Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who Really Made Egypt's Revolution?: The Story The Media Missed

Jerry Gordon (March 2011)

Kenneth Timmerman is a columnist and foreign correspondent. He has authored important non-fiction works on domestic and international foreign policy issues and thriller novels about contemporary national security and human rights issues. Starting in 1977, Timmerman spent nearly two decades abroad reporting on developments in Europe and the Middle East from his base in Paris. From that vantage point he had an early view of the Iranian Islamic Revolution that overthrew the late Shah’s reign and secularism in Iran to become the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran. He fashioned important relations with the Iranian opposition and dissident community, both in Europe and inside Iran. This led to his co-founding the Foundation for Freedom in Iran upon his return to America in the mid-1990’s. Beginning in the late 1980’s, Timmerman spent over 20 years tracking the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, presciently predicting the current threat to the world. For that investigative effort he was nominated along with US UN Ambassador John Bolton for the Nobel Peace Prize. While reporting from Beirut during the First Lebanon war in 1982, he was briefly a prisoner of the Fatah faction of the PLO. That experience of several weeks’ confinement in the PLO dudgeon in Lebanon influenced his views about the Palestinian cause and Israel transforming him into a Christian Zionist. While reporting on the signing of the Jordanian-Israeli Peace treaty, he interviewed many leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, the Islamic Action Front and Hamas for the Simon Wiesenthal Center that exposed him to the core of Jew hatred in political Islam. Timmerman has been critical of both the Bush and Obama Administrations' lassitude in supporting pro-Freedom movements in Iran and employing stronger sanctions against the Islamic regime in Tehran for its brutal suppression of dissidents. He has also exposed pro-Islamic regime lobby groups in Washington, DC that have influenced White House policies. His most recent human rights activities and reporting have endeavored to spotlight the precarious predicament of the indigenous Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Christian community in Iraq which is teetering on the brink of possible extinction. We were fortunate to have interviewed him following a recent return from assignments in Northern Iraq.

Gordon: Ken Timmerman, thank you for kindly consenting to this timely interview.

Timmerman: I am pleased to do it.

Gordon: How did you become a foreign correspondent?

Timmerman: I began while I was in Paris as a young man with a trip to Prague behind the Iron Curtain in 1977 to cover the Charter 77 Movement. I guess I have always had a thing for dissidents and people who are resisting an oppressive authoritarian or totalitarian regime and have been covering similar types of conflicts ever since. I started working as a reporter full time in Lebanon covering the 1982 war. Ever since, it’s been a long, passionate, fascinating story.

Gordon: What happened to you when you were in Beirut during the first Lebanese war with Israel?

Timmerman: I went into Lebanon having lived in Europe for many years, so I bought the Euro-leftie mind-set that Israel was an Imperialist aggressive State who was massacring the “poor Palestinians.” I was accredited to the PLO to cover the war. I arrived in Beirut and not long afterwards was kidnapped by guerillas on the street and turned over to Fatah in West Beirut. Over the next three and a half weeks I was held in an underground cell with about 20 other people, most of them Lebanese, some from neighboring Arab countries, and I learned a lot about the way the PLO operated. Most of the people with me were being punished for trying to leave Beirut during the siege. The PLO wanted to make an example of them, so they would keep people for a week or two weeks, beat them up, some of them they would take out and shoot, and the others they would release onto the streets as a warning to anybody who wanted to leave Beirut. Their intention was to hold the civilian population of West Beirut hostage and then claim any civilian casualties were the result of Israeli barbarity. I gradually woke up to this during those 3-1/2 weeks, and by the end was tracking the advance of the Israeli tanks, whose shells were exploding all around us, waiting with great anticipation for one of them to bust down the walls of my prison and set me free.

Gordon: Did that experience transform you in terms of your views about Islam, your Palestinian captors and Israel?

