White House Does Not Meet with Iran President Ahmadinejad during UN General Assembly Meeting, But a Small Group of American Citizens Does – Part I of III
By Ed Hale
As United States 2008 presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obamabickered over how they would “handle the Iran threat” in their first debate on Friday night, citing erroneous facts and competing with one another on who would hold out the longest from engaging in diplomatic talks with Iran, a small group of one-hundred and fifty American citizens representing fifty of the country’s most prominent peace and human rights groups were busy talking to the world’s media about the two-hour private meeting they held with the Iranian President two days prior.
The meeting, which was not revealed to the media until the next day to assure the safety and security for those in attendance, took place on Wednesday September 24 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City during the 63rd annual United Nations General Assembly Meeting. The goal of the meeting was “to introduce President Ahmadinejad to the peace community in the United States and to illustrate how this sector of civil society works to oppose war and the use of non-violence to resolve differences,” said the meeting’s facilitator, Mark Johnson, Executive Director of the global Fellowship of Reconciliation, the world’s oldest peace organization.
In an exhilarating live experiment in civilian diplomacy in action, the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel was transformed into a veritable who’s who of some of the most outspoken and prominent members of America’s peace, anti-war, and human rights organizations, including Medea Benjamin of A Global Exchange, Jodie Evans of Code Pink and Women for Peace, Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition, yours truly representing, and Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice. There were also representatives from Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Mennonites, the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, American Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, among many others. American citizens flew in from almost all fifty states to hold the private meeting with President Ahmadinejad in an effort to begin the process of what many consider long overdue open dialogues with Iran regarding how our two nations can work together to secure more peaceful relations with one another.
The issues raised during the two-hour plus talk, many considered vital for the future security of both the United States and Iranian citizenry, revolved around how the countries can begin putting aside their mutual distrust of one another in order to move forward in peaceful negotiations; both the US and the Iranian government’s recent crackdown on human rights, freedom of assembly, and dissidents; the current US occupation of Iraq; Iran’s controversially viewed policy toward Israel; their treatment of women and other minorities; the difficulty on both sides of obtaining visas to visit either country. Of course the big issue of the moment, will Iran accept a compromise on its nuclear fuel enrichment program, was also addressed.
Ahmadinejad was joined by his Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, and Iran UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee. After already participating in two full days of talks with leaders from all over the globe, the Iranian President seemed tired, but he spoke eloquently, near poetically, and many of the points he made and the answers he gave to our questions were illuminating and insightful. In response to Iran’s nuclear energy program, a subject that the United States government continues to demonize in unsubstantiated propaganda to the American media though it has the support of one-hundred and eighteen other UN nation-states around the planet, Ahmadinejad reasserted for the umpteenth time that Iran has allowed more IAEA inspections of their nuclear facilities than any other country in the world to date, and that they discontinued pursuing nuclear weapons in 2005. A fact that has been confirmed and reconfirmed by all thirteen US Intelligence Agencies including the NSA, the FBI, and the CIA countless times over the last three years.
Why the White House persists in attempting to publicly frame Iran’s nuclear energy program as “a threat to American security” remains a mystery. As does why the US government continues to refuse to speak with or enter into diplomatic talks with Iran while other countries such as Iraq, Japan, Italy, China, Pakistan, and Russia are now jumping at it. Bear in mind that Iran currently sits on the second largest oil deposit on the planet. He told us that US President George W. Bush missed a historic opportunity when he didn’t respond to the Iran President’s 2006 letter inviting him to talk, an opportunity that could have begun a reconciliation of the two countries 28 year cold war of silence. As an American citizen I couldn’t help but feel a sense of bitterness and regret — as if we were indeed a winning team but could still lose the game because we simply suffer from having a bad captain.
Ahmadinejad also commented about how the United States, the UK, France and Canada supported, cooperated with, and even gave nuclear technology information to the pre-1979 regime ruled by the US-installed dictator, the Shah of Iran but now “When there were no elections in Iran, they wanted us to be a nuclear power. As soon as there were elections, they didn’t want us to be a nuclear power.” The room roared with laughter at the obvious irony. As a passionately patriotic American – granted, more of the ideals we talk rather than the missteps our government often walks, especially with our foreign policy over the last fifty years – I felt proud knowing that this might be the first time an Iranian government leader was in a room with living breathing American’s who actually understood and fought for America’s promise and potential of real democracy and liberty for all, rather than feeling bullied, threatened, and manipulated as many smaller countries feel in their dealings with the United States government today.
