The man who inspired Reverend Jeremiah Wright's controversial "America's chicken coming home to roost" remarks says that, like Sen. Hillary Clinton, he would have left the church had he been sitting in on that particular sermon.
Ambassador Ed Peck, a retired 32-year diplomat, served as the intellectual basis of a segment of Wright's post 9/11 sermon. (Wright said he saw Peck discussing the backlash of U.S. foreign policy during a Fox News segment.)
But while Peck acknowledges that he still believes that U.S. foreign policy was in many ways responsible for triggering the terrorist attacks, he also insists that he would not have tolerated the incendiary language that Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor employed.
"I probably would have walked out, because you cannot, to me, paint my nation as nothing more than a needless mindless monster. I would say, yes, we have made mistakes. Other nations make mistakes as well, and they haven't been as involved in Middle East," said Peck. "But Reverend Wright was drastically overstating the case... I would not sign on to that procedure and I would never have returned to a place where a man spouted such language, because my perception is that that is not the way to do it. My perception is that you do it my way, with thoughtful efforts to get people to understand what you are talking about."
Peck said that he had not had the chance to view Wright's clips in their entirety. He just returned from a long break only to find out that he had become something of a mini-political celebrity due to his connection to the sermon. He also said that it was unfair to truly judge Wright strictly on these five-second clips, that there were "seeds of truth" to what the Reverend had to say, "but he blasted them out of proportion."
Peck, who has offered controversial criticism of Israeli policy in the West Bank but also warned early against the Iraq Wwar, pointed to several U.S. foreign policy anecdotes that he believed validated his and Wright's premise. Those included testimony, overseen by former Sen. Lee Hamilton, in which intelligence agents testified that the Israel-Palestine conflict had been a main contributor to the proliferation of radical Islamic terrorism. In addition, there was a 60 Minutes interview of Madeline Albright, in which the former Secretary of State said U.S. sanctions on Iraq were worth it despite the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.
"This is not in any way intended to be a denigration of Dr. Albright, she had a job in explaining and defending American policies," said Peck. "[But] it was probably the coldest thing you will ever see on television. It was run once on 60 Minutes, but it was shown a thousand times overseas."
In his now notorious sermon, Wright highlighted issues analogous to these, as evidence that America had helped aggravate the very terrorists who were striking out. "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye," he said.
What has not been shown in those clips is that Wright prefaced and concluded that remark by saying he was paraphrasing Peck.
"A white ambassador said that y'all, not a black militant," he said, "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..."
Peck said that while he never utter the phrase "chickens coming home to roost," he was aware that Wright had taken his words and ideas for his own sermon. Nevertheless, he didn't think the right message had been preached.
"I would not endorse it and I wouldn't sign on to it," he said. "There were seeds of truth to what he said but he blasted them out of proportion from the clips I have seen."