy, Iran, with thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to fight Iraq, a crime made famous during the Iran-Contra scandal. Jihadists from both sides later turned many of those CIA-supplied weapons against the American people.
Even as America contemplates yet another violent Mideast intervention, most Americans are unaware of the many ways that “blowback” from previous CIA blunders has helped craft the current crisis. The reverberations from decades of CIA shenanigans continue to echo across the Mideast today in national capitals and from mosques to madras schools over the wrecked landscape of democracy and moderate Islam that the CIA helped obliterate.
A parade of Iranian and Syrian dictators, including Bashar al-Assad and his father, have invoked the history of the CIA’s bloody coups as a pretext for their authoritarian rule, repressive tactics and their need for a strong Russian alliance. These stories are therefore well known to the people of Syria and Iran who naturally interpret talk of U.S. intervention in the context of that history.
While the compliant American press parrots the narrative that our military support for the Syrian insurgency is purely humanitarian, many Arabs see the present crisis as just another proxy war over pipelines and geopolitics. Before rushing deeper into the conflagration, it would be wise for us to consider the abundant facts supporting that perspective.
In their view, our war against Bashar Assad did not begin with the peaceful civil protests of the Arab Spring in 2011. Instead it began in 2000, when Qatar proposed to construct a $10 billion, 1,500 kilometer pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey. Qatar shares with Iran the South Pars/North Dome gas field, the world’s richest natural gas repository. The international trade embargo until recently prohibited Iran from selling gas abroad. Meanwhile, Qatar’s gas can reach European markets only if it is liquefied and shipped by sea, a route that restricts volume and dramatically raises costs. The proposed pipeline would have linked Qatar directly to European energy markets via distribution terminals in Turkey, which would pocket rich transit fees. The Qatar/Turkey pipeline would give the Sunni kingdoms of the Persian Gulf decisive domination of world natural gas markets and strengthen Qatar, America’s closest ally in the Arab world. Qatar hosts two massive American military bases and the U.S. Central Command’s Mideast headquarters.
The EU, which gets 30 percent of its gas from Russia, was equally hungry for the pipeline, which would have given its members cheap energy and relief from Vladimir Putin’s stifling economic and political leverage. Turkey, Russia’s second largest gas customer, was particularly anxious to end its reliance on its ancient rival and to position itself as the lucrative transect hub for Asian fuels to EU markets. The Qatari pipeline would have benefited Saudi Arabia’s conservative Sunni monarchy by giving it a foothold in Shia-dominated Syria. The Saudis’ geopolitical goal is to contain the economic and political power of the kingdom’s principal rival, Iran, a Shiite state, and close ally of Bashar Assad. The Saudi monarchy viewed the U.S.-sponsored Shiite takeover in Iraq (and, more recently, the termination of the Iran trade embargo) as a demotion to its regional power status and was already engaged in a proxy war against Tehran in Yemen, highlighted by the Saudi genocide against the Iranian backed Houthi tribe.
Of course, the Russians, who sell 70 percent of their gas exports to Europe, viewed the Qatar/Turkey pipeline as an existential threat. In Putin’s view, the Qatar pipeline is a NATO plot to change the status quo, deprive Russia of its only foothold in the Middle East, strangle the Russian economy and end Russian leverage in the European energy market. In 2009, Assad announced that he would refuse to sign the agreement to allow the pipeline to run through Syria “to protect the interests of our Russian ally.”
Assad further enraged the Gulf’s Sunni monarchs by endorsing a Russian-approved “Islamic pipeline” running from Iran’s side of the gas field through Syria and to the ports of Lebanon. The Islamic pipeline would make Shiite Iran, not Sunni Qatar, the principal supplier to the European energy market and dramatically increase Tehran’s influence in the Middke East and the world. Israel also was understandably determined to derail the Islamic pipeline, which would enrich Iran and Syria and presumably strengthen their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. It is important to note that this was well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad.
Bashar Assad’s family is Alawite, a Muslim sect widely perceived as aligned with the Shiite camp. “Bashar Assad was never supposed to be president,” journalist Seymour Hersh told me in an interview. “His father brought him back from medical school in London when his elder brother, the heir apparent, was killed in a car crash.” Before the war started, according to Hersh, Assad was moving to liberalize the country. “They had internet and newspapers and ATM machines and Assad wanted to move toward the west. After 9/11, he gave thousands of invaluable files to the CIA on jihadist radicals, who he considered a mutual enemy.” Assad’s regime was deliberately secular and Syria was impressively diverse. The Syrian government and military, for example, were 80 percent Sunni. Assad maintained peace among his diverse peoples by a strong, disciplined army loyal to the Assad family, an allegiance secured by a nationally esteemed and highly paid officer corps, a coldly efficient intelligence apparatus and a penchant for brutality that, prior to the war, was rather moderate compared to those of other Mideast leaders, including our current allies. According to Hersh, “He certainly wasn’t beheading people every Wednesday like the Saudis do in Mecca.”
Another veteran journalist, Bob Parry, echoes that assessment. “No one in the region has clean hands, but in the realms of torture, mass killings, [suppressing] civil liberties and supporting terrorism, Assad is much better than the Saudis.” No one believed that the regime was vulnerable to the anarchy that had riven Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia. By the spring of 2011, there were small, peaceful demonstrations in Damascus against repression by Assad’s regime. These were mainly the effluvia of the Arab Spring that spread virally across the Arab League States the previous summer. However, WikiLeaks cables indicate that the CIA was already on the ground in Syria.
But the Sunni kingdoms with vast petrodollars at stake wanted a much deeper involvement from America. On September 4, 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing that the Sunni kingdoms had offered to foot the bill for a U.S. invasion of Syria to oust Bashar Assad. “In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing, the way we’ve done it previously in other places [Iraq], they’ll carry the cost.” Kerry reiterated the offer to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.): “With respect to Arab countries offering to bear the costs of [an American invasion] to topple Assad, the answer is profoundly yes, they have. The offer is on the table.”
Despite pressure from Republicans, Barack Obama balked at hiring out young Americans to die as mercenaries for a pipeline conglomerate. Obama wisely ignored Republican clamoring to put ground troops in Syria or to funnel more funding to “moderate insurgents.” But by late 2011, Republican pressure and our Sunni allies had pushed the American government into the fray.
