MY FEAR FOR 2020

Major media outlets report tonight that a USA missile attack on the Bagdad Airport killed Qassem Suleimani, leader of the Iranian Quds Force.

Qassam Suleimani reported killed Jan. 2, 2020

Iran’s influence ranges across Iraq, through Syria into southern Lebanon and has been molded into a span of Shi’a solidarity termed the “Shi’a Crescent” by King Abdullah of Jordon. This arch of influence has been shaped largely by the efforts of a single man– little know in Western circles, but well known to the region- Qassem Suleimani.

In a 2011 article in the Guardian, Martin Chulov tells the story of then CIA Director, David Petraeus, when he was in command of US Forces in Iraq and engaged in battles with the Shi’a militia in Basrah when he was handed a phone with a text message from the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani.

The message read: “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.”

“He is the most powerful man in Iraq without question,” Iraq’s former national security minister, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told the newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat in July 2010. “Nothing gets done without him.”

Suleimani’s journey to supremacy in Iraq is rooted in the Islamic revolution of 1979, which ousted the Shah and recast Iran as a fundamentalist Shia Islamic state. He rose steadily through the ranks of the Iranian military until 2002 when, months before the US invasion of Iraq, he was appointed to command the most elite unit of the Iranian military – the al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.

The al-Quds force has no equal in Iran. Its stated primary task is to protect the revolution. However, its mandate has also been interpreted as exporting the revolution’s goals to other parts of the Islamic world.

Tehran has heavily invested in the survival of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose ruling Alawite clan has links to Shia Islam. Assad’s fall would be a serious strategic setback for Iran and Suleimani. It is perhaps the only part of the region where the general’s preferred mix of strategic diplomacy with aggressive operations is being strongly tested.

To my mind, the assassination of Qassem Suleimani is more eventful than that of Ossama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and may lead the USA into war with Iran. To understand the significance of Qassam Suleimani, click on this link to watch Dexter Filkins’ interview on the Charlie Rose Show.

An article discussed last night with Charlie Rose on PBS and appears in The New Yorker online edition (print edition to appear on Sept. 30th); Dexter Filkins discusses THE SHADOW COMMANDER directing Assad’s war in Syria as being none other than, Qassem Suleimani.

What follows is a very telling bit of history extracted from Filkin’s article that shows how a single word can change history.

In the chaotic days after the attacks of September 11th, Ryan Crocker, then a senior State Department official, flew discreetly to Geneva to meet a group of Iranian diplomats. “I’d fly out on a Friday and then back on Sunday, so nobody in the office knew where I’d been,” Crocker told me. “We’d stay up all night in those meetings.”

It seemed clear to Crocker that the Iranians were answering to Suleimani, whom they referred to as “Haji Qassem,” and that they were eager to help the United States destroy their mutual enemy, the Taliban. Although the United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, after American diplomats in Tehran were taken hostage, Crocker wasn’t surprised to find that Suleimani was flexible.

“You don’t live through eight years of brutal war without being pretty pragmatic,” he said. Sometimes Suleimani passed messages to Crocker, but he avoided putting anything in writing. “Haji Qassem’s way too smart for that,” Crocker said. “He’s not going to leave paper trails for the Americans.”

Before the bombing began, Crocker sensed that the Iranians were growing impatient with the Bush Administration, thinking that it was taking too long to attack the Taliban. At a meeting in early October 2001, the lead Iranian negotiator stood up and slammed a sheaf of papers on the table. “If you guys don’t stop building these fairy-tale governments in the sky, and actually start doing some shooting on the ground, none of this is ever going to happen!” he shouted. “When you’re ready to talk about serious fighting, you know where to find me.” He stomped out of the room. “It was a great moment,” Crocker said.

The cooperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. “Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.” The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan’s new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, “Haji Qassem is very pleased with our cooperation.”

