Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: August 06, 2006, 12:34:53 PM
Pondering, Discussing, Traveling Amid and Defending the Inevitable War
Published: August 6, 2006
Today's NY Times
When I arrived in Israel, it was the anniversary of the day the Spanish Civil War began. It was 70 years ago that the Spanish generals set off the war ? civil, ideological and international ? that the fascist governments of the time wanted. And I could not help thinking about this as I landed in Tel Aviv. Syria in the wings. . .Ahmadinejad?s Iran maneuvering. . .Hezbollah, which everyone knows is a little Iran, or a little tyrant, taking Lebanon and its people hostage.. . .And behind the scenes, a fascism with an Islamist face, a third fascism, which is to our generation what the other fascism, and then communist totalitarianism, were to our elders?. As soon as I arrived; yes, from the very first moment I visited with my old friends in Tel Aviv, whom I had not seen so tense or so anxious since 1967; from my first conversation with Denis Charbit, an ardent peace activist who did not, it seemed to me, doubt the legitimacy of this war of self-defense; from my first discussion with Tzipi Livni, the young and talented Israeli foreign minister, whom I found strangely disoriented in this new geopolitics, I sensed that something new, something unprecedented in the history of Israeli wars, was being enacted. It was as if Israelis were no longer in the framework of Israel and the Arabs alone. It was as if the international context, the game of hide-and-seek between visible and invisible players, the role of Iran and its Hezbollah ally, gave the whole crisis a flavor, a look, a perspective that were entirely new.
Before I went to the northern front, near the border with Lebanon, I traveled to Sderot ? the martyred city of Sderot ? to the south, on the border with Gaza. Yes, the martyred city. Because the images that reach us from Lebanon are so terrible, and because the suffering of Lebanese civilian victims is so unbearable to the conscience and the heart, it is hard to imagine, I know, that an Israeli city could also be a martyred city. And yet. . .these empty streets. . .these gutted houses, riddled by shrapnel. . .this mountain of exploded rockets piled up in the courtyard of the police headquarters, all of which fell in the last few weeks.. . . Even that day (it was July 18), a rain of new bombs fell on the center of town and forced the few people who wanted to take advantage of the summer breeze to scurry back down into their basements.. . .
And then, finally, piously pinned on a black-cloth-covered board in the office of Mayor Eli Moyal, these photos of young people, some of them children, who have died under fire from Palestinian artillery. One thing obviously doesn?t erase the other. And I?m not one to play the dirty little game of counting corpses. But why shouldn?t what is due to some also be due to others? How come we hear so little, at least in the European press, of those Jewish victims who have died since Israel pulled out of Gaza? I have spent my life fighting against the idea that there are good deaths and bad deaths, deserving victims and privileged bombs. I have always agitated for the Israeli state to leave the occupied territories and, in exchange, win security and peace. For me, then, there is a question here of integrity and fairness: devastation, death, life in bomb shelters, existences broken by the death of a child, these are also the lot of Israel.
Haifa. My favorite Israeli city. The big cosmopolitan city where Jews and Arabs have lived together ever since the country was founded. It, too, is now a dead city. It, too, is a ghost city. And here, too, from the tree-covered heights of Mount Carmel down to the sea, the wailing of sirens forces the rare cars to stop and the last passers-by to rush into the subway entrances. Here, too, it is clear that this is the worst nightmare in 40 years for Israelis.
Zivit Seri is a tiny woman, a mother, who speaks with clumsy, defenseless gestures as she guides me through the destroyed buildings of Bat Galim ? literally ?daughter of the waves,? the Haifa neighborhood that has suffered most from the shellings. The problem, she explains, is not just the people killed: Israel is used to that. It?s not even the fact that here the enemy is aiming not at military objectives but deliberately at civilian targets ? that, too, is no surprise. No, the problem, the real one, is that these incoming rockets make us see what will happen on the day ? not necessarily far off ? when the rockets are ones with new capabilities: first, they will become more accurate and be able to threaten, for example, the petrochemical facilities you see there, on the harbor, down below; second, they may come equipped with chemical weapons that can create a desolation compared with which Chernobyl and Sept. 11 together will seem like a mild prelude. For that, in fact, is the situation. As seen from Haifa, this is what is at stake in the operation in southern Lebanon. Israel did not go to war because its borders had been violated. It did not send its planes over southern Lebanon for the pleasure of punishing a country that permitted Hezbollah to construct its state-within-a-state. It reacted with such vigor because the Iranian President Ahmadinejad?s call for Israel to be wiped off the map and his drive for a nuclear weapon came simultaneously with the provocations of Hamas and Hezbollah. The conjunction, for the first time, of a clearly annihilating will with the weapons to go with it created a new situation. We should listen to the Israelis when they tell us they had no other choice anymore. We should listen to Zivit Seri tell us, in front of a crushed building whose concrete slabs are balancing on tips of twisted metal, that, for Israel, it was five minutes to midnight.
We should also listen to the bitterness of Sheik Muhammad Sharif Ouda, the leader in Haifa of the little Ahmadi community, a Muslim sect; his family has lived here for six generations, and he welcomes me into his home, in the hilly Kababir neighborhood, dressed in a Pakistani turban and shalwar kameez. Hezbollah?s crime, he says, was its decision to strike indiscriminately. It was to kill Jews and Arabs alike ? consider the massacre at Haifa?s train depot, where there were 8 dead and more than 20 wounded. And it was also to establish a climate of terror, of anxiety every instant, as in Sarajevo, where people used to speculate about the fact that all it took was a stroke of luck, a change of plans at the last minute, a meeting that went on longer than expected, or that was cut short, or that miraculously changed its venue, to escape being at the point of impact when a rocket landed. Creating such conditions is a crime.
Ouda insists, however, that there is another crime: Hezbollah has in effect relegated the Palestinian question to the background. As indifferent as the traditional Arab leaders may have been, in their innermost selves, to the fate of the inhabitants of Gaza and Nablus, at least they still pretended they cared. Whereas the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, doesn?t even try to pretend. The suffering and rights of the Palestinians are no longer, in his own Islamo-fascist geopolitics, either a cause to fight for or even an alibi. You just have to read the very charter of his movement, or listen to his proclamations on Al Manar, the Hezbollah TV channel, to see that he has little concern with that relic from ancient eras that is Arab nationalism in general and Palestinian nationalism in particular. (Only the naked hatred remains.) Instead, he dreams of a reconciled Islamic community, a new umma, with Iran as the base, Syria the armed branch and Hezbollah the invading spear tip. He will employ the means of war without the usual practical goals of war. There remain the three neglected casualties of this new Iranian-style jihad: Israel, Lebanon and Palestine.
ore rockets. I have traveled from Haifa to Acre and then, along the Lebanese border, to a succession of villages and kibbutzes and other cooperatives that have lived, for 10 days by this point, under Hezbollah fire. There?s a veritable rain of fire today over these biblical landscapes of Upper Galilee, not to speak of a storm of steel. ?I?ve never really known what you should do in these cases,? Lt. Col. Olivier Rafovitch says to me, forcing himself to laugh, as we approach the border town of Avivim and as the noise of the explosions seems also to be coming closer. ?You tend to speed up, don?t you? You tend to think that the only thing to do is get away as fast as possible from this hell.But that?s stupid, really. For who can tell if it isn?t exactly by speeding up that you come right to where it?s. . .?? In response, we speed up all the same. We rumble through a deserted Druze village, then a big farming town and a completely open zone where a Katyusha rocket has just smashed up the highway.
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The damage these rockets can do, when you see them up close, is insane. And insane, too, is the racket you hear when you?ve stopped talking and are just waiting for the sound they make to blend with the noise of the car?s engine. A rocket that falls in the distance leaves a dull thud; when it goes over your head, it creates a shrill, almost whining detonation; and when it bursts nearby, it shakes everything and leaves a long vibration, which is sustained like a bass note. Maybe we shouldn?t say ?rocket? anymore. In French, at least, the word seems to belittle the thing, and implies an entire biased vision of this war. In Franglais, for example, we call a yapping dog a rocket, roquet; the word conjures a little dog whose bark is worse than his bite and who nibbles at your ankles.. . .So why not say ?bomb?? Or ?missile?? Why not try, using the right word, to restore the barbaric, fanatical violence to this war that was desired by Hezbollah and by it alone? The politics of words. The geopolitics of metaphor. Semantics, in this region, is now more than ever a matter of morality.
The Israelis aren?t saints. Obviously they are capable in war of Machiavellian stratagems, operations, even denials. In this war, though, there is a sign that they did not want it and that it landed on them like an evil fate. And this sign is the Israeli government?s choice of Amir Peretz as defense minister: a former activist for Peace Now, long committed to the cause of sharing the land with the Palestinians, Peretz was head of the trade union Histadrut and was in principle much better prepared to organize strikes than to wage war. ?I didn?t sleep a wink all night,? he tells me, very pale, his eyes red, in the little office in Tel Aviv where he welcomes me, along with Daniel Ben-Simon, a writer for the Israeli paper Haaretz. This office is not at the ministry but at the headquarters of the Labor Party. ?I haven?t slept because I spent all night waiting for news of a unit of our boys who were caught in an ambush yesterday afternoon in Lebanese territory.? Then a young aide-de-camp who also looks like a union activist holds out to him a field telephone. Without a word, his eyes lowered, his big mustache trembling with ill-contained emotion, Peretz receives the news he has been dreading. He looks up at us and says: ?Don?t spread the news right away, please, since the families don?t know yet ? but three of them died, and we still haven?t heard about the fourth one. It?s terrible.. . .?
I have known many of Israel?s defense ministers over the past 40 years. From Moshe Dayan to Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and others, I have seen heroes, demi-heroes, tacticians of genius and talent, skillful or poor or mediocre men succeed one another. What I have never seen before is a minister who was so ? I won?t say ?human? (the sanctification of the life of every soldier fallen in combat is a constant in the country?s history), or even ?civilian? (Shimon Peres, after all, didn?t really have a military past either), but one so apparently unprepared to command an army in wartime (wasn?t his first decision, unique in the annals of Israeli history, to cut the budget of his own ministry by 5 percent?). What I have never seen before is a defense minister answering so exactly to the famous saying by Malraux about those miraculous commanders who ?wage war without loving it? and who, for this very reason, always end up winning.
Amir Peretz, like Malraux?s commanders, will probably win. He?s facing a tougher enemy than expected; he will experience heavier casualties as well; there will be growing doubts, throughout the country, about the wisdom of his strategy; but he will probably win. And in any case, the point is here: the very fact that he was appointed to the post shows that Israel believed that after withdrawing from Lebanon and Gaza it was entering a new era when it would have to wage not war but peace.
I met another war leader, also a member of the Labor Party and a supporter, like Peretz, of a negotiated peace with the Palestinians. It was in the field that I met him, near the Lebanese border, in a place called Koah Junction, which means ?junction of the force? and is for the kabbalists one of the places where, when the day comes, the Messiah will become manifest and pass through. His name is Ephraim Sneh. In his youth he was a medical officer with the paratroopers, the commander of an elite army unit and then commander of the Southern Lebanon Military Zone from 1981 until 1983. And he has the air of a calm father, at once friendly and gruff, that reserve generals often have in Israel when they come back to the service ? which in the present circumstances takes the form of a kind of inspection mission for the defense committee of the Knesset. Why this meeting? Why here, in this landscape of dry stone, brought to a white heat by the sun, to which he has invited me but where I can?t see a living soul aside from ourselves? Does he want to show me something? Explain to me some detail of army strategy that would be visible to me only here? Will he take me to Avivim, less than a mile north of here, where a battle is taking place? Does he want to talk to me about politics? Will he, like Peretz, like Livni, like almost everyone in fact, tell me about Israel?s disappointment with France, which could have played a great role in the region by pushing for the refoundation of the Land of the Cedars and for the disarmament of Hezbollah, as demanded by United Nations Resolution 1559, but which prefers, alas, to confine itself to opening up humanitarian corridors?
Yes, he does tell me that. A little of it. In passing. But I quickly see that he had me come here to talk, first of all, about a matter that is not related, at least apparently, to the present war: nothing other than my book about the kidnapping, captivity and decapitation of Daniel Pearl.. . .A conversation about Danny Pearl at a stone?s throw from a battlefield.. . .An officer with a literary bent deciding that, with our two cars immobilized in the blazing scree, nothing is more urgent than discussing jihad, enlightenment Islam, the trouble with Huntington?s theory of the clash of civilizations, Karachi and its terrorist mosques.. . .I had never seen anything like this before ? for it to be conceivable, it took this expedition to the front lines of a war in which Israel and the world are entangled as never before.
At the same time.. . .It would seem that history has, sometimes, less imagination than we would like, and that old generals don?t have such bad reflexes after all. For the fact is that a few miles to the south, in the commune of Mitzpe Hila, near Maalot, I will not long after experience a deeply moving reminder of the Pearl affair. I visit the home of the parents of the soldier Gilad Shalit, whose capture by Hamas near the town of Kerem Shalom, along the border with Gaza, on June 25, was one of the things that brought about this war. I wonder about the irony of history, which has placed this young man, without any special distinctions, just an ordinary individual, at the origin of this enormous affair. We are sitting now in the sun on the lawn where Shalit played as a child and where you can hear, very close, a few hundred yards away maybe, Katyusha rockets falling, to which his parents seem to have stopped paying attention. We are sitting outside around a garden table, discussing the latest news brought by the U.N. envoy who visited the Shalits just before me, and I find myself thinking that if this war has to last ? if the Iranian factor will, as I have sensed since the instant I arrived, give it new scope and duration ? then this modest army corporal will be the new Franz Ferdinand of a Sarajevo that will bear the name Kerem Shalom.. . .
What is happening, then? Is it his mother Aviva?s expression when I ask her about what she knows of her son?s captivity? Or his father Noam?s look when he tries to explain to me, a faint gleam of hope in his eyes, that the young man has a French grandmother, Jacqueline, who was born in Marseille, and that he hopes my government ? that of France ?will link its efforts with Israel?s? Is it the debate, which I can guess is raging inside Noam, between the father who is prepared for any kind of bargaining to get his son back and the former army soldier who, out of principle, will not give in to blackmail by terrorists? Is it my visit to the corporal?s childhood bedroom? Is it the house itself, so similar, all of a sudden, to Danny Pearl?s house, in Encino, Calif.? Whatever the reason, I am overcome by a feeling of d?j? vu; over the faces of this man and this woman it seems to me as if the faces of Ruth and Judea Pearl, my friends, have been superimposed, the courageous mother and father of another young man, like this one, kidnapped by religious fanatics whose ideological program wasn?t very different, either, from that of Hamas.. .
Published: August 6, 2006
(Page 3 of 3)
Up north again, near the Lebanese border, I travel from Avivim to Manara, where the Israelis have set up, in a crater 200 yards in diameter, an artillery field where two enormous batteries mounted on caterpillar treads bombard the command post and rocket launchers and arsenals in Marun al-Ras on the other side of the border. Three things here strike me. First, the extreme youth of the artillerymen: they are 20 years old, maybe 18. I notice their stunned look at each discharge, as if every time were the first time; their childlike teasing when their comrade hasn?t had time to block his ears and the detonation deafens him; and then at the same time their serious, earnest side, the sobriety of people who know they?re participating in an immense drama that surpasses them ? and know, too, they may soon pay a steep price in blood and life. Second, I note the relaxed ? I was about to say unrestrained and even carefree ? aspect of the little troop. It reminds me of reading about the joyful scramble of those battalions of young republicans in Spain described, once again, by Malraux: an army that is more friendly than it is martial; more democratic than self-assured and dominating; an army that, here, in any case, in Manara, seems to me the exact opposite of those battalions of brutes or unprincipled pitiless terminators that are so often described in media portraits of Israel. And then, finally, I note a strange vehicle. It resembles the two self-propelled cannons, but it is stationed far behind them and doesn?t shoot: this is a mobile command post that you enter, as in a submarine, through a central turret and down a ladder; there are six men in it, seven on some days, and they are busy working with a battery of computers, radar screens and other transmission devices. Their role is to determine the parameters of the firing by collecting information that will be transmitted to the artillerymen. Here, at the root of Israeli firepower, is a veritable laboratory of war where soldier-scholars deploy their intelligence, noses glued to the screens, trying to integrate even the most imponderable facts about the terrain into their calculations. Their goal is to establish the distance to the target and how fast the target moves, as well as to consider the proximity of the civilians, whom they want to avoid at all cost.
Does it work? And are these soldier-scholars infallible? Of course not! There is no way, everybody knows, to wage a clean war. And the fact that Hezbollah long ago made the strategic choice to establish its fighters in the most populated areas and thus to transform Lebanese civilians into human shields obviously doesn?t help matters. The fact remains that at least an effort is being made to avoid civilian targets. Here at least, in Manara, that is the Israeli approach. And, as distressed as we may be by the suffering of the Lebanese civilian population, the terrible deaths of hundreds, you cannot conclude that the Israelis have the strategic intention or the will to harm civilians.
hen I met David Grossman, it was in an open-air restaurant in the Arab village of Abu Gosh, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which seems like a garden of Eden after the hell of the last few days ? bright sunshine, the buzz of insects rather than airplanes or tanks, a casualness in the air, a light breeze.. . .We talk about his latest book, which is a retelling of the myth of Samson. We talk about his son, who was just called up for duty in a tank unit, and about whom he trembles with anxiety. We talk about a statistic he has just read, which worries him: almost a third of young Israelis have lost faith in Zionism and have found tricks to try to get themselves exempted from military service.
And then of course we discuss the war and the huge distress it seems to have plunged him into, along with other progressive intellectuals in the country.. . .For on one hand, he explains to me, there is the terrible extent of the destruction, women and children killed, the humanitarian catastrophe under way, the risk of civil war and of Lebanon burning ? and the government?s mistake of, at first, setting the bar so high (destroy Hezbollah, render its infrastructure and its army incapable of doing any more harm) that even a semi-victory, when it comes, risks having a whiff of defeat. But, on the other hand, there is Israel?s right, like any other state in the world, not to sit by in the face of such crazy, groundless, gratuitous aggression; there is the fact, he adds, that Lebanon plays host to Hezbollah and permits it to participate in its government: where could an Israeli counterattack have taken place but on Lebanese soil?. . .I observe David Grossman. I examine his handsome face, the face of the former enfant terrible of Israeli literature, who has aged too quickly and is devoured by melancholy. He is not just one of the greatest Israeli novelists today. He is also, along with Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and a few others, one of the country?s moral consciences. And I think that his testimony, his firmness, his way of not yielding, despite everything, on the essential soundness of Israel?s cause, ought to convince even the most hesitant.
And then, finally, Shimon Peres. More than ever I did not want to end this journey without going, as I do each time, to visit Peres ? the country?s elder statesman. I met him in the company of Daniel Saada, an old friend and founding member of the French progressive organization SOS Racisme, who has now settled in Israel and become a diplomat as well as a friend of Peres. Shimon, as everyone here calls him, is now 82 years old. But he hasn?t lost any of his handsomeness. Or the look of a prince-priest of Zionism. He still has the same face, all forehead and mouth, that emphasizes the melodious authority of his voice. And I even have the impression, at times, that he has adopted a few of the mannerisms of his old rival Yitzhak Rabin: a slight bitterness in his smile, a gleam in his eyes, a way of carrying himself and, sometimes, of shading his words.. . .
?The whole problem,? he begins, ?is the failure of what one of your great writers called the strategy of the general staff. No one, today, controls anyone else. No one has the power to stop or overpower anyone else. So that we, Israel, have never had so many friends, but never in our history have they been so useless. Except.. . .?
He asks his daughter, who is present as we talk, to go to the neighboring office and find two letters, one from Mahmoud Abbas and one from Bill Clinton. ?Yes, except for the fact that you have them,? he then continues. ?The men of good will. My friends. The friends of enlightenment and peace. The ones who will never renounce peace because of terrorism, or nihilism, or defeatism. We have a plan, you know.Still the same plan for prosperity, for shared development, which will end up triumphing.Listen.. . .?
Shimon, a young man who is 82 years old, has had a dream. His invincible dream has lasted, in fact, for 30 years; the present impasse, far from discouraging him, seems mysteriously to stimulate him. So I listen to him. I listen to this Wise Man of Israel explain to me that his country must simultaneously ?win this war,? foil this ?quartet of evil? made up by Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah and clear the way for ?paths of speech and dialogue? that will, one day, lead the Middle East somewhere. And as I listen to him, and let myself be lulled by his oft-repeated, indefinite prophecies, I find that, today, for some reason, those prophecies have a new coefficient of obviousness and force. I, too, catch myself imagining the glory of a Jewish state that would dare, at the same time, almost in the same gesture and with the same movement, to deliver two things at once: to some, alas, war; to others, a real declaration of peace that would be recognized as such and accepted.
Bernard-Henri L?vy, a French philosopher and writer, is the author, most recently, of ?American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Tocqueville.? This article was translated by Charlotte Mandell from the French.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: August 05, 2006, 08:11:10 PM
By VIRGINIA WHEELER
and TOM NEWTON-DUNN,
A BRITISH sniper waging war on the Taliban is so deadly he has earned a chilling nickname ? The Man Who Never Misses.
The unerring Army sharpshooter has killed 39 rebel fighters single-handedly.
His marksmanship is so lethal that rumours have spread like wildfire through insurgents? camps, causing panic and confusion.
The sniper ? who The Sun is not naming to prevent him becoming a target himself ? is a member of elite 3 Para.
Described by sources as ?the best shot in the Army? he is responsible for over five per cent of the 700 insurgents killed by Paras since British forces returned to Afghanistan.
He is based in the wild Helmand province, where our troops launched a massive assault on the Taliban this week.
A source said yesterday: ?This sniper is truly something else ? a silent assassin.
?In the deadly terrain of southern Afghanistan, where guerilla warfare rules, he has been invaluable. The rumours are sweeping enemy camps that he is the man who never misses.?
The sniper?s actual toll is probably higher than 39 but the Taliban?s tendency to reclaim bodies makes deaths difficult to confirm.
His lethal L96A1 rifle has a range of 1,000 yards and is fitted with electronic sights and laser range-finders.
He works with a partner called a spotter, who locates the target and helps judge wind speed and distance so the bullet travels accurately.
Each day the pair risk their lives away from fellow Paras, taking up covert positions and often lying hidden for as long as ten hours at a time. Once the shot has been fired they need nerves of steel to stay concealed while Taliban rebels wielding rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns desperately try to hunt them down.
The Ministry of Defence would not discuss the crackshot for security reasons.
But he is regarded as one of the most successful British snipers since World War Two.
Earlier this year it was revealed that the Army is creating an elite force of almost 700 snipers, with all 38 infantry battalions required to have an 18-man platoon of sharpshooters by 2008. It will be the first time formal sniper platoons will have existed since the end of the First World War in 1918.
The decision follows the success of British and US sniper teams who have killed dozens of terrorists on recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In 2003 Royal Marines sniper Corporal Matt Hughes killed an Iraqi gunman from 900 yards with a ?wonder shot? in which he aimed 56ft to the left and 35ft high to allow for wind.
The bullet?s trajectory was calculated by his spotter after he studied the movement of dust in the breeze. And Irish Guards Sergeant Eddie Waring lay on a roof for hours to take out three Iraqis who were laying mines in Basra.
FOUR Canadian NATO soldiers were killed and ten wounded in separate attacks in Afghanistan yesterday.
Three died when rocket-propelled grenades were fired on troops working with local forces to improve security near the city of Kandahar. The other was killed by a roadside bomb. At least 34 civilians were killed or wounded in the day of violence.http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2006350757,00.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: August 05, 2006, 08:34:20 AM
A War Crime at Qana?
By ORDE F. KITTRIE
August 5, 2006; Page A11
The Qana tragedy has intensified accusations that Israel's actions in Lebanon violate international law. Every death of an innocent person is extremely regrettable; but there is no evidence Israel has committed any war crimes. In contrast, Hezbollah, Iran and Syria have clearly violated international law in this conflict. Moreover, Israel's conduct compares favorably to how its most powerful accusers have behaved when their own interests have been threatened.
International law has three major prohibitions relevant to the Qana incident. One forbids deliberate attacks on civilians. Another prohibits hiding forces in civilian areas, thereby turning civilians into "human shields." A third prohibition, the proportionality restriction that Israel is accused of violating, involves a complicated and controversial balancing test.
Geneva Convention Protocol I contains one version of the proportionality test, the International Criminal Court Statute another; neither is universally accepted. As a result, the proportionality test is governed by "customary international law," an amalgam of non-universal treaty law, court decisions, and how influential nations actually behave. It does not hinge on the relative number of casualties, or the force used, however, but on the intent of the combatant. Under customary international law, proportionality prohibits attacks expected to cause incidental death or injury to civilians if this harm would, on balance, be excessive in relation to the overall legitimate military accomplishment anticipated.
At Qana, Israeli aircraft fired toward a building to stop Hezbollah from shooting rockets at its cities. The aircraft did not deliberately target civilians; but Hezbollah rockets are targeted at civilians, a clear war crime. U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland last week called on Hezbollah to stop its "cowardly blending" among women and children: "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this." If Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians in Qana as "human shields," then Hezbollah, not Israel, is legally responsible for their deaths.
If Israel was mistaken and Hezbollah was not firing from or hiding amongst these civilians, the legality of its action is assessed by the proportionality test. Because the test is vague, there have been few, if any, cases since World War II in which a soldier, commander or country has been convicted of violating it. In the absence of guidance from the courts, determining whether Israel's military has failed the proportionality test depends on an assessment of what civilian casualties it expected, what its overall military goals are, the context in which the country is operating, and how the international community has in practice balanced civilian risk against military goals.
Israel did not expect civilian casualties; it warned civilians to leave Qana, and Israel's official investigation has concluded its military attacked based on "information that the building was not inhabited by civilians and was being used as a hiding place for terrorists." The law of war recognizes that mistakes are inevitable, and does not criminalize soldiers who seek in good faith seek to avoid them.
Israel's overall military goal is to survive attacks by enemies determined to annihilate it. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has stated: "Israel . . . is an aggressive, illegal and illegitimate entity, which has no future. . . . Its destiny is manifested in our motto: 'Death to Israel.'" Thus Israel is attempting to prevent Hezbollah from using its 10,000 remaining rockets, and to implement the requirement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 that Hezbollah be disarmed.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Iran -- which provides this terrorist group with arms, direction and over $100 million a year -- are in continual violation of international law. Their calls for Israel's destruction violate the international genocide treaty's prohibition of "direct and public incitement to commit genocide." Iran's effort to develop a nuclear arsenal that could obliterate Israel, or deter its responses to future Hezbollah attacks, violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iranian (and Syrian) support for Hezbollah violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, requiring states to "refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts." Hezbollah began the armed conflict with rocket attacks on Israeli towns and the abduction of Israeli soldiers: unprovoked acts of war violating an internationally recognized border.
Israel is acting in self-defense and avoided killing civilians, even giving advance notice by phone to the occupants of homes targeted for attack as Hezbollah hideouts. While Hezbollah deliberately maximizes harm to Israeli and Lebanese civilians, Israel puts its soldiers at risk to minimize Lebanese civilian casualties.
The track record of many of Israel's most powerful accusers -- including China, Russia and the European Union -- is not nearly as good at balancing civilian risk against military goals.
China killed hundreds of peaceful Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989. It has for five decades occupied Tibet, slaughtering tens of thousands; and it vows to invade Taiwan if it declares independence. Neither the Tiananmen protesters nor Tibet nor Taiwan has ever threatened to "wipe China off the map."
Russia has fought since 1994 to suppress Chechnya's independence movement. Out of a Chechen population of one million, as many as 200,000 have been killed as Russia has leveled the capital city of Grozny. Chechen rebels pose no threat to "wipe Russia off the map." All of the leading EU countries actively participated in NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. The military goal was to stop Yugoslavia from oppressing its Kosovar minority. NATO bombs and missiles hit Yugoslav bridges, power plants and a television station, killing hundreds of civilians. Yugoslavia posed no threat to the existence of any of the EU countries that bombed it.
Compared with how China, Russia, and the EU have dealt with non-existential threats -- and despite the law-flouting behavior of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria -- Israel's responses to the threats to its existence have been remarkably restrained rather than disproportionately violent.
Mr. Kittrie is professor of international law at Arizona State University and served in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. State Department from 1993 to 2003
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: August 05, 2006, 12:31:00 AM
A week ago, Israeli foot patrols in Lebanon were spotted using llamas, an especially quiet beast of burden that can go several days without eating while carrying about as much weight as one Israeli soldier can carry. This, combined with an airstrike on a power station supplying an area of the southern Bekaa Valley, signals Israel is about to make a significant move.
At first glance, it appears like an odd role-reversal when Israeli reconnaissance units are leading pack animals into battle while Hezbollah fighters are wielding modern anti-tank weapons. But as U.S. special operations forces calling in airstrikes from horseback in Afghanistan showed, mountain and fourth-generation warfare present new challenges that must be met on the ground.
Sustained special operations deep inside enemy territory have always meant heavy loads of food and ammunition, now compounded by the need to haul modern communications and surveillance equipment. While raids based on intelligence can be inserted by helicopter, move to the target and pull out, pack animals indicate invaders plan an extended stay. This is generally indicative of long-range patrols and reconnaissance units setting up observation posts deep inside enemy territory. Even in the era of surveillance satellites, some of the best intelligence still comes from human observation. Israeli patrols fitting this description were spotted returning from Lebanon a week ago. We suspect many more are now well-positioned to observe much of the southern Bekaa Valley.
Elsewhere, on Aug. 4, the Israeli air force (IAF) knocked out a power station supplying the Kiraoun area at the southern end of the Bekaa. Every power plant in Lebanon has been available as a potential target for the IAF for more than three weeks now, yet Israel did not strike the Kiraoun station until now. In air campaigns, attacks on power infrastructure often signal impending ground assaults, since such attacks wreak havoc on command-and-control infrastructure -- but usually only temporarily, as those experiencing such attacks bring generators on line and make other adaptations. Thus, attacks on power-generating infrastructure are an excellent way to knock the enemy off-balance immediately before a major escalation.
Such a strike also forces generators into use. In order to run the most rudimentary command-and-control infrastructure (PCs, radios, satellite phones, etc.), Hezbollah will require power. No matter how briefly those generators are turned on, they create a detectable electromagnetic signature and thermal exhaust plume. And Hezbollah posts in the area now will be forced to burn through limited fuel supplies that cannot easily be replaced.
Of course, long-range patrols and an airstrike on a power station could mean many things. But we view these developments in the context of a massive IDF force waiting in northern Israel around Qiryat Shemona and Metulla, U.S. President George W. Bush's August vacation, an unprecedented raid and the importance of the Bekaa Valley itself. Israel is up to something significant in the Bekaa.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Cuba
on: August 04, 2006, 10:12:58 PM
Cuba: Where's Raul?
Five days have passed since Cuban leader Fidel Castro handed power to his younger brother Raul. But Raul is nowhere to be seen, and rumors are flying about the fate of the Communist regime. Raul's mysterious absence could simply be a trial period to flush out dissidents and smooth out the succession.