Timmerman: Oh, absolutely. But not in the way you might think. I never hated my captors, the Palestinians. I was born again in the rubble of my prison, both in the literal sense and as a Christian believer. I understood that the only reason I survived was because God had a plan for me – to be a witness, not a martyr - and had sent guardian angels to protect me and deliver me from evil. I went back to Lebanon soon afterwards. I also went to the West Bank, Egypt, and to Israel and realized early on that it was hard to view the Middle East struggle at an individual level at least in black and white terms. I spent a lot of time with ordinary people in the Palestinian areas and could certainly identify with their suffering. I spent a lot with ordinary Israelis over the years and I certainly identified with their suffering, with their history and with their struggle. Today, I consider myself a Christian Zionist. That belief has come to me over a number of years as I look at the bigger picture and the larger politics involved. But it’s hard not to feel sympathy for individuals on both sides of the conflict on a very personal level, and I think it’s very important to remember that.

Gordon: What prompted your book, Preachers of Hate – Islam and the War on America?

Timmerman: Well it’s kind of a funny story. I’ve been doing some reports for the Simon Wiesenthal Center on weapons of mass destruction in the early 1990’s, so when I had the opportunity to cover the signing of the Jordanian -Israeli peace treaty in 1994, I made a phone call to Rabbi Abe Cooper, who was the Associate Dean of the Center. He said, “Ken, why don’t you take that opportunity to interview some of the leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and ask them just one question.” I said “o.k., what is it?” He said, “Ask them what they think about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” I laughed and I said, “come on, Abe, you’ve got to be kidding. These guys are sophisticated. Some of them have been to medical school. They have Masters Degrees, business degrees.” They are not going to fall for that kind of nonsense. He said, “Ken, just ask the question and let me know what happens.” So I asked the question and I was absolutely floored by the responses I got. It was my introduction to Muslim anti-Semitism 101. To a man every single Muslim leader I spoke with - and I spoke to people at the top of the Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood front organization in Jordan, I spoke to leaders in Hamas, some of whom have since been dispatched to their maker by the Israelis, some of whom are still in power, and to a man they all believed that the Protocols were factual and true. Some of them got out their own copy of the Protocols and flipped to certain pages and said, “you see, it is written right here: the Jews have a plan." And they would go on and on as if this stuff was actually real. I was floored, and so I taped all of these interviews and eventually put out a monograph with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in 1994 called, “In their Own Words” which was exactly that. It was the transcription of these interviews. It changed my view forever to realize that if you scratched the surface of political Islam, almost immediately you hit these core anti-Semitic beliefs. Political Islam simply couldn’t exist without this deep hatred of the Jews. The Jews had victimized them, the Jews were the cause of all evil, the cause of their under-development, their scientific and social backwardness, you name it. I must say that understanding this basic underlying truth made it easier in the ensuing years to see more clearly what was going on here in this country with the Muslim Brotherhood penetration of American political institutions and even conservative institutions such as CPAC.

Gordon: When did you become involved with the Iranian Democratic Opposition and when did you assist in establishing the Foundation for Democracy in Iran?

Timmerman: I started following Iran during the Revolution of 1978 while in Paris. The uncle of my then girlfriend owned a bicycle factory in Tehran and was traveling back and forth between Paris and Tehran during the revolution trying to keep his factory open and his workers paid before it eventually was nationalized and taken over by the revolution and everyone was laid off. He brought back a little green book of sayings of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Two thirds of them were about sex. How do you keep the fast of Ramadan if you have sex with a goat? How do you keep the Ramadan fast if you have sex with a woman who is not your wife or a 12-year old girl? I won’t get into too many of those details, but it was graphic. Now, needless to say this should have made Khomeini a laughing stock, but the media never read it. There is a story that Richard Perle likes to tell about Bernard Lewis who had a copy of one of Khomeini’s books and he gave it to the CIA in 1979 and they said, “We’ve never heard of this.” Then they came back and said the book didn’t exist because they couldn’t find it for sale in Iran. It was typical of the kind of intellectual shallowness and a lack of inquisitiveness that has led the CIA to make such monumental errors again and again.