I was reminded of the shock I felt when I first learned just a few short months ago that in 1950 Iran had their first democratic revolution and in 1953 the CIA and the UK, under Operation Ajax, orchestrated a coup d’etat and ousted Iran’s new democratically elected Prime Minister Mosaddeq sending him into exile and installed a puppet regime that they could control easily in the form of The Shah so both countries could reap giant profits from Iran’s enormous oil supply while that country’s people struggled in poverty and fell behind the rest of the world in technology, social services, and infrastructure for thirty more years. I also contemplated how as children we are taught to honor, respect, and celebrate our own American Revolution while at the same time being advised that we should disrespect, fear, and dishonor the Iranian people’s own Democratic Revolution.
But as important as that little bit of history is for all Americans to have knowledge of, that’s in the past and here we were, twenty-eight years later, American citizens no longer able to bear the archaic bullheaded imperialist system that refuses to practice in real life what it preaches to its children in school, taking matters into our own hands and sitting down in the first ever diplomatic talks with the relatively new democratically-elected Iranian government to help begin to build a bridge of shared values and mutual agreements: mainly, that “œwe must work together to form a wave of citizens who are dedicated to world peace for all citizens of the world and of all nations.”
Echoing what we heard countless times by many leading government officials when I visited Iran in March of this year, Ahmadinejad told us that Iran is politically and religiously opposed to nuclear weapons, adding: “The time for nuclear weapons has come to an end. Those who want to build a new generation of nuclear bombs are politically backward, period. Those days are over.” Again the room erupted into applause. “Did nuclear weapons help the United States in their Vietnam War? Did they help the former Soviet Union in the Cold War? Are they helping your country in the Iraq War?” Silence in the room. Perhaps it was the fact that Ahmadinejad was fasting for weeks straight due to the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Perhaps he has just matured over the years. But his mannerisms were cool, his demeanor was calm, and the tone of his answers poetic and philosophical. He then posed the question “Doesn’t it seem odd that we are being economically sanctioned, our people strangled literally to death, and at the same time publicly threatened and attacked almost daily for attempting to harness nuclear energy for our rapidly growing economy with no intention of building nuclear weapons, by the United States who has over 10,000 functional nuclear warheads aimed at half the world? Doesn’t this seem odd and illogical?” Again, more applause.
I was speechless. Perhaps this was a first for me too. The first time that I had heard a high ranking government official, a head of State no less, speaking not only insightfully with moral and ethical undertones, but speaking truths that many of us think to ourselves privately but are afraid to utter aloud for fear of being labeled “unpatriotic” or “treasonous.” Having grown up in America in the latter half of the 20th century I was jaded from one too many politico speeches filled with nothing but empty rhetoric and flip flopping. But Iran is in a different position now than they’ve been in thousand’s of years and different than even we American citizens are. They are quickly gaining allies and support and mammoth deals with countries all over the world. They do not share the same fears that even we here at home face of being attacked for speaking their truth. They are a rapidly growing new country of strong proud people with a seven-thousand year long history, a sovereign nation who are free to say what they wish, economic sanctions and near-constant threats of military strikes be damned. All I could do was transcribe the contents of the meeting as quickly as my illegible handwriting would allow. Something told me that what I was witnessing and listening to was important to share with as many people as I could over the coming weeks and months.
This is not to say that those of us in attendance were able to agree with everything that the conservative Muslim President said during our meeting. There was plenty to take umbrage with and in fact just downright vehemently disagree with. This I will cover in Part II, along with a summary of the dialogue surrounding some of the other issues mentioned earlier in this article. But in the name of peace, which was the reason for the meeting in the first place, perhaps it best to end Part I with Ahmadinejad’s closing remarks to illustrate why many left that room that night inspired by the potential hinted at that there is power in our civil society and in non-violent civilian diplomacy to effect change in the world and to lift up democratic societies despite challenges and obstacles.
“My friends we need to create a wave of all world citizens of all backgrounds and all walks of life to create more peace in the world. We need to practice our values of our various religions and gather ourselves together to work at the pace of light itself to keep up with the pace of the world. Carrying out this mission has certain requirements based on justice and respect for all nations. If we don’t like something for ourselves, then we should not want it for other nations. Yes? What I am saying here is not complicated. These are clear-cut ideas that we need simply to put into practice.”
It is too bad that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama could have been in attendance at this historic meeting. Perhaps the contents of their debate on Friday regarding the country of Iran would have appeared more well informed and enlightened. (Both candidates mistakenly referred to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as “the Republican Guard”) If the United States is going to pull out of the numerous crises both here and abroad that it currently faces, it is going to take real change on many levels – the kind of change hyped and promoted by at least one of this election year’s presidential candidates. And one of those changes absolutely essential to our survival, let alone our thriving in the 21st century is going to be a more open door diplomatic policy towards communication with other countries that we may not see eye to eye on in all matters. But we have to start somewhere for real reconciliation to start taking place.
Ed Hale
September 27th, 2008