Revolutionary Cuban leader Fidel Castro shook the world when he announced July 30 that his younger brother, Raul Castro, who also is head of the Cuban armed forces, would run the island nation while Fidel underwent major surgery for intestinal bleeding. "Raul is firmly at the helm of the nation and the armed forces," Granma, the Communist Party newspaper in Cuba, reported Aug. 4; yet the 75-year-old brother has yet to give a public address to the nation.
The absence of the brothers has led to speculation that a military coup could be under way in Havana. While Raul, the muscle behind the Castro regime, has done an exemplary job of purging it of potential threats, there exist a number of dissidents who have been anxiously waiting for the Cuban dictator to pass away so they can obtain control of the country at long last. The Cuban military has mobilized, and communications between the island and the outside world have been shut down. Though the eerie silence in Cuba has led many observers to believe the Castro regime has been overthrown, the strong backing Raul receives from the Cuban army contradicts this theory.
This would not be the first time in history that an ailing leader has been propped up for an extensive period of time while a political transition takes place. Fidel is already dead or likely close to death -- gastrointestinal bleeding is no joke, especially for a nearly 80-year-old man whose diet for most of his life has consisted of Cohiba cigars and fine rum. While "El Comandante" approaches death, Raul's disappearance may be meant to create the illusion of a leadership vacuum as the Cuban regime waits to see if anyone moves to fill it. Only a limited number in the Cuban hierarchy are privy to the plans for succession, and when those in charge detect who is and isn't loyal to the post-Fidel regime, a major crackdown will ensue. The Cubans are particularly implacable against those who they suspect are traitors -- witness the 1989 trial and execution of legendary Cuban Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez. When the coast is clear, Raul may very well come out and address the nation to announce the death of his brother and take up the leadership mantle.
The United States, meanwhile, will quietly wish for a peaceful transition under Raul's command. The last thing Washington needs is for chaos to erupt in Cuba and spread to Miami during election season. A concern running through many minds in Washington is whether or not the U.S. government will be able to handle the repercussions of Cuban exiles making a run for Guantanamo Bay, where a number of al Qaeda detainees are locked up.
Raul may be camera shy, but pressure is building for him to make an appearance. Meanwhile, we will be keeping an eye on Fidel's revolutionary buddy, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who would be exhibiting unusual behavior if the Castro regime were truly dealing with an internal rebellion. So far, Chavez has been giving off an air of tranquility, which raises the question: When will Raul finish his dirty work and come out of hiding?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: August 04, 2006, 02:47:43 PM
Regarding my previous post:
My apologies for the preceding which turns out to have been internet flotsam containing inaccuracies (Not from the source attributed and freezing water in plastic is NOT a problem).
These sources are far more precise:http://www.bms.jhmi.edu/JHI/English/Media/Find_an_Expert/FE_RolfHaldenJuly05.asphttp://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/cookplastic.asp
Speaking for myself, I will continue to avoid nuking with plastic.
Concerning drink temperature, I first ran across this idea during my extensive travels in the interior of Mexico on my motorcycle back in the 1970s. When out in the country, upon entering a local type restaurant (where many people worked in the fields during the day and where air conditioning was unheard of) and asking for something to drink the responding query would be "Cold or room temperature?" This applied to mineral water, beer (Mexican beer can be quite good btw) and soda. So when I ran across the same thing in the essay on Manong LaCoste in Guro Inosanto's book "The Filipino Martial Arts" I found it particularly interesting. Since then I always seek my water at room temperature or at the very least without ice.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants
on: August 04, 2006, 09:56:14 AM
TOO NICE TO WIN?
By JOHN PODHORETZ
July 25, 2006 -- WHAT if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point
where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a
level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed
pursuit of their own national interests?
What if the universalist idea of liberal democracy - the idea that all
people are created equal - has sunk in so deeply that we no longer assign
special value to the lives and interests of our own people as opposed to
those in other countries?
What if this triumph of universalism is demonstrated by the Left's
insistence that American and Israeli military actions marked by an
extraordinary concern for preventing civilian casualties are in fact
unacceptably brutal? And is also apparent in the Right's claim that a war
against a country has nothing to do with the people but only with that
Can any war be won when this is the nature of the discussion in the
countries fighting the war? Can any war be won when one of the combatants
voluntarily limits itself in this manner?
Could World War II have been won by Britain and the United States if the two
countries did not have it in them to firebomb Dresden and nuke Hiroshima and
Didn't the willingness of their leaders to inflict mass casualties on
civilians indicate a cold-eyed singleness of purpose that helped break the
will and the back of their enemies? Didn't that singleness of purpose extend
down to the populations in those countries in those days, who would have and
did support almost any action at any time that would lead to the deaths of
Germans and Japanese?
What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough
Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us
they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between
the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause
of the sectarian violence now?
If you can't imagine George W. Bush issuing such an order, is there any
American leader you could imagine doing so?
And if America can't do it, can Israel? Could Israel - even hardy, strong,
universally conscripted Israel - possibly stomach the bloodshed that would
accompany the total destruction of Hezbollah?
If Lebanon's 300-plus civilian casualties are already rocking the world,
what if it would take 10,000 civilian casualties to finish off Hezbollah?
Could Israel inflict that kind of damage on Lebanon - not because of world
opinion, but because of its own modern sensibilities and its understanding
of the value of every human life?
Where do these questions lead us?
What if Israel's caution about casualties among its own soldiers and
Lebanese civilians has demonstrated to Hezbollah and Hamas that as long as
they can duck and cover when the missiles fly and the bombs fall, they can
survive and possibly even thrive?
What if Israel has every capability of achieving its aim, but cannot unleash
itself against a foe more dangerous, more unscrupulous, more unprincipled
and more barbaric than even the monstrous leaders of the Intifada it managed
to quell after years of suicide attacks?
And as for the United States, what if we have every tool at our disposal to
win a war - every weapons system we could want manned by the most superbly
trained military in history - except the ability to match or exceed our
antagonists in ruthlessness?
Is this the horrifying paradox of 21st century warfare? If Israel and the
United States cannot be defeated militarily in any conventional sense, have
our foes discovered a new way to win? Are they seeking victory through
demoralization alone - by daring us to match them in barbarity and knowing
we will fail?
Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can
it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus
on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our
civilization as well?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: August 04, 2006, 09:10:22 AM
Just surfed through the back pages of the forum and was unable to find a health thread, so I start this one here.
The Adventure continues,
Cancer News From Johns Hopkins
Cancer update -- Johns Hopkins -- Cancer News from Johns
1. No plastic containers in micro.
2. No water bottles in freezer.
3. No plastic wrap in microwave.
Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters.
This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center as well. Dioxin chemicals causes cancer, especially breast cancer.
Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don't
freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins
from the plastic.
Recently, Dr.. Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager
at Castle Hospital, was on a TV program to explain this health hazard.
He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us.
He said that we should not be heating our food in the
microwave using plastic containers. This especially applies to foods that
contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics
releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of thebody.
Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware,
Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, only
without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups,
etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else.
Paper isn't bad but you don't know what is in the paper. He reminded us that
a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away
from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.
Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is justas dangerous when placed over! foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Humor
on: August 04, 2006, 08:12:32 AM
I have a Labrador retriever.
I was buying a large bag of Purina at Wal-Mart and was in line to check out.
A woman behind me asked if I had a dog?
On impulse, I told her that no, and that I was starting The Purina Diet again.
Although I probably shouldn't because I'd ended up in the hospital last time,
but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward
with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.
I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet
and that the way that it works is to load your pants pockets with Purina nuggets
and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry
and that the food is nutritionally complete so I was going to try it again.
I have to mention here that practically everyone in the line was by now enthralled with my story,
particularly a tall guy who was behind her.
Horrified, she asked if ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me.
I told her no; I'd been sitting in the street licking my balls and a car hit me.
I thought the guy behind her was going to have to have help as he laughingly staggered to the door.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libertarian themes
on: August 03, 2006, 07:49:27 PM
It was demonstrated today at the BlackHat conference.
Grunwald says it took him only two weeks to figure out how to clone the passport chip. Most of that time he spent reading the standards for e-passports that are posted on a website for the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body that developed the standard. He tested the attack on a new European Union German passport, but the method would work on any country's e-passport, since all of them will be adhering to the same ICAO standard.
In a demonstration for Wired News, Grunwald placed his passport on top of an official passport-inspection RFID reader used for border control. He obtained the reader by ordering it from the maker -- Walluf, Germany-based ACG Identification Technologies -- but says someone could easily make their own for about $200 just by adding an antenna to a standard RFID reader.
He then launched a program that border patrol stations use to read the passports -- called Golden Reader Tool and made by secunet Security Networks -- and within four seconds, the data from the passport chip appeared on screen in the Golden Reader template.
Grunwald then prepared a sample blank passport page embedded with an RFID tag by placing it on the reader -- which can also act as a writer -- and burning in the ICAO layout, so that the basic structure of the chip matched that of an official passport.
As the final step, he used a program that he and a partner designed two years ago, called RFDump, to program the new chip with the copied information.
The result was a blank document that looks, to electronic passport readers, like the original passport.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: August 03, 2006, 05:21:52 PM
Global Market Brief: Ripple Effects of Mexico's Contested Election
August 03, 2006 20 51 GMT
Supporters of Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is still contesting his failed bid in the July 2 Mexican presidential elections, surrounded the Mexican stock exchange in Mexico City for several hours Aug. 3, blocking workers from entering but having little effect on actual trading on the floor. The demonstrators, many of whom have been camped out along Zocalo Square and Reforma Boulevard during the week, have threatened to return again Aug. 4, and continue demonstrating and disrupting traffic in Mexico City until there is a total recount of the extremely close election.
As we noted in our June 29 Global Market Brief, the Mexican elections would have left congress divided no matter who won, which would then lead to difficulties in passing economic policies. The electoral margin between victor Felipe Calderon of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) and second-place finisher Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) was razor thin -- just 0.56 percent, or 244,000 votes. Lopez Obrador has strongly contested the election, declaring himself the victim of massive fraud, and has vowed to stir public protests until there is a total recount or he is declared president.
Lopez Obrador's supporters have thus far remained relatively peaceful in their actions, though they are causing traffic disruptions in the capital. The second-place finisher has other options available, however, if he cannot achieve his goals through sit-ins in Mexico City. Two short-term risks are foremost. First, Lopez Obrador has created "citizens' committees" within his support base. This allows for more localized and self-directed action by his supporters, which would give the movement opportunities to expand and alter its characteristics throughout Mexico (or at least in those areas where Lopez Obrador has the most support). But the devolution of authority to the local committees also creates a situation where local groups, independently or with tacit central support, shift from the current non-violent actions to a more aggressive approach. The buffer of the citizen committee structure then insulates Lopez Obrador from direct responsibility should violence break out.
The second possibility is that Lopez Obrador takes his protests to a more economically significant target -- Mexico's oil fields. In 1994, after losing in gubernatorial elections in Tabasco state to Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Roberto Madrazo (who coincidentally ran against Lopez Obrador and Calderon in the July presidential election), Lopez Obrador claimed fraud and launched a civil resistance movement in protest. He led caravans to Mexico City to protest, but more significantly he led supporters to block access to several oil rigs and other Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) facilities in Tabasco. The blockades lasted several months before Lopez Obrador finally relented.
Oil exports and related taxes account for some 40 percent of federal revenues in Mexico, and should Lopez Obrador shift tack and repeat his earlier course of action, there could be a more substantive impact on Mexico than traffic jams in Mexico City.
Such action would also resonate beyond Mexico. Even if the blockage of a few Mexican oil rigs would not substantively affect Mexico's overall oil output, it would certainly add to the psychological pressures on international oil prices. Oil is currently better than $75 a barrel, and while not at record highs, nor yet seriously affecting the U.S. economy, a crisis in the oil fields of the fifth-largest oil producer and ninth-largest exporter would add another premium on an already premium-heavy oil market.
But Mexico also faces a longer-term problem with its oil industry, one that was part of the election battle. Amid debates over Mexico's future economic policies, one of the trickiest is the question of energy. While Lopez Obrador's PRD remains strongly opposed to any change in the national nature of the oil industry, both PAN and PRI have presented options to open the oil sector slowly to private investments, potentially even foreign investment. Calderon has offered specific proposals to allow mixed partnerships in offshore oil and gas exploration and other ventures, for example.
Mexico's oil infrastructure, while not nearly as run down as Venezuela's, is in need of vitalization. While the Mexican economy has diversified during the past two decades, the government remains highly dependent upon oil exports for state revenues. As such, little of the money Pemex collects from exports is reinvested into Pemex. This practice weakens the company's ability to explore new oil fields, exploit existing resources or process and refine crude. There is a serious lack of investments, and it is showing in the declining proven reserves. Calderon has proposed opening up the system for complementary private investment while keeping Pemex under state control, but he will have a hard time convincing a divided congress to make the change. The new government's first priority will likely revolve around tax reform, leaving energy reform for later.
And given the divisions in the Mexican congress, the privatization of Mexico's oil industry -- even if on a limited scale -- will be a very contentious and difficult issue. With the PRD making a strong showing in the congressional elections, and PAN and PRI traditional competitors, Calderon is unlikely to try for a quick change in regulations surrounding private investment in Mexico's oil industry. And this delay will only continue the slow erosion of Mexico's position among oil producers.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Die Less Often: Interface of Gun, Knife and Emtpy Hand
on: August 03, 2006, 08:41:17 AM
Masters and cover now at the Duplication House so we will begin shipping very soon.
In the meantime, here this fromhttp://www.westcoastcombatives.com/
INTERFACE OF GUN/KNIFE/EMPTY HAND AKA Die Less Often Promo
Consistency Across Categories is a DogBrothers theme, and this new video from the duo of Marc Denny & Gabe Suarez is an excellent example of the hybrid approach current bleeding edge combatives instructors are taking with respect to personal threat management.
Here's the trailer, and yours truly can be seen in several of the mock skirmishes!
Idea: The ingrained initial threat response should be identical regardless of how the opponent(s) is armed. Furthermore, it should remain identical whether or not the responder is armed or not. ie. Neutralize the threat, create an opportunity, THEN escalate your response with a weapon.
I came to fully appreciate this as I tried an experiment: the threat was 6-7 feet away. He had blades. I moved to the side giving me an extra three feet. All seemed well as I reached for my trainer gun. Man w. blade was now 4 feet away. I was wearing workout pants. The gun slipped down my pants. The blade was now in my face, I was falling backwards no gun, no knife, no defense, No Hope. The next time around, I dealt with the threat rather than attempting to escalate force via weapon, and I fared much better. Tueller's law strikes again. If you are a LEO or function in some form of high risk physical security threat model, I HIGHLY recommend doing significant amounts ECQ hand to hand training.
One interesting point of note, the video mentions the most critical component of the seminar: dog-catcher concept/technique. However you will not see it within the promo-video. They have keep you in suspense (and get you to buy the video somehow).
The two days of training captured in this video were quite interesting, and a worthwhile experience. This techniques are especially useful IF you need a crash course in ECQ combat.
From my personal experience, there are NO arts and crafts in this seminar, just purely operational threat management techniques. From my viewing of the promo, I believe it is safe to say that the video captured the spirit of the class: Train Hard, Train Smart, and Die less Often.
posted by /dn at 7/02/2006 02:08:01 AM 0 comments
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: August 03, 2006, 12:48:04 AM
nation / world news | middle east crisis
Israelis' goal isn't clear, says strategy expert
Ex-Pentagon official says Jewish state now "has only one ally, and that's the United States"
By Bob Deans
Cox News Service
Washington - Former Pentagon official Anthony Cordesman, who also has held NATO and State Department security posts, is an expert on military strategy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. He discussed the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict Tuesday.
Q. It seems Israel's goal is to essentially cleanse southern Lebanon of Hezbollah. How do you do that militarily?
Cordesman: It isn't clear that's the goal at all. So far this is a very limited set of military actions. But without being able to target virtually every element of the Hezbollah, all you can do is use the best intelligence you have, try to find clusters of fighters, hope they don't disperse, or hide or bury or move their weapons, and do the best you can.
Q. How much do you think Hezbollah has been weakened in southern Lebanon by these attacks?
Cordesman: We have absolutely no idea. Hezbollah, obviously, denies it. Israel has made surprisingly moderate claims. If you look at the casualties they've claimed, they'd probably be less than a tenth of Hezbollah's strength. It's almost impossible at times to know how much damage has been done.
Q. What about the price that Israel is paying for this offensive?
Cordesman: There is obviously a human cost. It's an extraordinarily expensive operation. It's often using weapons that cost close to $100,000 to hit weapons that cost $2,000 or $3,000 - and that's if it's successful. It's lost some aircraft. We're talking about very quickly things in excess of $100 million. And that, compared to the cost of maintaining Hezbollah forces or reconstituting them, is a very high price indeed. The political cost is not new to Israel, but certainly most of Europe sees this as excessive and unnecessary. Anger in the Arab world and a good part of the Muslim world as well as much of the rest of the world had been significantly increased. Israel at this point has only one ally, and that's the United States.
Q. Is there any chance that the Israeli incursion would result in new sympathy, new support, new recruits for Hezbollah?
Cordesman: Over time there is a very good chance that it will. Hezbollah had a core strength of anywhere from 300 to 1,200 full-time fighters and 3,000 to 12,000 reservists. It doesn't take many volunteers to make significant differences.
The real problem here is never how many fighters there are, it's how many skilled people actually can carry out ambushes, can use bombs, can conduct specialized raids. This isn't a matter of body counts or boots on the ground. That's largely irrelevant.
Q. What about an international peacekeeping force?
Cordesman: Sending in a peacekeeping force is easy in one sense. But if it actually has to fight, take casualties and kill people, it's going to be perceived as the enemy, not the liberator, and Hezbollah can attack it as well as conduct raids and sabotage and bombings.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: August 01, 2006, 06:31:33 PM
David Bellavia is a former Army Staff Sergeant who served in the First Infantry Division for six years. His leadership recommended David for the Medal of Honor, and he has been nominated for the Distinguished Service Cross. Both awards are still under review. He has received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Conspicuous Service Cross (New York State?s highest combat valor award), and he was recently inducted into the New York State Veteran?s Hall of Fame. His Task Force 2-2 Infantry fought on such battlefields as Al Muqdadiyah, An Najaf, Al Fallujah, Mosul, and Baqubah. He is 30 years old.
NARRATIVE NOMINATING SSG DAVID BELLAVIA FOR THE MEDAL OF HONOR(originally) DURING OPERATION PHANTOM FURY FALLUJAH, IRAQ
On the night of 10 November 2004 Third Platoon, A Company, Task Force 2-2 IN near OBJ Wolf in Fallujah, Iraq, was ordered to attack to destroy six to eight Anti Iraqi Forces (AIF). 1LT Edward Iwan, the A Company Executive Officer, had identified six to eight AIF who had entered a block of twelve buildings. These AIF had engaged A55 and tanks from Team Tank with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Having a 25 mm cannon malfunction, 1LT Edward Iwan cordoned off the area and called Third Platoon to enter and clear all buildings until the AIF were killed or captured.
The first nine buildings yielded many AK47s, Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, rockets, assorted ammunition, and flak vests. When they came to the tenth home, SSG Colin Fitts, 1st Squad Leader, led his squad of soldiers into the house, with four soldiers from SSG Bellavias 2nd Squad. SGT Hugh Hall, 1st Squad, B Team Leader and SGT Warren Misa 1st Squad, A Team Leader, established a quick foothold in the interior of the house. When SGT Misa attempted to clear the second room he encountered heavy enemy fire. Two AIF were under a stairwell, well covered behind a three-foot barrier, engaging SGT Misa and SPC Lance Ohle as they attempted to move into the room. At that point, multiple bursts of automatic and semi-automatic gunfire were exchanged from extremely close quarters. As rounds impacted near the entry point of the house, nine Third Platoon soldiers became fixed inside the house. At that moment, fire erupted from a kitchen ground floor window onto the inner cordon in th e carport of the house. At one point, gun fire was being exchanged inside and outside of the house, as a total of three dismounted squads from Third Platoon were in contact.
SSG Bellavia quickly requested a M240B machine gun and a M249 SAW to suppress the AIF under the stairs in an effort to break contact and consolidate the platoon. Rounds from the insurgent side of the wall began impacting through the poorly made plaster. Multiple soldiers were bleeding from the face from flying debris. Two soldiers had glass and metal shards in their face, one soldier had been grazed on the side of his stomach underneath his vest and at least six others were bleeding from some cut or scrape from the point blank fire they were receiving. As two soldiers answered the request for support, it became apparent that the entrance to the building was extremely dangerous from ricocheting rounds.
Rather than place his soldier at risk, SSG Bellavia moved quickly to come to the aid of the squad. He exchanged weapon systems with a M249 SAW gunner and entered the fatal funnel of the room. The enemy was crouched behind the barrier and continued to fire at the doorway of the house where SSG Bellavia was positioned. With enemy rounds impacting around him, he fired the SAW at a cyclic rate of fire, forcing the enemy to take cover and allowing the squad to break contact and move into the street to consolidate. SSG Bellavias actions undoubtedly saved the lives of that squad.
As the platoon gathered outside to get accountability of personnel, two or more AIF engaged Third Platoon from the roof. Rounds ricocheted off the ground and SSG Fitts moved his squad to an adjacent building to over watch the AIF on the roofs. SSG Bellavia grabbed an M16 rifle and headed back to the outside of the house. SSG Bellavia called for a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to come up and suppress the outside of the building. The high walls of the enemy strong point made it difficult at close proximity to get well-aimed 25mm cannon fire into the actual building. AIF again engaged Third Platoon from windows.
After the BFV suppressed the house, SSG Bellavia decided to move back inside the house to determine the effects of the BFV fire and whether the AIF still occupied the bottom floor of the house. He placed two SAW gunners and SSG Scott Lawson into the courtyard as the inner cordon. Michael Ware, a TIME magazine journalist, entered the house with SSG Bellavia.
SSG Bellavia entered the house and told SSG Lawson to stay outside until he was needed in the second room. The only two people that went into the house at first were Michael Ware and SSG Bellavia. SSG Bellavia heard AIF whispering from the other side of the wall. Mr. Ware was told to run out if anything happened inside the second room. The journalist insisted on going into the second room. SSG Bellavia got in a low crouched fighting position and quickly pie wedged the first room and fired his M16A4. The enemy immediately fired back with a belt fed RPK machine gun. SSG Bellavia quickly turned away from the fire. The AIF had fire superiority and SSG Bellavia didnt have time to get off well-aimed shots.
As SSG Bellavia moved again to get eyes on the room and determine the enemy disposition, he identified one of the AIF loading an RPG launcher. Understanding how devastating this weapon could be to his platoon, he moved quickly to eliminate the threat. SSG Bellavia told Mr. Ware to remain in the first room. As debris and smoke filled the room the insurgent with the RPG was killed first near the stairwell. A second AIF with a PKC machine gun fired as he ran for the kitchen. SSG Bellavia shot and wounded him in the back of the shoulder. He was heard screaming from outside the building. At that point an AIF yelled from upstairs. SSG Bellavia quickly realized how many insurgents were in the house. Despite the odds he continued the assault.
SSG Lawson entered the room with SSG Bellavia. He was armed with only a 9mm pistol. SSG Lawson was across the room firing into the kitchen door, and SSG Bellavia was near the doorway of the master bedroom using the stairs as his cover. The wounded AIF was firing back, this time with an AK47. The insurgent was screaming loudly as he fired. SSG Lawson fired an entire magazine toward the kitchen, when a piece of debris lodged in his right shoulder. Thinking he was shot and with only one 9mm magazine remaining, SSG Bellavia told him to leave to get medical aid and to retrieve a shotgun with buckshot and other soldiers. SSG Lawson and Mr. Ware exited the house.
SSG Bellavia realized that his back was facing a room he had not cleared. In order to secure his position he entered the master bedroom of the house. SSG Bellavia heard movement in the room and fired into the dark corners to clear them by fire. There was a closet directly in front of him with six closed doors, and multiple areas of dead space. At that point an insurgent ran down the stairs and started firing into the room. SSG Bellavia moved behind a protruding corner of the wall to acquire cover. Over the loud noise of small arms fire from across the hall, he could hear screaming from upstairs and to his immediate left. Confused and trying to locate if another insurgent was in the corner of the room, SSG Bellavia began to scan the room with his PEQ-2A. Thinking the noise originated from the closet, SSG Bellavia took a few steps to his left and began to fire into each door from left to right. Before he could finish clearing the closet the wounded AIF from the kitchen ran t oward the bedroom door and began blindly shooting at him from outside. Finding his position of cover behind the elbow of the wall, SSG Bellavia fired back. As the enemy fire came closer, he moved his position into the far opposing corner of the room. The AIF exposed his shoulders as he fired into the bedroom and SSG Bellavia fired wounding and then killing him.
He then noticed a closet door was open and he witnessed tracer fire hit the side of the room. Unsure of where the fire originated, SSG Bellavia looked for a target. Suddenly the insurgent on the stairs began shooting at him again. As the wounded AIF turned and exposed his position in the doorway he was hit and fell near the stairs. He was moaning and slowly moved away from the door, mortally wounded. Simultaneously, a closet door opened and clothing flew everywhere, as an insurgent leapt out and fired wildly all over the room. In his rush out of the closet he tripped on something in the closet and the entire wardrobe fell down resting on the open doors. This actually was a benefit to SSG Bellavia as it provided more cover. When the AIF attempted to cross over the bed, he lost his balance on the mattress and was shot multiple times. The insurgent fell to the ground and with his back to the front door, fired an accurate burst directly into the closet and the wall near SSG Be llavia. SSG Bellavia crouched low to the ground, the insurgent was screaming loudly in broken English. Someone from upstairs was yelling back in Arabic. SSG Bellavia responded in Arabic in an attempt to intimidate the men into surrendering. The insurgent then picked himself up and ran out of the room and up the stairs. SSG Bellavia fired, missing the insurgent and then pursued him as he fled up the stairs. Blood was soaked all over the stairs causing SSG Bellavia to slip, nearly catching a burst of AK fire. The wounded AIF turned and shot an automatic burst from the first landing of the stairs but once again missed SSG Bellavia, who was now well behind cover.
Tracking the blood, SSG Bellavia followed the AIF into a room immediately to the left on the second story. He heard the AIF inside and tossed a fragmentary grenade into the room. The blast sent the screaming AIF onto the second story roof. The AIF began shooting his weapon in all directions, until it was empty of ammunition. Bellavia noticed the AIF was seriously wounded in the right side of his body from the blast of the grenade. The insurgent stumbled back into the room and began to dry fire his weapon. As SSG Bellavia scanned the inside of the room, it was quickly filling with thick smoke from burning foam mattresses ignited from the blast. Two AIF could be heard screaming at each other from a third story of the building. Not wanting the AIF to give away his position, SSG Bellavia quickly grabbed the wounded AIF in a choke hold to keep him quiet. SSG Bellavia met resistance as he attempted to quiet the screaming AIF. Bellavia was bit on the arm and struck in the face wi th the barrel of the wounded insurgents small AK47. A .45 caliber pistol shot off against the wall and SSG Bellavia, whose helmet was loosened when it was jarred by the barrel of the AK, began to thrash the AIF in attempts to pacify him. Exchanging blows in the struggle, SSG Bellavia fearing that the screaming insurgent was issuing instructions to his peers upstairs, opened his IBA vest and attempted to use his front sappy plate to forcibly subdue the insurgent into compliance. Hearing multiple foot steps over his position, Bellavia used his Gerber tactical blade and cut into the left side of the insurgent?s throat. Not wanting to discharge his weapon as to give away his position and in fear of the many propane tanks near the wall, SSG Bellavia bled the insurgent with applied pressure as he was spastically kicked and scratched in the melee. Two other insurgents, only feet away yelled to their comrade in Arabic, simultaneously firing their weapons. SSG Bellavia confirmed the insurgent was dead and exited the room as his eyes and the fresh scratches on his face were stinging from the smoke and heat of the growing fire.
SSG Bellavia moved to secure the two doors to his right. Suddenly an AIF dropped down from the third story roof, onto the second story roof. The AIF dropped his weapon as he fell to his knees. SSG Bellavia moved to the window and as the AIF went to grab his weapon SSG Bellavia shot in his direction multiple times, wounding him in the lower back. The AIF was prone and SSG Bellavia assumed he was dead. He moved to the door leading to the roof and found the insurgent straddling a large water tank at the edge of the roof. He shot the remainder of his ammunition into the insurgent?s legs and went back inside to grab a dead insurgent?s weapon. As he moved inside the house the insurgent fell off the roof and into the garden. Moments later, five members of Third Platoon entered and secured the downstairs of the house and yelled up to SSG Bellavia who was still on the second floor.
SSG Bellavia moved to link up with the rest of his platoon. However, before the search could begin for the fifth or sixth insurgent the platoon was ordered to move out of the area due to a close air support mission called in by an adjacent unit.
SSG Bellavia single handedly saved three squads of his Third Platoon that night, risking his own life by allowing them to break contact and reorganize. He then entered and cleared an insurgent strong point, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding another.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Real Fights
on: August 01, 2006, 05:27:30 PM
In case the article will not remain available for long at the URL cited, I post it here:
Illegal, violent teen fight clubs face police crackdown
Updated 8/1/2006 10:48 AM ET E-mail | Save | Print | Reprints & Permissions | Subscribe to stories like this
Enlarge Handout photo
Two youths engage in a fight in a scene from Agg Townz Fights 2.
PARENTS IN THE DARK
When the protagonist of author Chuck Palahniuk's cult 1996 novel Fight Club is asked by a client at a business meeting how he ended up with a black eye and a cheek swollen with stitches, he gives the all-purpose answer of kids everywhere: "I fell."
That fictional scene explains how many teens involved in real-life fight clubs are able to keep them under the radar ? even when they come home from school or show up in class with cuts, bruises and swollen knuckles.
"We know teenagers are quite good at not telling the truth when it's not in their interest," says Mac Bernd, superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District in Arlington, Texas, which is dealing with an outbreak of fight clubs among its 20,000 high school students at a half-dozen schools.
Kids suffering injuries from organized fighting often claim they got them in an accident, playing football or basketball, or some other way, Bernd says. If that doesn't work, they'll admit they got in a fight over a boy or a girl, without saying it was an organized, staged event. Unless the parents have a good reason to suspect illegal activity, they often give their kids the benefit of the doubt. "They say, 'OK, be careful next time, dear,' " Bernd says.
While some fight club organizers or participants will foolishly brag about their exploits on the Internet (which makes it easier for cops to catch them), they often go to great lengths to hide their activities from local authorities.
When Anchorage police got word in January that a fight club from Dimond High School was planning to meet, dozens of students drove to three different sites to throw cops off the scent. A 10th-grader and an 11th-grader eventually fought at an outdoor motocross track in freezing weather; one suffered a broken nose and concussion.