I began tracking the first dissidents that came out of Iran once the Islamic Republic was established in 1980. First came Bakhriar, the Shah’s last prime minister. Then came the first president of the Islamic Republic, Banisadr, was forced to flee in 1981. Then came Qassemlou, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party. And many more. I developed personal relationships with them as a reporter based in Paris. When I came back to the U.S. after living abroad for 18 years, I set up the Foundation For Democracy in Iran in 1995 with Peter Rodman, now sadly deceased, who served in six Republican White Houses and was a top aide to Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and Ayatollah Mehdi Rouhani, a dissident Iranian Shiite Cleric who taught me everything I know about Shia Islam. We spent days drinking tea in his Paris apartment when he would teach me what Itjihad was all about. Also, there was Joshua Muravchik, a human rights activist here in the United States, and Nader Afshar, who had worked with the Iranian opposition in Pakistan when it was actively infiltrating Iran in the 1980s and early 1990s. We initially applied for and received a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to monitor human rights abuses in Iran. We quickly realized that the internet was starting to become a powerful tool for promoting civil society and democratic expression and by the time the student rebellion took place in 1999 in Tehran University, we had good enough contacts inside Iran that we got the first photographs of students being tossed out of their dormitory windows by the Basij -- within ten or fifteen minutes of the actual events. We posted them on our website, We were funded by NED through about 1999, but since then no one seemed to care.

Gordon: You were among the first to publish about the Iranian nuclear development program with your non-fiction work, Countdown to Crisis, The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran. Where did most of that information come from? What positions did you espouse in the book to counter the threat and in your opinion, what has prevented the Bush and Obama Administrations from pursuing them?

Timmerman: Countdown to Crisis was actually the culmination of nearly 20 years of investigation into Iran’s Nuclear Programs. I first wrote about them in the mid-1980’s when I was in Paris working for Newsweek and earlier, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 1987, I launched a confidential newsletter called, Middle East Defense News (MED News) and wrote about a relatively obscure Pakistani nuclear engineer named A.Q. Khan who had just signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Iranian regime. I thought that relationship was quite noteworthy, but no one seemed to pick up on it. My sources? You know I’m a veracious reader of what used to be called Foreign Broadcast Information Service which translated the Pakistani, Iranian and Arab media. I also had many sources among the dissidents, former intelligence officers and even family members of top leaders of the Islamic regime itself. I thought it was most important to roll out the long chronology of Iran’s nuclear weapons development, something not very well known here in this country. Then I predicted in 2005 that this would lead to a nuclear showdown between Iran and the West. It has taken a little bit longer than I initially thought. There have been many ups and downs in the Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program. The most dramatic admission of which is the computer malware Stuxnet which appears to have done serious physical damage to Iran’s centrifuge program and to the Busheir nuclear power plant.

I argue in the book that it’s absolutely, number one, for Western governments to recognize the threat from a nuclear armed Iran; number two, to take steps to prevent that from happening - economic sanctions that could include an oil blockade and even a total trade embargo. And, number three, if the West really cares about preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, it should do the most effective thing, the moral and the right thing, and that is to help the pro-freedom movement in Iran. I have always believed that the problem with nuclear weapons in Iran is not the weapons themselves. We don’t really fear a nuclear armed France. But a nuclear armed radical Islamic regime in Iran is a threat to the entire world. So it’s the combination of a radical regime and nuclear weapons that make it a clear and present danger.

Gordon: Why in your opinion has neither the Bush nor Obama Administrations provided support for the democratic opposition in Iran?

