Eggs and Issues

By Ellis Cross

January 2, 2012

After speaking at the Eggs and Issues event held Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. in Fulkerson Center, retired U.S. diplomat William Armbruster said, “As I looked out on the crowd I saw the minefield.” He was referring to his presentation, “The Middle East- Then and Now,” where he saw members of the Muslim mosque, United States military, veterans, Christian clergy and other guests in the audience who may have had their own opinion. He executed his speech, keeping close to the facts. He knows those facts from serving America in Middle-Eastern U.S. Embassies for over 25 years. For a time, Armbruster was a hostage of Saddam Hussein and could not leave Baghdad. When he was allowed to leave, it was in haste as the embassy group fled to Turkey for refuge. At the time, Armbruster was taking care of his infant daughter alone. He had to send her ahead with another diplomatic family and follow in a 19-hour car ride to Turkey. “We [the U.S.] are in it for the long haul,” Armbruster said. He explained that peace would come eventually. “Changes result in protest in the Middle East; there will be balance between these tribes and countries but history isn’t written yet.” He said that technology has been a great avenue of change, but not necessarily the technology that members of the audience may have expected. The introduction of the Internet, as well as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have improved communications, but those changes started with satellite television, which brought news from other countries. The introduction of the fax machine was equally important, according to Armbruster. The cell phone also came to areas that didn’t have landline phones yet. Audience member Rony Aboujawde asked a question about the representation of minority groups in the Middle East. He was referring to Christian populations. “Not all Muslims are radicals, the same as not all Christians are non-radical,” Aboujawde said. Armbruster agreed and explained that Middle Eastern leadership groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, recognize the voices of minority groups and are working out a way that all voices will have some degree of power in the future. “It’s not a forgone conclusion that the majority will suppress the minority,” Armbruster said. Armbruster told a story of spoiling thanksgiving turkeys during a time when there was no electricity at the embassy. They buried them, only to have them emerge from the ground in the hot sun, to be buried again. Western student Nicholas Brothers, who wants to be a Middle East specialist someday, referred to the story. “I learned today that I may need to bring a shovel,” Brothers said. Brothers also mentioned the diversity of the nearly record crowd of over 160 attendees to the Eggs and Issues presentation. Armbruster concluded saying “There are voices on all sides that seek peace. Also, there are voices who are best served by continuance of things as they are.”