In Arlington, fight clubs often have met on dead-end streets or cul-de-sacs and in suburban neighborhoods where the organizers know virtually all of the adult residents are working during the day, says James Hawthorne, deputy police chief of Arlington's West District.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
Fight clubs pit teens and pre-teens in illegal, dangerous staged bouts. Here's a checklist for parents to see if your teen is mixed up in a fight club, as a participant or spectator:
Monitor cell phones and cameras: Police and school administrators say parents should check their kids' cell phone and computer histories. Look for photos and video of fights. Some teens will claim their parents are invading their privacy. But police say privacy ends where their safety begins ? especially when parents are paying the bills.
James Hawthorne, Deputy Police Chief of Arlington, Texas, which has witnessed an outbreak of teen fight clubs, challenged parents at one community meeting to view the content of their kids' cell phones, cameras and PDA's. Many were stunned at the violent images and foul language they found, he said.
"It's not just the 'bad' kids," says Hawthorne. "The good kids have it on their cell phones. The good kids show up to watch these fights. The good kids become unwitting victims."
Check for online diary: Many teens and high-school students post their own online diaries on websites such as MySpace.com, Xanga.com and LiveJournal.com. Check what pictures and videos are in their online diaries and blogs and who their online friends are.
Oddly, while many teens are loathe to discuss their personal lives with their parents, they're willing to reveal almost anything in the public world of cyberspace, notes Mac Bernd, superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District. "It's this cyber-community we need to penetrate," he says
Talk to kids about their lives: Ask teens who their friends are, where they hang out, what they do. Show up unannounced. Get to know their friends' parents and compare notes. Ask hard questions and don't settle for flip answers, advises Reverend Dwight McKissic of the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington.
"Hold your kids accountable for their time," he said. "They'll be less likely to engage in (fighting) if they're headed to Yale, rather than jail."
Sources: USA TODAY research, Arlington Police Department.
PROBLEM ACROSS THE NATION
The teen fight club ring targeted by police in Arlington, Texas, is among several cases of organized teen fighting discovered this year by authorities across the nation. Among the others:
Tacoma, Wash. ? In July, a 17-year-old student from Emerald Ridge High School pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a weapon and attempted assault stemming from a videotaped beating of a fellow student, says Detective Ed Troyer of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. The teen posted a video of the incident to MySpace.com, which led to his arrest. Staring into the camera, he racked a round into a pump shotgun and asked: "Any of you all want to play with me?"
The teen was expelled from school and sentenced to 50 days incarceration in a juvenile facility (which he's currently serving), 50 hours of community service and one year of probation. He also was banned from MySpace and forfeited all his weapons, Troyer says.
His accomplice, who filmed the beating with a night-vision lens, was expelled and faces fourth-degree assault charges. Another 25 students identified from the tape were suspended from school.
Lumberton Township, N.J. ? In February, police detained four middle-school students, age 12 to 15 years old, for alleged disorderly conduct. One student was accused of instigating a fight between two other kids and posting a video of the fight on MySpace.com, police chief Marc Sano says.
Anchorage ? In January, 17 students at Dimond High School were suspended for participating in, or watching, a videotaped fight. The group changed the location of the fight repeatedly to try to elude police.
However, Anchorage police got a copy of the tape and identified the participants. The two fighters, enrolled in the 10th and 11th grades, were suspended from school for nine days. The 15 spectators got three-day suspensions.
The staged fight was the third such incident during the last four years in the Anchorage School District, says executive director Mike Henry, who oversees 16 schools and more than 15,000 high school students.
Students promoted the fights through word-of-mouth, e-mails and text messages, Henry says. One time, they handed out fliers in school, he says.
By Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY
ARLINGTON, Texas ? The video shows two bare-knuckle brawlers brutally punching each other until one slumps, beaten, to the ground. The fight doesn't end there: The victor straddles the chest of his fallen opponent, firing rights and lefts into his face.
This is not a scene from the Brad Pitt movie Fight Club. Instead, it involves real teenagers in an underground video called Agg Townz Fights 2. Their ring: the grassy schoolyard of Seguin High School here. They're engaged in a disturbing extreme sport that has popped up across the nation: teen fight clubs.
ON DEADLINE:Your thoughts?
This year, authorities in Texas, New Jersey, Washington state and Alaska have discovered more than a half-dozen teen fight rings operating for fun ? or profit. These illegal, violent, often bloody bouts pit boys and girls, some as young as 12, in hand-to-hand combat. Some ringleaders capture these staged fights with video or cellphone cameras, set them to rap music, then peddle homemade DVDs on the Internet. Other fight videos are posted on popular teen websites such as MySpace.com and YouTube.com.
Some bouts are more like bare-knuckle boxing matches, with the opponents shaking hands before and after they fight. Others are gang assaults out of ultra-violent films such as A Clockwork Orange, with packs of youths stomping helpless victims who clearly don't want to fight.
"When you watch the video, you're appalled by the savagery, the callousness, the lack of morality," says James Hawthorne, deputy police chief of Arlington's West District, who's leading a crackdown on fight clubs. "This is an indictment of us as a society. It's not a race issue or a class issue. It's a kids issue."
Many fight-club brawlers are suburban high school kids, not gang members or juvenile criminals. Chase Leavitt, son of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, was arrested for participating in a fight club at a Mormon church gym in Salt Lake City in December 2001, when his father was Utah's governor.
The younger Leavitt, then 18, pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and trespassing in September 2002 and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, says Sim Gill, the chief prosecutor of Salt Lake City who handled the case.
According to Gill, Chase Leavitt laced up boxing gloves and punched it out with a 17-year-old opponent at the church, which is in an affluent neighborhood. Organizers handed out fliers advertising the fight. About 100 students from Leavitt's East High School paid admission before cops raided the premises. As the teens fled, they dropped a video camera with footage of several bouts that night.
"This is not something that just happens in poor neighborhoods," Gill says. "This crosses all socioeconomic bounds. It's happening in middle-class and upper-middle-class environments."
Secretary Leavitt and Chase Leavitt declined to comment, referring calls to attorney Loren Weiss. He says Chase Leavitt was "prosecuted for who he was, not what he did."
Fight clubs tap into a dark, nihilistic "part of the American psyche fascinated by the spectacle of blood and violence," says Orin Starn, cultural anthropology professor at Duke University who teaches about sports in American society. "This does seem a phenomenon of the Mortal Kombat, violent video game generation. The fight club offers the chance to bring those fantasies of violence and danger to life ? and maybe have your 15 minutes of fame in an underground video."
Chuck Palahniuk, author of the cult 1996 novel Fight Club that was the basis for the 1999 movie, declined an interview request but said, "God bless these kids. I hope they're having a great time. I don't think they'd be doing it if they weren't having a great time."
Fights in public, in daylight
This middle-class community of 360,000 residents between Dallas and Fort Worth is the home of baseball's Texas Rangers and the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park and the site of the Dallas Cowboys' planned football stadium.
Sitting in his office on a hot Texas afternoon, Hawthorne shakes his head as he watches the two-hour Agg Townz 2 (slang for Arlington) video, featuring teens mostly from Arlington and the neighboring town of Mansfield punching, kicking and stomping each other.
Hawthorne points out that many fights on the tape take place in daylight on pleasant, tree-lined streets with brick homes and well-tended lawns. One fight turns into a mini-riot with dozens of teens rampaging through the parking lot of a McDonald's restaurant. Another running brawl spills into a busy city street, where the fighters slam up against rolling cars.
In almost every fight, there are dozens of teens cheering on the pugilists or snapping pictures. Sometimes their schoolbooks are spread out on the lawns. In one scene, an adult holds the hands of a toddler who watches a fight as if it's another street game. In another, teens watch the tape as entertainment at a party like a music video.
During the most gruesome footage, one falling fighter strikes his head on a sidewalk and is knocked unconscious. While the defenseless teen's arms jerk spasmodically and his eyes stare upward, his opponent continues to belt him in the face. As the injured teen is dragged away, his head leaves a bloody smear on the curb.
Police here learned about fight clubs after Kevin Walker, 16, was jumped and kicked in the head outside his grandmother's house March 11, suffering a brain hemorrhage and other injuries. Arlington police arrested the producer of the Agg Townz series, Arlington resident Michael G. Jackson, 18, and five of his friends, ages 14-19.
Hawthorne says the group would pay teens a few bucks to fight, or attack other youths, then film the violence with video or cellphone cameras. Jackson edited the footage, set it to rap and sold two volumes through his own website for $15-$20 each. The footage of the Walker attack (seized by cops as evidence and never released) was part of a third volume Jackson was working on when he was arrested, Hawthorne says.
On Thursday, Jackson and three other adult defendants were indicted for aggravated assault on Walker and engaging in organized criminal activity, both felonies, says Jennifer Tourje, assistant district attorney for Tarrant County. They face possible penalties of two years' probation to 20 years in a state penitentiary if convicted of aggravated assault and five years' probation to 99 years in prison if convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity. Both charges also carry possible fines of $10,000, she adds.
Hawthorne has asked the IRS and the state comptroller's office to investigate whether Jackson paid taxes on his DVD sales. Several parents of injured teens are considering civil lawsuits against Jackson, Hawthorne adds.
In Arlington, fight-club participants can be arrested on several felony and misdemeanor charges, including aggravated assault, fighting in public, engaging in organized crime and criminal mischief. Texas law allows police to arrest active spectators as accomplices to fighting in public. As part of the crackdown that began May 10, cops have made 40 arrests, including Jackson and his friends, and issued about 200 citations involving fighting in public or watching arranged brawls, police spokeswoman Christy Gilfour says.
In an interview with USA TODAY, Jackson confirmed filming fights and selling DVDs of them. However, he denies instigating fights or paying teens to take part in them and says he has shut down his website. Jackson says he simply saw a financial opportunity to exploit fights that were happening anyway.
"I just used my business-savvy mind," says Jackson, who's seen break dancing and flashing a wad of cash in the videos. He says he never participated in the fights, and he won't say how much money he made or how many DVDs he sold.
His Dallas-based attorney, Ray Jackson (no relation), calls the organized crime charge "ludicrous" and predicts his filmmaking client will become another Spike Lee. The lawyer adds that although the Agg Townz series has become a "cult classic," his client has not made money from it. Most DVDs in circulation are bootlegs from which his client did not get a cut of the proceeds, Ray Jackson says.
"This was low-end equipment and high-end talent," the lawyer says. "That's why it sold."
Messaging fuels combatants
Teen fight clubs have staged bouts on school campuses and in backyards, city streets, public parks, parking lots and gas stations.
Mac Bernd, superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District, says ringleaders have orchestrated fights the same way they do parties: through word-of-mouth, phone calls and text messages. Text-messaging enables instigators to inflame a minor dispute between teens at breakfast into a full-scale brawl by lunch. "You have an electronic rumor mill that moves at the speed of light," he says. That's why Bernd, despite the objection of some parents, is outlawing all telecommunications devices for the 2006-07 school year ? including cellphones, pagers, beepers, PDAs, digital and video cameras, MP3 and CD players and video games. The ban covers 74 schools with 63,000 students, including a half-dozen high schools with 20,000 students.
"We've concluded schools are for teaching and learning," he says.
Race does not appear to play much of a factor in teen fight clubs' bouts. Rita Sibert, president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, says the clubs include "a mix of all children, all races."
Most of those in the Agg Townz video are African-American. However, just a week after Jackson's arrest, Arlington police booked a group of 11 white teens and one Hispanic youth for fighting in public, Hawthorne says. A fight video made in nearby Grand Prairie shows mostly white teens, city police Detective John Brimmer says.
Silence surrounds participants
The fictional fight club led by Pitt's character, Tyler Durden, in the 1999 movie was made up mostly of men in their twenties who made a sadistic and masochistic sport out of fighting one another.
Durden's main rule for his club became the movie's signature line and a slogan in popular culture: You do not talk about Fight Club.
Teen fight clubs in Arlington often and elsewhere follow that advice, and police and school authorities have been frustrated by the wall of silence that has surrounded the clubs. Not one of the hundreds of parents who viewed clips from Agg Townz 2 at several community and church meetings seemed to have a clue that fight clubs existed ? or that their kids were involved, Hawthorne says. Among local teens, he says, the clubs have been common knowledge.
"It was a revelation for the parents," notes the NAACP's Sibert.
Bernd and other school administrators say most teens, even the ones absorbing the bloodiest beatings, refuse to roll over on fight-club participants for fear of retaliation by ringleaders or gangs involved.
The teen beaten into bloody unconsciousness in the Arlington video has not come forward and is still unidentified, Hawthorne says. Grand Prairie police have made no arrests in their case because no one has filed a complaint, Brimmer says.
Citing such secrecy, Bernd says he suspects there are more fight clubs operating under the radar.
"It's almost like the kids have created a completely different world we don't have access to and don't understand."
Contributing: Bruce Rosenstein
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: August 01, 2006, 12:30:00 PM
RAMADI, Iraq (AP) ? He was 5 when he first fired an M-16, his father holding him to brace against the recoil. At 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps, spurred by the memory of Sept. 11.
Now, 21-year-old Galen Wilson has 20 confirmed kills in four months in Iraq ? and another 40 shots that probably killed insurgents. One afternoon the lance corporal downed a man hauling a grenade launcher 5? football fields away.
Wilson is the designated marksman in a company of Marines based in downtown Ramadi, watching over what Marines call the most dangerous neighborhood in the most dangerous city in the world.
Here, Sunni Arab insurgents are intent on toppling the local government protected by Marines.
Wilson, 5-foot-6 with a soft face, is married and has two children and speaks in a deep, steady monotone.
After two tours in Iraq, his commanders in the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment call him a particularly mature Marine, always collected and given to an occasional wry grin.
His composure is regularly tested. Swaths of central and southern Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, are dominated by insurgents who regularly attack the provincial government headquarters that Marines protect.
During a large-scale attack on Easter Sunday, Wilson says, he spotted six gunmen on a rooftop about 400 yards away. In about 8 seconds he squeezed off five rounds ? hitting five gunmen in the head. The sixth man dived off a 3-story building just as Wilson got him in his sights, and counts as a probable death.
"You could tell he didn't know where it was coming from. He just wanted to get away," Wilson said. Later that day, he said, he killed another insurgent.
Wilson says his skill helps save American troops and Iraqi civilians. "It doesn't bother me. Obviously, me being a devout Catholic, it's a conflict of interest. Then again, God supported David when he killed Goliath," Wilson said. "I believe God supports what we do and I've never killed anyone who wasn't carrying a weapon."
He was raised in a desolate part of the Rocky Mountains outside Colorado Springs, "surrounded by national parks on three sides," he says. He regularly hunted before moving to Fort Lauderdale, as a teenager. His brother also serves in the military.
Guns have long been part of Wilson's life. His father was a sniper in the Navy SEALS. He remembers first firing a sniper rifle at age 6. By the time he enlisted he had already fired a .50-caliber machine gun.
"My father owned a weapons dealership, so I've been around exotic firearms all my life," said Wilson, who remembers practicing on pine cones and cans. "My dad would help me hold (an M-16), with the butt on his shoulder, and walk me through the steps of shooting."
Technically, Wilson is not a sniper ? he's an infantryman who also patrols through the span of destroyed buildings that make up downtown Ramadi. But as his unit's designated marksman, he has a sniper rifle. In the heat of day or after midnight, he spends hours on rooftop posts, peering out onto rows of abandoned houses from behind piles of sandbags and bulletproof glass cracked by gunfire.
Sometimes individual gunmen attack, other times dozens. Once Wilson shot an insurgent who was "turkey peeking" ? Marine slang for stealing glances at U.S. positions from behind a corner. Later, the distance was measured at 514 meters ? 557 yards.
"I didn't doubt myself, if I was going to hit him. Maybe if I would have I would have missed," Wilson said.
The key to accuracy is composure and experience, Wilson says. "The hardest part is looking, quickly adjusting the distance (on a scope), and then getting a steady position for a shot before he gets a shot off. For me, it's toning everything out in my head. It's like hearing classical music playing in my head."
Though Wilson firmly supports the war, he used to wonder how his actions would be received back home. "At first you definitely double-guess telling your wife, mom, and your friends that you've killed 20 people," Wilson said. "But over time you realize that if they support you ... maybe it'll make them feel that much safer at home." He acknowledges that brutal acts of war linger in the mind.
"Some people, before they're about to kill someone, they think that ? 'Hey, I'm about to kill someone.' That thought doesn't occur to me. It may sound cold, but they're just a target. Afterward, it's real. You think, 'Hey, I just killed someone,'" says Wilson.
Insurgents "have killed good Marines I've served with. That's how I sleep at night," he says. "Though I've killed over 20 people, how many lives would those 20 people have taken?"
Wilson plans to leave the Marines after his contract expires next year and is thinking of joining a SWAT Team in Florida ? possibly as a sniper.
2006 The Associated Press.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: July 31, 2006, 10:44:31 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Cease-Fire and Possible Implications
Politics caught up with Israeli military operations in southern Lebanon on Sunday, where the U.S. State Department announced, and Israel later confirmed, a temporary halt to Israeli air operations. The 48-hour cease-fire, which appears to be unilateral, was a response to the deaths of 54 people -- including several dozen children -- who were killed when an apartment building collapsed in Qana following pre-dawn airstrikes.
News of the deaths emerged while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Israel for meetings with national leaders. She also had planned a trip to Beirut, but that trip was canceled -- with both the United States and Lebanon claiming to have been the first to call it off. Rice, and Washington, have been under growing international pressure to intervene in the Israeli actions in Lebanon, and the timing of the Qana strike left them with little choice. Israeli leaders once again said they could complete their operations in two weeks, but they acquiesced to the cease-fire and allowed the United States to announce it first -- and thus take credit for intervening.
Leaders in Washington perhaps have faced more pressure than those in Israel during the current conflict -- or at least felt domestic pressures to a greater degree. Israeli leaders have domestic support for an intensification of operations: If anything, their restraint over launching a larger ground campaign defies popular domestic sentiment. But for the United States, tacit or overt support for Israeli actions against Hezbollah in Lebanon -- whether through supplying additional bombs or delaying calls for a cease-fire -- impacts its relations around the globe. Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a close ally of U.S. President George W. Bush, has stepped up his calls for U.S. intercession in Israel, thus giving voice to the pressures coming to bear on him from domestic and European audiences.
The temporary cease-fire brings an interesting dynamic to the conflict. In some sense, it is a cosmetic measure: It includes only Israeli air operations (not ground forces), does not appear to include Hezbollah, and does not preclude Israel from using its air assets if it sees Hezbollah forces even preparing to fire rockets or attack Israeli forces. It is, by and large, a political cease-fire more than a military one. But it could be used by Hezbollah to back Israel into a corner.
Israeli leaders are not expecting Hezbollah to abide by the cease-fire. Hezbollah forces have been firing ever-more numerous salvos of rockets over the past few days, despite Israeli claims that its air force had taken out key rocket command centers. If Hezbollah fires more rockets during the cease-fire or attacks Israeli forces in Lebanon, Israeli leaders will use the act as political leverage, seeking to escape some of the international pressures and to justify resumption of the air campaign.
On the other hand, if Hezbollah were to observe a cease-fire and refrain from rocket launches or engagements for 48 hours, Israel would find it politically more difficult to restart the campaign. During the lull, international discussions of ways to bring about a more permanent cease-fire would continue, new resolutions would be proffered and some progress perhaps could be made concerning the potential composition of an international peacekeeping force for southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah's silence and international diplomacy are not necessarily in Israel's interests at this point. The ground phase of Israel Defense Forces operations apparently was set in motion before the airstrike on Qana. If Israel should be stalemated now, the situation would be untenable for Israel's leaders: Hezbollah would have retained its command and control, communications and -- more significantly -- its weapons. Israeli forces would be sent back across the border from Lebanon, having failed to dislodge Hezbollah.
Even in the event that a peacekeeping force should move into southern Lebanon and act as a peacemaking force, actively confronting Hezbollah, the psychological damage to Israel's military image in the Middle East will have been complete. Israel's use of an air-dominant campaign to dislodge Hezbollah was bound to cause significant civilian casualties and, over time, lead to more controversies like the Qana attack and the recent strike against a U.N. post. Time and politics have now caught up with Israel, particularly as Rice was in the country when the Qana strike occurred.
In some sense, Hezbollah now holds the future of the conflict in its hands. If it can refrain from action during the Israeli cease-fire, it will gain a significant political boost and leave Israel to contend with more than just Hezbollah rockets and fighters. If this should occur, Israel would face stronger diplomatic pressures from the international community -- and the United States would find it more difficult to backstop Israel. An inconclusive withdrawal by Israeli forces following the cease-fire would spell political suicide for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and perhaps the end of the Kadima party as well.
For Hezbollah, restraint could prove the deadliest weapon in its arsenal.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Mexico
on: July 31, 2006, 09:12:15 AM
MEXICO CITY, July 30 ? Four weeks after a very close election plunged this country into political crisis, the leftist candidate escalated his campaign to undo the official results, telling a mass rally of his supporters on Sunday that they must engage in civil disobedience to ?defend democracy? and force the recognition of ?my triumph as president.?
?Mexico does not deserve to be governed by an illegitimate president,? said the candidate, Andr?s Manuel L?pez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who election officials say lost the national election by a mere 243,000 votes of 41 million cast.
A special electoral court has yet to ratify the results and Mr. L?pez Obrador has challenged the official tally, contending that there were widespread irregularities, human errors and, in some instances, fraud. He and his supporters want all the ballots counted again.
Felipe Calder?n, a conservative candidate who officials say received the most votes, contends that recounting all the votes is unnecessary and illegal. Poll workers, chosen at random like jurors and trained for the job, counted the ballots the night of the election in the presence of party officials and signed formal tally sheets.
While Mr. L?pez Obrador led a third huge march down Reforma Avenue to the Z?calo, Mexico City?s central square, on Sunday, Mr. Calder?n appeared before the Federal Electoral Tribunal to counter the leftist?s arguments that the vote count was flawed. ?We won cleanly,? he told reporters after an audience with judges. ?And we are not going to let these millions of votes be canceled.?
Mr. Calder?n also said Mr. L?pez Obrador could not win in court with sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience. ?We believe in the force of the law,? he said.
The tribunal has until Sept. 6 to resolve the legal challenges and declare the president-elect. Mr. L?pez Obrador said he would not accept anything less than a full recount and promised to wage a campaign of civil disobedience until he got one.
The city police, whose commanders have political ties to Mr. L?pez Obrador, estimated that about 1.2 million people attended the march, making it one of the largest in the country?s history.
The estimate could not be confirmed by other means, but the central square, which holds about 100,000 people, was packed, a sea of people wearing the bright yellow of Mr. L?pez Obrador?s Party of the Democratic Revolution. The crowd spilled into nearby streets, filling major avenues for a half-mile in every direction.
The multitude ? farmers and working-class people bused from rural towns, as well as left-leaning urban professionals ? thundered the chant, ?Vote by vote, polling place by polling place,? as Mr. L?pez Obrador took the stage.
In interviews, protesters said Mr. L?pez Obrador had convinced them that the National Action Party, the party of President Vicente Fox and Mr. Calder?n, and its allies among business leaders had rigged the election.
?If there was no fraud, they would agree to a vote by vote recount,? said Gregorio Ruiz, a 33-year-old farmer from the southern state of Guerrero, who had a mouthful of silver-rimmed teeth.
Brenda Fern?ndez, a 33-year-old homemaker, said as she marched past the Palacio de Bellas Artes that she expected the court to deny Mr. L?pez Obrador?s request and that violence would erupt afterward. ?Look, there was already one revolution, why not another?? she said. ?We are at the point of violence, and the government better understand that.?
Mr. L?pez Obrador called for 32 sit-ins across the city, another step in his campaign to ratchet up pressure on the court to order a recount and on his opponent to accept it. So far, the protests and marches he has led have been peaceful, though he said Sunday that more acts of civil disobedience would be planned.
His court case rests largely on arithmetic errors he maintains he found in about 72,000 polling places. In some cases the number of votes exceeded the number of ballots delivered, he maintains. In others, ballots were delivered and never accounted for in the totals. In others, there were more votes than people registered.
But he also charges that poll workers manipulated the count to pad Mr. Calder?n?s advantage in polling places where Mr. L?pez Obrador had no representatives.
Election officials say most of the arithmetic problems can be explained by human error on election night, as poll workers reported numbers to election officials. The official tally three days later cleared up most of those mistakes, officials say.
Fraud is also highly unlikely, they say. One would have to bribe four polling officials, all chosen at random from lists of registered voters, to falsify results at a polling place.
Still, most of Mr. L?pez Obrador?s followers say not much has changed since the 1980?s, when the government controlled and manipulated the vote count to make sure members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party remained in power. That party ruled Mexico with only token opposition until Mr. Fox?s historic victory in 2000, after the Federal Election Institute became independent.
Indeed, many marchers said they believed the National Action Party had teamed up with the former governing party to commit fraud and give Mr. Calder?n a razor-thin advantage in northern states. Many said they saw both parties as stooges of big business and the United States.
For his part, Mr. L?pez Obrador, 52, has said his campaign for a recount is not an attempt to seize power, but a selfless drive to save Mexico?s fledgling democracy from what he sees as impure influences, like Mr. Fox?s use of his bully pulpit to help his party?s candidate and attack advertisements against Mr. L?pez Obrador paid for by business groups.
?I want to stress the cause we are defending is fundamental,? he said. ?I want to tell you that it goes beyond the fact that they should recognize my triumph as president of the republic.?
Then he added: ?I am not a vulgar opportunist. Money does not motivate me nor interest me. Power only makes sense when it is put at the service of others.?
Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting for this article.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: July 28, 2006, 11:23:33 PM
One of the things I see as fit to do is post articles which in my opinion are of a level not commonly found elsewhere. The number of reads per post in the threads which seem to annoy you the most are amongst the highest of this forum-- so many people seem to find them interesting. Regardless, my house, my rules.
I thoroughly "get" the point you have been making from the beginning. Taken by itself, its not a bad point and actually shows some insight. That said, in you I simply have not sensed with whom I wish to engage in conversation. With your posts this evening what communicates to me is you are the sort of person who demands attention whether others want to give it or not.
In my house I am Alpha and I do as I see fit. I gave you clear guidance with the tone of your original posts and I see it hasn't worked. The point is not your conclusions. The point is one of respect and by your own words in other post tonight you do not have it for me.
Our Adventure will continue without you. You're outta here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: July 28, 2006, 07:42:09 PM
Martial Arts begins with the consciousness that we are worthy of defending.
The Terror Ahead, by Gabriel Schoenfeld
Commentary November 2003
ON DAY 18 of the war in Iraq, a single United States Air Force B-1 bomber attacked a residence in the north of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein was believed to be hiding. The effects were dramatic. Explosions not only demolished the structure entirely but left a gigantic crater of jumbled steel and debris 60 feet deep and 150 feet wide. This devastation was caused by four conventional bombs, each weighing 2,000 pounds. They are by no means the heaviest bombs in the U.S. arsenal. The Air Force?s ?Daisy Cutter? weighs in at 15,000 pounds and can dig a much deeper and wider area of destruction.
But these devices, fearsome though they may be, are trivial in their effects compared with a nuclear weapon. If the destructive power of each of the bombs dropped in Baghdad was roughly equivalent to 1,000 pounds of TNT (trinitrotoluene), a nuclear bomb fueled by a single pound of a fissionable element like uranium or plutonium would release the explosive equivalent of approximately sixteen million pounds (eight kilotons). Over the course of the nuclear age, devices in the megaton range (millions of tons of TNT) have been developed and tested.
The tremendous force of a nuclear blast causes correspondingly greater destruction, including from its sheer heat. Whereas a conventional explosion generates temperatures nearing 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a nuclear detonation unleashes heat in the millions of degrees, which is then dispersed with terrible effect. In the initial phase, all of the material of the bomb itself?the nuclear fuel, the metal casing, the triggering device?is converted instantaneously into an intensely compressed vapor. Within less than a millionth of a second, this vapor expands into a highly luminous mass of burning air and nuclear material that ascends on its own far up into the atmosphere, reaching widths as large as thousands of feet across.
On the surface of the earth, the fireball vaporizes whatever solid materials abut the explosion, including soil and rock, which then fuse with the radioactive elements of the bomb itself and are borne aloft, gradually returning to earth as fallout: highly lethal radioactive particles ranging in width from the size of a grain of fine sand to small marbles. The rapidly expanding gas of the explosion also gives off a shock wave, a wall of air that continues to move away from the explosive center well after the fireball has disappeared. The wave generates winds exceeding several hundred miles an hour at the epicenter of the explosion and can cause destruction for miles around.
Finally, nuclear weapons yield radiation, including highly penetrating gamma rays that remain lethal over a considerable distance. The rays from a one-megaton explosion can extend approximately two miles; at one mile from ground zero, one would need a concrete barrier four-feet thick to afford protection from them?on the unlikely assumption one could survive the blast?s other, more violent effects.
Nuclear weapons have been used in anger only twice: first at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and then three days later, when the Japanese still refused to capitulate, at Nagasaki. In all, the immediate death toll from the two attacks was approximately 150,000, with many more tens of thousands left gravely injured. Whatever one?s view of President Truman?s decision to employ the bomb against Japan, no one then or later would dispute that these are the most dreadful weapons ever devised.
Which is why, ever since their invention, a mainstay of American policy has been to prevent a surprise attack with them on our soil. During the cold war, one main leg of this effort was the policy of deterrence, aimed at convincing our principal adversary, the USSR, that a nuclear strike on the U.S. would be met by an even more devastating counterattack that would wipe the USSR from the map. The policy worked, and now that the Soviet empire is no more, we are engaged in a largely cooperative relationship with its nuclear- and non-nuclear-armed successor states.
A second leg of our effort was, and still is, aimed at keeping nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Until relatively recently, this policy too has largely been a success. Here, technology was long on our side. So considerable were the costs and expertise required to create nuclear weapons that, in the first decades after World War II, only highly developed countries?the USSR, China, England, and France (and, by the late 1960?s, perhaps Israel)?succeeded in developing them on their own. But with the passage of years, the spread of civilian nuclear technology?especially nuclear power plants?and the emergence of a global cadre of nuclear engineers and physicists steadily reduced the obstacles to building such weapons. The essentials of bomb design are today widely understood, and key technologies can either be fabricated indigenously or purchased on open or black and gray markets. Only the nuclear fuel itself?plutonium or highly enriched uranium?remains exceedingly difficult to acquire, although countries with civilian nuclear-power programs can create it on their own.
The U.S. has employed a variety of diplomatic instruments to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The primary tool?the ?cornerstone of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policies,? according to a ranking Bush administration official?is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This multilateral agreement became international law in 1970 and has by now been signed by some 187 nations?all the nations of the world save three: India, Pakistan, and Israel.*
Along with lofty-sounding provisions calling for peace, the elimination of all nuclear weapons from the planet, and a number of other general goals, the NPT includes a number of specific measures. In particular, it obligates those signatories who do not already have nuclear weapons to remain in that condition, and to accept regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify that any civilian nuclear resources are under ?safeguard? and are not being covertly diverted to military ends.
