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Dr. Peter Mansoor accepts award for Distinguished National Service, at ATFP Fifth Annual Gala, Washington, D.C., October 20, 2010.


Wick, thank you for that very kind introduction. It is not going too far to say that without your guidance and mentorship over the past two decades, I would not be standing on the stage this evening. The time I spent at the Ohio State University under the tutelage of Allan Millett and you were among the most intellectually fruitful of my life, and I am privileged to stand here tonight not just as your student, but as your friend…

I’d also like to thank the American Task Force on Palestine for this singular recognition. I am both humbled and honored to accept the organization’s Distinguished National Service award. There are so many people who have touched my life in the past half century, from the good folks in my birthplace of New Ulm, Minnesota; to my family and teachers in Sacramento, California; to the officers who took me under their wing during my education at West Point; and the mentors who supported me during a 26 year career in the U.S. Army…among them General David Petraeus, with whom I had the privilege to serve during the crisis years in Iraq. It is not often that one has the opportunity to help change the course of history, and I am grateful that I was able in some small way to help turn around a failing war effort during the surge of 2007 and 2008.

Ana auslee min Ramallah. I was aware of my Arab identity from an early age…but the full import of my heritage didn’t hit me until my first tour in Iraq as a brigade commander stationed in Baghdad. In mid-July 2003 I was inspecting the position of one of my units guarding the Sheraton Hotel downtown when one of the sergeants asked me if I was going to have lunch with the sheiks. The thought intrigued me, not just because I was tired of military rations, but because I understood the role of the tribes in Arabic society…so I walked into the hotel, and there seated in the ballroom – in a scene straight out of “Lawrence of Arabia” – were 250 tribal sheiks in their flowing robes. They greeted me warmly and invited me to address the group. As I got to the podium and looked out over the sea of faces, I momentarily froze…because they all looked like my dad.

But what those sheiks represented was civil society in the Arabic tradition. To our detriment we ignored them for far too long; ironically, the tribes proved to be a major part of the solution to turning the war around when all looked lost in 2006.

What I learned from this experience is that genuine progress in difficult conflicts requires finding willing partners in the quest for peace. When extremists control the agenda, then politics become frozen. And that in a nutshell is the purpose of groups like the American Task Force on Palestine – a moderate voice for Palestinian-Americans and a willing partner in the search for a lasting peace in the Middle East. May God bless the voices of moderation in that endeavor.

Thank you for this special evening, and thank you once again for this great honor.

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