Timmerman: That’s a good question. The Bush administration did earmark 75 million dollars to help the pro-freedom Movement, but the money was misspent. Most of it went to the Farsi Service of the Voice of America, which has been heavily infiltrated by pro Iranian regime elements. I think part of the reason that the money got misspent was ignorance. Part of the reason was deliberate efforts by State Department bureaucrats who detested George W. Bush and his agenda of bringing freedom to the Middle East and to Muslim countries. They actively tried to sabotage his efforts. I remember we applied for a State Department grant for the Foundation For Democracy in Iran to assist the opposition movement inside Iran. They told us as we were preparing the application to make sure that our programs targeted groups and individuals inside Iran, because they didn’t want to fund think tanks and studies on the outside. I said great, we can do that. They green lighted us for about a million dollars and then the grant was reviewed, and it went to a woman named Suzanne Maloney who was not even a permanent State Department employee. She was the State Department fellow from Exxon Mobil. She argued that our proposal was “way too provocative.” She said, we can’t possibly approve this kind of thing. And so they funded think tanks and studies. That happened in the Bush administration. It was sabotage. The President’s agenda was sabotaged by bureaucrats and political activists masquerading as bureaucrats he didn’t even know existed.

With the Obama administration I think there is simply no desire to even pretend to help the pro-freedom movement. When given the chance in June 2009 of giving moral support, not even financial material support to the millions of protestors who were asking simply to have their votes counted in the election in Iran, President Obama chose to stay silent for three weeks. His silence as protesters were beaten and murdered in the streets by regime thugs sent a devastating message to the pro-freedom movement. It also sent an empowering message to the Iranian regime. They understood what he meant. Afterwards they would refer to Obama with a play on words, “Oo ba m’ast.” In Persian, that means “he’s with us.”

Gordon: Are there in your opinion lobbying groups in Washington who are in fact foreign agents of the Islamic regime in Tehran?

Timmerman: That is a legal determination that I’m not capable of making. What I can say is that there are lobbying groups that support an agenda of changes in U.S. policy that directly coincide with the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Most notably there is the American Iranian Council (AIC), run by Hoosang Amirahmadi, and the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) run by Trita Parsi – who actually is not Iranian-American but Swedish-Iranian. Both groups have been lobbying for a number of years to remove U.S. sanctions on Iran, to open negotiations with Iran and to strike a so-called grand bargain with the Iranian regime. Trita Parsi in particular has been an avid purveyor of fake documents purporting to demonstrate that the Iranian regime had made an offer of a grand bargain to the United States in 2003 shortly after the liberation of Iraq. In fact the State Department examined the document and their Iranian specialists told Secretary of State Colin Powell that the offer was not authentic. It came from the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, not from the Iranian regime. Yet to this day, Trita Parsi and people like Flynt Leverett – another pro-regime shill, who worked for the National Security Council under Clinton and was held over by President Bush - still claim it was an authentic offer. In fact, it was a fake, a fraud. In my opinion, Mr. Parsi, whose positions seem strangely to coincide with the positions of the Iranian regime in Tehran, is also a fake and a fraud.

Gordon: How did both you and former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?

Timmerman: I received a call one day in late 2005 from Per Ahlmark, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, saying that he wanted to nominate us. I was obviously thrilled and honored. I couldn’t believe it at first and so I asked him how the process worked. He explained to me that the only people who have the authority to make official nominations for Nobel Peace Prize are current or former members of the governments of Sweden, Norway or Denmark. So I said “Wow,” that is quite an honor. He wrote a six page letter to the Nobel nominating committee where he detailed my work in exposing Iran’s nuclear weapons work years before the International Atomic Energy Agency became aware of it, and detailing John Bolton’s work to set up the Proliferation Security Initiative. He argued that our efforts were worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize because they helped to prevent the spread of technologies that enabled regimes like Iran to build nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

Gordon: Your first thriller, Honor Killing was the fictional treatment of a nuclear nightmare from Iran. Is that a case of art following life?