In some respects, the NPT has worked extremely well. Thanks to IAEA inspections, the U.S. government and the world community have access to a wealth of highly detailed information about the civilian nuclear programs of countries around the globe, including countries hostile to the United States. The NPT regime has also played a vital role in preserving the nuclear-free status of regional rivals like Argentina and Brazil, to name two countries that in the 1970?s and 80?s were veering into a nuclear-arms race. Perhaps the treaty?s most remarkable achievement was to have fostered the denuclearization of South Africa; as F. W. de Klerk, that country?s former president, would confess, South Africa had surreptitiously developed a small nuclear arsenal, but then dismantled and destroyed it in order to accede to the agreement in 1991.
Such accomplishments have led supporters of the NPT to insist, in the words of the Bush administration, that the ?global nuclear nonproliferation regime remains strong.? But the global nuclear nonproliferation regime is not strong. It has been in serious and growing difficulty for years, and is now virtually in tatters. The story of its decline is full of the most worrisome implications for the future course of world politics. It is also a case study in the pitfalls of relying on multilateral arms-control agreements to protect critical U.S. interests.
IN RECENT years, the NPT regime has faced serious challenge from four countries, and flunked each test. In the case of only one of them?Iraq?has the crisis been definitively resolved, but at the cost of two major wars. Other dangers remain very much upon us, and they are both terrible to contemplate and difficult to avoid.
The history of Iraq?s nuclear program exemplifies what has gone wrong. Iraq ratified the NPT in 1969 under Saddam Hussein, but the country?s signature was an act of deceit. From the outset, the Iraqi dictator was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons; by the mid-1970?s, assisted by avid European suppliers, he had an active program under way. By 1981, Iraqi scientists were on the verge of gaining access to a plentiful source of nuclear fuel from their new reactor at Osirak, a turn-key facility provided by France. Then, on June 7, 1981, Israel, fearing a nuclear-armed Saddam in its neighborhood, destroyed the facility in a precision air-strike that shocked the world.
Iraq responded to this setback by reconstituting its secret program, dispersing facilities widely and placing key technology in hardened shelters. Although the program?s existence was widely suspected, IAEA inspectors came and went without uncovering evidence that radioactive materials were either being diverted from civilian reactors or being acquired by other means. Only in 1991, in the aftermath of the first Gulf war, did the scope and scale of Iraq?s prewar efforts become evident.
Yet even in defeat, and even after having signed surrender terms pledging to disclose all information about the illicit program, Saddam Hussein?s government continued to engage in denial and deception. At first it stated flatly that it had ?no industrial and support facilities related to any form of atomic-energy use which have to be declared.? When this statement was rebutted with incontrovertible facts by the IAEA, the regime acknowledged a handful of sites but still failed to disclose the lion?s share of its activity. Only after the IAEA initiated special on-site inspections did Iraq begin to release significant information, even then omitting important details and either blocking IAEA access to key sites or hurriedly removing nuclear-related equipment from locations that inspectors were likely to visit. The full scope of the Iraqi effort become evident only when the IAEA stumbled on a trove of classified documents.
Under the noses of IAEA inspectors, those documents revealed, the Iraqis had constructed what Hans Blix, then the head of the agency, ruefully admitted was a ?vast unknown, undeclared uranium-enrichment program in the billion-dollar range,? constituting an essential part of ?an advanced nuclear-weapons development program.? Among other things, Iraq was in possession of some 400 tons of previously undisclosed radioactive materials, including six grams of clandestinely produced plutonium and more than 35 kilograms of highly enriched uranium?not yet bomb-grade material but of ?high strategic value.? Iraq had also acquired a large number of calutrons for enriching uranium; these electro-magnetic devices, used by the U.S. in constructing its first atomic bombs but subsequently abandoned in favor of more efficient means, were extremely well suited for a clandestine program like Iraq?s.
It seems that, at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Baghdad had been only months away from acquiring a workable nuclear device. Had Saddam Hussein been a little more patient, he could have had a nuclear-equipped military before embarking on that aggressive adventure. Standing up to him in those circumstances would have presented incalculably greater risks to Washington and its hesitant allies in Europe.
Nor, in the aftermath of the first Gulf war, did Iraq cease its activity. A great deal of information came to light in 1995 with the defection to Jordan of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein?s son-in-law, who revealed a well-funded and continuing program to mount a nuclear warhead on an intermediate-range ballistic missile as well as efforts to turn highly enriched uranium into fuel for a nuclear bomb. Once again, these efforts were proceeding in the face of special IAEA and UNSCOM inspections mandated by the UN Security Council and far more intrusive than the ones for a normal country under the NPT.
What happened to Iraq?s nuclear program after the mid-decade revelations, and especially after 1998 when Saddam Hussein halted all cooperation with the UN inspectors and they withdrew from the country, is unclear. As is well known, Washington based its case for the second Gulf war in part on intelligence pointing to a continuing covert Iraqi effort to acquire nuclear weapons, including the highly controversial sixteen words in President Bush?s State of the Union Address about Iraq?s alleged effort to purchase uranium yellowcake from the African country of Niger. But in the aftermath of our victory, the search for evidence of this program has thus far come up dry. Did the Iraqi dictator order the program transferred to new and as yet undiscovered locations, or was it dismantled and destroyed? We do not yet have the answer.
IF IRAQ represents one kind of failure for the NPT, Pakistan represents another?not so much of the treaty itself as of U.S. policy. The salient fact here is that Pakistan has refused to sign the pact, and is not subject to its strictures.
The Pakistani nuclear program, like Iraq?s, is decades old. It began in earnest after the loss of East Pakistan?now Bangladesh?to India in the war of 1971, a defeat that impelled Pakistan to develop an ?Islamic bomb? (in the phrase employed at the time by prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) to counter India?s Hindu one. The fuel for this Islamic bomb was initially to come from a reprocessing facility provided by France in 1974, although the French and other Western suppliers withdrew as Pakistani intentions became clear. In stepped the Chinese, who in the intervening decades have provided Pakistan with technicians, highly enriched uranium, key components of enrichment facilities, and a heavy-water reactor for the production of plutonium and tritium, as well as designs for a relatively sophisticated and readily deliverable 25-kiloton-yield weapon.
Lacking recourse to the machinery of the NPT, the U.S. has responded to this Pakistani program with an assortment of carrots and sticks, pledging financial and military assistance if Pakistan would desist, threatening a series of sanctions, some of them mandated by Congress, if it pressed ahead. But the sanctions have been waived at every turn, for the simple reason that Pakistan has been a pivotal player in U.S. foreign policy as a frontline state both in the Soviet-Afghan war that began in 1979 and in the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban that began in October 2001. In any case, the sanctions were unlikely to have deflected Pakistan from a strategic goal it has perceived as vital to its national existence.
Already by the mid-1990?s, Pakistan was widely believed to have obtained a small stockpile of nuclear weapons, as well as the missiles for delivering them. Its status as a nuclear power was confirmed when it conducted five underground tests on May 28, 1998. By any yardstick, this date deserves to be remembered as a watershed in international affairs, marking the first time that a certifiable basket-case of a country became an officially-declared nuclear power.
Since its birth as a nation in 1947, Pakistan?s government has been regularly toppled by military coups. A major segment of the population is in the grip of radical Islam, and some leading nuclear scientists have close ties to the most fanatical Muslims of Afghanistan and al Qaeda. The country is locked in a conflict with India over the status of Kashmir that periodically threatens to become the first nuclear flashpoint since World War II. To complete the picture, Pakistan is so desperately poor that it has been paying for its military programs by barter.
Its most important partner in this arrangement happens to be North Korea. In exchange for North Korean missiles that can carry a nuclear payload, Pakistan has provided Pyongyang with gas centrifuges, a key technology for processing uranium into bomb-grade material. The U.S. response to this illicit trade has been a mild slap on the wrist: this past April, Washington imposed a two-year ban on any American dealings with the research laboratory where Pakistan?s nuclear weapons are designed and fabricated.
IF PAKISTAN is a stick of dynamite, North Korea is a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), run today by the mad Communist dictator Kim Jong Il, became a signatory of the NPT in 1985. But from the outset it declined to permit the IAEA to verify its initial accounting of nuclear materials, or to monitor more than a single one of its reactors. As the charade continued in the 1990?s, the Clinton administration engaged in an intense but ultimately fruitless effort to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions, encouraging it to sign a supplementary agreement?the Yongbyon Agreed Framework, brokered by former President Jimmy Carter?that promised generous foreign aid in exchange for forbearance. North Korea grudgingly accepted the aid but, as we now know, declined to show any forbearance.?
The most dramatic chapter of this saga opened last October, when for no discernible reason Pyongyang suddenly revealed that, in violation of both the NPT and Yongbyon, it was operating an active nuclear-weapons program all along. By December it had ratcheted up the pressure, declaring the Yongbyon agreement null and void and renouncing the NPT in the bargain. On New Year?s eve, all IAEA personnel were expelled from the country. In April, Pyongyang declared that it already possessed nuclear weapons and was in the midst of manufacturing more, having reprocessed the fuel from 8,000 control rods at one of its ?civilian? reactors. In August, it announced that it might shortly commence test-firing nuclear weapons, something it has not yet openly done (although one of Pakistan?s nuclear tests may actually have been of a North Korean device).
The North Korean regime is Stalinist to the core?and then some. Thanks to a calcified, centrally-planned economy, large portions of the country suffer from famine. Amid the general destitution, Kim Jong Il has sponsored a personality cult whose symbols and slogans are ubiquitous. His subjects speak of him with the mandatory appellation ?Dear Leader? and wear a badge of his likeness on their lapels. The North Korean regime has engaged in bizarre kidnapping plots (of South Korean actors and actresses, to jump-start an indigenous film industry; of girls off beaches in Japan, to be employed as teachers of Japanese language and manners in a school for spies). Pyongyang has also engaged in terrorism. Among other violent deeds, it blew up a South Korean airliner in 1987, killing all 115 aboard.
It is this demented and venomous regime that boasts of having nuclear weapons at its disposal. According to the CIA, in addition to the one or two bombs already in its possession, the North has been ?constructing a plant that could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two or more nuclear weapons per year when fully operational?which could be as soon as mid-decade.? According to another government study, Pyongyang has also been at work on two very large ?electrical-generating? stations that, upon completion, will produce sufficient spent nuclear fuel to yield 200 kilograms of plutonium, enough to manufacture approximately 30 nuclear weapons a year.
Compounding the peril is the fact that North Korea has been vigorously developing intermediate- and long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. It has already successfully tested intermediate-range missiles that can strike all of Japan, points far beyond in Asia and the Pacific, and?with a reduced payload?the west coast of the United States. In September, U.S. officials reported a new model in the works with a range of 9,400 miles, a capability that would place every city in the United States under its shadow.
Not only is North Korea steadily adding missiles to its own arsenal, it is exporting them to other unsavory regimes around the world. With its ample supplies of uranium and uranium-enrichment equipment, it has threatened to export nuclear materials as well. Not only does North Korea ?pose a serious and immediate challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime,? in the words of Mohamed ElBaradei, the current head of the IAEA; it poses an even more serious and immediate challenge to the peace and security of the world.
AMONG THE countries trading with North Korea is Iran, a country likewise governed by violent fanatics, of the Islamic rather than the Marxist-Leninist stripe. Iran joined the NPT at the treaty?s inception. It was then still under the rule of the shah, who had started an ambitious civilian-nuclear program and possibly some weapons-related research as well. But IAEA inspectors were finally invited to visit the country?s facilities only in 1992, thirteen years after the shah was deposed by the Islamic revolution. The ayatollahs appear to have calculated that, being limited to officially designated sites, the IAEA would be unable to find evidence of their secret program. If so, their calculation proved correct, for the IAEA regularly certified Iran to be in compliance with the treaty?s strictures?until it became unmistakably apparent that it had been in violation all along.
Earlier this year, in the face of detailed media reports, Iran admitted to the IAEA that it had been constructing two hitherto secret plants: one to enrich uranium and another to produce heavy water, an essential ingredient in developing plutonium. The Iranians also acknowledged having imported nearly two metric tons of uranium from China in 1991, which, in a major breach of the NPT, they stored in a facility not subject to IAEA supervision. In late August and again in late September, IAEA inspections turned up traces of uranium on equipment in supposedly non-nuclear facilities, leading the agency to conclude that an illicit enrichment program was under way. Commented ElBaradei: ?This worries us greatly.?
Iran is an oil-rich country. It has no need for an ambitious civilian nuclear-energy industry. The fact that it has been vigorously developing one was a red flag that the ayatollahs did not deign to conceal. To augment the menace, Iran is ?the most active state sponsor of terrorism? in the world, according to the U.S. Department of State. Tehran has carried out a series of kidnappings and assassinations in Europe. It has funded and provided training and arms to a variety of Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and factions within Yasir Arafat?s PLO. It was almost certainly behind the bombings in Argentina of the Israeli embassy in March 1992, killing 29, and the Jewish community center in July 1994, killing 86. It is thought to have had a hand in the June 1996 bombing of the al-Khobar barracks in Saudi Arabia that took the lives of nineteen U.S. soldiers. It has ties with al Qaeda and, in the wake of September 11, may have given shelter to some of its leading operatives. The list goes on and on.
To augment the menace even more, Iran has also been building missiles at a feverish pace. In July it successfully tested the Shehab-3 (a variant of the No Dong missile first provided to it by North Korea), with a range of 930 miles and capable of carrying a small nuclear warhead. Iranian engineers are similarly moving forward with the Shehab-4 and Shehab-5, with ranges of 1,240 and 3,100 miles respectively. Brigadier General Safavi, who heads Iran?s Revolutionary Guard Corps, declared not long ago that ?Iranian missiles can cause irreparable damage to either Israel or the United States.? This is partly bluster. Israel indeed lies within range of Iranian missiles. The United States does not?not yet.
PERHAPS BECAUSE the attention of our policymakers has been diverted elsewhere, perhaps because our military resources are stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps because the options are all so unattractive, perhaps because the issues are so dire, the twin challenge presented by North Korea and Iran has met with an even more muted American response than has the challenge posed by Pakistan.
In Asia, the U.S. has been engaged in desultory six-way talks with North Korea and its neighbors. The idea is to bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang, especially from China and Russia, while also holding out the prospect of still more aid if North Korea dismantles its program in a verifiable way. It would be something of a miracle if the talks were to succeed; this approach has been tried in the past and failed.
Under the Yongbyon framework, the Clinton administration plied North Korea with huge shipments of oil. It also promised two proliferation-resistant light-water nuclear reactors if Pyongyang would only promise to stop developing the bomb. In a magnanimous gesture during Clinton?s final year in office, Madeleine Albright became the first American cabinet member ever to visit Communist Pyongyang?following which, noting ?important progress? in talks about missile exports, the administration eased longstanding sanctions against the North under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Export Administration Act. But there was no ?important progress?: North Korea did not limit its missile exports or do anything else, except, presumably, absorb a lesson or two about American credulity. In the end, one may hope that it will turn out to be an incorrect lesson; but if, today, the North Koreans make preposterous demands and feign outrage when we do not yield, at least we have some inkling why.
The American reaction to developments in Iran has been even quieter. Once again, we have attempted to work in concert with neighbors and, especially, the IAEA to pressure the ayatollahs to adhere to their obligations under the NPT or face the disapprobation of the UN Security Council. The IAEA is also seeking Iran?s signature on a supplementary protocol that would make the country more ?transparent? to inspectors. The success of these initiatives may be judged by the fact that Ayatollah Khatami, Iran?s ?moderate? president, has pledged continued fealty to the NPT even as his regime blatantly breaches its provisions. Other influential clerics, including Ayatollah Jannati, head of the Guardian Council and closely aligned with Iran?s ?hardline? supreme leader, Ayatollah Kha?menei, have urged that the government shun the ?extra humiliation? of the new protocol and follow the path of North Korea by withdrawing from the NPT altogether.
HOW NORTH KOREA and Iran will conduct themselves in the months to come is a matter of speculation. Many different behaviors are possible, ranging from delaying tactics to phony concessions to threats of aggression. But, the immediate future aside, the predicament we are in is as unmistakable as is our apparent determination to ignore or deny it.
The NPT regime is radically flawed. Three countries whose facilities have been under its safeguards have managed either to develop nuclear weapons or to come perilously close to it. This has occurred because the NPT exhibits almost all the classical problems of arms-control agreements as Washington has pursued them. Elaborate mechanisms are put in place that seem to ensure the achievement of desirable objectives. Yet, in the absence of airtight verification procedures, the only countries thereby restrained are the law-abiding ones who are not themselves a menace. In the meantime, determined cheaters like Iraq, Iran, and North Korea make use of loopholes to pursue their objectives. Though the NPT appeared to work well in its early years, when the relevant technology was more difficult to acquire, now it serves mostly as a cover for would-be proliferators, offering assurances to the world that everything is fine and encouraging Washington to slumber when it needs most to be alert.
The NPT also exhibits structural defects specific unto itself. IAEA inspectors, of whom there are only several hundred responsible for policing approximately 1,000 nuclear facilities around the world, can barely do their job as it is. They are spread even thinner by the need to devote the same amount of attention to wholly innocuous programs in countries like Canada as they do to suspicious ones in countries like Iran. At the same time, IAEA officials lack the freedom to conduct unfettered inspections of any site they choose; they can only visit sites declared (by the signatory nation) to be under the IAEA?s ?safeguard.? And even if they were granted more sweeping rights, the idea that they could find undeclared facilities on their own in a country attempting to conceal them is a delusion. Finally, a glaring loophole in the treaty exempts states from declaring a nuclear installation until 180 days before introducing radioactive material into it; this is precisely the escape mechanism that Iran has exploited to build the uranium and plutonium facilities it has only now disclosed.
In theory the NPT could be strengthened by closing its loopholes and mandating intrusive inspections of sites selected by the inspectors themselves. But the political obstacles would be formidable, and the countries of greatest concern would almost certainly demur. Even if there were universal agreement about amending the NPT, moreover, it would remain only as strong as the will of its strongest members to enforce it. Thus far, with the exception of the decisive action taken on two occasions by the United States against Iraq, that will has been absent. One should note, of course, that even here, Iraqi breaches of the NPT were not a casus belli cited by the U.S. before either Gulf war.
As for Pakistan, as a non-member state, it would of course not be directly touched by any changes to the NPT. For the moment, unlike Pyongyang and Tehran, the government of Pakistan does still seem capable of making rational choices. But if that situation were to change, and radical Islamists were to ascend to power, the prospect that Pakistani nuclear weapons might be transferred to the remnants of al Qaeda or to other Islamic terrorists would be intolerable. Both India and the United States would feel under tremendous pressure to disarm Islamabad, a step that in the logic of things would quite possibly require a nuclear first strike.
U.S. influence on the future course of Pakistani politics is quite limited. Where the U.S. might play an active role right now is in making it utterly clear to our ostensible ally that unless it ceases to export its nuclear know-how and materials to rogue states, it will be made to pay a very stiff price. Similar efforts might also be made to rein in or punish other exporters of nuclear material, including not only Pakistan and North Korea but also Russia, China, and France.
THE RADICAL insufficiency of the NPT confirms once again the wisdom of deploying a missile-defense shield. This project, widely ridiculed when it was first proposed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980?s, has become an urgent national imperative. The U.S. needs a strategic system to defend its own skies, and portable ship- or air-borne theater systems to defend its allies.
But even if we could deploy an impermeable missile shield tomorrow (and no missile shield is likely to be impermeable), there are other ways than missiles to deliver nuclear weapons. Such weapons can be packed into shipping containers and brought into American ports, or smuggled across our borders wrapped inside, say, a bale of marijuana. Countering this particular facet of the threat defensively is virtually impossible?a fact that points toward yet another urgent imperative.
In the National Security Strategy he unveiled at West Point in June 2002, President Bush enunciated a doctrine of preemption. Certain kinds of international challenges, he said, must be forcibly answered before the evidence of danger is presented to us in the shape of a mushroom cloud. The United States, Bush declared,
can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today?s threats, and the magnitude of the potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries? choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first.
This was precisely Israel?s thinking when it destroyed Iraq?s reactor at Osirak in 1981. At the time, Israel?s action was condemned by all the countries of the world, including the United States. In its unanimous resolution, the UN Security Council asserted that Iraq was a member in good standing of the NPT, had ?accepted [IAEA] safeguards on its nuclear activities, and . . . these safeguards have been satisfactorily applied to date.? It went on to denounce Israel?s raid as a ?danger to international peace.?
We can now see things as they are?that is, just as the government of Israel saw them in 1981. In the aftermath of September 11, fanatical anti-American regimes like those ruling Iran and North Korea cannot be permitted to obtain weapons that can be easily hidden and used without warning to destroy entire cities in an instant. If peaceful means of persuasion have been exhausted, it is incumbent on us to consider, coolly, other means.
Unfortunately, military action is not likely to be as simple as it was for Israel at Osirak?not that that operation was in the least simple. Rehearsed for months by the Israeli air force, it required up-to-date intelligence, superb airmanship, and total surprise to succeed. It also had to be done within a narrow window of time, before the reactor went critical; otherwise, there was a real possibility of radiological contamination over a large area.
In both North Korea and Iran, the radioactive elements are already in place and hence some level of contamination would be likely in a preemptive strike. There are other major difficulties as well. Although Iran is without question the easier country to hit, the locations of its nuclear facilities being well-known and within range of American warships and bases, the sites there are nevertheless widely dispersed, guarded by air-defense systems, and in some cases built underground and protected by heavy layers of reinforced concrete. A successful strike would need to be broad-based and sustained and include very heavy bunker-busting weapons.
As for Iran?s ability to retaliate, that is limited but not insignificant. Though it has attempted to modernize its forces in the aftermath of its war with Iraq, the pace has been slowed by a general shortage of cash. That shortage, indeed, is one reason Tehran has confined itself to a narrow buildup, focusing on the acquisition of unconventional weapons?not only nuclear but also chemical and biological?and the shells and missiles to deliver them. It has also invested in its navy, with the idea of being able to choke off Western supplies of oil by obstructing the Persian Gulf. Its final point of leverage lies in its command of terrorist forces like Hizballah in Lebanon and elsewhere, which in a crisis could be used to divert Western arms.
In a worst case, a preemptive strike against Iran might lead to a medium-sized conflagration involving unconventional weapons. Nevertheless, given Iran?s overwhelming weakness, this contest would be one in which the U.S. and its allies would rapidly prevail. That in itself holds out a faint ray of hope?namely, that the very threat of a preemptive strike, especially if it is preceded by a visible military buildup and an ultimatum, might possibly persuade the ayatollahs to stand down and relinquish their nuclear ambitions.
North Korea is a much trickier problem. Some facilities are buried deep inside mountains and cannot be readily attacked and destroyed from the air. Others we may not know about at all. The regime itself is highly secretive, and unless the U.S. had reliable and timely intelligence about the whereabouts of Kim Jong Il and his top lieutenants, exceptional luck would be required to decapitate it by means of a conventional blow. Even if we did get lucky, there would still be the possibility of a North Korean response.
Not only does the North appear to have deliverable nuclear weapons, it also has one of the world?s largest armies, comprising 1.2 million soldiers, some 70 percent of whom are positioned in and around the 12,000 underground bunkers near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas. These forces are armed with approximately 10,000 artillery pieces and over 800 missiles capable of reaching South Korea and some of its neighbors. In addition, they are equipped with 2,500 multiple-rocket launchers capable of firing (by a conservative estimate) 500,000 shells an hour to a range of 33 miles. The city of Seoul, situated 24 miles from the DMZ and with a population of more than ten million, could be devastated within hours.
That is the bad news. The better news is that North Korea is not ten or even six feet tall. Its military equipment consists of aging Soviet and Chinese stocks that qualitatively are vastly inferior to both the U.S. and South Korean militaries. Its army is large to the point of bloat; significant numbers of conscripts are engaged in forced-labor projects that have little or no military significance. The populace from which these troops are drawn is hungry and downtrodden, and many soldiers are undoubtedly hungry as well. It is an open question whether, if push came to war, North Korea?s military would disintegrate on its own, and with it the Communist regime.
IN THE final analysis, we cannot know with any certainty how such preemptive actions would play out. We can be certain only of this: as the danger looms closer, the divas of peace at any price will begin their predictable serenades. It is ?vital,? says Jimmy Carter, ?that some accommodation? be reached with Pyongyang, a regime that ?feels increasingly threatened by being branded an ?axis of evil? member.? The New York Times, for its part, editorializes that ?diplomacy is the only acceptable alternative,? just as it editorialized back in 1995 when, lauding the ?accommodation? with North Korea achieved by the same Jimmy Carter, it urged the Clinton administration to strike a similar ?bargain? with the ayatollahs in Tehran.
Curiously enough, even the notoriously cautious Clintonites may, at the time, have had doubts about the efficacy of this course of inaction where North Korea was concerned. In fact, if a recent article by then-Secretary of Defense William B. Perry and Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton J. Carter is to be believed, the administration seriously weighed a preemptive attack on the North?s weapons-producing site at Yongbyon. The Clinton team, Perry and Carter write,
readied a detailed plan to attack the Yongbyon facility with precision-guided bombs. We were highly confident that it could be destroyed without causing a meltdown that would release radioactivity into the air. The plutonium would be entombed, and the special buildings nearby designed to reprocess the reactor fuel into bomb material would also be leveled.
To be sure, there was the worry of a ?spasmodic? North Korean response that would cost the lives of thousands of U.S. troops, tens of thousands of South Korean troops, and an untold number of civilians. Nevertheless, Perry and Carter conclude, ?we believed that the nuclear program on which North Korea was embarked was even more dangerous, and [we] were prepared to risk a war to stop it.? Indeed, it was only when Jimmy Carter stepped in to ?solve? the problem through his brand of personal diplomacy that the plan for preemptive war was dropped.**
Needless to say, the North Korean problem was not solved and a crucial decade has been lost. Today, while our forces are engaged in a major open-ended operation in Iraq, a minor open-ended operation in Afghanistan, and a global war against al Qaeda, we are quietly sliding into the gravest crisis of this kind since Nikita Khrushchev placed nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba. Two crazy states?both charter members of what President Bush has rightly called the ?axis of evil,? both openly flouting an international treaty to which they are party, both perpetrators of acts of international terrorism, both animated by a blistering hatred for America and the West?are bent on acquiring weapons of unthinkable destructive power. The CIA, as it admits in its own statements, does not know what it needs to know about either country, except that North Korea almost certainly possesses two or more fully operational bombs and could have as many as ten within months, while Iran is at most several years away from acquiring the bomb unless it purchases one or more tomorrow or next week or next month from Pyongyang.
Whatever the constraints on our resources, the challenge is unmistakable and cannot be dodged. The price of action is likely to be high, very high; the price of inaction is likely to be much higher. Courtesy of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, we have already had to relearn the lesson of Pearl Harbor in a second and more terrible form. In the age of terrorism and nuclear weapons, we cannot afford to relearn it a third time and a fourth.
* The Washington Post, October 20, 2002. Perry and Carter may be engaged here in historical revisionism, designed to make timorousness look like toughness. In open testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1995, Perry stated flatly that he and his advisers only considered destroying North Korea?s nuclear installations but did not advocate this to the President. Instead, they recommended the imposition of sanctions, plus a military build-up in case the sanctions provoked a North Korean first strike.
Gaddafi says Libya came close to building bomb
Monday, July 24, 2006; 3:05 PM
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose country abandoned weapons of mass destruction programs in 2003, said that at one stage Libya had come close to building a nuclear bomb, the Libyan news agency reported on Monday.
It was the first time any Libyan official has confirmed that the north African country of more than five million had been trying to build a nuclear bomb.
"It is true that Libya came close to building a nuclear bomb. This is no longer a secret ... as everything was laid bare by the International Atomic (Energy) Agency for everyone to see," the agency quoted Gaddafi as saying on Sunday in a speech to Libyan engineers.
"The programs and equipment (to build a nuclear bomb) are known," he added.
Gaddafi, who was speaking mainly about the need for economic self-reliance, referred to Libya's efforts to gain the bomb as one of several examples of Libyans being successful in challenging endeavors. He gave no further details.
The main point of Gaddafi's speech was to say that he wanted to limit the role of foreigners in the economy to ensure as much of the country's wealth as possible stayed at home.
In December 2003 Libya said it was abandoning its weapons of mass destruction programs and would allow in international weapons inspectors.
The move was the most startling of several by Libya that helped the OPEC oil producer repair relations with the West after decades of estrangement.
The U.S. government said in May that it would restore formal ties with Tripoli and take Libya off the list of countries deemed state sponsors of terrorism.
Gaddafi, elaborating on a long-standing explanation for his abandonment of confrontation with the West, said the time for spending large amounts of money on supporting political movements overseas was now over.
Although the support was a "must" at the time, it was clear that the effort had used up large amounts of resources.
"All revolutionaries used to come to the (Libyan) revolution for help. Revolutionaries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, sought our help, even the IRA (Irish Republican Army)," he said.
"I put a stop to this because we spent a great deal of money on the military side, not only in terms of construction."
He said Libya had taken part in a "battle" for Arab nationalism, but this era was now over.
"There were hopes and aspirations to have a strong nationalist entity of which we would be a part, expanding from Iraq to Morocco, for example. This no longer valid," he said. "Arabs would be one nation ... Unfortunately this has failed and that era ended and a new era began."
"We have to learn lessons."
Pakistan nuclear expansion raises US concerns By Carol Giacomo and Andrea Shalal-Esa
Mon Jul 24, 6:31 PM ET
Pakistan is building a new nuclear reactor that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year in what would be a major expansion of its nuclear program and could prompt an intensified arms race in South Asia, a report said Monday.
But U.S. officials and congressional aides, who confirmed the Pakistani plan, said it was unlikely to derail a nuclear cooperation accord with India or the sale of U.S.-made F-16 jets to Islamabad.
News of the planned new Pakistani facility was confirmed as the U.S. Congress faced targets for action this week on both an Indian cooperation accord and the F-16s deal.
"We have been aware of these plans, and we discourage any use of that facility for military purposes such as weapons development," White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters.
He said the administration "discourage(s) expansion and modernization of nuclear weapons programs, both of India and Pakistan," nuclear rivals who refused to sign the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
While U.S. officials knew about the reactor project, congressional aides said Congress was largely unaware until a report in the Washington Post on Monday citing an analysis of satellite photos and other data by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
The analysis concluded Pakistan was building a second larger heavy water reactor at its Khushab complex that could produce enough plutonium for 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.
Construction apparently began sometime after March 2000. But the analysis said Pakistan did not appear to be hastening completion, possibly due to shortages of reactor components or weapons production infrastructure.
The administration preferred to keep the project quiet because public disclosure "probably will aggravate concerns in India" as well as on Capitol Hill, one U.S. official said.
Congress this week faces a deadline for acting if it wants to block administration plans to sell Pakistan up to 36 F-16C/D Block 50/52 Falcon fighters built by Lockheed Martin Corp. in a deal potentially worth up to $5 billion.