Coinciding with this week’s United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City, singer-songwriter Ed Hale of the rock group TRANSCENDENCE, will be part of a coalition of prominent members of the United States peace and human rights movement who will be meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Over 100 peace and human rights activists representing over three dozen American peace and human rights groups will fly in to attend the private meeting with the Iranian president in an undisclosed location. There has been an embargo on releasing the date, time, or location of the meeting to the press in order to avoid any interruption of the proceedings.
Hale visited Iran in March of this year along with 12 others as a Civilian Diplomat to discuss US/Iranian relations with members of the Iranian government including former President Khatami. Hale has been interviewing with the media about the trip over the last six months, as well as giving formal presentations to discuss it with the public. He has also written about it on his blog, The Transcendence Diaries. Photos from the trip can be viewed by visiting Hale’s Flickr page here. This meeting in the US is being held in order to introduce Ahmadinejad to the peace community in the United States and to illustrate how this sector of civil society works to oppose war and the use of violence to resolve differences. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee will also be in attendance.
Ed Hale at the Center for Hadith Studies in Qom, Iran
In response to those who have vocally protested his involvement in meeting with Ahmadinejad, Hale had this to say: “Iran and the United States have not spoken diplomatically in over 25 years. When the governments of these nations do speak to each other it is usually behind closed doors through special envoys in some remote neutral country or they speak AT each other publicly through the media making accusations and threats and bullying each other. Israel is also involved in this childish power struggle. All three countries need to grow up and start representing the people of their nations in a more mature and responsible manner that respects human life. Until the governments of our countries are willing to stop the chest beating and start a real dialogue about the most pressing issues that the people are facing — most importantly peace between our countries — then we the people need to step up and do the talking for them. This is what Civilian Diplomacy is about. It is imperative that someone say something constructive that moves us forward; at the same time we need to start listening to each other more. For me personally I don’t care who I have to meet with if it means that it might potentially save human lives. Our meeting with President Ahmadinejad does not imply that we agree with his Holocaust denial statements anymore than our meeting with Dick Cheney would imply that we support the invasion of Iraq. What is most important is that we get the message out to as many people around the world as possible that peace is possible and that if we have to then we the people will make that happen if the governments of the world are not willing to. We certainly cannot continue in the direction we are headed in now. We need to open the lines of communication in order to assure that we save more lives. That’s what this meeting is about.”