In 2011, the U.S. joined France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK to form the Friends of Syria Coalition, which formally demanded the removal of Assad. The CIA provided $6 million to Barada, a British TV channel, to produce pieces entreating Assad’s ouster. Saudi intelligence documents, published by WikiLeaks, show that by 2012, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were arming, training and funding radical jihadist Sunni fighters from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere to overthrow the Assad’s Shiite-allied regime. Qatar, which had the most to gain, invested $3 billion in building the insurgency and invited the Pentagon to train insurgents at U.S. bases in Qatar. According to an April 2014 article by Seymour Hersh, the CIA weapons ratlines were financed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The idea of fomenting a Sunni-Shiite civil war to weaken the Syrian and Iranian regimes in order to maintain control of the region’s petrochemical supplies was not a novel notion in the Pentagon’s lexicon. A damning 2008 Pentagon-funded Rand report proposed a precise blueprint for what was about to happen. That report observes that control of the Persian Gulf oil and gas deposits will remain, for the U.S., “a strategic priority” that “will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.” Rand recommended using “covert action, information operations, unconventional warfare” to enforce a “divide and rule” strategy. “The United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch a proxy campaign” and “U.S. leaders could also choose to capitalize on the sustained Shia-Sunni conflict trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world … possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran.”
As predicted, Assad’s overreaction to the foreign-made crisis — dropping barrel bombs onto Sunni strongholds and killing civilians — polarized Syria’s Shiite/Sunni divide and allowed U.S. policymakers to sell Americans the idea that the pipeline struggle was a humanitarian war. When Sunni soldiers of the Syrian Army began defecting in 2013, the western coalition armed the Free Syrian Army to further destabilize Syria. The press portrait of the Free Syrian Army as cohesive battalions of Syrian moderates was delusional. The dissolved units regrouped in hundreds of independent militias most of which were commanded by, or allied with, jihadi militants who were the most committed and effective fighters. By then, the Sunni armies of Al Qaeda in Iraq were crossing the border from Iraq into Syria and joining forces with the squadrons of deserters from the Free Syrian Army, many of them trained and armed by the U.S.
Despite the prevailing media portrait of a moderate Arab uprising against the tyrant Assad, U.S. intelligence planners knew from the outset that their pipeline proxies were radical jihadists who would probably carve themselves a brand new Islamic caliphate from the Sunni regions of Syria and Iraq. Two years before ISIL throat cutters stepped on the world stage, a seven-page August 12, 2012, study by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained by the right-wing group Judicial Watch, warned that thanks to the ongoing support by U.S./Sunni Coalition for radical Sunni Jihadists, “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (now ISIS), are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”
Using U.S. and Gulf state funding, these groups had turned the peaceful protests against Bashar Assad toward “a clear sectarian (Shiite vs. Sunni) direction.” The paper notes that the conflict had become a sectarian civil war supported by Sunni “religious and political powers.” The report paints the Syrian conflict as a global war for control of the region’s resources with “the west, Gulf countries and Turkey supporting [Assad’s] opposition, while Russia, China and Iran support the regime.” The Pentagon authors of the seven-page report appear to endorse the predicted advent of the ISIS caliphate: “If the situation unravels, there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor) and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” The Pentagon report warns that this new principality could move across the Iraqi border to Mosul and Ramadi and “declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”
Of course, this is precisely what has happened. Not coincidentally, the regions of Syria occupied by the Islamic State exactly encompass the proposed route of the Qatari pipeline.
But then, in 2014, our Sunni proxies horrified the American people by severing heads and driving a million refugees toward Europe. “Strategies based upon the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend can be kind of blinding,” says Tim Clemente, who chaired the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force from 2004 to 2008 and served as liaison in Iraq between the FBI, the Iraqi National Police and the U.S. military. “We made the same mistake when we trained the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The moment the Russians left, our supposed friends started smashing antiquities, enslaving women, severing body parts and shooting at us,” Clemente told me in an interview.
When the Islamic State’s “Jihadi
John” began murdering prisoners on TV, the White House pivoted, talking less
about deposing Assad and more about regional stability. The Obama
administration began putting daylight between itself and the insurgency we had
funded. The White House pointed accusing fingers at our allies. On October 3,
2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at the John F. Kennedy Jr. forum
at the Institute of Politics at Harvard that “our allies in the region were our
largest problem in Syria.” He explained that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE
were “so determined to take down Assad” that they had launched a “proxy
Sunni-Shia war” funneling “hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of
thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except
the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda” — the two
groups that merged in 2014 to form the Islamic State. Biden seemed angered that
our trusted “friends” could not be trusted to follow the American agenda.
Across the Mideast, Arab leaders routinely accuse the U.S. of having created the Islamic State. To most Americans, such accusations seem insane. However, to many Arabs, the evidence of U.S. involvement is so abundant that they conclude that our role in fostering the Islamic State must have been deliberate.
In fact, many of the Islamic State fighters and their commanders are ideological and organizational successors to the jihadists that the CIA has been nurturing for more than 30 years from Syria and Egypt to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Prior to the American invasion, there was no Al Qaeda in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. President George W. Bush destroyed Saddam’s secularist government, and his viceroy, Paul Bremer, in a monumental act of mismanagement, effectively created the Sunni Army, now named the Islamic State. Bremer elevated the Shiites to power and banned Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party, laying off some 700,000 mostly Sunni, government and party officials from ministers to schoolteachers. He then disbanded the 380,000-man army, which was 80 percent Sunni. Bremer’s actions stripped a million of Iraq’s Sunnis of rank, property, wealth and power; leaving a desperate underclass of angry, educated, capable, trained and heavily armed Sunnis with little left to lose. The Sunni insurgency named itself Al Qaeda in Iraq. Beginning in 2011, our allies funded the invasion by AQI fighters into Syria. In April 2013, having entered Syria, AQI changed its name to ISIL. According to Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, “ISIS is run by a council of former Iraqi generals. … Many are members of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’ath Party who converted to radical Islam in American prisons.” The $500 million in U.S. military aid that Obama did send to Syria almost certainly ended up benefiting these militant jihadists. Tim Clemente, the former chairman of the FBI’s joint task force, told me that the difference between the Iraq and Syria conflicts is the millions of military-aged men who are fleeing the battlefield for Europe rather than staying to fight for their communities. The obvious explanation is that the nation’s moderates are fleeing a war that is not their war. They simply want to escape being crushed between the anvil of Assad’s Russian-backed tyranny and the vicious jihadist Sunni hammer that we had a hand in wielding in a global battle over competing pipelines. You can’t blame the Syrian people for not widely embracing a blueprint for their nation minted in either Washington or Moscow. The superpowers have left no options for an idealistic future that moderate Syrians might consider fighting for. And no one wants to die for a pipeline.
