Meet the man who inspired Reverend Jeremiah Wright's now famous tirade about America's foreign policy inciting the terrorist attacks of September 11.
His name is Ambassador Edward Peck. And he is a retired, white, career U.S. diplomat who served 32-years in the U.S. Foreign Service and was chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq under Jimmy Carter -- hardly the black-rage image with which Wright has been stigmatized.
In fact, when Wright took the pulpit to give his post-9/11 address -- which has since become boiled down to a five second sound bite about "America's chickens coming home to roost" -- he prefaced his remarks as a "faith footnote," an indication that he was deviating from his sermon.
"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday," Wright declared. "He was on Fox News. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true: America's chickens are coming home to roost."
Wright then went on to list more than a few U.S. foreign policy endeavors that, by the tone of his voice and manner of his expression, he viewed as more or less deplorable. This included, as has been demonstrated in the endless loop of clips from his sermon, bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuking "far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye."
"Violence begets violence," Wright said, "hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism."
And then he concluded by putting the comments on Peck's shoulders: "A white ambassador said that yall, not a black militant, not a reverend who preaches about racism, an ambassador whose eyes are wide open and is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice... the ambassador said that the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have, but they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them... let me stop my faith footnote right there."
Watch the video (the relevant material starts around the 3:00 mark):
So it seems that while Wright did believe American held some responsibility for 9/11, his views, which have been described as radically outside the political mainstream, were actually influenced by a career foreign policy official.
Who is Peck? The ambassador, who has offered controversial criticism of Israeli policy in the West Bank but also warned against the Iraq War, was lecturing on a cruise ship and was unavailable for comment. But officials at Peck's former organization, the Council for the National Interest, a non-profit group that advocates reducing Israel's influence on U.S. Middle East policy, offered descriptions of the man.
"Peck is very outspoken," said Eugene Bird, who now heads CNI. "He is also very good at making phrases that have a resonance with the American people. When he came off of that Fox News, a few days later he said they would never invite me back again."
And what, exactly, did Peck say in that Fox News interview that inspired Wright's words?
Here are some quotes from an appearance the Ambassador made on the network on October 11, 2001, which may or may not have been the segment Wright was referring to. On the show, Peck said he thought it was illogical to tie Saddam Hussein to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and that while the then-Iraqi leader had "some very sound and logical reasons not to like [the United States]," he and Osama bin Laden had no other ties.
From there, Peck went on to ascribe motives for what prompted the 9/11 attacks. "Stopping the economic embargo and bombings of Iraq," he said, "things to which Osama bin Laden has alluded as the kinds of things he doesn't like. He doesn't think it's appropriate for the United States to be doing, from his perspective, all the terrible things that he sees us as having been doing, the same way Saddam Hussein feels. So from that perspective, they have a commonality of interests. But they also have a deeply divergent view of the role of Islam in government, which would be a problem."