The goodwill didn’t last. In January 2002, Crocker, who was by then the deputy chief of the American Embassy in Kabul, was awakened one night by aides, who told him that President George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, had named Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil.” Like many senior diplomats, Crocker was caught off guard. He saw the negotiator the next day at the U.N. compound in Kabul, and he was furious. “You completely damaged me,” Crocker recalled him saying. “Suleimani is in a tearing rage. He feels compromised.” The negotiator told Crocker that, at great political risk, Suleimani had been contemplating a complete reevaluation of the United States, saying, “Maybe it’s time to rethink our relationship with the Americans.”

The Axis of Evil speech brought the meetings to an end. Reformers inside the government, who had advocated a rapprochement with the United States, were put on the defensive.

Recalling that time, Crocker shook his head. “We were just that close,” he said. “One word in one speech changed history.

The take away from posting this article and background on Qassem Suleimani is to challenge you. Things are not always what they appear, especially when it comes to Syria.

For Suleimani, giving up on Assad would mean abandoning the project of expansion that has occupied him for fifteen years.

In a recent speech before the Assembly of Experts—the clerics who choose the Supreme Leader—he spoke about Syria in fiercely determined language.

“We do not pay attention to the propaganda of the enemy, because Syria is the front line of the resistance and this reality is undeniable,” he said. “We have a duty to defend Muslims because they are under pressure and oppression.”

Suleimani was fighting the same war, against the same foes, that he’d been fighting his entire life; for him, it seemed, the compromises of statecraft could not compare with the paradise of the battlefield. “We will support Syria to the end,” he said.

He did and in the end, Iran has won.

CIVILITY: MY HOPE FOR 2020

η ρητορική μας ενώνει

RHETORIC UNITES US (η ρητορική μας ενώνει), is the basis of all public discourse and makes democracy possible. Rhetoric comes to us from Ancient Greece. Aristotle called it “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Aristotle identified three elements to appeal to audiences:

  • ethos (ἦθος– Aristotle’s theory of character and how the character and credibility of a speaker can influence an audience to consider him/her to be believable— there are three qualities that contribute to a credible ethos: perceived intelligence, virtuous character, and goodwill.
  • logos (λόγος) –  the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument.
  • pathos (πάθος) – the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience’s judgment through metaphor, amplification, storytelling, or presenting the topic in a way that evokes strong emotions in the audience.

Throughout history, rhetoric has been taught and studied as the basis of communication and its principles shape how writing is taught in universities throughout the world.

Now, more than ever, the art of rhetoric is needed to shape our nation’s civil discourse as the art of persuasion has been reduced to Tweeting.  Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker writes, “Democracy runs on many things—power, money, political parties—but the power of persuasion is essential to it, and, when persuasion becomes poisoned, the rest gets poisoned, too.

AN INTRO TO ETHOS, LOGOS & PATHOS

THREE WAYS TO PRACTICE CIVILITY

IS CIVILITY A SHAME

WHAT IS CIVIL DISCOURSE?

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BOSTON BOOK LAUNCH

The entire history of Boston, Lincolnshire – from salt-making during the Roman occupation to the current flood barrier construction – is laid out in a new book that I was fortunate enough to participate in.

BOSTON – THE SMALL TOWN WITH A BIG STORY, is now available online from the Shodfriars Hall website or in Boston, Lincolnshire at Shodfriars’ Cafe, Blackfriars Arts Centre, Boston Guildhall or Fydell House.

The book is the brainchild of Boston Borough Councillor, Richard Austin, who felt there had never been a book published which dealt with the entirety of the town’s history. As a result, Richard assembled a team of writers to tackle 55 topics covering almost 2,000 years of history up to the modern-day.

Richard Austin

“I didn’t want it to be an academic tome, but a book which anyone could access, dip in and out of and learn more about Boston beyond what is readily known. Boston has a rich heritage, but only a small bit is understood by the majority of people. This book is an easy read, with plenty of illustrations and it’s my hope that it will whet the appetite for people to want to find out more.”

The book was launched at a full-day sell-out conference – An Untold Story: From the Stump to the Statue – at Boston’s Blackfriars Arts Centre on Saturday.

Saturday’s conference was chaired by TV historian Jonathan Foyle, who has appeared on Time Team, Meet the Ancestors and Climbing Great Buildings.