* * *
What is the answer? If our objective is long-term peace in the Mideast, self-government by the Arab nations and national security at home, we must undertake any new intervention in the region with an eye on history and an intense desire to learn its lessons. Only when we Americans understand the historical and political context of this conflict will we apply appropriate scrutiny to the decisions of our leaders. Using the same imagery and language that supported our 2003 war against Saddam Hussein, our political leaders led Americans to believe that our Syrian intervention is an idealistic war against tyranny, terrorism and religious fanaticism. We tend to dismiss as mere cynicism the views of those Arabs who see the current crisis as a rerun of the same old plots about pipelines and geopolitics. But, if we are to have an effective foreign policy, we must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mideast for 65 years. And only when we see this conflict as a proxy war over a pipeline do events become comprehensible. It’s the only paradigm that explains why the GOP on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration are still fixated on regime change rather than regional stability, why the Obama administration can find no Syrian moderates to fight the war, why ISIL blew up a Russian passenger plane, why the Saudis just executed a powerful Shiite cleric only to have their embassy burned in Tehran, why Russia is bombing non-ISIL fighters and why Turkey went out of its way to shoot down a Russian jet. The million refugees now flooding into Europe are refugees of a pipeline war and CIA blundering.
Clemente compares ISIL to Colombia’s FARC — a drug cartel with a revolutionary ideology to inspire its footsoldiers. “You have to think of ISIS as an oil cartel,” Clemente said. “In the end, money is the governing rationale. The religious ideology is a tool that inspires its soldiers to give their lives for an oil cartel.”
Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war, our foreign policy strategy becomes clear. Like the Syrians fleeing for Europe, no American wants to send their child to die for a pipeline. Instead, our first priority should be the one no one ever mentions — we need to kick our Mideast oil jones, an increasingly feasible objective, as the U.S. becomes more energy independent. Next, we need to dramatically reduce our military profile in the Middle East and let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel’s borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in this conflict. While the facts prove that we played a role in creating the crisis, history shows that we have little power to resolve it.
As we contemplate history, it’s breathtaking to consider the astonishing consistency with which virtually every violent intervention in the Middle East since World War II by our country has resulted in miserable failure and horrendously costly blowback. A 1997 U.S. Department of Defense report found that “the data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement abroad and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S.” Let’s face it; what we call the “war on terror” is really just another oil war. We’ve squandered $6 trillion on three wars abroad and on constructing a national security warfare state at home since oilman Dick Cheney declared the “Long War” in 2001. The only winners have been the military contractors and oil companies that have pocketed historic profits, the intelligence agencies that have grown exponentially in power and influence to the detriment of our freedoms and the jihadists who invariably used our interventions as their most effective recruiting tool. We have compromised our values, butchered our own youth, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, subverted our idealism and squandered our national treasures in fruitless and costly adventures abroad. In the process, we have helped our worst enemies and turned America, once the world’s beacon of freedom, into a national security surveillance state and an international moral pariah.
America’s founding fathers warned Americans against standing armies, foreign entanglements and, in John Quincy Adams’ words, “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Those wise men understood that imperialism abroad is incompatible with democracy and civil rights at home. The Atlantic Charter echoed their seminal American ideal that each nation should have the right to self-determination. Over the past seven decades, the Dulles brothers, the Cheney gang, the neocons and their ilk have hijacked that fundamental principle of American idealism and deployed our military and intelligence apparatus to serve the mercantile interests of large corporations and particularly, the petroleum companies and military contractors that have literally made a killing from these conflicts.
It’s time for Americans to turn America away from this new imperialism and back to the path of idealism and democracy. We should let the Arabs govern Arabia and turn our energies to the great endeavor of nation building at home. We need to begin this process, not by invading Syria, but by ending the ruinous addiction to oil that has warped U.S. foreign policy for half a century.
This article has been updated to identify Robert Kennedy as U.S. Attorney General.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is the president of Waterkeeper Alliance. His newest book is Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak.
Author:- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr
Hello cousins and friends,
Again, I am happy and grateful to so many of you for your compliments and book orders. I appreciate your support.
Earlier in a newsletter, I suggested the price of the book at $19.00 per copy until the end of February. I am letting you know that I am extending that offer since so many of you are relatives and this book is for you.
Over the next few weeks I will be loading to my website sample pages from the book, both narratives and family photographs, to give you a sampling of the very high quality of the book and, of course, the remarkable quality of my writing skills!!!
Order several copies! You are going to love seeing pictures of your quite large, good-looking extended family members.
And guess what? The books arrived yesterday so immediate shipping is available to those who have purchased copies! Yea!
How many would you like?
To view the book information, sample pages please go to the BOOK page
After three years of extensive research, writing, numerous re-edits, verifying legendary stories, and gathering family photographs (which was like herding cats), I am pleased to announce my new book WHO AM I? An Ancestry Story is finally ready to go to print and can be ordered by selecting Web Store page above.
This is very exciting and I want to share my ancestry story with you.
The book is an 80-page, 7x10 inch paperback, including 19 color pages of photographs of many current descendants and families!
If you read this book you will learn:
- Where did our ancestors come from?
- Can we trace our four families (Chalhoub, Azar, Zaine, Thomé) to ancient Phoenicia?
- When did our ancestors become Christians?
- What did our Christian forbearers have to endure during the Islamic Movement in the 700s?
- When and how did they first migrate to the Americas and why?
- Where are they today?
- Who is ISIS and how does it relate to Salafism?
- Why is it important that we understand their importance; their threat to our way of life?
You may now preorder your copy at a discounted price of $19 (includes shipping and handling) only available until February 28, 2017.
Please go to sandysimon.com
Include the number of copies and list of names you wish the author’s signature to personalize for your order.
Text copied from the back book cover
Inspired by his friend Danny Thomas’s call that “he who does not honor his heritage has no heritage,” Sandy Simon devoted more than three years of extensive research into the ancestry of his parents’ families, immigrants to the United States. It is interesting to note that all his forebears date back to Phoenicia and early Christianity.