Timmerman: I have always believed that art precedes life, that the imagination precedes reality. The novel has two plots. One involves an Iranian effort to bring a nuclear weapon into the United States on a cargo ship, so we follow the cargo ship around the world and watch as the hero, who is a Spec-Ops officer now working for DIA, warns about it and nobody listens. The second plot involves the honor killing of a young Muslim girl of Pakistani origin whose bloated corpse was discovered by a dog walker on a riverbank beneath a dam in Montgomery County, Maryland, with her hands bound behind her back with cable ties. She was 17 years old, and the state medical examiner soon discovers that she was three or four months pregnant. Quickly the investigation by the FBI and the local police determines that it could be an honor killing. So as the threads are pulled together by the FBI investigation, the ship carrying the Iranian nuclear weapon sails closer and closer to the United States, and gradually the two plots intertwine. We find that some of the same characters are involved in both plots. One of the subplots that I found very important, and it was one of the reasons I wrote the book, was the infiltration of the U.S. political leadership by Americans who are agents of radical Islam. People at very high levels with influence and extremely senior officials in the administration of the United States Government are agents of radical Islam. There is a scene in the book where one of the fictional characters, a conservative activist with ties to the White House, barges into the office of the FBI Director, outraged, literally jumping up and down and calling him a racist and a bigot because FBI agents had dared to interrogate the brother of the girl who was murdered in the honor killing. He argued that instead they should be going after her white boyfriend, who he claims probably impregnated her. Well it turns out that the FBI had DNA that proved it wasn’t the white boyfriend who impregnated her but one of the Muslim friends of the brother. This was done in fact so she would die not as a virgin and go to heaven but die as a woman and go to hell. So I thought it was important to tell the story of the infiltration of the U.S. Government with real characters and dramatic scenes, and also to dramatize what I perceive to be the ineptitude of the U.S. intelligence community to deal with that infiltration and to deal with the sophistication and the determination of an Iranian regime that is absolutely convinced that it can and will destroy the United States of America.

Gordon: In a parallel scenario, your non-fiction book, Shadow Warriors, the Untold Story of Traders, Saboteurs and the Party of Surrender, you identified several members of the U.S. intelligence establishment working against our national security interests. Are there among these so called shadow warriors you’ve identified people who have surfaced in the Obama administration and in your view how dangerous is that to our national security interests both here and in the Middle East?

Timmerman: Look for example at the President’s top advisor for counter-terrorism, John Brennan, who is a former top CIA official. I believe it is extremely troubling when you examine Brennan’s role as a private contractor after he left CIA in a scheme to “sanitize” the passport files of the three main candidates in the 2008 Presidential election, including his soon to be boss, Barack Obama. The State Department investigation into what happened in the spring of 2008 remains so highly classified that all you and I can read of it are page after page of redacted text.

Gordon: Do you believe that current Obama administration diplomatic initiatives have given rise to the downfall of the sectarian government in Beirut posing a direct threat to Israel?

Timmerman: I don’t think it was the intention of the State Department to cause the collapse of the government of Saad Hariri. However, I think the diplomatic initiative that was Obama’s signature foreign policy issue during the 2008 Presidential campaign to open negotiations with Islamic Republic of Iran had the effect of empowering the Iranian regime, and made them believe that they could get away with things that they didn’t think that they could get away with doing under the Bush administration. I think they believed they had a good opportunity to get rid of a government they did not like and the United States would do nothing to oppose them. Let’s remember what this was all about. Saad Hariri is the Prime Minister because his father Rafiq Hariri was murdered on February 14th, 2005. Now we are learning from the International Tribunal in the Hague, run by the United Nations, that Hariri was probably murdered by Hizbullah on the direct orders of the Iranian regime. So there is no love lost between Iran and the Hariri family. The Iranians believe that the Hariris, who were Sunni Muslims, were also in the pocket of the United States, the Saudis and more generally the West. So it was just a matter of time before they acted. I do think that Obama’s initiative towards Iran, emboldened and enabled Hizbullah to sabotage the government of Saad Hariri.