The American guest speaker, Barry Cotton, explained the untold story of how ten men from Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1630 were central figures in the founding of Boston, Massachusetts, and the USA. Eve LaPlante, from the Partnership of the Historic Bostons in America, then eloquently explained how Anne Hutchinson, from Alford, at the same time, laid the foundations of women’s rights at the beginnings of the United States of America. These Lincolnshire men and women helped establish the USA we know today. 

Contributors to the book

Local historian Neil Wright described the situation in Boston in 1630 that encouraged the large emigration to America from Lincolnshire at that time.

The day was supported by the Boston Heritage Forum to highlight the “rich and diverse” history of the Borough of Boston and the Forum wants it to be used to promote the area as a good place to live, work and visit.

Once again, the book is now available online from the Shodfriars Hall website or in Boston, Lincolnshire at Shodfriars’ Cafe, Blackfriars Arts Centre, Boston Guildhall or Fydell House. 

AN UNTOLD STORY

From the Stump to the Statue

reported by Neil Wright on September 9th 2019

A symposium was held in Boston, Lincolnshire at the Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre on Saturday, September 7th to address the role of Boston (Lincs) in the foundation of the USA, and in particular the role of people from Boston, and elsewhere in Lincolnshire, in the founding of Boston (Mass) and the colony of Massachusetts Bay in New England in the 1630s.   The inspiration for the symposium and much of the organisation of the event was by Richard Austin, BEM, a former Mayor of Boston (Lincs), who was assisted by many other people.

The Symposium Chairman was Dr. Jonathan Foyle, an author of seven books on historic architecture, presenter of several series on BBC television, and a former Chief Executive of the British office of the World Monuments Fund.

There were three speakers, of whom two came from the USA.

Barry Arthur Cotton is the 7th great-grandson of the Rev. John Cotton, the Puritan Patriarch of New England.   Barry has served as National Chairman and President of the Winthrop Society is a Trustee of the Partnership of the Historic Bostons and has authored articles for the Winthrop Journal and the Mayflower Quarterly.

Eve LaPlante is a direct descendant of Anne Hutchinson and John Cotton with degrees from Princeton and Harvard.   She has published articles, essays, and five non-fiction books, including American Jezebel, the story of the colonial heretic and founding mother Anne Hutchinson.   LaPlante’s second ancestor biography, Salem Witch Judge, won the 2008 Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfiction.

Neil Richard Wright has been researching and writing books and articles on the history of Boston (Lincs) since the 1960s.   He has published 17 books, many about the history of Boston, and over 50 articles.   He is a past Chairman of the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology and a Trustee of the Partnership of the Historic Bostons.   He has visited Boston (Mass) several times in recent years and has given talks at some Charter Day events (which mark the foundation of Boston (Mass) in 1630).

The Symposium was a sell-out success with all 224 seats in the theatre being taken.   The theatre was built in the 1960s and the front of house facilities are located in the remains of part of the Dominican Friary which was built in the 13th century, hence the name of the theatre.   Blackfriars went through a difficult patch about ten years ago but is now flourishing.

The Symposium began about 10 am with a welcome and introduction by Jonathan Foyle.

The first contribution was an illustrated presentation by Neil Wright, describing the natural, architectural and cultural environment of Boston (Lincs) in the 1630s and comparing and contrasting that with the situation in Massachusetts when the immigrants from England arrived there.   In referring to the Puritan culture of old Boston at that time he described how that had arisen, and referred to some of the people involved in both Bostons.

Barry Cotton then spoke on “Leading Men of the two Puritan Bostons”, describing their role in the companies created to facilitate immigration to the New World, and the involvement of other prominent figures including the Earls of Warwick and Lincoln, the Dowager Countess of Lincoln, John Winthrop, and Ferdinando Gorges.   He indicated the origins of some of the 166 people who went from the wider Boston area to New England in the Great Migration of the 1630s and ‘40s, and showed the dominance that the men from old Boston had in the new Boston for the first 60 or so years.   Barry enjoys sharing his information and I hope much will appear in his forthcoming books on John Cotton and the Boston Men.