Mr. Simon’s maternal families, Thomé and Zaine, lived in Phoenicia then
Damascus, Syria until they sought freedom and opportunity in the Americas. His mother’s maternal family (Thomé) relocated to Brazil in 1910 and her paternal family (Zaine) to the United States in 1905.
Mr. Simon’s paternal families, Chalhoub and Azar, lived in Phoenicia then Douma and Beirut, Lebanon whence his grandfather and father emigrated to South
Florida in 1912 and 1920, respectively.
Today the Simon family is in its fifth generation in Delray Beach, Florida.
As a first generation Lebanese/Syrian American, Sandy Simon aka Alexander Simon Eassa Chalhoub-ThoméZaine-Azar, has lived his life infused with a blending of the contrasting cultures of America and the Middle East. Mr. Simon is a graduate of the School of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology, and received his MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Simon has served on the Board of Governors of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and is a member of the American Task Force for Lebanon. He also served for fourteen years as Senior Vice President of the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA). Mr. Simon, inspired by his parents and interest in his heritage, has often traveled to visit his extended families in Damascus, Beirut, Douma and Sao Paulo, Brazil, learning of their culture, their warmth and their courage. He found that most knowledge of his ancestry came by way of family legends passed on orally since the earliest of times; multiple memorable family stories that were confirmed by various relatives of different bloodlines living in different parts of the world. Indeed, Sandy Simon lovingly honors his heritage and wrote this book to memorialize his ancestry for the benefit of his extended family and for the generations to come.
Several years ago at a Georgia Tech alumni weekend, my dear friend and fraternity brother, Bob, asked me to read and comment on the first twenty pages of the ancestry book he was working on. I really enjoyed his writing and became enthused to research my own family histories and try to memorialize my findings.
As a first generation Syrian-Lebanese American, I knew as much as most Americans about my family history: maybe two or three generations, but not a lot more. And being of a Middle Eastern heritage recorded documents and data in Ancestry. com, Google or other handy sources that are not available, as are one’s families of Northern Europe.
During the past forty plus years I have been involved in Middle East affairs, have visited cousins in my father’s family’s origins in Douma, Lebanon, a small village in Mount Lebanon’s high mountains and my mother’s birthplace, Damascus, Syria. My mother’s parents with her, a babe in arms, arrived in the United States in 1905. My father’s father arrived in South Florida from Lebanon in 1912; my father, following World War I, in 1920. From them, I learned much about the culture and mores of both my families. Intrigued, I have visited cousins in those places, toured those beautiful countries. In 1978 I traveled to eight Arab countries in behalf of President Jimmy Carter and his Secretary of State Cyrus Vance during the negotiations of the Camp David Peace Accords.
But how, I wondered, without the benefit of Internet research and the Mormon Church documentation would I be able to learn about my family histories?
I decided to contact family members in Damascus, Douma, Sao Paulo, Brazil and Dubai where family members now live. I asked them all the same and abundant probing questions whose answers would help me find the missing pieces of this puzzle I wanted to bring together. By asking the same questions of heirs to four different families, I hoped to receive some confirmations of what other family members told me. Of course, the Internet has been invaluable not only to provide immediate access to these cousins but to enable various individuals to confirm or challenge these “family legends.” Using email and sometimes the telephone, I probably saved three years of effort and research.
What I found out fascinated me beyond my imagination. While most Lebanese-Americans I know hope and often prefer to be considered Phoenician, not Arab, I found that indeed my ancestors on both sides of my families in fact lived in Phoenicia as early as prior to 1000 B.C.E. and were early followers of Jesus, remaining Christians throughout the ages.
So, based on our family legends, my ancestors, my current nuclear family, including the children of my brothers, are of Phoenician bloodlines. And that makes me happy.
As a result, I decided to memorialize events and individuals of my ancestry by writing my new book:
Who Am I? An Ancestry Story
Sandy Simon, aka Alexander Eassa Simaan Thomé Chalhoub.
If you have an interest in what is happening throughout the Middle East, I suggest you read this excellent analysis.
Perhaps we'll all understand better what is happening in Iraq and Syria.
We need better leadership, better understanding among decision makers of the tribal/religious issues so different from our culture (but not all that much as America's culture evolves).
For further insight, read my book: "The Camp David Peace Accords 35 Years Later: No War, No Peace."
The Road to Hell in Iraq and Syria | Center for Strategic and International Studies
October 6, 2016
There is nothing pretty about the rubble left behind by the collapse of the U.S. strategy for Syria. One of the most horrifying civil wars in modern history has gotten worse. Russia, Iran, and Assad have all gained at the expense of the United States and its allies, and no credible scenario has promised an early end to the civil war, to the steady build up of factional sectarian and ethnic tensions, or to the long-term threat posed by Islamic extremism and terrorism.
One cannot doubt that the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry have had good intentions—intentions that might have worked had the other actors shared the same goals as the United States. The problem is that it was never clear that any of the other actors in the conflict—other than our European allies and key UN diplomats like Staffan De Mistura—did share those intentions. The end result is that those good intentions have helped pave the road to hell. The Obama Administration now faces the choice between lame duck and highly uncertain escalation to new levels of forces, and the situation seems likely to get substantially worse between now and when a new Administration will be able to act.
A Plague From Both Their White Houses
Looking back, there are several lessons the United States needs to learn. One is the need to integrate the military and civil dimensions of war. The second is that the use of force is not a matter of force size, but whether the chosen use of force can be decisive enough to both defeat the enemy and create some form of viable outcome.
The Bush Administration made massive use of force without setting clear goals for the civil dimensions of war and the post conflict situation in Iraq—just as it had done earlier in Afghanistan. It repeated a critical grand strategic mistake the United States had made in Vietnam—failing to shape the civil dimension in ways that could bring security and stability to a weak state and structure of governance, and failing to support the military dimension with the kind of “nation building” that could give tactical victory lasting meaning.
The Obama Administration chose to minimize the use of force, and still constantly repeats the theme that there was no military solution to Iraq and Syria. In fairness, it originally did so because American politics were not prepared to support the costs and casualties of another major deployment of U.S. ground forces, and it was far from clear whether such an intervention would have had local support in a deeply divided and partly hostile Iraq or Syria.
At the same time, the Obama Administration failed to address the fact that there could be no civil solution in either Syria or Iraq without a military solution. It chose to use the absolute minimum of force until an event forced it to slowly escalate. It took close to half a decade to build up an effective train and assist mission and a strategic partnership in Iraq. Its failure to intervene decisively early on in Syria ensured that there was no clear military or nation building option in Syria, and helped ensure that its deeply divided rebel factions became steadily more extreme.