Some lawmakers are concerned about Pakistan's past nuclear proliferation record and fear the warplane technology could be leaked to China, Pakistan's close ally.
Congress could block the sale by enacting a resolution of disapproval in both houses within 30 days of the June 28 notification date, but such action is rare.
But to survive a presidential veto, the legislation would have to pass both houses with a two-thirds majority.
"The reality ...is that it's very difficult to pass a resolution of disapproval," said Rachel Stohl of the Center for Defense Information.
Added a congressional aide: "There should be no effect on the sale of F-16s (because of the new reactor). So far there seem to be no major obstacles to the sale.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday is to take the first of two key votes on the U.S.-India nuclear deal, which would permit sales of American nuclear fuel and reactors to New Delhi for the first time in 30 years. U.S. officials and congressional aides expect the deal to be approved.
However, Democratic Rep. Edward Markey (news, bio, voting record), an administration critic, said: "The nuclear arms race in South Asia is about to ignite, and ... the Bush Administration is throwing fuel on the fire. If either India or Pakistan starts increasing its nuclear arsenal, the other side will respond in kind; and the Bush Administration's proposed nuclear deal with India is making that much more likely."
He and other lawmakers accused the State Department of withholding until after the vote an embarrassing report which will show Indian entities have sold or received weapons of mass destruction technology from Iran or Syria. A department spokesman said the report would be out "shortly."
(additional reporting by Steve Holland))
Posted July 28, 2006 06:39 AM July 28, 2006 06:39 AM
Pak has between 25 and 50 N-weapons: Report
Press Trust of India
New York, July 27, 2006|14:23 IST
Pakistan currently has between 25 and 50 nuclear weapons, mostly relatively simple uranium arms with "modest" yields around the size of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a journal claimed on Thursday.
The Nature magazine's claim followed media reports that satellite photos of Pakistan's Khushab nuclear site have shown what appears to be a partially completed heavy-water reactor capable of a 20-fold increase from its current nuclear capabilities.
Quoting Director of globalsecurity.org, a non-profit group that specialises in image analysis John Pike, Nature says if the new facility is what it seems to be, it would allow Pakistan to build a lot more bombs.
The reactor is "gigantic" and would allow Pakistan to increase its total number of weapons tenfold, he says. Plutonium can be used to construct smaller and more lightweight weapons than uranium.
Most uranium bombs require 15 to 20 kilograms of material, but plutonium weapons can be built with as little as 5 kilograms. That makes it easier to fit plutonium warheads on missiles.
In addition, small plutonium bombs are often used to trigger larger hydrogen weapons.
So the technology, says Pike, is an important step towards developing those bombs, which are thousands of times more powerful than uranium and plutonium weapons.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: July 28, 2006, 07:12:59 PM
By RALPH PETERS
July 28, 2006 -- YESTERDAY, Israel's government overruled its generals and refused to expand the ground war in southern Lebanon. Given the difficulties encountered and the casualties suffered, the decision is understandable. And wrong.
In the War on Terror - combating Hezbollah's definitely part of it - you have to finish what you start. You can't permit the perception that the terrorists won. But that's where the current round of fighting is headed.
For the Israelis, the town of Bint Jbeil is an embarrassment, an objective that proved unexpectedly hard to take. But the town's a tactical issue to the Israeli Defense Force, not a strategic one.
For Hezbollah, it's Stalingrad, where the Red Army stopped the Germans. And that's how terrorist propagandists will mythologize it.
Considering only the military facts, the IDF's view is correct. But the Middle East has little use for facts. Perception is what counts. To the Arab masses, Hezbollah's resistance appears heroic, triumphant - and inspiring. We don't have to like it, but it's true.
So why is defeating Hezbollah such a challenge? Israel smashed one Arab military coalition after another, from 1948 through 1973. Arabs didn't seem to make good soldiers.
Now we see Arabs fighting tenaciously and effectively. What happened?
The answer's straightforward: Different cultures fight for different things. Arabs might jump up and down, wailing, "We will die for you Saddam!" But, in the clinch, they don't - they surrender. Conventional Arab armies fight badly because their conscripts and even the officers feel little loyalty to the states they serve - and even less to self-anointed national leaders.
But Arabs will fight to the bitter end for their religion, their families and the land their clan possesses. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah exploits all three motivations. The Hezbollah guerrilla waiting to ambush an Israeli patrol believes he's fighting for his faith, his family and the earth beneath his feet. He'll kill anyone and give his own life to win.
We all need to stop making cartoon figures of such enemies. Hezbollah doesn't have tanks or jets, but it poses the toughest military problem Israel's ever faced. And Hezbollah may be the new model for Middle Eastern "armies."
The IDF's errors played into Hezbollah's hands. Initially relying on air power, the IDF ignored the basic military principles of surprise, mass and concentration of effort. Instead of aiming a shocking, concentrated blow at Hezbollah, the IDF dissipated its power by striking targets scattered throughout Lebanon - while failing to strike any of them decisively.
Even now, in the struggle for a handful of border villages, the IDF continues to commit its forces piecemeal - a lieutenant's mistake. Adding troops in increments allows the enemy to adjust to the increasing pressure - instead of being crushed by one mighty blow.
This is also an expensive fight for Israel in another way: financially. The precision weapons on which the IDF has relied so heavily - and to so little effect - cost anywhere from hundreds of thousands of dollars to seven figures per round. Israel has expended thousands of such weapons in an effort to spare its ground forces.
Theoretically, that's smart. But we don't live in a theoretical world. Such weapons are so expensive that arsenals are small. The United States already has had to replenish Israel's limited stockpiles - and our own supplies would not support a long war. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, a relatively easy win, we were running low on some specialized munitions within three weeks.
Precision weapons also rely on precision intelligence. It doesn't matter how accurate the bomb is if you can't find the target. And Israel's targeting has been poor. It even appears that Hezbollah managed to feed the IDF phony intelligence, triggering attacks on civilian targets and giving the terrorists a series of media wins.
The precision-weapons cost/benefit trade-offs aren't impressive, either. Killing a terrorist leader with a million-dollar bomb is a sound investment, but using hundreds of them to attack cheap, antiquated rocket launchers gets expensive fast.
Just as the U.S. military learned painful lessons about technology's limits in Iraq, the IDF is getting an education now: There's still no replacement for the infantryman; wars can't be won nor terrorists defeated from the air; and war is ultimately a contest of wills.
Those of us who support Israel and wish its people well have to be alarmed. Jerusalem's talking tough - while backing off in the face of Hezbollah's resistance. Israel's on-stage in a starring role right now, and it's too late to call for a re-write.
As a minimum, the IDF has to pull off a hat trick (killing Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, would be nice) in order to prevent the perception of a Hezbollah victory - a perception that would strengthen the forces of terror immeasurably.
If this conflict ends with rockets still falling on Haifa, Israel's enemies will celebrate Hezbollah as the star of the Terrorist Broadway (Ayman al-Zawahiri's recent rap videos were an attempt to edge into Hezbollah's limelight). Israel - and the civilized world - can't afford that.
Yes, Israel's casualties are painful and, to the IDF, unexpected. But Hezbollah isn't counting its casualties - it's concentrating on fighting. In warfare, that's the only approach that works.
Israel and its armed forces are rightfully proud of all they have achieved in the last six decades. But they shouldn't be too proud to learn from their enemies: In warfare, strength of will is the greatest virtue.
Ralph Peters' new book is "Never Quit the Fight."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: July 28, 2006, 05:55:30 PM
The Missiles of 27 Rajab
By Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | July 28, 2006
This year, we are told, the Muslim commemorations associated with their calendar date 27 Rajab will occur on August 22. On this a most celebratory date in the Islamic calendar, best-selling author and Islamic scholar Robert Spencer reminds that the Prophet Muhammed made his ascension into heaven from the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, an event known as the Miraj. ?[T]he Night Journey has become firmly embedded in the Islamic consciousness,? Spencer notes, ?such that Muslims today celebrate it as one of the central events of Muhammad?s life.? And now, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has selected that as an auspicious date to create a light over the skies of Jerusalem such as the world has never seen since the Miraj.
If as the president of the Reform Party in Syria, Farid Ghadry claims, ?Ahmadinejad is planning an illumination of the night sky over Jerusalem to rival the one that greeted the Prophet of Islam on his journey,? then it is difficult to imagine anything other than a full-scale Iranian nuclear attack. As Spencer continues, ?a nuclear attack on Jerusalem or even an all-out conventional assault against Israel by Iran would be consistent with Ahmadinejad?s oft-repeated denials of Israel?s right to exist and recent predictions that its demise was at hand.? These observations are the latest from a growing list of ominous portents from Iranian and Syrian leaders too horrific to ignore.
Assuming the worst case ? a default mental mode for military planners ? what ought we to expect to happen the next several weeks? A possible scenario can be constructed based on events of recent weeks and months, although the groundwork for this action has taken years to develop. Let us try to outline what Ahmadinejad and his surrogates in Syria and inside Hezbollah might have on their minds.
To begin we review what we know for certain: 1) Iran has been focused on acquisition of nuclear weapons, working for years with the AQ Khan group and North Korea; 2) Iran has for all intents and purposes declared war on Israel and America (though the U.S. has not understood Iran?s commitment), outlining its war policy as one of utter extermination; 3) Iran has worked unceasingly with North Korean scientists and engineers to improve missile technology, resulting in several models of varying ranges and payloads, and with highly improved mobility over SCUDs; 4) Iran has used surrogate movements and states to support clandestinely attacks on Israel and America (the latter inside Iraq); 5) Iran has positioned large numbers of technologically advanced weapons and the troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to assist inside Lebanon and Syria.
We have confirmed that Iran was a sponsor and participant in North Korea?s early July 2006 missile tests, and have shown rather convincingly that the real testing was the ability to deploy rapidly missile units, each capable of firing several weapons independently. The capstone of the test was that multiple missiles fired on schedule, each simulating many, and that the tests were frighteningly successful. Equally important was that the public misunderstood the real purpose of the tests and vastly underestimated the value derived from them.
If we were investigating this as a possible murder case we?d look for motive, weapon, and opportunity. Motive is easy. Ahmadinejad want to wipe Israel and America off the map. How do we know? Because he told us, repeatedly, in great detail, and with utmost sincerity. Weapons? We are looking at a slate of which we?re told intelligence analysts were unaware. While this is doubtful, it may be factual that analysts were cautious about numbers of missiles and rockets deployed and the willingness of the Hezbollah enemy to employ them. Those doubts ought to be resolved as hundreds of rockets rain down on Israel and increasingly capable weapons are discovered. Opportunity? Made to order, on order. It was an Ahmadinejad-created opportunity, a directed Hezbollah attack on Israel designed to bring in America and allies. It?s all happening, per Iranian plan, and its right there for us to see.
In a July 27 NY Sun op-ed, premier radio talk show host John Bachelor addresses the opportunity issue. The behavior of Syria, Bachelor notes ?is meant to provoke Israel and pull America directly into the fighting.? Syria, as Bachelor points out, issued an unacceptable ultimatum to the U.S. ?Knowing that America cannot agree?.Syria and its sponsor, Iran, are preparing for the next stage of the escalation.? That next stage he affirms is a ?shooting war.? To what point? This is where the weapons come into the picture.
Ahmadinejad has an apocalyptic future vision. Unlike previous nuclear opponents, Soviet Russia and China, for example, for whom a policy of mutually assured destruction was a suitable deterrent, the Iranian leader and his mullocracy lust for as much violence as possible. He openly calls for massive destruction in Israel, Europe, and America, and welcome any and all retaliation as the necessary precursor to activate the mysterious 12 Imam. The suspended-life Imam, buried beneath the Shia Mosque of the Golden Dome, Samara in Iraq, will return to this world as the Madhi, the Caliph to lead hordes of Muslims to global victory, only if preceded with sufficient violence. Ahmadinejad believes this just as certainly as Adolph Hitler believed in his Thousand Year Reich and the superiority of the Aryan race. And in a manner similar to his mentor Hitler, Ahmadinejad is willing to sacrifice his life to achieve his ultimate goal.
Consequently Iran has accelerated nuclear weapons development (or purchase) and missile technology. It has a broad array of weapons including several classes of missiles. Some like the Farj Class, as Michael Krauss and Peter Pham note in Foundation for the Defense of Democracy this July, were built ?with Chinese and North Korean assistance,? and are capable of slinging a 200 pound warhead between 25 and 45 miles. ?Israeli intelligence estimates that several hundred Fajr rockets have been delivered so far,? they say. These can go further and carry more than the generic ?Katyushas.? Ken Timmerman notes that the Fajrs carry a 110 pound warhead, but what makes them so fearsome is ?the tiny ball bearings packed inside? designed as a terror weapon to kill and maim civilians.
Additionally, the Iranians have smuggled several of the Zelzal Class into Lebanon for Hezbollah use. These are heftier weapons, also known as Shehab Class missiles, derived from the North Korean Nodong Class, built with Iranian financial backing. These can fly up to 1600 kilometers carrying a payload of almost a ton. Even with conventional loads these are formidable terror weapons. Bachelor notes that these missiles are ?on their mobile launchers, under Iranian rocket crews? parked in Syria waiting the order to attack. Once given the green light crews will ?push over the border crossings, park about 15 meters inside Lebanon, and launch on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.?
Reinforcing the threat, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, warned that ?deeper? attacks would be forthcoming. The Israelis, Bachelor says, have accounted for more than 36 such missiles inside Lebanon. They?ve already killed some, but how may more wait across the Syrian border? Dozens? Hundreds? Using the tactics just rehearsed in North Korea suppose Syria, backed to the hilt by Iran, having provoked an Israeli or American strike which provides them sufficient excuse, then floods across the border. Many specially trained battalions with scores of Zelzals and smaller payload missiles dispersed among them will lead. It is probably that many of the weapons and units are already pre-positioned.
These Zelzal missiles if properly dispersed and simultaneously launched ? if, in other words, the tactical model developed by the Soviets, taught to the Iranians, and just practiced in front of the world in North Korea is followed ? we could expect that existing Israeli missile defense systems would be overwhelmed. Radars would pick scores, perhaps hundreds of missiles launched from a very short distance away all converging on Israeli cities. It would be impossible for upgraded Patriot or any other deployed system to get them all. The leakers would certainly penetrate. Are they going to carry conventional explosives, a serious enough threat by itself, or will these be the ones that carry the dirty warheads, the small fission devices, or the VX nerve gas? Is this the ?day or rejoicing? that Ahmadinejad threatens? Does anyone really want to wait until mid August when this attack is launched to learn?
In this scenario inaction is not appropriate. Nor is the reprehensible laundry list of appeasement initiatives drafted by State Department Arabists acceptable. The options for a diplomatic solution have already expired. State has played its hand, and sterner leadership must take charge. Both Syria and Iran must be faced squarely and confronted with the consequences of their actions before they can attack. Iran is clearly attempting to use an attack on Israel to build momentum for an overthrow of that country combined with a defeat of America in Iraq. Rather than wait defensively America must strike Iran, taking out leadership, nuclear, and missile targets. Simultaneously every Iranian revolutionary group must be supported and turned loose to foment revolution inside Iran.
Syria has to be taken out immediately. Leadership targets - regime, Hezbollah, and Iranian - must be attacked and friendly forces put into the border area for missile suppression. U.S. units watching Syria?s back door can strike and raid, thereby collapsing Syrian resistance. Israeli forces need to continue to press Hezbollah terrorists inside Lebanon to keep them off balance. It is critically important that America and Israel supported by whatever allies have the courage to assist, take the fight immediately to the perpetrators. By waiting for a first-strike we are put in a position of playing a retaliation game after we have already endured unacceptable losses in population and perception. Once America and Israel are seen as weak enough to defeat, then the international jackals will all join in for the kill. This is what our enemies hope to accomplish.
How realistic is this plan politically? Probably not very, and that is what is going to be a major setback, possibly one from which it will be extraordinarily difficult to recover. Complicating American reaction to these events is the paralyzing idea prevalent among many Americans that by solving Iraq our troubles in the region are over. This na?ve perception is clouding America?s grasp of the scope, breadth, and reality of the threat. We face a crisis of major proportions. Hesitation may be fatal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Geo Political matters
on: July 28, 2006, 04:17:39 PM
Surviving in the age of very short-range missiles.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Friday, July 28, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT
Melodramatic images of war are now televised all day long. The images out of Israel this week have produced something new for war-soaked living-room audiences. One might call it Katyusha World.
The all-too-visible reality for the inhabitants of Katyusha World is that there is no defense against incoming rocket barrages other than hiding and hoping. The Hezbollah militia has decided to use unguided artillery Katyusha rockets like bullets. They fired more than 1,500 of them this week at Israeli population centers. Hezbollah is believed to possess longer-range missiles made in Syria and Iran for which Israel also has no defense. They would simply land and explode.
It was only a few weeks ago that all of us were learning how to pronounce "Taepodong," a long-range ballistic missile that North Korea periodically lobs as a "test" in the direction of the unprotected population of Japan. After this week it is getting hard to pretend that the threat of missiles is something we don't have to think about.
Up to now Israel has regarded Iran's long-range guided missiles as the primary threat of this sort, and in the 1990s developed the Arrow ballistic missile-defense system. Uri Rubin, former head of the Arrow project, told me in an interview from Israel this week that the relatively poor accuracy of the cheap Katyushas has been an argument against investing in an expensive anti-Katyusha defense system. This cost-comparison calculus was one reason Israel shelved plans to deploy Northrop Grumman's THEL system, whose lasers routinely have shot down Katyushas at the Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Speaking this week about the earlier decision, Mr. Rubin said, "You also have to compare the cost of no defense"--for lives or infrastructure.
Mr. Rubin shared with me an unpublished paper he wrote with Dan Hazanovsky on "The Emerging Threat of Very Short-Range Ballistic Missiles," or VSBMs. In times past, the world worried about huge, Soviet-style missiles. Mr. Rubin says smaller, free-flying rockets are now evolving into relatively sophisticated and accurate ballistic missiles, "thanks to the steep decline in the cost of accuracy--the falling prices of onboard inertial and satellite navigation systems, the availability of cheap, commercial grade, high-speed computing power and low-cost control systems." That is, the same dynamic that makes cheap, fast electronic products available to consumers will do the same to electronic missile weaponry.
Very short-range missiles fall outside any existing export-control regime. China is a primary seller, or proliferator, of missiles and technology. At its International Aviation and Space Exhibition two years ago, China for the first time displayed its B611 short-range missile with a range of 95 miles.
Where would one use a VSBM? Richard Speier, a former Pentagon missile specialist, says Seoul "is a sitting duck for Frog-7s," a short-range missile with a three-minute flight time that North Korea successfully test-fired in May 2005. The Straits of Taiwan comes to mind, as do various border cities in Pakistan, India or Kuwait. These small missiles can carry chemical or biological agents. Uri Rubin calls them "ideal weapons for terrorizing population centers." It generally requires state power to manage and deploy such weapons, but that power is of course a goal of radical Islam.
Israel's population, with Katyushas raining down on them by the thousands, is a metaphor for the world ahead of commoditized missile weaponry. Not thinking about how to survive in that world is foolhardy. Hezbollah's Katyusha barrage, coming so soon after North Korea's aggressive, highly publicized Taepodong test, elevates all this as a political issue.
Historically the Democratic Party has committed itself to suppressing the development of anti-missile technologies. This opposition dates to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. During the Cold War, when the enemy was the Soviet Union, opponents of missile defense opted for the policy known as mutual assured destruction, or MAD. Sens. Biden, Levin, Kerry and Kennedy all in recent times have spoken out against missile defense. The party's platform in 2000 opposed "an ill-conceived missile defense system that would plunge us into a new arms race." But closing off missile-defense technologies today means we default again to MAD, or a kind of MAD Jr.
This was made explicit last Jan. 19 when French President Jacques Chirac threatened a nuclear strike to deter terrorist attacks on France. "Against a regional power, our choice is not between inaction and destruction," he said. "All of our nuclear forces have been configured in this spirit." In a similar vein, it is generally believed that Japan could--and probably would if necessary--assemble several nuclear devices within 30 days. Whatever the argument in the Cold War years for protecting populations with a strategy of mutual assured destruction, it makes no sense now when negotiating partners such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il represent the antithesis of any known concept of good faith.
As Robert Kaplan pointed out in the Journal last week in his review of "Terrorists, Insurgents and Militias," the biggest strategic problem today isn't past notions of big-power miscalculation but new rogue regimes whose ideology means they "cannot be gratified through negotiations." Absent any in-place protection against the missiles described here, "defense" means either an Israel-type counteroffensive, nuclear retaliation or--the Democratic preference--open-ended diplomacy, cease-fires and negotiation. None of these suffice. Widely available tables showing the proliferation of missiles listed by nation boggle the mind. Put simply, in terms of post-launch, we are behind the curve.
We are heading toward two election cycles amid a world unsettled by missile threats--in the air or on the brink. To the specter of North Korea and Iran delivering WMD by long-range missiles, now add Katyusha-like strikes from very small rockets and missiles. Come 2008, we may see a Republican candidate who understands these issues running against a militarily ambivalent Democrat who has to learn them, like an unguided rocket, on the fly.
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: July 28, 2006, 02:20:26 AM
Denny-- good find that! Glad to know that the chattering classes at the UN were wide of the mark.
Here's an angle on target selection that I hadn't seen before:
Hezbollah banks under attack in Lebanon
Israel seeks to destroy group?s financial infrastructure
By Adam Ciralsky, Lisa Myers & the NBC News Investigative Unit
Updated: 11:25 a.m. MT July 25, 2006
WASHINGTON - Fifteen hundred times in the past two weeks, an Israeli jet has taken off with a load of bombs. But as NBC News has learned, the targets have not just been military.
Israeli intelligence sources tell NBC News that among the targets hit in Lebanon are as many as a dozen financial institutions ? part of a previously secret campaign to destroy Hezbollah's financial infrastructure. Some banks were demolished, others deliberately damaged but not destroyed. In one case, Israel also took out a bank manager's home.
In an exclusive interview, Israel's top counter-terror official says these attacks are a warning.
"The message is for all the Lebanese banks,? says Brig. Gen. Dani Arditi, advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister for Counterterrorism. ?Assistance to Hezbollah is direct assistance to terrorist organizations."
Among the targets: Eight offices of Hezbollah's unofficial treasury, called Beit el Mal. The Israelis claim the attacks caught Hezbollah by surprise.
"We know that they are looking for money. They are very desperate to have some cash and they don?t have [it],? Arditi says.
The Israelis say they also struck branches of two major banks ? Al Baraka and Fransabank ? which they claim help Hezbollah receive and move money around the world. A senior bank official at Al Baraka confirms one of his branches was bombed, and says several other nearby banks were hit, too. Arditi tells NBC News that a third bank ? the Middle East and Africa Bank ? also is on Israel's hit list.
All three banks deny any ties to Hezbollah.
"We have no relation to any organization like Hezbollah," says the Al Baraka official. The Fransabank General Manager tells NBC "We have no relationship with Hezbollah or any other political party anywhere. We don't have any relation and we refuse to have one." And the Administrative Manager for the Middle East and Africa Bank says someone tried to open a suspicious account with the bank, but no money was accepted and the bank employee involved has been fired.
But a fundraising appeal that aired last week on the Hezbollah-connected Al Manar television station asks that money for the Hezbollah resistance be sent a specific account at the Middle East and Africa Bank.
An Arabic speaking NBC News producer called the number listed on the television ad, and was told to go to any U.S. bank and wire the money. Our producer was advised to not tell anyone the money was meant for Hezbollah.
The Middle East Africa Bank has a relationship with the U.S. bank Wachovia. After NBC News informed Wachovia of the Hezbollah fundraising appeal, Wachovia immediately terminated the relationship.
In a statement, a Wachovia spokesman said, "Wachovia confirms that it has very stringent procedures and policies in place to monitor accounts and ensure compliance with the Patriot Act, including not conducting business with any organization identified by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization or supporting terrorism."
Later, NBC News called back the same number advertised on Al Manar and, this time, was provided with the name of a separate bank. Here's an edited transcript of that conversation:
NBC: I want to donate money to the Mujahideens [Hezbollah resistance], is this the right number?
Hezbollah Facilitator: You have to send to The Lebanese-French Bank.
NBC: Do you have the number?
Hezbollah Facilitator: There is an account number. You deposit the money and wire it to the Lebanese French Bank.
NBC: How can I know that this is accurate? I?m so worried to deposit the money, can you tell me and confirm that this money will be sent to the Mujahideen?
Hezbollah Facilitator: Yes, sure.
NBC: And where are you from? Are you from the bank or no?
Hezbollah Facilitator: No. I?m from the resistance.
NBC: How would we know? I?m so worried when I deposit the money it will reach Mujahideen.
Hezbollah Facilitator: You go to the bank and deposit the money, and they will wire it to the Lebanese French Bank. You have to go the bank. Where are you calling from?
NBC: I am from America.
Hezbollah Facilitator: You have to go to the bank ? any bank.
NBC: That for sure will reach the Mujahideen?
Hezbollah Facilitator: For sure. Do not mention resistance or anything like that. If you do, they won?t wire them.
NBC: Thank you - God be with you. Bye bye.
Hezbollah Facilitator: You are welcome. God be with you.
Tuesday, the head of the Corporate Banking Division of the Lebanese-French Bank (Banque Libano-Fran?aise) informed NBC News that it had closed the account that the Hezbollah facilitator had set up at his bank.
"With regard to the account referred to in your message, it appears that the said account belongs to an individual person and shows insignificant movements and balances. Following the information in your e-mail, our Compliance Unit has closed the said account," says Lebanese-French Bank official Maurice Iskandar.
He adds that the bank has strict anti-money-laundering policies and that the bank will not "open any account for, deal with, or transact on behalf of, any political or military organisation or their affiliated entities and/or known individuals."
The Lebanese-French Bank has a relationship with two prominent U.S. banks ? Citibank and the Bank of New York. A Bank of New York spokesman says: "We are aware of this situation and we have taken appropriate steps." A Citibank spokesman says, "Hezbollah has been designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization since 1995. If we received any payment from a correspondent bank that referenced Hezbollah it would be stopped and blocked."
U.S. intelligence officials confirm the Israeli bombing campaign against the banks. But how much difference can that really make?
"If they have a hard time moving money, they?ll have a hard time funding their operations,? says terrorism analyst Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
That means trouble paying fighters' salaries and providing services that engender support from the Lebanese people. The Israelis hope it also means more difficulty getting money from Iran.
The assassination of a former Prime Minister may have been linked to the collapse of Lebanon's Bank al-Madina.
by Mitchell Prothero, FORTUNE Magazine
May 11, 2006: 12:00 PM EDT
(FORTUNE Magazine) - Last year, when Syrian intelligence operatives were implicated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, their motive seemed clear: to neutralize a political opponent of Syria's three-decade occupation of Lebanon.
But United Nations investigators and other sources have told FORTUNE there may have been an additional reason for the hit. The February 2005 car bombing in Beirut, the sources say, may have been partly intended to cover up a corruption and bank fraud scandal that siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars to top Syrian and Lebanese officials.
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Bank documents, court filings, and interviews with investigators and other sources show that some of the officials were deeply involved from the late 1990s until early 2003 in a kickback scheme that supplied them with cash, real estate, cars, and jewelry in exchange for protecting and facilitating a multibillion-dollar money-laundering operation at Lebanon's Bank al-Madina that allowed terrorist organizations, peddlers of West African "blood diamonds," Saddam Hussein, and Russian gangsters to hide income and convert hot money into legitimate bank accounts around the world.
Despite efforts to cover up the details surrounding the bank's collapse in early 2003, these sources say, the Syrian and Lebanese officials allegedly involved in the fraud feared that Hariri could return to power and reveal their role in one of the biggest illegal banking operations in the Middle East since the Bank of Credit & Commerce International scandal in the early 1990s.
"Was the scandal part of the reason Hariri was killed?" asks Marwan Hamade, Lebanon's Minister of Telecommunications and a Hariri confidant who was himself the target of a car-bomb assassination attempt. "Absolutely. It was certainly one of the cumulative reasons. If he had been reelected, Hariri would have reopened the file, which we know goes directly to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad through the [Lebanese] presidential palace in Baabda."
UN investigators looking into Hariri's death, led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, became interested in the link to al-Madina on the suspicion that money stolen from the bank helped fund the plot, says a Lebanese security source who helped investigate the bank's collapse and later worked with the UN team.
After reviewing some of the banking records of suspects in both Syria and Lebanon, says the source, who asked not to be identified as he isn't authorized to talk about the matter, the UN team started looking into whether at least some of the plotters were motivated by a desire to obscure their roles in the al-Madina affair. "It goes all the way to the top people in Syria," the source says.
Mehlis's reports on the assassination make reference to financial fraud as a possible motive. "Fraud, corruption, and money laundering could have been motives for individuals to participate in the operation that ended with the assassination of Mr. Hariri," Mehlis wrote last December in his second report, referring specifically to the collapse of al-Madina.
Mehlis, who would not be interviewed, also mentioned in his report a taped conversation in which General Rustom Ghazali, Syria's top military official in Lebanon, accused Hariri of discussing Syrian corruption in a newspaper interview, apparently in violation of an agreement to remain quiet on the matter. In late April, noting UN findings, President George W. Bush ordered a freeze on assets held in the U.S. by anyone involved in the assassination, though the order did not cite names.
As part of the power struggle that ensued after Assad extended the term of Lebanese President and Syrian ally Emile Lahoud in 2004, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister with the intention of running for Parliament on an anti-Syrian platform. Hariri confidants say that, once returned to power, he planned to reopen the investigation into the bank's collapse. The case file and a trove of supporting documents were sealed in the vault of Lebanon's Central Bank in 2003 after threats by Ghazali, who appears to have made millions of dollars from the scheme himself.
The Syrian occupation of Lebanon from 1976 to 2005 has long been viewed as a geopolitical move designed to stabilize its smaller neighbor after decades of civil war and create a bargaining chip in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But over time, the occupation turned into a moneymaking operation for Syrian elites and their Lebanese allies.
"When the Syrians came to Lebanon," says Adnan Araki, a former Lebanese member of Parliament and Syrian loyalist, "they wanted the Golan Heights back and considered Lebanon and Hezbollah something to bargain with. We had to teach them how to steal."
Investigators looking into the looting at Bank al-Madina got a break in March, when Brazilian police arrested Rana Koleilat, al-Madina's former executive secretary. Koleilat, who jumped bail in Lebanon last year and eluded an international manhunt, is believed to have played a key role in the bank scandal.
She is alleged in lawsuits brought by the bank's owners to have used false withdrawals and bogus loans to enrich her family and pay off authorities. Even as al-Madina failed, she is said by investigators to have extracted millions of dollars from owner Adnan Abou Ayyash, a construction magnate who lives in Saudi Arabia, through a series of wire transfers and check exchanges. Koleilat denied the charges after her capture and said that the bank's owners had authorized all withdrawals and that Ghazali had blackmailed her into paying him for protection.