Gordon: Were the recent events in Egypt and across the Arab Muslim world in your opinion abetted by President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech about outreach to the Muslim Ummah.

Timmerman: It’s very curious to see the way Obama has dealt with Islam and the Middle East in general. You mentioned his Cairo speech. I would say more important than that was his response to the millions of protestors in the streets of Iran in June of 2009. There you had a radical Islamist regime in Tehran fighting against millions of pro-freedom protestors who were begging the United States to show them some support. Obama made his choice. He chose the radical Islamist regime. Fast forward to what happened in Egypt. You had an Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak who was an autocrat, but not a dictator. People have exaggerated vastly the oppressiveness of the Mubarak regime. I have gone to Egypt many times under Mubarak’s reign and Egypt is an authoritarian country but people are a lot freer there than you might think. Remember, the Egyptians also love to talk and they have a reasonably free press, compared to many other countries in the Arab world. In Egypt you had a staunch U.S. ally, and opposing him you had the Muslim Brotherhood. Two months before his Cairo speech, President Obama met in the White House with several senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt. He told them that he favored them coming to power in Egypt. Moreover, if they came to power his Administration would do nothing to oppose them. Fast forward to the first protests in Cairo against Mubarak. Within two days President Obama is pounding his fist on the table saying that Mubarak has to take into account the demands of the protesters. Then within a week he sent a special envoy to Cairo, Frank Wisner, to tell Mubarak that he has to step down. Within 18 days it was all over. Now, so far we’ve been lucky and the Egyptian army has stepped into the void. The Egyptian army is not pro Muslim Brotherhood although they have Muslim Brotherhood officers. However, lurking beneath the surface is the Muslim Brotherhood and we will not know the end of this story for many months. We didn’t know how the 1979 Revolution against the Shah of Iran was going to finish until almost a year later. It could easily take that long to see how Egypt’s revolution finishes, whether the Muslim Brotherhood seizes power or whether there is some kind of soft landing. However, I believe the common thread between Obama’s response to the cries for freedom of the Iranian people and his enabling of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is this: Obama likes radical Islamic rule.

Gordon: Do you believe that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates across the Arab Muslim Ummah will pose a serious threat to both Israel and U.S. interests in the region?

Timmerman: Without a doubt. This is as dangerous and its impact would be as far reaching as the collapse of the Shah in Iran in 1979.

Gordon: Given your recent trip to Iraq, what if anything is the U.S. doing to alleviate the plight of Christian minorities in the Middle East threatened by annihilationist Muslim majorities and in particular with the Assyrian Chaldean community in Iraq and the Copts in Egypt?

Timmerman: Under President Obama the U.S. is doing nothing. They are putting no pressure on Al-Maliki in Iraq. In Egypt when we had on Christmas Eve a horrific bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, you know there was some huffing and puffing from the Obama Administration but nothing serious. I just returned from Northern Iraq to celebrate the Rogation of the Ninevites, which is a three day ceremony of prayers to commemorate the Prophet Jonah as he calls the Ninevites to repent. I was in many different places on the Nineveh Plain in the North. I went to churches in Erbil and in Mosul. I can tell you that this is a community that is on the verge of extinction. The Assyrian Chaldean Syria community in Iraq constitutes the indigenous people of Iraq. They have been there for millennia. They are being driven out by Jihadi Muslims on the one hand and by Kurdish Nationalists on the other.