Ed Hale and Band TRANSCENDENCE Release New Rarities Album

In anticipation of two new studio albums coming out this year, the eclectic musical group fronted by singer-songwriter Ed Hale has released a new collection of 14 rare and never before released tracks including the poignant September 11th tribute song Rebuild America…

SEVEN YEARS after its recording, rock band TRANSCENDENCE have released the September 11th tribute song Rebuild America for sale on a new rarities collection album entitled The City of Lost ChildrenThe song Rebuild America was recorded in October of 2001 just after the World Trade Center attacks in New York but never officially released. The song was eventually turned into a music video. Watch it here on YouTube. Now the song is finally being released for sale with all proceeds to benefit September 11th victims’ families through the Robin Hood Foundation. The album also features 13 other rare and never before released tracks from all five of the band’s previous albums.


In anticipation of the two new studio albums being released this year comes first this compilation of unreleased outtakes and rarities from TRANSCENDENCE that offers fans access to many of the band’s most hard to find hidden tracks and studio gems for the first time ever. The City of Lost Children is a compilation of studio outtakes from all five of the band’s officially released albums that spans eight years. The album also includes unreleased favorites such as the R&B flavored Whenever I’m with you — a familiar staple on various MTV shows over the years, and the September 11th tribute song Rebuild America; as well as two Brazilian-classic covers sung in Portuguese when singer Ed Hale was at the peak of his Tropicalismo obsession. From irresistibly catchy commercial pop (Jacquie) to psychedelic alt-rock (Kill the monkey), raw, urgent indie-rock (All is lost) to Beatlesque Brit-pop (Andrea’s Fault) and avant garde experimental instrumentals (Nothing is cohesive part IIThe City of Lost Children offers a revealing glimpse behind the curtain of the creative and prolific musical collective known as TRANSCENDENCE with 14 never before released tracks that is sure to be a treasure chest for those who want a deeper look into the eccentric group’s past musical explorations. As diverse and eclectic as the song selection is, fans should find it a special collection that sounds like it could be an album in and of itself. And indeed now it is.


The album features extensive liner notes written personally by the band with song credits, and plenty of details and back-story about each song. To read and download the liner notes and the lyrics to the songs fans should head to the band’s website

The album is available for digital download on Napster, Yahoo Music, iTunes, emusic, Rhapsody, and of course

To listen to or download the songs or the whole album on click here.



  1. WHENEVER I’M WITH YOU (Outtake Rise and Shine)
  2. JACQUIE (Outtake Rise and Shine)
  3. ANDREA’S FAULT (Outtake Nothing is Cohesive)
  5. KILL THE MONKEY (Outtake Rise and Shine)
  6. FREE LOVE (Hidden track Sleep with You)
  7. EU SEI QUE VOU TE AMAR (Never released)
  8. VAMPIRE SONG (Outtake The Great Mistake)
  9. ALL IS LOST (Outtake The Great Mistake)
  10. ALL OF MY LOVE (Outtake AYHBV)
  11. O LEAOZINHO (Rare live track)
  14. NOTHING IS COHESIVE PART II (Outtake Nothing is Cohesive)

The band’s personal notes about the album:

At first listen The City of Lost Children could be, more than anything else, a testament to how much great talent we have been lucky enough to work with over the last eight years in TRANSCENDENCE. From musicians to songwriters, producers, engineers and singers, we have been very lucky and truly honored by all the brilliant hearts and minds that have worked and played with us. TRANSCENDENCE has always been more of a community rather than simply a band of five guys. It’s a community of music, about music, founded on music, flowing out of music. Music was from the start the spark that ignited the formation of TRASCENDENCE. We came together as strangers attracted to one another because of our shared love and passion for music. Music of all shapes and sizes and styles. We stay together for the same reason. Over the years we have been blessed almost divinely to be open to anyone who wanted to stop by the studios, say hello and talk shop, and ultimately lay down something of their own on whatever project we happened to be working on. This album perhaps owes more to this idea than anything else we have ever released simply because it pulls together 14 songs from various phases of our working together as a group and spans a period of over 8 years.