When the dust settled in the summer of 2003, after depositors were paid and assets liquidated, the Abou Ayyash family found itself about $1.5 billion poorer, a stunning turn of events for a Lebanese family that controlled a vast business empire. But as Koleilat and the Abou Ayyash brothers sued and countersued and the Central Bank grabbed whatever money was left to pay depositors, it became clear that no investigation would be forthcoming. The money was gone, and only questions remained, questions whose answers were locked away in a vault in the Central Bank.
In an interview last year, Central Bank governor Riad Salameh didn't deny reports that Ghazali had threatened him into closing the investigation. The general's family, records produced by the bank appear to show, got more than $32 million from al-Madina via transfers approved by Koleilat. But with a pro-Syrian Parliament and Justice Minister in place, then--Prime Minister Hariri was unable to force an investigation beyond the initial 2003 fraud claims.
It is only recently, a year after the departure of Syrian troops, that the bank files have been transferred to the Ministry of Justice for a proper investigation into how the money was stolen and who benefited from the bribes. Just a handful of bank documents have emerged, but they detail an impressive pattern of corruption and fraud on the part of Syrian political and security officials and their Lebanese allies.
Critical evidence of the extent of the money-laundering operation was unintentionally revealed during an investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to ensnare an arms dealer with ties to the Islamic resistance movement Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, which the U.S. and several other governments consider a terrorist organization.
In 2004, U.S. prosecutors charged Naji Antoine Abi Khalil with attempting to purchase and ship night-vision goggles and other military equipment from the U.S. to Hezbollah. Khalil's ties to al-Madina's money-laundering operations came to light when he bragged to agents and informants that he traveled the world picking up cash to be delivered to the bank on behalf of Hezbollah and Russian mobsters. According to court papers, Khalil, who has since pleaded guilty, accepted $100,000 to launder from agents as part of a sting and told them the single biggest delivery he had made to the bank was $160 million in cash.
But those amounts pale when compared to the piles of cash laundered by Iraqi officials and their partners in illegally gaming the UN's oil-for-food program. Designed for humanitarian reasons to allow Iraq to sell oil through vouchers that could be used to purchase food and medicine, the program became a hotbed of corruption that Saddam and his loyalists used to earn illegal money.
By the late 1990s proceeds flooded the Middle East as favored allies of the regime received coupons good for oil purchases at lower-than-market prices. Investigations into the program found rampant corruption on the part of UN officials, Middle Eastern government officials, and oil companies. The son of Lebanese President Lahoud was implicated, as were other prominent Lebanese and Syrian officials and businessmen. And al-Madina served as a place for them to hide the proceeds.
Several sources, including one alleged conspirator in the oil-for-food scandal, who refuses to let his name be used for legal and safety reasons, put the amount transferred and laundered through al-Madina at more than $1 billion, with a 25% commission going to Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies. The source says that among the recipients of this money were Bashar Assad's brother Maher and the head of military intelligence in Lebanon at the time, Ghazi Kanaan. (Kanaan committed suicide last October after Mehlis questioned him about the plot to kill Hariri.)
To protect this operation, Koleilat had developed a network of graft that shocked even a Lebanese society comfortable with questionable business dealings. She threw dinners where guests received Rolex watches, and she gave luxury cars to friends and officials.
The graft was so widespread that one security official described the parking lot of his office during that era as a "Mercedes dealership." Some bank records point to 155 pieces of real estate--villas, apartments, hotels, and condos--purchased or distributed by Koleilat and her brothers. The Koleilats also had five luxury yachts and as many as 194 cars and motorcycles, not including the gifts to friends, associates, and greedy officials.
Koleilat and the al-Madina plotters needed protection and sought out high-level officials who could help them, says a former employee of the Koleilat family who witnessed many of their dealings. The source, who requested anonymity because the matter is still considered dangerous to discuss in Lebanon, says one of those was Jamil Sayeed, a former director of Lebanese internal security, since arrested on suspicion of plotting Hariri's murder. (Sayeed refused to comment.)
"Rustom Ghazali would receive money, cars, jewels, and hunting trips," the source says. "People used to come and wait in the office. The big shots would get checks; the lower people, like generals and officers, would get cash. This situation went much higher than Ghazali. It was a way for Maher Assad and others to profit from Lebanon and from the Iraq factor."
Several Syrian officials mentioned in the Mehlis reports can be tied to money from al-Madina by documents supplied to FORTUNE by the bank's owners. Ghazali's three brothers were issued four ATM cards linked to a fake account with a $2,000 daily limit for withdrawals, which they made each day from December 2002 to January 2003, according to one document. One of the four cards had a total yearly cash withdrawal of $8 million.
Ghazali's brother Mohammed also received a money transfer for $1,091,000 from the bank on Jan. 20, 2003. Investigators and lawyers for the bank's owners say that during these final months, Ghazali and other top officials decided that the bank's failure was inevitable and acted quickly to drain the remaining monies. One bank employee says that he witnessed Rustom Ghazali demanding a $300,000 payment just after the bank had been put under Central Bank management, a payment approved by regulators.
Among the 155 suspicious real estate transactions flagged by investigators is the transfer of an apartment valued at $2.5 million from the Koleilat family to a friend of Maher Assad's office manager--a transfer the bank's lawyers say they believe was intended to put it under Maher Assad's control. Lebanese political and security officials say that the sealed documents show far more money and property transferred to Maher.
"The entire file on Madina is now at the Ministry of Justice, except for the key parts that implicate Maher Assad, which are still being held in the Central Bank, because people are afraid of being killed over it," says Hamade, the Telecommunications Minister. "While there is not the same level of threats, the Syrian presence remains, and judges are very cautious about this case." (Efforts to reach Maher Assad and the Ghazalis for comment through several Syrian government agencies were unsuccessful.)
Other documents show transfers or transactions made by the bank to the benefit of Lahoud's son--allegations he refused to comment on--and to Lebanese security officials, including the four generals arrested last year on suspicion of participating in the plot to kill Hariri. Current Finance Minister Jihad Azour, a friend of Hariri's, insists that only today, with Syrian troops out of the country, can Lebanon commit to a full investigation. And he believes fear of such an investigation drove some of the murderers. "The risk of reopening the file could have led to this murder," Azour says. "Al-Madina reached the biggest people in Lebanon and Syria."
Azour says Hariri wanted to pursue an investigation into al-Madina and other cases of corruption and would have gone forward, even knowing the danger. "Hariri wanted this file to reach its conclusion," Azour says. "He was concerned about the scandal's ramifications. It has a very negative impact on the status of the Lebanese banking system. And it's important that the case be treated in an extreme way to fix this perception."
From the May 15, 2006 issue
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: July 27, 2006, 09:42:01 PM
BY JAMES TARANTO
Thursday, July 27, 2006 3:58 p.m. EDT
BB 'C' No Evil
When Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, provoking the current conflagration, the Shiite terrorist outfit apparently intended to use them as bargaining chips to demand the release of prisoners. Press reports often discuss this as if there were an equivalence between the Israeli soldiers, who committed no crimes but were simply defending their own country within its borders, and Arab terrorists. So it's worth pointing out just who the "prisoners" in Israeli hands are.
According to the BBC "the prisoner Hezbollah wants most" is Samir Qantar. On April 22, 1979, Qantar murdered 28-year-old Danny Haran and his 4-year-old daughter and caused the death of another Haran daughter, age 2. Haran's widow, Smadar Haran Kaiser, describes the crime (she transliterates the murderer's name as "Kuntar"):
It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border.
Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer.
As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.
Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.
They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. "This is just like what happened to my mother," I thought.
As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.
By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.
The BBC gives a rather more sanitized account of the crime: "Qantar . . . attacked a block of flats in Nahariha in 1979, killing a father and his daughter."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Help our troops/our cause:
on: July 27, 2006, 09:27:54 PM
Cry Bias, and Let Slip the Blogs of War
By MIKE SPECTOR
July 26, 2006; Page B1
J.P. Borda started a Web log during his 2004 National Guard deployment in Afghanistan to keep in touch with his family. But when he got home, he decided it was the mainstream media that was out of touch with the war.
"You hear so much about what's going wrong," he says. "It gets hard to hear after a while when there's so much good going on."
Mr. Borda, a specialist, read other soldiers' blogs and found he wasn't alone. Hundreds of other troops and veterans were blogging world-wide, and many focused on a common enemy: journalists.
Military blogger J.P. Borda, center, during his 2004 National Guard deployment to Afghanistan.
The 31-year-old software analyst, who now lives in Dallas, wanted to make it easier for people to read soldiers' accounts. So he started a Web site, Milblogging.com, to organize as many blogs as possible by country, military branch and subject matter. Today, the site links to more than 1,400 military blogs world-wide and was recently purchased for an undisclosed amount by Military.com, a Web site catering to soldiers that is owned by Monster Worldwide Inc.
Now, Mr. Borda finds himself at the center of a growing blogging movement. Military bloggers, or "milbloggers" as they call themselves, contend that they are uniquely qualified to comment on events in armed conflicts. Many milbloggers also argue that the mainstream media tends to overplay negative stories and play down positive military developments. For many of these blogs, says Mr. Borda, "the sole purpose is to counteract the media."
There have always been at least some soldiers who have wanted to go to battle against Big Media. Some in the military blamed coverage of the Vietnam War for turning American public opinion against it. What's changed? The Internet now allows frustrated soldiers and veterans to voice their opinions and be heard instantly and globally.
These are a few of the top sites on Milblogging.com. (Links open in a new window. Some content could be offensive to readers.)
? 365 and a Wakeup
? A Soldier's Perspective
? Michael Yon: Online MagazineThe backlash takes many forms. Some bloggers point out what they see as inaccuracies and post lengthy critiques of current reporting. Others post their own stories. Some simply sling arrows.
Matthew Burden, an Army veteran, started his blog, "Blackfive," in December 2003 after he learned that an Army buddy, Maj. Mathew Schram, had been killed in an ambush near the Iraq-Syria border. Mr. Burden, 39, felt his friend received short shrift in media coverage and decided to blog about military stories he felt weren't getting the attention they deserved.
"Does Abu Ghraib need to be told 40 times above the fold in the New York Times when half your readers couldn't name the guy who won the Medal of Honor?" Mr. Burden says.
Michael Yon, a 42-year-old Army Special Forces veteran, is perhaps the most attention-grabbing blogger, with appearances on MSNBC and CNN. In December 2004, he embedded himself with troops in Iraq and posted dispatches online for the next several months.
Most of Mr. Yon's writings related heroic acts by American troops and Iraqis. Mr. Yon also praises some media coverage of Iraq. But in an interview, he says many reporters "haven't stayed long enough to see what's going on. Most of the reporting is not deep enough." According to Mr. Yon, Iraqis are determined to fight insurgents and embrace a new government, a storyline he says he doesn't see in mainstream news coverage.
Not all milblogs wave the flag. Some have drawn attention for posts that irk the chain of command. Jason Hartley, a National Guardsman from New Paltz, N.Y., caught flak for posting comments on his blog, "justanothersoldier.com" that he said were satirical. Mr. Hartley, who served in Iraq, wrote that he loved dead civilians and wished he could shoot children. He claimed the comments were meant to highlight what he sees as the military's nonchalant attitude toward civilian casualties, but his superiors weren't amused. Mr. Hartley was eventually demoted to specialist from sergeant, and his commander, Capt. Vincent Heintz, wrote in a sworn statement that the blog "disparaged the Army in a manner unbecoming of an NCO (non-commissioned officer)."
Mr. Hartley says the military displayed "a neo-conservative, knee-jerk reaction" to his blog. "I'm a bleeding heart liberal in the guise of a soldier, and sometimes it comes out in my writing," he says.
Other milblogs are critical of the Bush Administration. An Army blogger in Iraq who calls himself "Godlesskinser," has a clock on his Web site noting how many days, hours, minutes and seconds have passed since President Bush vowed to capture Osama bin Laden.
The Pentagon, taking notice of the impact of such writings, has a committee studying military blogs over the next several months. In the field, the Army has issued formal guidance about blogging, reminding soldiers not to post information that might tip off the enemy. And U.S. Central Command officials in Florida have started contacting bloggers -- military and civilian -- when they come across posts that contain what they view as inaccurate or incomplete information. But overall, military blogs remain independent, with little organized oversight.
Military blogs receive a fraction of the hits generated by mainstream news Web sites. Mr. Burden's site, for example, receives about 210,000 unique visitors per month, he says. In comparison, Nielsen/Netratings data shows MSNBC.com got 24 million unique visitors last month.
But milbloggers, who only began online postings in earnest within the past three years, have become increasingly energized and organized in their efforts to counteract existing media coverage. In April, bloggers convened in Washington, D.C. for the first ever milblogging convention.
The frustration of milbloggers is understandable, says Alex S. Jones, a former New York Times reporter who heads the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. But he adds, "If the overall picture is one of continued violence and a significant lack of stability in many parts of Iraq, the individual shards of good news could be more of a distortion than a reflection of the truth."
When Milblogging.com launched in October, Mr. Borda stayed up until 5 a.m. on some nights maintaining the site. He says he sleeps more now, but his wife still has to tear him away sometimes for family events with their two sons, ages 5 and three months. "It's different," Angelica Borda, 26, says of her husband's passion, but "I'm used to it now."
Mr. Borda receives an undisclosed monthly stipend to maintain the blog (he signed a nondisclosure agreement with Military.com). He's currently working with Military.com to attract advertisers. The site's most notable paid advertisement so far is from a group called the Iraqi Truth Project, which has made a documentary that it says "exposes the atrocities committed by the former Iraq dictator."
In the mornings and evenings, Mr. Borda scours the Net for new blogs to add to his site and responds to emails from bloggers, fans and critics. He also interviews milbloggers and posts the transcripts in a feature called "Milblogger of the Week." Mr. Borda had collected just 50 blogs when he started Milblogging.com. Today, that number has increased nearly 30-fold, and Mr. Borda believes there are thousands more blogs out there.
Mr. Borda says he isn't able to fact-check the bloggers he publishes, or to verify their identities beyond using common sense. "I do a sanity-check of the milblog, making sure it deals primarily with a military subject matter, and I also rely on readers to let me know," he says. "That said, no matter how much research you do it's unlikely you could ever verify without a shadow of a doubt that any blogger is 100% legit."
What's the future of military blogs? Mr. Borda would like to see milbloggers get their own TV shows or have their entries printed in major newspapers. The goal, he says, is to "continually be blurring that line between the media and blogging."
Write to Mike Spector at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: July 27, 2006, 09:18:10 PM
Credible threats against the Danish cartoonists
By Olivier Guitta
If you thought that the Cartoon Jihad was over, think again.
Indeed, several European secret services are on the lookout for special Islamist commandos allegedly trying to kill the 12 Danish cartoonists involved in the Jyllands Posten Muhammad cartoons. Most probably, a European sleeper cell could be activated for that mission. Nonetheless, an entrance of dangerous Pakistani elements thru Turkey is envisioned.
In fact, a couple of Al Qaeda messages are warning of targeting the cartoonists along with some European countries. The first one is the April 23 Bin Laden's call in a video to boycott products from the US and European countries which supported Denmark over the publication of the cartoons . Bin Laden had also severely critisized France for pts supposedly harsh treatments of Muslims, referring most probably to the anti-hijab law passed in 2004. Then the Islamist website Ansar Al Sunna published the exhaustive list of newspapers which published the cartoons and called for vengeance against them; adding that they deserve the same fate as Theo Van Gogh, who was savegely murdered by an Islamist in November 2004.
Then on May 2, Hamid Mir, the editor in chief of the Pakistani daily Ausaf, who met Bin Laden a couple of times, reported that credible sources told him that a team of 9 Afghans and 3 Pakistanis were on their way to murder the Danish cartoonists.
In a May 11 35-minute video, Libyan Mohammed Hassan, who escaped from US custody at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan last July stated: "Muslims avenge your Prophet .... We deeply desire that the small state of Denmark, Norway and France ... are struck hard and destroyed," said "Destroy their buildings, make their ground shake and transform them into a sea of blood".
All this is happening while a Pakistani student who tried to kill the editor in chief of the German daily Die Welt for publishing the cartoons, was found dead in his German cell on May 3. The cause of death was suicide but the Pakistani press and opinion think differently and anger is brewing.
Danish Mohammed Cartoons
Israel is attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon and the civilians are getting worried. Strangely, a large proportion of the Lebanese population turns out to be Danish (5,000 people), Swedish (6,000) or Canadian (30,000). Apparently lots of people, who have received asylum, are now on vacation in the very country from which they have ostensibly fled.
Akkari hiding behind the Danish flag.
Luckily, the Danish embassy which was burned down in February is functioning again. But it turns out that one of these people with Danish passports Danes is none other than Ahmed Akkari - one of the lying imams, who travelled the Middle East with their fake Mohammed cartoons and thus were directly responsible for the embassy burnings.
Danes, Swedes lead evacuation race (CNN)
The Danes got a test run in crisis management earlier this year when newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad triggered violent protests against Danish embassies in Muslim countries.
One of the Danish Muslims who spearheaded the rallies against the prophet drawings, Lebanese-born Ahmad Akkari, was among those evacuated from Beirut on Thursday.
"My impression is that the transportation has been safe and that no one has been suffering," Akkari told Denmark's TV2 channel as he boarded a Greek ferry chartered by Denmark.
Ahmed Akkari has Danish citizenship since he only received a suspended sentence for violence in 2001. His wife and daughter are not Danish, but have now received a temporary residency permit.
So Akkari and his family are going to Denmark. This time Akkari is neither burning the Danish flag - nor trampling on it - but hiding behind it.
Added: Fixed typo, 30,000 Canadians - not "30,0000" (thank you, Unright@Fark).
Added: According to Danish Television (Danish text), 5,300 people have been evacuated. 47 of these weren't Danish citizens but have received a 90 days temporary residency permit (this group includes Akkari's wife and daughter). Among the evacuated are at least 10 criminals, who were expelled from Denmark for a period of no less than five years, but who have been granted a visa.http://bibelen.blogspot.com/2006/07/akkari-and-danish-flag.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: July 27, 2006, 04:37:46 PM
Special Report: Behind the Israeli Cabinet's Decisions
After a long night of debate, the Israeli security Cabinet led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided the military campaign in south Lebanon would not be expanded, and that any modifications to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation, such as deploying more troops, would require Cabinet approval.
Israel is essentially broadcasting to the world that its political and military circles are severely divided over the current operation, and that it might have no choice but to cave in to diplomatic pressure to put an end to the fighting and draw up a cease-fire. This might not be true to Israeli thinking, but it is certainly a message they are trying to send to Hezbollah's chain of command. Which then raises the question: Why?
Israel is likely exaggerating the extent to which the military and Cabinet are divided over how to continue in this military campaign, but a real disagreement exists between those promoting a sustained air campaign and those pushing for a ground offensive because IDF forces are getting restive. A compromise might have been reached in the July 27 Cabinet meeting to bolster the air campaign but prepare ground forces for an invasion if it becomes apparent that the Israeli air force will be unable to deliver on its own.
There could be some faith within Israel's defense circles that an air campaign will eventually pan out and succeed in undermining Hezbollah's capabilities, but such an operation takes time and costs an exorbitant amount of money, since ground troops are standing by. As support for a continued air campaign is weakening by the day, something else must be factoring into Israel's war strategy.
The thought of Israel even considering scaling down its military operation at this point -- though golden news for Hezbollah -- carries devastating consequences for Israel. If the fighting were to come to a halt over the next few days, Hezbollah would claim victory and present itself as the only Arab force capable of standing up to Israeli aggression. Merely resisting and surviving a fight against Israel represents a major win for the Islamist militant movement and its sponsors in Iran and Syria -- something Israel, the United States and even the surrounding Arab regimes are unable to cope with. Moreover, an imminent cease-fire would allow Hezbollah to retain the capability to carry out attacks against Israel whenever the need arises.
Israel, therefore, cannot agree to a cease-fire. At the same time, the current operational tempo has not yet yielded a satisfactory outcome for Israel. Katyusha rockets continue to rain down over the northern part of the country as Israel continues its attempts to take out Hezbollah's rocket launch sites. Though Israel's massive air campaign could gradually wear down Hezbollah's offensive capabilities, it will take several weeks before any definitive results will come to light. Hezbollah, meanwhile, is locked in its own military strategy. Hezbollah commanders have long been preparing for this battle and are ready to stand their ground for an extended period of time and draw the Israelis into bloody insurgent combat.
And time does not appear to be on Israel's side. Israel has already incurred a steady barrage of rocket attacks over the past two weeks, and the IDF experienced one of its deadliest days in ground fighting July 26, when nine soldiers were killed in a battle against Hezbollah fighters in the village of Bent Jbail. The numbers of Lebanese civilian deaths are also escalating by the day, fueling worldwide criticism of the extensive Israeli air campaign. The United States is carefully buying Israel time to carry out its military objectives by postponing a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but political pressure on the U.S. government will mount over the next few days, following the argument that Israel cannot be given a blank check for a permanent air campaign against Lebanon. An end to the war in the next few weeks, without a dramatic improvement in effectiveness from the Israeli perspective, would leave Hezbollah in a prime position.
With this in mind, it strikes us as exceedingly peculiar that Israel, a country with a heavy track record of fighting experience despite its youth, is so intent on promoting the idea that its defense and political figures are running in circles trying to revise their military strategy while Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is brimming with confidence in his regular video appearances. It is simply not intelligent war strategy to expose your weaknesses in the midst of a major war campaign -- unless your objective is to spread disinformation to prepare for a larger surprise.
In making the decision to restrict the ground operation in southern Lebanon, the Israeli Cabinet carefully inserted a statement that said any future decisions regarding the IDF strategy would take into account "the need to prepare forces for possible developments." This nuance becomes especially critical in light of Israel's decision to call up three additional divisions of reservists July 27. The reservists are ostensibly being called up to "refresh" troops in Lebanon who have been on the battlefield for a short time, but will not be deployed until further notice. It is difficult to see how IDF troops on the front can be relieved if the additional forces have not even been deployed, unless Israel is quietly building up its ground forces for a major assault to clear Hezbollah positions south of the Litani River.
The Israeli Cabinet also agreed to send forces up to the Aouali River -- just north of Sidon in Lebanon -- as a necessary move to destroy Hezbollah's rocket-launching platforms, according to Israeli radio. This is an extensive reach into Lebanon that would place the IDF within striking distance of the Bekaa Valley -- Hezbollah's main base of operations. We also have received indications that reserves belonging to Israel's elite fighting force, the Golani Brigade, have already moved north up to the Bekaa Valley. Fighting on Hezbollah's turf in the Bekaa Valley will undoubtedly be the most difficult stage of Israel's military campaign. At the same time, moving ground forces into the Bekaa is also necessary for Israel to meet its objective of sterilizing Hezbollah's military capabilities.
Moving into the Bekaa Valley also complicates matters with Syria, which could very well view an Israeli push into the Bekaa as a trigger for a Syrian military response. Major smuggling routes for heroin and opium run through the Bekaa and provide a major source of income for Hezbollah forces and Alawite businessmen. Though Israel is not too worried about its ability to defeat Syrian forces, it is not interested in expanding its military campaign across Lebanon's western border into Syria for fear of the aftermath of such an attack. The crumbling of Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime would create a new set of problems that Israel is not prepared to deal with, especially while a major upset is occurring in Lebanon. At the same time, al Assad wants to get out of this conflict unscathed and in a prime negotiating position so he can demonstrate his worth in brokering a cease-fire with Hezbollah while putting the issue of the Golan Heights back on the table. With these considerations in mind, the issue of keeping Syria in check will heavily factor into the timing of Israel's push into the Bekaa.
The Bekaa is crucial to Israel's ground campaign, but will have to be dealt with carefully and will likely require more time for major ground combat. In the meantime, Israel is carefully regaining the element of tactical surprise by reducing the war to routine and strongly suggesting that its forces are getting bogged down. Each day Israel and Hezbollah exchange fire, but no developments have dramatically changed the course of the war. While Israel may be developing an atmosphere of complacency around Hezbollah, it will launch its ground offensive when everyone least expects it.
The fact that a major ground offensive is the last thing on anyone's mind does not necessarily decrease the possibility -- it increases it. The movement of troops, rather than the public statements, will only tell if we are right.www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: July 27, 2006, 11:07:01 AM
Sergeant's Heroism in Iraq Earns Special Recognition
Marine R.J. Mitchell II will receive the Navy Cross, the service's second highest award, for his actions in Fallouja.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
July 27, 2006
CAMP PENDLETON ? His family in the Midwest never doubted that R.J. Mitchell II would do whatever was necessary to protect his fellow Marines in Iraq.
"We were concerned about him, of course, but we always knew he'd take care of himself and the men under him," said Bill Raiser of Lamoni, Iowa, Mitchell's maternal grandfather.
Just how well Mitchell took care of his men as a squad leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment will be recognized here Friday as he receives the Navy Cross for heroism during the vicious house-to-house fighting in Fallouja in 2004.
The details of that Nov. 13 day have surprised even his family.
"He's always been so strong inside, I knew he'd do the job that was needed in Iraq," said Mitchell's mother, Martha Raiser, of Leon, Iowa. "But when you read the citation, it almost seems impossible that he could have done all that."
It was at the height of the assault by Marines on the insurgent stronghold in the Sunni Triangle. Insurgents had learned not to fight Marines in the open, preferring to barricade themselves inside a home, keeping their weapons aimed at the door and waiting for the Marines to break through.
When five Marines became pinned down inside a house, Mitchell charged through AK47 fire and hand grenade explosions to reach the house. He laid down a burst of gunfire to allow a corpsman to treat casualties.
Hit in the left leg by a ricocheting bullet and grenade shrapnel that also disabled his M-16, Mitchell spotted a wounded insurgent reaching for a weapon. He killed the insurgent with his knife and then, limping from his wounds, helped with the evacuation of wounded Marines.
His actions, according to the citation, saved the lives of several Marines. Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal, who was in the same fight and also received the Navy Cross, said Mitchell was "a leader by example."
"He was very close to his Marines," Kasal said, "he wasn't boisterous or overbearing, but when he needed to speak up or be forceful he was there."
After the battle, Mitchell, 26, was given a Purple Heart, his fourth in two tours in Iraq.
He left the Marine Corps in early 2005 as a sergeant. He is studying motorcycle mechanics in Phoenix. He and wife, Sara, have a baby boy, R.J. III, born in January.
Mitchell downplays what he and other Marines accomplished in what came to be known among combat troops as Hell House. "It was a job, and we did it," he said.
Of the tens of thousands of Marines who have served in Iraq, barely a dozen have been awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for recognition of combat bravery by Marines and sailors.
Mitchell's mother and his father, Robert Mitchell of Omaha, Neb., will be at Camp Pendleton for the ceremony on Friday, when Mitchell is set to receive the Navy Cross from Lt. Gen. John Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
"When you put yourself voluntarily in a bad situation, that's pure heroism," Kasal said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: July 26, 2006, 06:31:31 PM
I've renamed this thread to reach the deeper question presented by the Danish cartoons-- the effort to restrict free speech by certain groups of Muslims.
Of course when surfing the forums and the Net, not everything can be assumed to be 100% true. Does anyone have any confirmation of the accuracy of the following?
CAIR Gets DePaul Professor Suspended For "Offending" Muslim Students
By Jim Kouri
Jul 25, 2006
In my position with the National Association of Chiefs of Police, I get many reports, press releases and other documents on a daily basis. Because of time constraints, I may read perhaps one-third of them, giving priority to Department of Homeland Security and FBI reports.
However, every once in a while I get something that angers me and compells me to research.
Such is the case with the one report that describes the unfair, almost Stalinist treatment, of a Chicago educator whose only transgression is he supports Israel's right to defend itself from terrorists.
Responding to what has been condemned as a violation of academic freedom, professors, scholars, and students worldwide signed a petition by The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East to reinstate Professor Thomas Klocek to his teaching position at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.
Klocek was suspended from the university following a campaign launched by pro-Palestinian student groups and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Klocek believes in Israel's right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state within safe and secure borders.
CAIR and Muslim student groups told University officials that Klocek offended Muslim students when discussing Christian interests in Israel, disputing that Israeli treatment of Palestinians was akin to the Nazi treatment of the Jews, and then terminating the discussion when it appeared that the students were more interested in Israel-bashing than discussing the issues.
Titled "A Petition to Reinstate Professor Thomas Klocek to DePaul University With No Prejudice or Penalty," the petition is to be delivered to DePaul's president and Dean upon its goal of 2,000 signatures.
DePaul's Alleged Violations Of Academic Freedom
In an interview with Walking Eagle Productions, a documentary film company covering the DePaul controversy, Klocek said that he was suspended by DePaul administration, and ultimately lost his position and teaching benefits, after engaging in an out-of-class argument with pro-Palestinian students at a student activities fair on campus.
Klocek shared that he served 14 years a part-time adjunct professor in DePaul's School of New Learning and that he was considered a popular professor, with large class enrollments and received excellent student reviews, with no prior complaints about Klocek's behavior.
But after engaging in heated discussion with two Muslim student groups at a Student Involvement Fair on DePaul's campus, the student groups Students for Justice in Palestine (SPJ) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA) went to the administration to call for Klocek's firing. Both groups were backed by CAIR's Chicago office, and other local Muslim advocate groups, some of whom called for even harsher punishment.
Klocek said that although no third-party witnesses were provided by the offended parties, DePaul's Dean of the School of New Learning, Susanne Dumbleton, had him suspended without any hearing, and held his insurance benefits in jeopardy.
Once Klocek was removed from his teaching position, Dumbleton then publicly castigated Klocek in DePaul's student newspaper, The Depaulia, stating that Klocek was being punished by the DePaul Administration for expressing what she deemed to be Klocek's "erroneous assertions" to the Muslim student groups.
Christina Abraham, Civil Rights Coordinator for CAIR's Chicago branch office, granted an interview to Walking Eagle Productions to explain their reasons for filing the original complaint to DePaul on behalf of the student groups. Abraham stated that she believed all of the student group's allegations, and that they were serious enough to demand Klocek's immediate firing.
First Amendment groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), protested DePaul's actions. FIRE's then-president David French stated in its own press release that Klocek's suspension violated DePaul's policies guaranteeing academic freedom as well as its contractual promise of due process "because his statements were allegedly offensive."
"While DePaul may now argue that the issue is one of professionalism, its public statements at the time of Klocek's punishment make it clear that Klocek's real crime was offending students during an out-of-class discussion of a controversial and emotional topic." said French. "Academic freedom cannot survive when professors who engage in debate on controversial topics are subject to administrative punishment without even the most cursory due process."
A Peace Organization Rallies For Academic Freedom
How did Scholars for Peace in the Middle East become involved in Klocek's defense?
"SPME is an academic community of scholars." explains SPME President Dr. Beck, in an interview with Walking Eagle Productions. "And as such, we're trying to support another scholar on what we see as a violation of his academic freedom and due process. The goal is to raise awareness among faculty members that we may not be as safe as we think we are, and to get him reinstated without penalty."
