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Security analyst speaks on Middle East, Al Qaeda

CNN’s Peter Bergen spoke to a full house last Thursday about  the reshaping of the Muslim community addressing events like the Arab Spring, and how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the general direction of the United States.

Bergen is CNN’s National Security Analyst, an accomplished author and adjunct lecturer at Harvard.

While the ages, backgrounds and knowledge of the Middle Eastern political climate varied throughout the crowd, the general consensus was the same after Bergen finished speaking.

Junior sociology major Jamie Hammond said she was not entirely clear on what the situation was in the Middle East before the presentation.

“It was very informational,” she said. “It was helpful to understand what is going on in the Middle East.”

Days before the ten year anniversary of the attacks, Bergen highlighted the state of Al Qaeda around the world a decade later.

“A number of experts have said that [Al Qaeda] has almost been strategically defeated,” Bergen said.

He said Osama bin Laden’s death is a large reason for this strategic defeat. Another important factor was the people suppressed by Al Qaeda who refused to support the terrorist organization any longer.

“Support for bin Laden, Al Qaeda and suicide bombing has been dropping like a stone in country after country in the Muslim world,” he said. “They’re realizing their families are the people being killed in these bombings.”

Bergen said the events of the Arab Spring show that people in these countries weren’t spouting Al Qaeda doctrine. They just want the same things we wanted– freedom and a future for their children that won’t be limited by a dictator.

“As it turned out, when these countries started to protest, they weren’t protesting the United States,” he said. “The reason these people are so angry is because they feel their futures were stolen.”

He also touched on the fear within the United States and called for an end to the War on Terror, but did not sugarcoat the fact that there are still residual terror threats around the world.

“On the ten year anniversary of the tragedy, it’s time to reflect,” Bergen said. “It might be time to end the so-called War on Terror.”

Sophomore history and political science major Natalie Tomes said she can’t remember a time when the War on Terror didn’t exist.

“All I’ve known is the War on Terror,” she said. “So the end of the War on Terror is an interesting policy suggestion.”

Bergen also described his meeting with Osama bin Laden. Bergen is one of very few westerners to ever meet the Al Qaeda face to face.

The lecture was part of a series brought to Bradley by the Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee. Professor of philosophy and religious studies Robert Fuller organized the event with help from professor of sociology Jackie Hogan.

Hogan said while organizing an event like this took a lot of time, it was well worth it in the end, and encouraged students to take part in the lectures.

“I get the opportunity to meet these amazing people,” she said. “I think it’s a critical part of your education as well as becoming an informed citizen.”

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