I think that the Kurds are divided. Many members of the Kurdish Regional Government such as Prime Minister Barham Saleh and many others in his government, are striving to do the right thing and see themselves as protectors of the Christians. President Massoud Barzani and the former Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani see themselves as protectors of the Christians. The President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, and the Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari have publicly stated that they want to protect and maintain the Christians in Iraq, so this is not a religious persecution on the part of the current Iraq government. What you do have is an ethnic conflict between the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac community and the Kurds that dates back hundreds of years. You have land encroachment, you have the Kurdish Democratic Party Intelligence Service harassing Assyrian leaders throughout the Nineveh plain. This is part of a larger goal on the part of the Kurds to bring the Nineveh plain within the Kurdish regional government and annex it. The Arabs, on the other hand, and Da’wa party of Prime Minister Al-Maliki simply want to drive the Christians out of Iraq entirely. In fact I have just finished a story for with new information about the October 31st attack on Our Lady Salvation Church in Baghdad where 58 worshippers were murdered in cold blood and nearly 100 others wounded. The information that I received in Northern Iraq from credible sources suggests very strongly that Al-Maliki’s Da’wa party was directly involved in the attack on the church. This was not just Jihadi Muslims trying to drive Christians out. It was an organized political act to drive the Christians out. I believe that Congress and the President should become engaged and push Prime Minister Al-Maliki to purge his security forces and allow the Christians their rights under the Iraqi Constitution to form an autonomist province in the Nineveh plains. This is the only thing that will keep Christians in Iraq.

Gordon: Your latest thriller, St. Peter’s Bones, talks about this background. Do you think this is an example of triumphalist Qur’anic Islam endeavoring to rid the region of all Christians and non Muslim minorities in the Middle East?

Timmerman: Absolutely. That is what the Muslims themselves say. Now I’m not saying Iraq’s Muslim leaders say this, but the Jihadi leaders say that they would like to rid the Middle East of the infidels and they say this openly and repeatedly. They say this in letters that they put on the windshields of Iraqi Christians. They say this when they burst into houses and murder Christians, and when they machine gun liquor stores owned by Christians in Baghdad. When I was recently in Northern Iraq I had the opportunity to meet a young man, an Iraqi Christian who worked as an interpreter for U.S. Coalition forces. He told me of a number of operations that he had been on when they were taking down terrorist cells and interrogating terrorists. While sitting there with him, I was thinking he could have been the original model of the fictional narrator in my book, St. Peter’s Bones. Yet another case of art preceding life!

He told many of the same stories that my narrator tells in the book. There is no real coincidence because the narrator in St. Peters Bones, was based on a number of real characters who I have met during my previous trips. Nevertheless, it was really extraordinary to come across somebody in the flesh who thoroughly embodied this composite character who narrates St. Peter’s Bones.

The tragedy of the Iraqi Christians is just heartbreaking. I wrote St. Peter’s Bones as a novel to try to get this emotional impact across to ordinary American readers, so when they read new stories about churches getting bombed, liquor stores getting machine gunned and Christians being threatened because of their faith, they will realize that these things are happening to real people. When you create characters in a novel, you hope that they will jump off the page, and that your reader will identify with them, and care about them. In St. Peter’s Bones, bad things happen – really tragic things happen - to good people. I wrote this novel to wake up Americans, wake up Christians in this country, and wake up Jews in this country, to the threat of extermination of the Christian minorities in Iraq, by hopefully getting them to care about these characters as real people.

Gordon: Whom do you see as the strongest political candidates in the upcoming 2012 Presidential race capable of making make a major mid-course correction in the devolution of American moral presence, both at home and abroad?

Timmerman: Now it probably won’t surprise you Jerry that I like John Bolton. People will say John Bolton has no experience. He is not a politician. All that is true. However, he certainly has plenty of experience in executive positions and in policy positions in government. He has a track record of running things and confronting crises that people can very easily examine and evaluate. Between Barak Obama and John Bolton, it’s easy to see which one has got more executive experience, even today. John Bolton is the only thoughtful person in the GOP camp who has the timbre and intellectual fortitude coupled with experience to deal with this rising threat from Iran and the Muslim brotherhood against the West and the U.S. But can he raise the money he needs to run? I don’t know.

Gordon: Ken, I want to thank you for this engrossing, timely, comprehensive and insightful interview.

Timmerman: It was both an honor and a pleasure to do it.

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