Before the lunch break, Jonathan Foyle officially launched a new book on the history of Boston (Lincs), entitled “Boston – The small town with a big story”.   It contains fifty-five contributions from numerous authors, including Eve LaPlante, Barry Cotton, and Neil Wright, dealing with aspects of Boston’s history from 1066 to the 21st century.   It is well illustrated with many pictures of Boston past and present.   The numerous authors appeared on stage for a group photograph and many signed copies of the books that were for sale during the day.

The lunch arrangements ran very smoothly.   The attendees went from the theatre through the garden of Fydell House (1726) into the side entrance of the Guildhall (c.1390) where they each picked up a box filled with selected delicious items, and could also get a drink.   They then demonstrated their ingenuity in finding places to sit and eat their lunch in the garden or the Guildhall.   We were very lucky to have good weather, sunny and not too cold.

After lunch, everyone returned to the theatre for the final talk, an inspiring address by Eve LaPlante on her ancestor Anne Hutchinson.   Hutchinson came from Alford in Lincolnshire, and many times made the long journey on horseback with some of her family to hear John Cotton preach in Boston (Lincs).   She then followed him to America and her knowledge and ability as a midwife made her a respected member of society.   Hutchinson’s ability to interpret the sermons she heard and to discuss them with the women of the new colony, and later with many men, made her a controversial figure, a heretic, and she was eventually driven out of Massachusetts.   She then co-founded the colony of Rhode Island which adopted a more tolerant approach to freedom of religion, as later reflected in the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Jonathan Foyle questions Neil Wright, Barry Cotton & Eve LaPlante

There then followed a Question Time session, chaired by Jonathan Foyle, when the three speakers responded to questions from the audience.   The first question was, “how should Boston prepare to commemorate the migration of 1630 in 2030?”   Several ideas were suggested, including some from the audience.   It is not too soon to start to prepare for that event, and perhaps a few people with a particular interest could take a lead in preparing for it in the original Boston.   The creation of a Heritage Centre, and perhaps a genealogy centre, were possibilities.   It would be necessary to try to make young people aware of this important period in the history of both Bostons’.   Young people are concerned about global warming and the environment, so they might respond to the matter of how settlers reacted to the new environment they encountered in the New World.

The Symposium finished at  3pm, and attendees then had the chance to join one of three tours.   One group went to visit the original building of Boston Grammar School (1567), which inspired John Cotton to found the Boston Latin School (which still flourishes) in the new Boston in the 1630s.   A small group went to look at Shodfriars, a 15th-century half-timbered building with an 1877 addition, which it is hoped will be restored in the near future and made available for public use, such as, perhaps, a visitor centre or cultural centre.   The third option was a guided tour of historic sites within Boston.

The Symposium and the new book are both intended to make old Boston’s history better known, and thereby to attract more tourists to the area.   They should also help to inspire people to start to prepare for the events in 2030 to commemorate the foundation of the new Boston.  It had been commented that the information on display at Tattershall Castle, run by the National Trust, suggested that nothing important had happened there in the 17th century.   As that was the home of the Earl of Lincoln, who was actively involved and whose sister Arbella gave her name to the flagship of the Winthrop fleet, we need to try to persuade the National Trust that it needs to remedy that omission in its literature and to prepare for the Castle to become involved in the 2030 celebrations.

Representatives of the Boston Borough Council and the Board of Blackfriars

On the evening of 7th September, a Symposium dinner was held at the Boston and County Club, located just off Wide Bargate.   About one hundred people attended, including His Worship Councillor Anton Dani, Mayor of Boston, and Councillor Tony Bridges, Chairman of Lincolnshire County Council.   An excellent meal was served, and many toasts were made and drunk before Jonathan Foyle gave an excellent impromptu after-dinner talk.   Neil Wright attended as his alter ego, Sandra Lezinsky, in a strappy, glittery, yellow full-length dress, and had conversations with many people who said how excellent the whole day had been.   I hope that this enthusiasm will lead to attendees spreading the word of the umbilical connection between the two Bostons, and help to prepare for 2030.