If the Bush Administration was guilty of using excessive force, without a workable civil dimension, the Obama Administration was guilty of using indecisive forces without any meaningful civil effort at all. Both failed to address the reality they were supporting the equivalent of failed states, and that only an effective civil and military operation could produce some kind of lasting victory—if one was really possible at all. Both Administrations also to some extent made the same mistake of assuming that the other actors inside Iraq and Syria shared a common desire for stability and security.
Houses Divided Against Themselves
If Bush pursued the neocon dream that the overthrow of Saddam and the end of history would lead to democracy and common values in Iraq, Obama seems to have had much the same dream about the impact of the “Arab Spring in Syria.” He seems to have hoped a moderate opposition that had no real experience with politics, governance, or development could bring order and progress to Syria.
The key lesson of the British and U.S. civil wars, French and Russian revolutions, most of Europe in 1848, and the collapse of most post colonial attempts at democracy were ignored or forgotten. Weak and inexperienced moderates without guns lose to extremists and those with guns or authoritarian reaction.
The Bush dream of uniting Iraq with Shiite exiles and de-Baathification ignored the realities of Sunni and Shi’ite tensions, the Kurds, Iran’s presence and strategic goals, and the different objectives of the Arab states—including all of America’s allies. It ignored the self-seeking and factional goals of the leaders involved, and never developed workable integrated civil-military plans and efforts. Its surge achieved good tactical results largely because al Qaeda’s treatment of Sunnis was even worse than the central government’s. At the same time, the Bush Administration lacked the will and leverage to create a functional state, and it confused aid with trying to make Iraq a mirror image.
The Obama Administration tried to stand aside from both Iraq and Syria as the situation steadily deteriorated in both countries, and only took serious action when ISIS (ISIL/Daesh) became a massive threat in late 2014. It then chose an “Iraq first” strategy that only now is getting the military resources that were once needed, and it has never found a credible way to bridge the deep divisions between Arab Shi’ite, Arab Sunni, and Kurd; between the factions and extremist within each group; and between their divided and often corrupt leaders.
The Obama Administration has never offered any public explanation of its goals for Iraq; of what happens if ISIS is defeated; of how Iraq can be secure if Syria is not; or for what role it expects Iran to play when it no longer needs U.S. airpower and arms to flow into Iraq.
There are no good analogies to describe the resulting mess, but the focus on ISIS to the near exclusion of other actors seems to be a bit like focusing on a termite problem in a house inhabited by the Hatfields and McCoys, at least four other hostile clans, and all their enemies. There is some hope that Iraqis have suffered so much already that they will not turn to actual fighting, but Iraq is also bankrupt, and “burnout” has always been a very uncertain road to conflict resolution.
As for Syria, the Administration has never honestly faced the steadily growing mess that now exists at either the security or civil levels. It has relied on the myth of effective Syrian moderate forces, and competent moderate political figures with actual followings. It has not addressed the reality that the vast majority of effective Arab rebel fighters against Assad are Islamist extremists with ties to al Qaeda. It has been equally unwilling to admit that Syria’s Kurds are effective fighters, but are divided and anything but moderate nationalists. It never addresses the fact that it is fighting ISIS in Eastern Syria, but most of Syria’s population is in the West where Assad is now gaining.
The Administration has never begun to explain how any ceasefire could lead to a workable government, deal with the anger and hatred growing out of the war, cope with nearly 5 million refugees and more than 7 million internally dispersed persons, and an economy only 20-25% of the size it was when the civil war began. Iraq is merely deeply divided and bankrupt, Syria is a desperate mess whose population has no clear hope for recovery, and suffers more by the week. It also has never publically addressed the fact that the defeat of ISIS in the East may end in dispersing many of its foreign fighters as terrorists while its Arab fighters join the Islamist extremist Arab rebels.
Enter the Outside Actors
Worse, a divided Iraq and Syria are now only part of the problem. Both a lame duck Obama Administration and the new Administration face a massive strategic shift since ISIS became a major factor in Iraq and Syria. The United States no longer dominates the military and civil scene.
Iran has steadily expanded its influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Turkey has actively intervened in Syria, is at war with its own Kurds, and has chosen sides in the Kurdish factional fighting in Iraq. The other Arab states have increasingly become pro-Sunni rather than “Arab,” but have failed to establish any serious power base or influence in Iraq, and seem more limited to arming Syrian Arab rebels rather than exercising any great influence over them.
Just as defeating ISIS in key urban areas like Mosul and Raqqa may end in creating new mixtures of Sunni extremists in Syria and Iraq, the internal ethnic and sectarian alignments in Iraq and Syria are likely to see even more Turkish and Iranian involvement the moment the “Caliphate” is gone.
Here, one key issue that United States will have to address is that the U.S. and its European allies may see ISIS as the primary threat or strategic focus of the fighting, but none of the regional states see ISIS as the primary threat. ISIS has been contained for over a year to the point where the key question for every local state and faction is what serves its interests relative to competing states and factions, and how this interacts with the broader struggle for the future of Islam that now increasingly is Sunni vs. Shiite and Alawite, and moderate/traditionalist vs. extremist.
It is not fair to blame the Bush or the Obama Administration for the lack of good options. As the UN’s Arab Development Reports—and the analyses of UNDP, IMF and World Bank—pointed out a decade or more before the Arab spring, the MENA region was headed for a major crisis because of misgovernment, corruption, and failed development and economic policies.
Every event since the uprising of 2011 has made this situation worse, and Turkish, Iranian, and outside Arab influence adds one more set of problems to the problems of Syria and Iraq at a time that tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia keep rising. The end result is a steady decline in U.S. leverage that has scarcely been help by JASTA and rising U.S. tensions, and a U.S. and European political climate that makes power projection and aid even more difficult.
Exit the Stage Chased by a Bear?
The final variable is Russia. There are good reasons why Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale is rarely performed. Like Iraq and Syria it is something of an ungovernable mess, and it is most famous for a single stage direction—“exit the stage chased by a bear.”
The practical question for both the twilight months of the Obama Administration, and the dawn of the next Administration, is exactly how much pressure Russia will put on the United States vs. the pressure the United States will put on Russia. In blunt terms, there are only three options: The Bear chases the United States off the stage, the United States chases the Bear, or the United States and the Bear end up in an ongoing confrontation.