Stylistically the Lost Children collection also bears witness to the fact that those pesky critics may be more accurate in their assertion that TRANSCENDENCE has been ‘all over the map’ than we ever cared to admit… hence the Nothing is Cohesive album title… but where has it ever been written that artists – of any medium — are supposed to stick with the same style throughout their careers or even within the context of one work? TRANSCENDENCE has always gotten off on exploring different musical territories as a group. In fact the more diverse and eclectic our musical explorations are the more stimulated we as individuals become. Truth be told, writing and recording a song such as Whenever I’m with you, a song which at first listen might appear to be far removed and light years away from “our usual sound,” was no more difficult or challenging than one of our more typical indie rock or brit-pop styled songs. With a few more listens it gets easier and easier to recognize the same five guys in that song. This collection of songs, as disjointed as it may be when gathered all under one roof, does run the gamut from R&B to straight ahead alt-rock to Brasilian pop to avant-garde experiments in sound, and yes it may seem odd that the same group and various other stragglers and fellow explorers found it so appropriate and commonplace to try our hands at so many different stylesof music. But luckily for all of us we never questioned this aspect of ourselves. We just forged onwards, critics be damned, and did whatever we wanted to in order to get ourselves off and maintain that high and inspiration that compelled us to come together in the first place.

Because of the general over the top eccentric nature of each member of the band, I have noticed that we have actually found it more difficult to create straight ahead commercially accessible pop and rock at times compared to the more esoteric and experimental stuff that has managed to make its way onto our albums. But that’s TRANSCENDENCE. At times this yearning to branch out and cover as many bases as possible has created problems for the band. With producers, with engineers, with record labels, distributors, DJs especially, critics, other musicians, and perhaps even with fans. Over the years we have had to make sacrifices artistically and cut certain tracks off of albums in order to make them more cohesive and streamlined. Even if we were madly in love with those tracks. At other times it was more of a question of just space or just having too many songs for one disc. And occasionally a single or two has gotten recorded and for whatever reason never found a home and made it to an album.

So more than anything else for us as a group these various reasons make The City of Lost Children a very special album indeed. It was an idea we had been harboring for years and just never had the time to see through. It may seem odd, and perhaps even strategically impractical, to release an album such as this when we have two new albums coming out in the same year. Most artists and labels save projects like this for dormant periods in between recording sessions or when the band is on tour. But as trite as it sounds because so many musicians say the exact same thing about their songs, almost every song we birth and take the time to explore and record as a group does have a very special place in our hearts regardless of whether or not it ever gets released. This makes The City of Lost Children a very very special project to each of us. For the first time we were able to sit down and reflect and reclaim all of our lost children and pool them all together so they had a permanent home and were lost no more. Compiling this album gave us all a sincere feeling of relief and satisfaction and completion. For music fans we hope that some get as much pleasure from being able to have access to all of these rarities for the first time under one roof as we did in putting the album together. As always thank you for listening.


Ed Hale, Ricardo Mazzi, Roger Houdaille, Fernando Perdomo, Bill Sommer, Allan Gabay

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Transcendence Singer Ed Hale Introduces Project

A newly ramped-up web2.0 version of the non-profit website has been released. The website features a comprehensive database of thousands of links to charitable causes, non-profits, and volunteer opportunities for people who want to get more out of life by giving. From political activism to helping women in need, from Africa to children’s charities, the links are categorized to make the website easy to navigate and features a search function to facilitate finding the right fit for whatever might interest someone who is interested in lending a helping hand and making the world a better place. While you’re searching for your next cause du jour, help others find what’s right for them by sharing your own experiences. The website offers visitors the opportunity to post comments and share their own stories with others about charities and causes that they have donated to or supported or volunteered for. As always also offers anyone the chance to submit links to their own favorite causes and charities and submit articles and essays about current needs in the world. This keeps the site an ongoing and constantly evolving community-based project.
This year is celebrating its 10th year. The project was started in 1998 by singer/songwriter Ed Hale of the rock group TRANSCENDENCE. To read more about the project click here.