Klocek is undeterred and confident that true scholars will rise above such divisiveness, and support the petition on behalf of him. "The issue of free speech and academic freedom," says Klocek, "extends to all faculty members, part- and full-time, non-tenured and tenured alike."
While the petition is open for everyone to sign, SPME is especially encouraging signatures from professors. SPME however, has expressed the important role students can play in circulating their petition professors in their own schools and classes, or contacting professors who remain active during the summer in online forums and web blogs.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance
"Klocek said that although no third-party witnesses were provided by the offended parties, DePaul's Dean of the School of New Learning, Susanne Dumbleton, had him suspended without any hearing, and held his insurance benefits in jeopardy"
I am informed that:
"Interesting, under her guidance the SNL became a non-gov organization of the UN in 1998.
DePaul University : : About DePaul (University Officers-Susanne Dumbleton)"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: July 24, 2006, 08:08:18 PM
Jul. 23, 2006 14:20 | Updated Jul. 23, 2006 17:53
Iran: Israel doomed to 'destruction'
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declared Sunday that Israel had "pushed the button of its own destruction" by launching its military campaign against the Iranian-backed Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Ahmadinejad didn't elaborate, but suggested Islamic nations and others could somehow isolate Israel and its main backers led by the United States. On Saturday, the chairman of Iran's armed forced joint chiefs, Maj.-Gen. Sayyed Hassan Firuzabadi, said Iran would never join the current Middle East fighting.
Ahmadinejad's latest salvo against Israel came as the 12-day-old hostilities in Lebanon continued. The hard-line president drew international condemnation last year after publicly calling for Israel to be wiped out and calling the Holocaust a "myth."
Iran helped create the anti-Israel Hizbullah movement in the early 1980s and is among its main supplier of arms and funds. But Teheran has denied Israeli claims it is sent Hizbullah long-range missiles that have reached Haifa and other points in northern Israel since the battles broke out nearly two weeks ago following a cross-border Hizbullah raid that captured two Israeli soldiers.
"Britain and the United States are accomplices of the Zionist regime in its crimes in Lebanon and Palestine," said Ahmadinejad.
He said "the people of the region will respond" unless Israel and its allies apologize for their policies.
"Arrogant powers have set up a base for themselves to threaten and plunder nations in the region," said Ahmadinejad. "But today, the occupier regime (Israel) - whose philosophy is based on threats, massacre and invasion - has reached its finishing line."
Last week, Ahmadinejad sent a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that contained statements about Israel and the Holocaust that are "not acceptable," said German officials.
Germany has sharply criticized Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel statements.
In Teheran, the government has sanctioned billboards showing Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and a message that it is the duty of Muslims to "wipe out" Israel. Officials also organized a demonstration in the southern city of Shiraz by Iran's small Jewish community calling for Israel's destruction and praising Hizbullah.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: July 23, 2006, 08:10:29 AM
Fearing nothing, specifically what do you suggest should be our course of action? What should Israel's course of action be?
I see that the extreme length of my post last night overwhelmed things. Here's Part Two.
IN THE PARTY OF GOD
by JEFFREY GOLDBERG
Hezbollah sets up operations in South America and the United States.
Issue of 2002-10-28
The patrol boat, a Boston Whaler, was worn at its edges, and it was pocked with bullet holes along its starboard side. It had a four-man crew, officers of the Brazilian Federal Police. They carried AK-47s and side arms, and they wore jeans, sunglasses, and bulletproof vests, which made them sweat. The patrol chief steered the boat into the middle of the Paran? River?half a mile wide, muddy, and sluggish. He opened up the boat's two Suzuki engines, and as we moved north the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Foz do Igua?u came into view on the right; on the opposite side was the Paraguayan jungle, where smoke from cooking fires rose above the tree line. The chief, who was worried about snipers, kept the boat moving fast. He pointed to a series of chutes, dug out from the banks on the Paraguayan side, down which drug smugglers move bales of marijuana to the river.
A decaying iron bridge, the International Friendship Bridge, connects Foz do Igua?u to its Paraguayan sister city, Ciudad del Este, the City of the East. Ciudad del Este is at the heart of the zone known as the Triple Frontier, the point where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet, which has served for nearly thirty years as a hospitable base of operations for smugglers, counterfeiters, and tax dodgers. The Triple Frontier has earned its reputation as one of the most lawless places in the world. Now, it is believed, the Frontier is also the center of Middle Eastern terrorism in South America.
From the boat, we could see that the traffic above us on the bridge was at a standstill. Between twenty and twenty-five thousand people cross the bridge each day, Brazilian police officials said. Pedestrians, many carrying huge packages, follow a narrow walkway that runs along the bridge's outer edge; motorcyclists maneuver among trucks and buses. From the river, one sees only a jumble of towers clustered near the edge of Ciudad del Este, and the men on the patrol looked that way with distaste. "It's filthy and disgusting," the chief said. "Everything there is illegal." And the local police? The men smiled, and the chief said, "They do what they do, and we do what we do."
The chief explained that the underworld of Ciudad del Este is dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern mobsters. Many of them prefer to float contraband across the river rather than use the bridge, but the men caught smuggling are invariably poor Paraguayans. As he spoke, we passed, on the Paraguayan shore, a group of shirtless men, who stared at the boat. "They're just waiting for us to leave the river," the chief said. "Then they'll start across." The sun by now was setting, and the police seldom patrol at night. It would be too dangerous, the chief said.
The men on the boat were all residents of Foz do Igua?u?Foz, as it is usually called?an orderly city that employs street sweepers and traffic police. I asked them if they ever visited Ciudad del Este. One said that he used to go for the shopping. Much of Ciudad del Este is built around vast, canyonlike shopping malls. The better malls sell legitimately acquired products at discounted prices, and the rougher ones specialize in stolen and pirated goods.
Roughly two hundred thousand people live in the Ciudad del Este region, including a substantial minority of Arab Muslims; in the Triple Frontier zone, there may be as many as thirty thousand. According to intelligence officials in the region and in Washington, this Muslim community has in its midst a hard core of terrorists, many of them associated with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group backed by the Iranian government; some with Hamas, the Palestinian fundamentalist group; and some with Al Qaeda. It is, over all, a community under the influence of extreme Islamic beliefs; intelligence officials told me that some of the Triple Frontier Arabs held celebrations on September 11th of last year and also on the anniversary this year. These officials said that Hezbollah runs weekend training camps on farms cut out of the rain forest of the Triple Frontier. In at least one of these camps, in the remote jungle terrain near Foz do Igua?u, young adults get weapons training and children are indoctrinated in Hezbollah ideology?a mixture of anti-American and anti-Jewish views inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini.
In the Triple Frontier, Hezbollah raises money from legitimate businesses but, more frequently, from illicit activities, ranging from drug smuggling to the pirating of compact disks. Unlike the other radical Islamic groups in the Triple Frontier, Hezbollah, it is said, has the capability to commit acts of terror.
A billboard advertising the services of the Kamikaze Tour Company stands near the Foz do Igua?u entrance to the International Friendship Bridge. It is faster to walk the half-mile span than to drive, and so I joined a line of Guaran? Indians and Brazilian traders who had assembled one morning under a sign on the Foz side that read, "You Are the Strong Ones, Not the Drugs." A Brazilian police helicopter circled overhead.
In Ciudad del Este, there is an immediate sense of heat and claustrophobic closeness. The streets, jammed with people and worked by watch sellers and money changers, give way to alleys, and the alleys open up onto strips of badly built shops. The smallest shops, some barely six feet by six feet, are called lojas, and are crammed with in-line skates and cellular telephones and pharmaceuticals?almost anything that could fall off a truck. Guaran? women sit on the ground, drinking mat? through metal straws. The sidewalks are dense with stands selling sunglasses and perfume, and with tables of pornographic videos. Marijuana is sold openly; so are pirated CDs. The music of Eminem came from one shop; from another, there were sounds familiar to me from South Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley?martial Hezbollah music. I bought a cassette recording of the speeches of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader.
In a shop called Caza y Pesca Monday, or the Monday Hunting and Fishing Store, the owner offered to sell me an AK-47 rifle for three hundred and seventy dollars. For an extra thirty dollars, he said, he could have it smuggled to my hotel in Brazil. I asked whether it was possible to acquire explosives. He said it would be more difficult, though not impossible. The cost of smuggling them would be significantly more than thirty dollars.
A few blocks from the center of town, the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad occupies the first three floors of an unfinished fourteen-story apartment house. The building is painted green and white and topped by an oversized crescent and star, the symbols of Islam. When I arrived, the mosque was opening for afternoon prayers, and I was introduced to Muhammad Youssef Abdallah, who owns the building and built the mosque. Abdallah, a short, round, voluble man in his fifties, is an immigrant from a village in South Lebanon, near the Israeli border.
He told me that he came to the Triple Frontier more than twenty years ago, in a wave of Lebanese immigrants who had discovered a part of South America that welcomed international traders. Like most Lebanese businessmen in Ciudad del Este, he lives in the more orderly climate of Foz do Igua?u. He also has a farm outside Foz. For many years, he said, he owned one of the malls in Ciudad del Este, but now he devotes his time to the propagation of the faith. He invited me into his office, on the second floor of the mosque. On the wall was a portrait of Sayyid Muhammad Hussayn Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah; on a shelf was a gun.
I told Abdallah that, a month earlier, I had interviewed Fadlallah in his home in the southern suburbs of Beirut, the Hezbollah stronghold. He asked if I knew his cousin, Hani Abdallah, Fadlallah's spokesman, and seemed pleased when I said yes. In 1994, according to Paraguayan intelligence officials, Fadlallah travelled undercover to Ciudad del Este, on an Iranian passport, in order to bless the mosque. Abdallah was quick to say that Fadlallah plays no official role in the work of Hezbollah?that he is merely a spiritual adviser to poor Shiites throughout the world. Fadlallah and his followers said much the same thing when we met in Lebanon.
Abdallah, who has never been charged with any wrongdoing, was circumspect in describing his activities. "If you touch on Hezbollah, you get a shock," he told me, and added that charges sometimes levelled in the press against the Muslims of the Triple Frontier are untrue. "We are not involved in terrorism," he said. Many of the Muslims who once worshipped in the mosque are afraid to visit now, he said, believing that it is under surveillance by Israel and the United States. Abdallah insisted that he himself had no connection to Hezbollah, but he conceded that, like other Lebanese businessmen, he had given money to the group. "Five years ago, people were expected to give twenty per cent of their income," he said.
I asked him what he meant by "expected."
"Right, expected," he replied. A look of helplessness crossed his face. "What are people supposed to do?" he asked.
Abdallah would not elaborate, but, according to South American investigators and two Lebanese who once worked in the Triple Frontier, such donations were made under duress. At the beginning of each month, they said, a Hezbollah official named Sobhi Fayad or one of his associates would visit shops owned by Lebanese immigrants?Shiites, but also Sunni Muslims and Christians. The shop owner would be handed a certificate thanking him for the support he had provided to various Hezbollah-run charitable groups. A dollar amount would be written on each certificate?a South American investigator showed me one with the figure ten thousand dollars?and the shop owner would be expected to pay that sum. After that, the certificate would be put in his shopwindow?and no more "donations" would be sought for the remainder of the month. Otherwise, the shop owner would be warned, and then his relatives in Lebanon would be warned, that if they didn't comply Hezbollah would spread rumors about them. "People would be told that they are spies for Israel," one South American investigator told me. Some were beaten. "It's a very effective system," the investigator said.
The Fayad operation was expert in laundering money. According to intelligence documents provided to me by regional investigators, Hezbollah has used traders from India to move money from Paraguay to the Middle East. The documents referred to an Indian named Rajkumar Naraindas Sabnani, who does business in the Triple Frontier and in Hong Kong; investigators allege that he arranged to ship goods to Paraguay, receiving payment far in excess of their value. After subtracting his own fee and paying for the actual goods, Sabnani wired the surplus to banks in the United States or in Lebanon. Sabnani is believed to be currently in Hong Kong.
Abdallah, the founder of the Prophet Muhammad mosque, says that people in the Triple Frontier are giving less these days, because the region's economy is in very poor shape. But investigators in South America and experts on the group nevertheless believe that the amount raised in South America over the years is in the tens of millions of dollars; according to one Paraguayan official, two years ago Hezbollah raised twelve million dollars in the Triple Frontier. Hezbollah's annual budget is more than a hundred million dollars, provided by the Iranian government directly and by an international network of fund-raisers.
Besides Sobhi Fayad, several other figures in the Triple Frontier's Arab community play important roles in raising money for Hezbollah. One of the most notorious is a fugitive: Ali Khalil Mehri, a man considered by Paraguayan authorities to be a leading distributor of pirated compact disks. According to Paraguayan investigators, Mehri left for S?o Paulo, Brazil, then moved on to Europe and, finally, to Lebanon, where he is today. Sobhi Fayad is in jail in Asunci?n, the Paraguayan capital, awaiting trial on tax charges and on charges of associating with a criminal organization. Paraguay has no anti-terror law, and so it is not illegal to donate money to terrorist groups, as it is in the United States. "It's exactly the same as Al Capone," one investigator told me. "You have to get them on tax evasion."
In the days following September 11th of last year, the Paraguayans arrested twenty-three people in the region of Ciudad del Este and in southern Paraguay on suspicion of involvement with Hezbollah or other organizations. But Carlos Altemburger, the chief of the Paraguayan Secretariat for the Prevention and Investigation of Terrorism, told me that most of these detainees have been released and many have left the country. Even though the Paraguayan government is considered among the most corrupt in South America, the terrorism secretariat is thought by American officials to be free of corruption. Altemburger told me that he would like the government to impose strict controls on the border region, which would make it more difficult for Hezbollah members who live in Brazil to travel so freely into Paraguay. His requests, he said diplomatically, are still being weighed by the government.
The openness of the borders in the Triple Frontier, as much as its free-for-all ethos, makes the region particularly inviting for terrorists. (When I ran into a bureaucratic problem entering Paraguay, I was advised to sneak in by riding a motorcycle with Brazilian plates, and wearing a helmet to disguise my face. It worked perfectly.) The open borders provide politicians and senior law-enforcement officials of the three nations with a ready excuse for the presence of terrorists in cities under their nominal control.
Joaquim Mesquita, the chief of the Brazilian Federal Police in Foz do Igua?u, dismissed the idea that his third of the Triple Frontier was a haven for terrorists. "We have a marijuana problem, and cigarette smuggling," he said. But, he continued, "we don't have any concrete evidence that this is a terrorist region." In Asunci?n, I met with the interior minister, a former chief of the national police named V?ctor Hermoza. "Most of the Arabs live on the Brazil side, I should point out," Hermoza said, and added, "Anyway, the Arabs are all moving to Chile."
Hermoza, who has an open, friendly face, insists that his country is doing everything it can to aid the American war on terror. In fact, he said, with a suggestion of pride, he takes his orders from American diplomats. "The national police cannot do anything without the American Embassy," he said. "We rely on their intelligence."
We met in his office at the Interior Ministry, in downtown Asunci?n. Paraguay is small and poor, and perhaps best known for the longtime rule of Alfredo Stroessner, who made the country a hideout for Nazi fugitives, including Josef Mengele. Crime is rising, and the economy has been badly hurt by the collapses in Brazil and Argentina. Some Paraguayans have taken to spray-painting walls with the slogan "Stroessner Vuelve!," or "Stroessner Will Return!" Stroessner was deposed in 1989, and now, at the age of eighty-nine, lives in exile in Brazil.
Hermoza, who began his career during Stroessner's regime, suggests that the country is no different from its neighbors. "There's corruption in all three of the countries" that share the Triple Frontier, he said. "Even America has corruption. That's why you have internalaffairs departments in your police."
I asked Hermoza why the Interior Ministry didn't institute more stringent border controls. He listened to the story of my own illegal crossing, and said, "You're probably going to have to pay an extra fee at the airport." He did not seem bothered by the fact that a foreigner could sneak into his country by hiding inside a motorcycle helmet, but he said that he had raised the question of bridge security with local officials recently when he visited Ciudad del Este. "They showed me why they couldn't do it," he said. "They started to check cars, and within four or five minutes there was a line that was as long as the bridge." Economic considerations would outweigh security needs for the time being.
Like Hezbollah, Al Qaeda does considerable fund-raising in Ciudad del Este, investigators told me, and they named the Al Qaeda point men as Ali Nizar Dahroug and his uncle. Ali Dahroug is in jail in Ciudad del Este awaiting trial on tax-evasion charges; his uncle is a fugitive. The Dahrougs came to the attention of local investigators when the uncle's name was found in an address book belonging to the highest-ranking Al Qaeda official to be captured so far by the United States, Abu Zubaydah. According to investigators and intelligence files, Ali Dahroug owned a small perfume shop in Ciudad del Este. The entire enterprise was worth no more than two thousand dollars, so investigators were startled to learn that he was wiring as much as eighty thousand dollars each month to banks in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe. Hamas's chief fund-raiser in the Triple Frontier is Ayman Ghotme, who collected funds for the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas-based organization that sent money to Hamas but was closed down by American officials after September 11th. Ghotme lives in S?o Paulo, according to investigators. But the dominant terror group in the region is Hezbollah, and its ability to carry out terror operations in South America, investigators say, is due to one man: Imad Mugniyah.
Until September 11th of last year, Mugniyah was considered by American officials to be the world's most dangerous terrorist, and many terrorism experts still believe this to be true. For a decade, the American and Israeli governments have made repeated attempts to capture or kill him. The Israeli Air Force, which frequently dispatches fighter jets across Lebanon, has equipped many of its airplanes with advanced signal intelligence "packages," and it uses these to track his whereabouts. Several years ago, the Israelis killed Mugniyah's brother, and allegedly set a trap for Mugniyah at the funeral, but he didn't appear. Some believe that he has had plastic surgery, and that, in recent years, he has not moved beyond Lebanon and Iran, for fear of capture. Sources told me that Mugniyah will not even travel through the Beirut airport, believing that paramilitary officers commanded by the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorist Center have the airport under permanent surveillance.
Mugniyah's operation?known as the external security apparatus?is Hezbollah's most lethal weapon. It is commonly believed that Mugniyah is behind nearly every major act of terrorism that has been staged by Hezbollah during the last two decades; he is thought to have agents not only in South America but in Europe, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and even the United States. His operatives in the Triple Frontier include Assad Ahmad Barakat, an important fund-raiser for Hezbollah. (Paraguayan police discovered a letter in which Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, thanked Barakat for his efforts on behalf of children orphaned when their fathers became suicide bombers.) Terrorism experts say that Ali Kassam, who runs a Shiite religious center in Foz, is a close contact of Mugniyah's as well, and so is a sheikh named Bilal Mohsen Wehbi, a Lebanese who was trained in Iran, and who reports to the Iranian Cultural Affairs Ministry. The Ministry often provides diplomatic cover for both Hezbollah operatives and Iranian intelligence agents. It is believed that Mugniyah takes orders from the office of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, but that he reports to a man named Ghassem Soleimani, the chief of a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps called Al Quds, or the Jerusalem Force?the arm of the Iranian government responsible for sponsoring terror attacks on Israeli targets.
Mugniyah is believed to have established European cells; in the nineteen-eighties, he recruited operatives in France and Germany. In South America, his reach goes beyond the Triple Frontier. A cell in Incarnaci?n, a city south of Ciudad del Este, was run until recently by a man named Karim Diab; a regional investigator said that Diab has been sent to Angola to start a Hezbollah cell there.
Unlike Osama bin Laden, Mugniyah does not give interviews or issue statements on the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera. There are only two known photographs of Mugniyah, and even these have been called into question. He is believed to have been born in the Lebanese village of Tir Dibba, near Tyre, on July 12, 1962, into a prominent family; his father, Sheikh Muhammad Jawad Mugniyah, is thought to have been a Shiite scholar. According to Robert Baer, an ex-C.I.A. officer who spent a good part of his career tracking Mugniyah, even the basic details of his childhood are unknown to intelligence services. "Mugniyah systematically had all traces of himself removed," Baer says. "He erased himself. He had his records removed from high school, and his passport application was stolen. There are no civil records in Lebanon with his name in them."
By his middle teens, Mugniyah was a gun-carrying foot soldier in the Lebanese civil war, which began in 1975. He received his early training not with his fellow-Shiites, who were then unarmed and not very radicalized, but with Yasir Arafat and the Fatah movement of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Until 1982, when Arafat was expelled from Lebanon as a result of the Israeli invasion, his power was concentrated in South Lebanon, along the border with Israel, much as Hezbollah's is today. Fatah maintained training camps not only for Palestinians but for members of other, international terror groups as well. Many of the Iranian Shiites who later overthrew the Shah were trained there.
Mugniyah became a member of Arafat's personal bodyguard unit, Force 17. (It still exists in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.) In the early nineteen-eighties, after the P.L.O.'s departure from Lebanon, Mugniyah became a bodyguard for Sayyid Muhammad Fadlallah, Hezbollah's spiritual leader. Then, suddenly, according to Baer and another intelligence source, Mugniyah appeared, along with Hassan Nasrallah, as a central figure in the Islamic Jihad Organization, one of the names under which Hezbollah operated when, in the early eighties, it was still a clandestine group. The first major act of terrorism attributed to Mugniyah was the April, 1983, bombing of the United States Embassy in Beirut. Sixty-three people died, including six C.I.A. officers. It is believed that Mugniyah was involved in the simultaneous bombings, six months later, of the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which two hundred and forty-one died, and the French military barracks, a short distance away, in which fifty-eight died. Mugniyah is also thought to have been behind much of the hostage-taking in Lebanon in the mid-eighties, and some reports claim that he was personally involved in the torture of William Buckley, the C.I.A. Beirut station chief, who died in Hezbollah captivity. He has also been tied to the Khobar Towers bombing, in Saudi Arabia, six years ago, in which nineteen American servicemen were killed.
In 1985, two of Mugniyah's men hijacked a T.W.A. airplane, a Boeing 727, on a scheduled run between Athens and Rome. Almost immediately after seizing control, the hijackers, Hassan Izz-al-Din and Muhammad Ali Hamadi, began searching the plane for American servicemen. They soon discovered a group of Navy divers and a thirty-eight-year-old Army Reserve major named Kurt Carlson.
The hijackers were demanding the release of Shiite prisoners in Kuwait and more than seven hundred Shiite prisoners in Israel. Their behavior was erratic; they forced the plane to land in Beirut, then go to Algiers, and then fly back to Beirut. In Beirut, Izz-al-Din and Hamadi executed one of the divers, Robert Stethem, and dumped his body on the airport tarmac.
Carlson today lives in Rockford, Illinois; he is a builder, a friendly, small-boned man, who talks easily about his experience. On the tarmac in Algiers, Carlson said, Hamadi would preach the virtues of the Shiite revolution in Iran from the cockpit window to whoever happened to be listening below. "Every time Hamadi said the name Khomeini, Izz-al-Din would kick me in the back," Carlson said. Carlson was beaten steadily for several days, and his beatings intensified when the hijackers' demands for fuel weren't met. "They kept yelling, 'One American must die, one American must die,' " he said.
At one point, Carlson was dragged into the cockpit. "All of a sudden, I felt a blow, and I heard the captain yelling, 'They're beating and killing Americans! I need fuel!' Meanwhile, Hamadi was screaming in Arabic. He was hitting me with a steel pipe. When he got tired of hitting me with a pipe, he would drop-kick me two or three times. I wasn't making any sound, but I realized that the captain had kept the mike open, and that he wanted me to make sounds, to convince the tower to get us fuel. So I started grunting."
After the plane flew to Beirut the second time, American intelligence officials believe, Mugniyah boarded it; his fingerprints were reportedly identified in one of the bathrooms. American hostages were taken from the plane and dispersed around Beirut. Carlson, along with four of the surviving Navy divers, was put in the custody of the Shiite Amal militia, a less extreme radical group. The hostages were held in a basement, where they were subjected to mock executions and were fed intermittently.
"One day, we were told we had to speak to a visitor from Hezbollah," Carlson recalled. "They took us into another room. There was a bunch of guys there. One was a short guy with a beard. He just looked at us. The Amal guys who were our guards kept close to us. I felt like they were trying to protect us. This guy started asking us questions. Where we're from, what unit. All of a sudden, he let loose with a tirade. He spoke some English. I remember that his eyes were like glass. You could feel the hate coming out of him. He started screaming about the Israelis, how they're supported by the U.S. The Israelis were so bad they wouldn't consent to Red Cross visits to the Shiite prisoners. He was just screaming.
"One of the divers, Stuart Dahl, answered him," Carlson went on. "He said, 'If you believe in the rights of prisoners, you'll let the Red Cross see us.' This guy, the one who was screaming, just about fell over. He didn't expect anyone to answer him. They started talking among themselves, the Hezbollah guys. Now, there was the guy just behind the one who was screaming. I hadn't noticed him before. All of the Hezbollah guys turned to him. They spoke, and then he led them out of the room. I believe that that man was Imad Mugniyah." After seventeen days, Carlson and the remaining four Americans were freed.
Argentine police believe that Hezbollah worked in concert with its Iranian sponsors to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, an attack that killed twenty-nine people. Investigators suspect that Mugniyah may have visited the Triple Frontier two years later, when Hezbollah allegedly planned the suicide bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association, or Jewish community center, known by its Spanish acronym, AMIA. The attack on the AMIA building, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack since the end of the Second World War, killed eighty-five people. The bombing profoundly disturbed Jewish communities throughout Latin America, and forced Jewish leaders to turn their synagogues and community centers into virtual fortresses. There are approximately two hundred thousand Jews in Argentina?it is South America's largest Jewish community?and today, spurred by the worst economic crisis in the country's history, many are leaving for Israel.
Twenty men have been on trial since late September of last year on charges related to the bombing, but these men?all of them Argentines?are considered by investigators to be secondary players in the attack. Alberto Nisman, one of the prosecutors, believes that the bombing succeeded in part because of lax oversight by the Paraguayan and Brazilian governments; Argentine officials believe that key participants in the attack entered Argentina through the Triple Frontier. V?ctor Hermoza, the Paraguayan interior minister, was skeptical. "The bomb could have been built anywhere," he said, adding that he does not believe that Hezbollah maintains terror cells in Paraguay. But Hezbollah is so deeply rooted in the Triple Frontier that, one Paraguayan official said, he believes that the bomb was almost certainly built in the area of Ciudad del Este. "It's impossible to believe that it wasn't," he said. "People were absolutely free here to do whatever they wanted."
Argentine officials have openly accused Iran of involvement in the bombing, and they have accused Hezbollah of carrying it out (the court has identified the man believed to be the suicide bomber but his name has not yet been released). Four of the defendants are police officers, who are accused of collaborating with the bombers. Charges that the police force in Argentina harbors officers with anti-Semitic tendencies have circulated for years.
The trial is being held in an Art Deco-style theatre in the basement of a courthouse near the harbor of Buenos Aires. Heavy mauve drapes cover the walls, and bulletproof glass separates the spectators from the defendants. On the day that I visited, early this year, the building was watched by snipers in flak jackets and police on horseback. In the courtroom, a survivor of the bombing was describing what had happened when a white Renault van holding a six-hundred-pound bomb was driven into the seven-story AMIA building?and the explosion sheared off its front.
Earlier this year, it was disclosed that a man calling himself Abdolghassem Mesbahi, who claimed to be an Iranian intelligence official, had told investigators that former President Carlos Sa?l Menem of Argentina maintained close relations with Iran and took a ten-million-dollar bribe to cover up Iran's involvement in the bombing. Menem, who is of Syrian descent, has denied the charge. He hopes to run again for President.
Lawyers for the Jewish community have used Mesbahi's testimony, along with information gathered in Argentina and abroad, to construct a time line of activities leading up to the bombing. The head lawyer, Marta Nercellas, described to me a plot that was set in motion at 4:30 P.M. on August 14, 1993, in a Tehran office belonging to the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. According to the time line, the Ministry, with the involvement of the minister, Ali Fallahian, asked a team made up of Lebanese Hezbollah operatives and its own agents, many of whom worked under diplomatic cover, to plan the attack.
An important figure in the plot, according to Nercellas and other investigators, was Mohsen Rabbani, an Iranian who was appointed to the Buenos Aires Embassy as a cultural attach? just a few months before the bombing. Rabbani, who was barred from Argentina after evidence of his involvement began to emerge, is believed to have been a few blocks away from the AMIA building in the minutes before the attack.
Alberto Nisman hopes that information will come out during testimony that will allow Argentine authorities to pursue the actual conspirators, including Rabbani. But Nisman says that he is focussed on the man who they think orchestrated the bombing: Imad Mugniyah. Standing outside the courtroom during a recess, Nisman said, "Mugniyah would be the ultimate. That is our target."
Not only Mugniyah has eluded capture; so have his associates. Hamadi, the T.W.A. hijacker believed by Carlson to have shot Robert Stethem, was captured several years ago in Germany, and he is now in prison there, but Izz-al-Din is, like Mugniyah, thought to be in either Lebanon or Iran.
The United States has come close to arresting Mugniyah at least twice. In 1985, American intelligence learned that Mugniyah was in Paris. According to Duane Clarridge, a former chief of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorist Center, the French refused to help, apparently because they were negotiating with Mugniyah for the release of French hostages in Lebanon. Several years later, American officials informed the Saudi government that Mugniyah was due to arrive in Saudi Arabia; in an effort to keep the United States from acting against Mugniyah on Saudi soil, the Saudis refused to let the plane land.
When I spoke to Hezbollah officials in Beirut, they denied knowing anything about Mugniyah; Hezbollah's allies call him a figment of the Israeli-influenced American imagination. Only one person in the Hezbollah orbit acknowledged even having heard of Mugniyah: the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a man named Ramadan Abdallah Shallah. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is closely allied with Hezbollah; both are on the payroll of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
In Damascus in February, I asked Shallah about Mugniyah and Hezbollah. Shallah is not unschooled in public relations. (Before becoming the leader of Islamic Jihad, he served as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.) He laughed when I asked about Mugniyah's current role in Hezbollah. "That's a name from history," he said, before summarily ending the conversation.
The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, told me that Mugniyah was not in his country. But in Lebanon it is rumored that Mugniyah sits on the eight-member ruling council of Hezbollah and that he is active under various names, including Jawad Nour-al-Din. Intelligence officials, while unsure?or unwilling to talk?about Mugniyah's day-to-day operations, believe that he is in charge of Hezbollah's worldwide network of cells. They also say that in recent years he has paid more attention to operations inside Israel. For instance, in 1996 a man whose passport identified him as Andrew Jonathan Neumann nearly killed himself when a bomb he was preparing in an East Jerusalem hotel detonated prematurely. Neumann, Israeli investigators learned, was a Lebanese Shiite named Hussein Mohammad Mikdad, who told the Israelis that he had been sent to Israel by Mugniyah to blow up a civilian airliner.
Mugniyah's name came up early this year during the Karine-A affair, in which a ship loaded with Iranian weapons intended for the Palestinian Authority was intercepted by Israel in the Red Sea. Intelligence officials believe that Mugniyah helped organize the shipment, which suggests that he has maintained contacts with Yasir Arafat, his original employer.