There is no way to really know how much hope and trust Secretary Kerry ever put in Sergei Lavrov. As long as the White House refused any form of more decisive military action, Kerry had to play the only hand he was dealt. Still, it has never been clear why the Obama Administration or anyone else thought that Russia would play by U.S. rules or share the same goals and values.
Russia never had all that much reason to care about ISIS in Syria and Iraq as long as the United States was committed to containing or defeating it. It is equally unclear why Putin felt a naval facility in Syria was all that critical or could not be retained after Assad’s fall. It was even less clear why Putin would think the stability of the MENA region was better than leaving it an unstable challenge to the United States and Europe. Russia is effectively a petro economy that has everything to gain from any uncertainty in oil and gas exports in the Gulf that raise prices and the demand for Russian exports.
No outcome in Syria was going to ease relations in Putin’s major areas of concern: Russia’s prestige and influence, and its control over the Ukraine and the “near abroad.” Moreover, this was never a game where Russia faced a “quagmire” unless it grossly overcommitted to a limited objective.
Russia never showed much humanitarian restraint in Chechnya or the Ukraine, and had no great reason to see any part of the Arab rebels as potential allies. Putin did not have to engage in anything like starting a “new Cold War,” when it could make major gains for Russia in 19th Century geopolitical terms at minimal risk and cost. Moreover, Russia effectively “won” enough to justify its intervention at its very start in September 2015—simply by showing it could intervene in the Middle East without any U.S. reaction.
Russia became an instant major player in the MENA region, and it never had to up the ante if Assad still lost, particularly if it retains its naval base in some ceasefire or conflict resolution deal. The military costs have been limited and well worth spending simply to test Russian military systems and gain operational experience.
This confronts the United States and the new Administration with three realities. First, Russia is a now broad strategic rival and is likely to remain so at least as long as Putin is in power. Second, the United States can’t rebalance to Asia away from Europe or the Middle East. And third, short of being chased off the stage, the United States will have to play out a weak hand in Syria to limit and contain Russian influence.
U.S. options simply are not that good. Arming the Arab rebels with effective air defenses is an option, but a dangerous one that could easily see these systems turned against Western targets. Using countervailing power by arming the Ukraine is another option, but one where Russia can up the ante in the Eastern Ukraine, pressure Poland and the Baltic states, or provide more advanced arms to Iran.
If there is a quagmire, it really isn’t Russia that faces the greatest problems. Russia really doesn’t need a favorable outcome in Syria or a stable Middle East. The result may well be a legacy where the next President inherits the combined legacies of both Iraq and Syria, and the new Great Game moves Central and South Asia to the Middle East. The unfortunate fact is that the Bear doesn’t have to chase the United States off the stage.
SYRIA UPDATE - July 2016
As we watch the fighting and destruction of Syria, the power politicians in the region and outside seek to control the Middle East. I am saddened for several reasons:
· Syria is the historic home of my maternal parents.
· I still have family members in Damascus, Lebanon of my paternal family.
· That sadly most Americans will likely never experience the wonderfully welcoming culture of the fair skinned Syrian people whose customs of self responsibility, kindness, fun loving emphasis on the education of their children and religious dedication (Syria was 100% Christian until the 700s)
· For the historic relics of Greek, Roman and Islamic architecture, art and ruins that are being destroyed by ISIS, Al Quaida, Al Nusra terrorists, et al.
For too long, the U.S. has spent billions arming and training inept rebel forces dedicated to bringing down Syria's elected president Bashar Assad. Bashar Assad who, with his father before him have ruled the secular country for 40 years ensuring that women have equal rights and that there is freedom of and from religion.
The U.S. has been doing the bidding of Israel in Iraq and Syria.
As Hillary Clinton advocated as Secretary of State, "The best thing we can do for Israel is get rid of Assad."
Question: How is that good for Americans? Assad has never threatened the U.S. but using her advice Obama has spent billions training and arming mostly Muslim Brotherhood, anti Assad individuals who have done a good job losing those arms to ISIS and Al Quaida or who had in many cases converted to follow ISIS.
THESE ARE ILL ADVISED AND WRONG POLICIES ON SYRIA.
Russia, on the other hand, supports Assad, is fighting ISIS, and, it's reported, the "rebels" fighting Assad who were armed and trained by the U.S..
FINALLY!!! - AFTER NEARLY 4 YEARS, It was reported yesterday, the U.S. is offering to coordinate attacks against ISI, Al Nusra and Al Quaida terrorists, to share intelligence and co-operate in planning so as to be unified against that enemy group and not the government. The U.S. has for 3 years turned down Russia's offers.
Who are enemies of the U.S. in the Middle East or elsewhere? North Vietnam, ISIS, Al Quaida, Al Nusra, and others but NOT THE SYRIAN GOVERNMENT.
For additional back ground information please refer to my book - The Camp David Peace Accord - 35 years Later- No Peace No War.
I have received many positive reports on the benefit of my book, A STROKE OF GENIUS – Messages of Hope and Healing from a Thriving Stroke Survivor. So I am writing will share my story with anyone not familiar with it.
I wrote A Stroke of Genius to help people who have suffered and survived a stroke, their caregivers, loved ones, family, colleagues, friends and therapists everywhere. The book has sold thousands of copies and many who have read the book have written that the book has encouraged them and, as a result, hundreds of survivors and their families now look forward positively to a full and vibrant life.
I suffered the worst stroke the doctors had seen; if I didn't die in the next 30 minutes, which they expected, I would never walk again, talk again, use my left side again or make any decisions again the doctors thought. "He's lost 45% of his brain cells," was the collected expert opinion of my doctors.
I had to create my own vision for my life which was indeed, to live, walk again, talk again and use my left side again. Since then, with years of therapies, a strong faith, determination and loving support from friends and family, I have indeed fulfilled my vision. I have written and published ten books, traveled to more than 40 countries and spoken on 25 cruises with Norwegian Cruise Lines as their Enlightenment and Destination speaker. I have served as Keynote Speaker at numerous conferences on stroke for The American Heart and The American Stroke Associations across the country. I now live a full life of writing, consulting, painting and public speaking on numerous subjects.
I also am privileged to counsel stroke survivors and their families across the country by telephone
and with personal visits. I try to set an example and inspire those who have suffered this tragic and
debilitating illness. I now play golf, right handed only, I paint and have shown my art work at many
exhibitions and one man shows.
The later pages of this my website show details of my books and art work. Thank you for you time
A Prayer for the Victims of the Syrian Conflict:-
We pray for those damaged by the fighting in Syria.
To the wounded and injured:
Come Lord Jesus.
To the terrified who are living in shock:
Come Lord Jesus
To the hungry and homeless, refugee and exile:
Come Lord Jesus
To those bringing humanitarian aid:
Give protection Lord Jesus
To those administering medical assistance:
Give protection Lord Jesus.
To those offering counsel and care:
Give protection Lord Jesus.
For all making the sacrifice of love:
Give the strength of your Spirit
and the joy of your comfort.
In the hope of Christ we pray.
-Church of England Prayers for Syria
"All minorities you mentioned do not make more than 15% of the Syrian population. I am glad they are protected, but what about the fate of the other 85% of the population, does it matter to you at all!"
My reply. I understand, as you do, that minorities within Syria constitute about 15% of the total population, and that the majority are Sunni Muslims.
Isn't it ironic that Syria's neighbor, Iraq is predominately Shiite?
Syria and Iraq, both under the Baath Party, have governed secular nations, meaning freedom of religion and equal rights for women. I favor that.
Being of the Syria Orthodox church, I naturally am concerned about the same, particularly because I still have cousins, uncles and others in Damascus.
It is very regrettable that, generals and other leaders, principally Sunni Muslims hate America and lead ISIS.
As you know, the US government sees the Middle East through the lens of Israel, unfortunately turning its back on the Arab and Muslim people as the citizens of America. I am grateful to be here but many times, like many Americans, I disagree with the actions of our government.
Obama called for Assad "To go". In my opinion he opened the flood gates to every extremists group and removing Assad without a political settlement is foolhardy. The existing government performs many things within a political infrastructure which would disappear creating additional chaos.
Russia instead supports Assad, believing that it does no good for the Syrian people to have him forcibly removed and need to "nation build" (As the U.S. incorrectly believes it has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
In time Syria will have to rebuild every aspect: infrastructure, highways, electricity, water and sewer, buildings and a social culture with trust.
I pray I will live long enough to see that."
ON SYRIAN REFUGEES My Canadian friend Don asked
Why the U.S. is so afraid of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.?
Don lives part of the year in South Florida and part in Montreal, Canada and is a citizen of Canada. He told me there are more than 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada at this time and there has been no trouble. He told me the Syrians, by and large are better educated than Canadians, do not want government subsidies, and are eager to start their own businesses. Last Sunday evening on 60 Minutes, the Canadian Prime Minister was interviewed, repeated that indeed, Canada has opened its arms to Syrian refugees and have accepted 25,000 saying the U.N spends up to 24 months vetting each refugee followed by Canadian vetting and that he is absolutely confident they are good people.
Now compare Canada's population of 36 million with that of the US 300 million.
Don added that the churches and Syrian/Lebanese communities help the refugees with food, clothing, housing and getting them jobs. Sounds like the American culture of our past when America was the beacon of hope for the world. It seems today too many of us feel, "I've got mine. You get yours somewhere else."
Doesn't reflecting our proud Judeo - Christian beliefs does it?
I told my friend, Don that it appears our politicians and media and thus our citizens are consumed with FEAR and ANGER like we've never seen before (perhaps after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 2941) when President Roosevelt famously said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Even Florida with 20 million residents refuses to accept a tiny 1300 or so. Why?
There are already thousands of Moslems in Florida and more Syrian Americans, mostly Christians. Almost all own their own businesses or are among families that do. Syrians make wonderful citizens in America.
Surely we and our Intelligence community are capable of protecting us.
And, I understand, of the 350 reported arrests of Moslems in the U.S., more than 90% were because fellow good citizen Moslems reported them to the police when they saw anything suspicious.
A friend of mine recently gave a copy of my book, A Stroke of Genius: Messages Of Hope And Healing From A Thriving Stroke Survivor, to his minister.
Firstly his minister read the book but most interestingly within a few days of having read the book an older member of the congregation suffered a stroke. The minister reported back that the information contained in the book had proved to be an invaluable guide to him and had provided both the stroke victim and his family a sense that there would be a future.
Secondly the very next week a younger member of the same congregation approached the minister seeking guidance. He was involved in providing support to a family with a member that was recovering from having a stroke survivor.
This reminded me of the reason I wrote the book. I have received many, many letters and phone calls from either a stroke survivor or their care giver as to the invaluable guidance and practical advice the book contains.
I urge you if you are a stroke survivor, are caring for a stroke survivor or know of someone in that situation to please refer them to my book page
“After my severe life threatening hemorrhagic brain attack, a most severe stroke, I was declared 100% disabled for life! During my 90 day stay in a rehab hospital, receiving and enduring 5 therapies each day for 5 days a week, I was very depressed, angry and felt lost. I felt I had no future at all. Then one day a fellow stroke survivor counseled me. He convinced me I could overcome my stroke. He changed my entire perspective, gave me hope and persuaded me to be determined. I found I had to create my own vision of my life and it was far different from that of my doctors. I would walk again. I would speak again. I would use my left side again. I would make decisions again. I also determined my future included a ministry to help others who had suffered a severe stroke. So, after about 4 years of being incapable of very much, I learned how to hold thoughts and write. At my dining room table, and after many hours of rest each day, I found myself writing what became A Stroke of Genius: Messages Of Hope And Healing From A Thriving Stroke Survivor. It has since sold many thousands and brought me hundreds of kind letters of thanks.
I have been the keynote speaker at many Stroke conferences of the American Heart Association and counseled families across America from Philadelphia to Carmel, Wichita to Boston.
This book has become akin to a miracle for many, many families. It is an easy and quick read, humorous in places and filled with hopeful messages. I revised the original edition a few years ago and added some additional sections. This book has been read by many thousands to date. I hope and believe it will help many more people who are living with the results of stroke and be a guide for the families who must bear the support burden.”
I just signed the petition "Syrian ceasefire talks must include Christian representatives" on CitizenGO. Will you sign it too?
Join this petition! Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: Syrian cease fire talks must include Christian representatives: http://www.citizengo.org/en/pr/32890-syrian-ceasefire-talks-must-include-christian-representatives?tc=gm&tcid=20232069
With the volatile situation in Syria and the Middle-East it is useful to be able to read an account of the history of the region at the time of the Camp David Accords brokered by President Carter in 1978.
Sandy Simon's book "The Camp David Accords 35 years later: No War, No Peace" provides such a history told in a personal and entertaining manner.
In December of 1978 Sandy Simon then Senior Vice President and three other leaders of the National Association of Arab Americans traveled to the region at the request of the Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and President Jimmy Carter.
The objective was to consult with leaders heads of state and other highest officials of the eight Arab countries involved counties involved in the region to determine their true attitudes following the signing of the Camp David Accords in September of 1978.
During the fourteen day trip they meet with King Hussein of Jordan; Sheikh Ali Al Sabah of Kuwait; Leaders of Sadam Hussein's Ba'ath Party in Baghdad Iraq; Emir Al Khalifa in Manama Bahrain; Leading Government Officials in Doha Qatar; Prince Turki bin Faisal, bin Abdul Aziz and King Khalid in Riyadhi Saudi Arabia; His Majesty Abdul Halim Khaddom and President Hafez Al Assad - father of today’s President Assad in Damascus Syria; President Elais Sarkis of Lebanon and PLO Chairman Arafat in a night time meeting. Additionally significant time was spent meeting with the US Ambassadors in each country and many other high ranking national leaders.
Feb. 15th 2016. A Statement on the Cease Fire in Syria
All peace-loving people everywhere applaud the unanimous agreement to a cease fire throughout Syria.More than 12 million, TWELVE MILLION!, at least, innocents have been driven from their homes (displaced internally and abroad)!My relatives, some still in Damascus, have been traumatized, threatened and bombed. They have been unable to get food except during the few quiet hours in the morning or the evening. Schools have been targeted by opposition and ISIS (al Qaida), ITA branch of Al Nousra. Like Hussein in Iraq, Assad, while a strong man, never was a threat to America. Both Hussein of Iraq and Assad were Baath Party leaders. Assad strongly enforced a secular society, with freedom of religion, freedom from religion and protection of woman's rights, religious rights and minorities including Christians, Jews, Druze and Alawites.In Iraq, 75% of the population was Shiite while Hussein was Sunni. In Syria 80% of the people were Sunni, while Assad and his own people are Alawites, a Shiite branch and a true minority in Syria.My cousins as all innocent Syrians welcome the unanimous agreement to a truce allowing humanitarian aid to arrive especially in Aleppo, once a magnificent city with a very large Christian population, and where the Episcopal church has been feeding, housing and sheltering innocent women, men and children for 4 years!While everyone is happy about the truce and cease fire, all are wary.Remember that ISIS, Al Qaida and other terrorist groups opposing the Assad government are not parties to this agreement and could resume the fighting, bombing and shooting, as well as throwing rockets on and kidnapping and killing innocents.We will all see if the superpowers can enforce this agreement.Actually, many believe Russia has been on Assad's side all along, and will continue soIf the U.S. succeeds in pushing Assad out, there would be a chaotic vacuum that ISIS would fill, and innocents, especially Christians like my relatives, would perish and disappear from their historic land.Only with peace in Syria can Lebanon reconstruct itself and resume a higher level of stabilitySandy Simon
When he was a boy in the 1940s, Sandy Simon sold newspapers up and down Atlantic Avenue.
The landowner, Adolf Hofman (1871-1953), foreclosed, and then leased Kraus a small space in the arcade leading from the sidewalk to the courtyard. Kraus added sandwiches and buttermilk to his menu, and eventually the little shop expanded to three of those spaces.
In 1932, Kraus persuaded Hofman to rent him the large courtyard for an open-air restaurant and lounge. The Arcade Tap Room was born that year, and so was a daughter named Carolyn.
“Well, I’m not sure I know all the facts,” Carolyn Kraus Cunningham says. “I was just a baby. But it was no major speakeasy, I can tell you that.”
In the ’40s and ’50s, cartoonists now long forgotten rented the Tap Room’s second-floor offices as studios. Pat Enright, the political cartoonist, and Fontaine Fox, creator of the Toonerville Folks comic strip. H.T. Webster and Zack Mosley. They drew upstairs, drank downstairs, and in time the Tap Room’s walls were adorned with their work.
When Bill Kraus learned he had cancer, he sold the business to Bert White, who ran it until his own death two years later. In the 1950s, Bunny Fertita, a Fort Lauderdale restaurateur, took over the lease, renamed the business the Charcoal Pit, added a roof to the courtyard and tore out the brick fireplace in the bar.
By the 1960s, the population had surpassed 12,000, and Sandy Simon was no longer a little boy hawking newspapers. He was a grown man, and a customer.
On June 30, 1989, Jim Hallas closed The Arcade Tap Room. A trio played For Once In My Life while the old-timers dined on prime rib, pork chops, broiled flounder and memories.
Now the population of Delray Beach is 65,000, and the new Old Arcade is open for business.
For more information, visit www.caffemartierdelray.com. and
“With his gift of blending storytelling and history, Sandy has hit another homerun with
Renaissance of a Village by the Sea. Well-researched and thoughtfully detailed, this remarkable mosaic our town’s character and the human condition that gave it its soul brings it all back to life.”
Cary Glickstein - Mayor, Delray Beach, Florida
“Sandy Simon has such a charming way of providing a very interesting history of our wonderful town. You feel as if you’re sitting with the author, having a cup of coffee and learning about your family history. Sandy does a remarkable job capturing the exciting early days. It’s a great read.”
Nancy L. Dockerty - Chairman of the Board of Directors, Delray Beach Public Library
“You will not want to miss Sandy Simon's newest book about his beloved Delray Beach. Sandy's passion for his hometown is reflected throughout. Sandy clearly enjoyed researching and writing each and every chapter to the fullest. Congratulations on another winner, Sandy!”
Nancy S. Merritt, Realtor
This book tells a beautiful and important story about a small town in big trouble that redefined itself to become the entertainment, dining, and shopping magnet for all of Southeast Florida. And most importantly, Mr. Simon expertly describes how all this happened: how the citizens arose; how they took control of their town; how they changed it to be awarded the “All America City,” twice; and how it came to be awarded the "Most Fun Small Town in America.” His book convinced me I should consider relocating to Delray Beach, that wonderful "Village by the Sea."
Mary Strobel - Editor, Delray Beach, Renaissance of a Village by the Sea