Terrorism experts say that Mugniyah's organization is hard to penetrate because it is in certain ways a family business. Many of the men under his command?there are thought to be several hundred?are from one of three Lebanese Shiite clans, one of which is his, and another that of a brother-in-law, Mustafa Badr-adeen. The men are trained in camps in the Bekaa Valley and Iran; intelligence sources told me that Mugniyah, in co?peration with Iran's Ministry of Intelligence, also has a base on the Iranian shore of the Caspian Sea, where his men are trained in SEAL-style operations. Although Mugniyah has concentrated on anti-Jewish activities, he is believed to have the capability to strike at America; his agents have conducted video surveillance of possible American targets in South America and Southeast Asia, and he is suspected of having established links with Al Qaeda. According to the testimony of Ali Mohamed, a former U.S. soldier who conspired in the Al Qaeda bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and who trained Osama bin Laden's security detail, Mugniyah met with bin Laden in Sudan in the mid-nineteen-nineties to discuss joint strategy. "Hezbollah provided explosives training for Al Qaeda and Al Jihad," he said. "Iran supplied Egyptian Islamic Jihad with weapons. Iran also used Hezbollah to supply explosives that were disguised to look like rocks."
Bush Administration officials have suggested that the United States will strike at Hezbollah in what some are calling "Phase Three" of the war on terror, and there is pressure within the government to settle accounts with Mugniyah. Any action taken against him, however, would almost certainly bring a Hezbollah response. After Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage declared, in September, that Hezbollah would eventually become an American target, the group's chief spokesman, Hassan Ezzeddin, issued a statement on Nasrallah's behalf. "The American administration will be held accountable for any offensive against Lebanon," the statement read, "and we emphasize that we are in full readiness to confront any eventuality and defend our people."
But others believe that Hezbollah might attack American interests regardless of American actions in Lebanon. "Any number of things could provoke Hezbollah," Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation, says. For example, Iran could activate Hezbollah terror cells to carry out attacks. The Iranians might do this, Hoffman and others say, if they felt threatened by America's anti-terror campaign. "We see our role as bringing stability, and in situations like Lebanon stability rewards the status quo," he told me. "Stability is anathema to a revolutionary movement like Hezbollah."
One intelligence official suggested that Iran sees Mugniyah's overseas network as a kind of life insurance. "If Iran becomes the focus of Phase Three, it could send a message to the U.S. that it is not like Iraq, that it has the means to strike us at home, with a network of cells that it placed here a long time ago," he said. "The Iranians wouldn't take credit for blowing up a McDonald's, but we would know, and they would know we know."
It is not unusual for the JR Tobacco warehouse in Statesville, North Carolina, to sell cigarettes in great quantities. Federal law allows a person to buy up to two hundred and ninety-nine cartons of cigarettes at one time, and few people in North Carolina, a tobacco-growing state, object. Still, in the mid-nineteen-nineties, when a group of olive-skinned men began visiting JR Tobacco, carrying shopping bags filled with cash and walking out with two hundred and ninety-nine cartons each, Bob Fromme, an off-duty detective with the Iredell County Sheriff's Office who was working as a security guard at the warehouse, found it worthy of note.
"I thought they were Mexicans at first," Fromme told me. "There was a group of six of them who would come in on a regular basis. They would go through the store, get the cigarettes, one guy would stand at the register, and each person would then get two hundred and ninety-nine cartons. The one guy would just keep paying for all of them." Fromme said he realized that these men were not speaking Spanish: "I knew soon enough that it was Arabic."
On his own time, Fromme began following the men, and trying to interest law-enforcement agencies in what he thought was a gang of cigarette smugglers. "I called the State Attorney General's office and told them what we had, but they didn't want the case," Fromme said. "The State Bureau of Investigation didn't want it, either."
But the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms opened an investigation, and brought Fromme into it. "In the spring of 1999, we were set to go, with searches and warrants and indictments," Fromme said. "Then the F.B.I. came and said, 'We're working these guys from a different angle. Give us everything you've got. We can't tell you what we're doing.' "
Fromme and the A.T.F. investigators soon learned what the F.B.I. knew: that the smugglers, led by a Lebanese immigrant, Mohamad Youssef Hammoud, were members of a Hezbollah cell in Charlotte, North Carolina, that in the course of a year and a half sold $7.9 million worth of cigarettes illegally in Michigan and sent some of the profits to Hezbollah in Lebanon. About a year after the F.B.I. entered the picture, ten members of the ring were arrested on racketeering charges. Eight of the ten pleaded guilty before going to trial; in June, a federal jury found Hammoud guilty of providing aid to a terrorist organization.
According to Kenneth Bell, the lead prosecutor, the case was built this way: Mohamad Hammoud ran a prayer meeting every Thursday?a meeting attended by Said Harb, a longtime friend of a man named Mohamad Hassan Dbouk. Dbouk was receiving instructions from Hassan Hilu Laqis, a Hezbollah official based in Lebanon, who was in charge of Hezbollah's North American procurement operation. A fax intercepted by Canadian intelligence suggested that Dbouk worked for Imad Mugniyah. In the fax, Dbouk "is assuring Laqis that he is doing everything he can" for Hezbollah, Bell told me. "At one point, he says that he is willing to do anything?and he says, 'I mean anything'?for someone they refer to as 'the father.' I believe 'the father' is a reference to Mugniyah." Dbouk was indicted in the North Carolina case, but he is now thought to be in Lebanon.
According to the indictment, Hezbollah officials in Lebanon asked the cell members in North America to buy such items as computers, night-vision equipment, mine-detection devices, global-positioning devices, and advanced aircraft-analysis software. Bell said he did not know how much of the equipment requested by Hezbollah was shipped to Lebanon. Wiretaps revealed that Hezbollah members discussed buying life-insurance policies for operatives who "might in a short period of time go for a 'walk' and 'never come back,' " the indictment reads.
The North Carolina operation is not the only Hezbollah cell to have been discovered in the United States. Asa Hutchinson, the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told me recently that his agents discovered a drug-trafficking ring in the Midwest that was sending some of its proceeds to Hezbollah.
There is no proof that the cells are capable of violent acts. But investigators in North Carolina found anti-American propaganda among the belongings of several of the cell members. "I believe that the structure was in place to carry out a command," the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, Bob Conrad, says. Among the items investigators found when they broke up the Charlotte group was a series of photographs taken in Washington, D.C. In one of them, a member of the cell stands in front of the Washington Monument, smiling. In another, two members are posing in front of the White House.
(This is the second part of a two-part article.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW3
on: July 23, 2006, 01:08:55 AM
A very long piece written in 2002.
IN THE PARTY OF GOD
by JEFFREY GOLDBERG
Are terrorists in Lebanon preparing for a larger war?
Issue of 2002-10-14 and 21
The village of Ras al-Ein, which is situated in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, falls under the overlapping control of the Syrian Army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, or Party of God. The village is seedy and brown, and is decorated with posters of martyrs and potentates?Ayatollah Khomeini is especially popular?and with billboards that celebrate bloodshed and sacrifice.
I visited Ras al-Ein this summer to interview the leader of a Hezbollah faction, a man named Hussayn al-Mussawi, who, twenty years ago, was involved in kidnapping Americans. Many of those kidnapped were held in Ras al-Ein; they were kept blindfolded, and chained to beds and radiators. It is thought that Ras al-Ein is where William Buckley, the Beirut station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, was held for a time before he was killed by Hezbollah, in 1985.
When I arrived, it was midday; the air was still and the heat smothering, and the streets were mostly empty. A man was selling ice cream in a park at the center of town. Slides and swing sets, their paint peeling, dot the park; in the middle is a pond covered by a skin of algae. Several women and children were there. The women wore gray chadors, and their heads were covered by scarves, pinned high and tight under the left ear, so that no strand of hair could escape.
Like the rest of the town, the park was crowded with ferocious Hezbollah art. One poster showed an American flag whose field of stars had been replaced by a single Star of David. Another portrayed the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine in Jerusalem, cupped in the bony hand of a figure with a grotesquely hooked nose. A third poster, extolling the bravery of Shiite martyrs, showed a Muslim fighter standing on a pile of dead soldiers whose uniforms were marked with Stars of David. The yellow flag of Hezbollah could be seen everywhere; across the top is a quotation from the Koran, from which Hezbollah took its name?"Verily the party of God shall be victorious"?and at the center is an AK-47 in silhouette, in the hand of the Shiite martyr Husayn, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. In the background is a depiction of the globe, suggesting Hezbollah's role in the worldwide umma, or community of Muslims. Along the bottom of the Hezbollah flag is written "The Islamic Revolution in Lebanon." I did not see the red-green-and-white flag of Lebanon anywhere in Ras al-Ein.
I had taken a taxi from Ashrafieh, the prosperous Christian neighborhood in Beirut, to Ras al-Ein, a two-hour trip over potholed roads and through a modest number of roadblocks. The soft Mediterranean air soon gave way to the dry-bones heat of the Bekaa. The taxi-driver, an elderly Christian, had been hesitant about the trip (Lebanon's Christian minority is fearful of Shiite gunmen), but he smoothly negotiated the passage through two Syrian Army checkpoints. At one, a sergeant of about thirty, who carried a side arm and wore a round helmet covered in black mesh, inspected my American passport, handed it back to me, and said, enigmatically, "Osama bin Laden."
We had by then reached the outskirts of Baalbek, the main Bekaa town. Baalbek is famous for three well-preserved Roman temples, of Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus. (A statue of Hafez al-Assad, the late dictator of Syria and the father of the current dictator, stands at the entrance to the town.) The temples, which are enormous?the two main temples are larger than the Parthenon?are the site of an annual international cultural festival that draws the ?lite of Beirut, and Lebanese officials like to point to it as proof of Lebanon's normalcy. This year, the festival featured a performance of Michael Flatley's "Lord of the Dance." Ras al-Ein is a couple of miles from the temples, and we soon arrived at the Nawras Restaurant, next to the park, where I was to meet Mussawi. I sat at a table outside, with a view of the street. Two men nearby were smoking hookahs. I ordered a Pepsi and waited.
Shiism arose as a protest movement, whose followers believed that Islam should be ruled by descendants of the Prophet Muhammad's cousin Ali, and not by the caliphs who seized control after the Prophet's death. The roots of Shiite anger lie in the martyrdom of Ali's son Husayn, who died in battle against the Caliph Yezid in what is today southern Iraq. (I have heard both Shiites from southern Iraq and Iranian Shiites refer to their enemy Saddam Hussein as a modern-day Yezid.) At times, Shiism has been a quietist movement; Shiites built houses of mourn-ing and study, called Husaynias, where they recalled the glory of Husayn's martyrdom.
In Lebanon in the nineteen-sixties, the Shiites began to be drawn to the outside world. Some joined revolutionary Palestinian movements; others fell into the orbit of a populist cleric, Musa Sadr, who founded a group called the Movement of the Deprived and, later, the Shiite Amal militia. Hezbollah was formed, in 1982, by a group of young, dispossessed Shiites who coalesced around a cleric and poet named Muhammad Hussayn Fadlallah. They were impelled by a number of disparate forces, including the oppression of their community in Lebanon by the country's Sunni and Christian ?lites, and the rapture they felt in 1979 as Iran came under the power of "pure" Islam. A crucial event, though, was Israel's invasion of Lebanon in June of 1982.
Fatah, which is part of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had been firing Katyusha rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon, where it had its main base, and Prime Minister Menachem Begin, on the advice of his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, ordered Israeli forces into Lebanon. The stated purpose was to conquer what had come to be known as Fatahland, the strip of South Lebanon under Yasir Arafat's control, and to evict the P.L.O.'s forces. Sharon, though, had grander designs: to secure a friendly Christian government in Beirut and to destroy the P.L.O. It was not so much the invasion that inspired the Shiites, who were happy to see the South free of Arafat and Fatah. The Shiites took up arms when they realized that Sharon, like Arafat, had no intention of leaving Lebanon.
Hezbollah, with bases in the Bekaa and in Beirut's southern suburbs, quickly became the most successful terrorist organization in modern history. It has served as a role model for terror groups around the world; Magnus Ranstorp, the director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, says that Al Qaeda learned the value of choreographed violence from Hezbollah. The organization virtually invented the multipronged terror attack when, early on the morning of October 23, 1983, it synchronized the suicide bombings, in Beirut, of the United States Marine barracks and an apartment building housing a contingent of French peacekeepers. Those attacks occurred just twenty seconds apart; a third part of the plan, to destroy the compound of the Italian peacekeeping contingent, is said to have been jettisoned when the planners learned that the Italians were sleeping in tents, not in a high-rise building.
Until September 11th of last year, Hezbollah had murdered more Americans than any other terrorist group?two hundred and forty-one in the Marine-barracks attack alone. Through terror tactics, Hezbollah forced the American and French governments to withdraw their peacekeeping forces from Lebanon. And, two years ago, it became the first military force, guerrilla or otherwise, to drive Israel out of Arab territory when Prime Minister Ehud Barak withdrew his forces from South Lebanon.
Using various names, including the Islamic Jihad Organization and the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, Hezbollah remained underground until 1985, when it published a manifesto condemning the West, and proclaiming, "Every one of us is a fighting soldier when a call for jihad arises and each one of us carries out his mission in battle on the basis of his legal obligations. For Allah is behind us supporting and protecting us while instilling fear in the hearts of our enemies."
Another phase began in earnest in 1991, when, at the close of Lebanon's sixteen-year civil war, the country's many militias agreed to disarm. Nominally, Lebanon is governed from Beirut by an administration whose senior portfolios have been carefully divided among the country's various religious factions?Maronite and Greek Orthodox Christians, Sunnis and Shiites and Druze. But in fact Lebanon is under the control of Syria; and the Syrians, with encouragement from Iran, have allowed Hezbollah to maintain its arsenal, and even to expand it, in the interest of fighting Israel as Syria's proxy. The Syrians also allowed Hezbollah to control the Shiite ghettos of southern Beirut, much of the Bekaa Valley, and most of South Lebanon, along the border with Israel.
Hezbollah's current leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, is as important a figure in Lebanon as the country's ruling politicians and the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah officials run for office in Lebanon and win?the group now holds eleven seats in the hundred-and-twenty-eight-seat Lebanese parliament. But within Hezbollah there is little pretense of fealty to the President of Lebanon, ?mile Lahoud, who is a Christian, and certainly none to the Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, who is a Sunni Muslim. The only portraits one sees in Hezbollah offices are of Khomeini and of Ayatollah Khamenei, the current ruler of Iran.
Hezbollah has an annual budget of more than a hundred million dollars, which is supplied by the Iranian government directly and by a complex system of finance cells scattered around the world, from Bangkok and Paraguay to Michigan and North Carolina. Like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah operates successfully in public spheres that are closed off to most terrorist groups. It runs a vast and effective social-services network. It publishes newspapers and magazines and owns a satellite television station that is said to be watched by ten million people a day in the Middle East and Europe. The station, called Al Manar, or the Lighthouse, broadcasts anti-American programming, but its main purpose is to encourage Palestinians to become suicide bombers.
Along with this public work, Hez bollah continues to increase its terrorist and guerrilla capabilities. Magnus Ranstorp says that Hezbollah can be active on four tracks simultaneously?the political, the social, the guerrilla, and the terrorist?because its leaders are "masters of long-term strategic subversion." The organization's Special Security Apparatus operates in Europe, North and South America, and East Asia. According to both American and Israeli intelligence officials, the group maintains floating "day camps" for terrorist training throughout the Bekaa Valley; many of the camps are said to be just outside Baalbek. In some of them, the instructors are supplied by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. In the past twenty years, terrorists from such disparate organizations as the Basque separatist group ETA, the Red Brigades, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and the Irish Republican Army have been trained in these camps.
A main focus today appears to be the training of specifically anti-Israel militants in the science of constructing so-called "mega-bombs," devices that can bring down office towers and other large structures. The explosion of a mega-bomb is the sort of event that could lead to a major Middle East war. In fact, such attacks have been tried: in April, a plot to bomb the Azrieli Towers, two of Tel Aviv's tallest buildings, was foiled by Israeli security services; in May, a bomb exploded beneath a tanker truck at a fuel depot near Tel Aviv, but did not set off a larger explosion, as planned. Had these operations been successful, hundreds, if not thousands, of Israelis would have died. Salah Shehada, a Hamas leader in Gaza, is said by Israel to have been planning a co?rdinated attack on five buildings in Tel Aviv. (In July, an Israeli warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on the building where Shehada lived; he was killed, along with at least fourteen others, including nine children.)
Gal Luft, an Israeli reserve lieutenant colonel and an expert on counterterrorism, told me that Hezbollah's role in these plans is unknown. "Hezbollah has experience with bulk explosives," Luft said. "You can make the case that the Hezbollah provides inspiration and advice and technical support, but I wouldn't rule out its own cells trying this." Luft said that it is only a matter of time before a "mega-attack" succeeds.
Hezbollah agents have infiltrated the West Bank and Gaza, and Arab communities inside Israel, helping Hamas and Islamic Jihad and attempting to set up their own cells; many Palestinians revere Hezbollah for achieving in South Lebanon what the Palestinians have failed to achieve in the occupied territories. In the past year, Hezbollah has also been stockpiling rockets for potential use against Israel. These rockets, most of which are from Iran, are said to be moved by truck from Syria, through the Bekaa Valley, and then on to Hezbollah forces in South Lebanon.
Hezbollah has not been suspected of overt anti-American actions since 1996, when the Khobar Towers, in Saudi Arabia, were attacked, but, according to intelligence officials, its operatives, with the help and cover of Iranian diplomats, have been making surveillance tapes of American diplomatic installations in South America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. These tapes, along with maps and other tools, are said to be kept in well-organized clandestine libraries.
In recent days, top American officials have suggested that Hezbollah?and its state sponsors?may soon find themselves targeted in the Bush Administration's war on terror. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage recently called Hezbollah the "A-team" of terrorism and Al Qaeda the "B-team." The C.I.A. has lost at least seven officers to Hezbollah terrorism, including William Buckley. Sam Wyman, a retired C.I.A. official, who recommended Buckley for the job in Beirut, told me that "those who work the terrorism problem writ large, and those who are working the Hezbollah problem writ small, know that this is an account that has not been closed." The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Bob Graham, of Florida, says he wants the Administration's war on terrorism to focus not on Iraq but on Hezbollah, its Bekaa Valley camps, and its state sponsors in Iran and Syria. "We should tell the Syrians that we expect them to shut down the Bekaa Valley camps within x number of days, and, if they don't, we are reserving the right to shut them down ourselves," Graham said last month.
After drinking a third Pepsi, I watched a Land Cruiser pull up to the restaurant and deliver a stiff and unhappy-looking man with a well-kept beard. The man sat down silently across from me. Three men, one of whom wore a leather jacket, despite the terrific heat, stood quietly by the Land Cruiser.
The bearded man was not Hussayn al-Mussawi, whom I had hoped to meet. He said that his name was Muhammad, that he was an aide to Mussawi, and that he had been sent to assess my intentions. I was here, I said, to examine the claim that Hezbollah had transformed itself into a mainstream Lebanese political party.
I said that I also wanted to gauge the group's feelings about America, and look for any sign that its implacable opposition to the existence of Israel had changed.
"Are you going to ask about past events?" Muhammad asked. I indicated that I would.
When he pressed me further, I admitted that I was curious about one person in particular, a Hezbollah security operative named Imad Mugniyah. Mugniyah, who began his career in the nineteen-seventies in Arafat's bodyguard unit, is the man whom the United States holds responsible for most of Hezbollah's anti-American attacks, including the Marine-barracks bombing and the 1985 hijacking of a T.W.A. flight, during which a U.S. Navy diver was executed. He is also suspected of involvement in the attack on the Khobar Towers, in which nineteen American servicemen were killed.
Last year, the U.S. government placed Mugniyah on the list of its twenty-two most wanted terrorists, along with two of his colleagues, Ali Atwa and Hassan Izz-al-Din. (Atwa and Izz-al-Din are wanted specifically in connection with the hijacking of the T.W.A. flight in 1985.) The very mention of Mugniyah's name is a sensitive issue in Lebanon and Syria, which have refused to carry out repeated American requests?one was delivered recently by Senator Graham?to shut down Hezbollah's security apparatus, and assist in the capture of Mugniyah. Lebanon's Prime Minister Hariri became agitated when, in a conversation this summer, I asked why his government has refused to help find Mugniyah and his accomplices. "They're not here! They're not here!" Hariri said. "I've told the Americans a hundred times, they're not here!"
Seated in the Nawras Restaurant in Ras al-Ein, across from a man who called himself Muhammad, I said yes, Imad Mugniyah would figure in my story. At that, Muhammad rose, looked at me dismissively, and left the restaurant without a word.
The chief spokesman for Hezbollah is a narrow-shouldered, self-contained man of about forty named Hassan Ezzeddin, who dresses in the style of an Iranian diplomat: trim beard, dark jacket, white shirt, no tie. His office is on a low floor of an apartment building in the southern suburbs of Beirut, which are called the Dahiya. Hezbollah has five main offices there, and all are in apartment buildings, which helps to create a shield between the bureaucracy and Israeli fighter jets and bombers that periodically fly overhead. The shabby offices are sparsely furnished; apparently, the idea is to be able to dismantle them in half an hour or less, in case of an Israeli attack.
The eight members of Hezbollah's ruling council are said to meet in the Dahiya once a week. Lebanese police officers are stationed at a handful of intersections, but they don't stray from their posts. The buildings housing Hezbollah's offices are protected by gunmen dressed in black, and plainclothes Hezbollah agents patrol the streets. Once, while walking to an appointment, I took out a disposable camera and began to take pictures of posters celebrating the deaths of Hezbollah "martyrs." Within thirty seconds, two Hezbollah men confronted me. They ordered me to put my camera away and then followed me to my meeting.
The Shiite stronghold in the southern suburbs of the city is only a twenty-minute drive from the Virgin Mega-store in downtown Beirut, but it might as well be part of Tehran. Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei stare down from the walls, and the Western fashions ubiquitous in East Beirut are forbidden; many women wear the full chador. The suburbs are the most densely packed of Beirut's neighborhoods, with seven- and eight-story apartment buildings, many of them jerry-built, jammed against one another along congested streets and narrow alleys. The main businesses in the Dahiya are believed to be chop shops, where stolen automobiles and computers are taken apart and sold.
I was introduced to Ezzeddin by Hussain Naboulsi, and he translated our conversation. Naboulsi is in charge of Hezbollah's Web site. He spent some time in America, and incorporates American slang unself-consciously into his speech. He is young and gregarious, but he grew evasive when the subject of his background came up. "We lived in Brooklyn, and I was going to go to the University of Texas, but then we moved to Canada. . . ." He trailed off.
Ezzeddin said that anti-Americanism is no longer the focus of his party's actions. Hezbollah, he said, holds no brief against the American people; it is opposed only to the policies of the American government, principally its "unlimited" support for Israel. Like all Hezbollah's public figures, Ezzeddin is proud of the victory over Israel in South Lebanon, two years ago, and he spoke at length about the reasons for Hezbollah's success. He quoted a statement of Hezbollah's leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, made shortly after the Israeli withdrawal: "I tell you: this 'Israel' that owns nuclear weapons and the strongest air force in this region is more fragile than a spiderweb." Ezzeddin explained that Ehud Barak pulled out his troops because the soldiers?and their mothers?feared death. This isn't true for Muslims, he said. "Life doesn't end when you die. To us, there is real life after death. Reaching the afterlife is the goal of life. Once you have in mind the goal of dying, you stop fearing the Jews."
After Israel withdrew from south ern Lebanon, many experts on the Middle East assumed that Hezbollah would focus on social services and on domestic politics, in order to bring about a peaceful transformation of Lebanon into an Islamic republic. Even before the Israeli pullout, a leading scholar of Hezbollah, Augustus Richard Norton, of Boston University, wrote a paper entitled "Hezbollah: From Radicalism to Pragmatism?" In his paper, Norton said that in discussions with Hezbollah officials he had got the impression that the group "has no appetite to launch a military campaign across the Israeli border, should Israel withdraw from the South."
But Hezbollah is, at its core, a jihadist organization, and its leaders have never tried to disguise their ultimate goal: building an Islamic republic in Lebanon and liberating Jerusalem from the Jews. Immediately after the withdrawal, Hezbollah announced that Israel was still occupying a tiny slice of Lebanese land called Shebaa Farms. The United Nations ruled that Shebaa Farms was not part of Lebanon but belonged to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and thus was a matter for Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Hezbollah disagreed, and, with Syria's acquiescence, has continued to launch frequent attacks on Israeli outposts in Shebaa.
Ezzeddin seemed to concede that the Hezbollah campaign to rid Shebaa of Israeli troops is a pretext for something larger. "If they go from Shebaa, we will not stop fighting them," he told me. "Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine," he added, referring to the year of Israel's founding. The Jews who survive this war of liberation, Ezzeddin said, "can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from." He added, however, that the Jews who lived in Palestine before 1948 will be "allowed to live as a minority and they will be cared for by the Muslim majority." Sayyid Nasrallah himself told a conference held in Tehran last year that "we all have an extraordinary historic opportunity to finish off the entire cancerous Zionist project."
The balance of forces on Israel's northern border suggests that Hezbollah's ambitions are unrealizable. Its fighters number in the low thousands, at most; the Israeli Air Force is among the most powerful in the world. But the pullout from Lebanon heightened Hezbollah's self-regard, its contempt for Jews, and its desire for total victory. "Everyone told us, 'You're crazy, what are you doing, you can't defeat Israel,' " Ezzeddin said. "But we have shown that the Jews are not invincible. We dealt the Jews a serious blow, and we will continue to deal the Jews serious blows."
The withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, after eighteen years, closed a disastrous chapter in Israeli military history. The conflict destroyed the government of Menachem Begin, and Begin himself; he lived out his final days as a recluse. An Israeli commission held Ariel Sharon, his defense minister, "indirectly responsible" for the massacre by pro-Israeli Christian militiamen of approximately eight hundred Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, in Beirut, in 1982. The Lebanon invasion seemed to have ended Sharon's career. By the time the troops left, more than nine hundred Israeli soldiers had been killed in Lebanon. The withdrawal was badly managed and chaotic. The Army abandoned equipment, and also deserted its Christian allies, a militia called the South Lebanon Army.
In one of the Israeli Army's final acts, sappers tried to bring down the twelfth-century Beaufort Castle, a fortress that sits high over the upper Galilee. The castle had served as a platform for P.L.O. rocket attacks on Israeli towns and farms before Sharon's invasion, and, in the final days of the occupation, the Army was hoping to deny the Palestinians the shelter of its battlements. The Israelis succeeded only in part. The walls did not crumble, and the Hezbollah flag now flies from the highest tower.
I visited Beaufort on a brilliantly hot day this summer, and the only people around were a handful of Hezbollah fighters, a group of Beirutis on a day-long excursion through the South, and two Iranian tourists, with cheap cameras hanging from their necks. One of the Hezbollah guerrillas, a pimply man in his early twenties named Na'im, showed me around. We picked our way across half-collapsed battlements, among thorn bushes and patches of purple and yellow wildflowers, to the remains of the outer rampart, which overlooks a steep drop to the floor of the Litani River valley. Na'im wore bluejeans and a redand-green plaid shirt. He carried a rifle, which he used as a walking stick. He told me that the castle dated back to the Islamic conquest of the Holy Land. In fact, Beaufort was built by the Crusaders, but in Na'im's version the castle began as a Muslim fortress. "Saladin used this to defeat the Crusaders," he said, in a rehearsed manner. "Hezbollah will use it to defeat the Jews."
From where we stood, we had a clear view into the Israeli town of Metulla, with its red-roofed, whitewashed houses, small hotels, and orchards. "The Jews are sons of pigs and apes," Na'im said. We walked down the crumbling rampart, past a dry cistern, and up a ridge to the high tower, where the Hezbollah flag waved in the wind.
From Beaufort, I headed to the village of Kfar Kila, and the border, where the Fatima Gate is situated. During the occupation, Israel called it the Good Fence; it was the entrance to Metulla for Lebanese workers. The Good Fence has been sealed, and is now famous as the place where Palestinians and Lebanese throw rocks at Israeli soldiers.
I saw, on my drive down, the digging of what appeared to be anti-tank trenches, but, though the South may be a future battlefield, it is also a museum of past glory. Of the four or five main Islamic fundamentalist terror organizations in the Middle East, Hezbollah has by far the most sophisticated public-relations operation, and it has turned the South into an open-air celebration of its success against Israel. The experience of driving there is similar in some ways to driving through Gettysburg, or Antietam; roadside signs and billboards describe in great detail the battles and unit formations associated with a particular place. One multicolored sign, in both Arabic and English, reads:
On Oct. 19, 1988 at1:25 p.m. a martyr car that was body trapped with 500 kilogram of highly exploding materials transformed two Israeli troops into masses of fire and limbs, in one of the severe kicks that the Israeli army had received in Lebanon.
Most of the signs place the word "Israel" in quotation marks, to underscore the country's illegitimacy, and every sign includes a fact box: the number of "Israelis" killed and wounded at the location, and the "Date of Ignominious Departure" of "Israeli" forces. The historical markers also carry quotations from Israeli leaders praising the fighting abilities of Hezbollah's martyrs. One sign reads, "Zionists comments: 'Hezbollah's secret weapon is their self-innovation and their ability to produce bombs that are simple but effective.' " The attribution beneath the quote is "Former 'Israeli' Prime Minister Ihud Barak."
According to Israeli security sources, the Israelis have never been able to infiltrate Hezbollah as they have the P.L.O. One intelligence official told me that Hezbollah leaders have so far been immune to the three inducements that often lure Palestinians to the Israeli side. In Hebrew, they are called the three "K"s: kesef, or money; kavod, respect; and kussit, a crude sexual term for a woman.
The centerpiece of Hezbollah's propaganda effort in the South is the former Al-Khiam prison, a rambling stone-and-concrete complex of interconnected buildings, a few miles from the border, where I stopped on the way to Kfar Kila. For fifteen years, the prison was run by Israel's proxy force in Lebanon, the South Lebanon Army, with the assistance of the Shabak, the Israeli equivalent of the F.B.I. Prisoners in Al-Khiam?which held almost two hundred at any given time?were allegedly subjected to electric-shock torture and a variety of deprivations. The jail has been preserved just as it was on the day the Israelis left. There are still Israeli Army-issue sleeping bags in the cells. Hezbollah has added a gift shop, which sells Hezbollah key chains and flags and cassettes of martial Hezbollah music; a cafeteria; and signs on the walls of various rooms that describe, in Hezbollah's terms, the use of the rooms. "A Room for Investigation and Torturing by Electricity," reads one. "A Room for the Boss of Whippers." "A Room for Investigation with the Help of the Traitors." And "The Hall of Torturing-Burying-Kicking-Beating-Applying Electricity-Pouring Hot Water-Placing a Dog Beside." A busload of tourists, residents of a Palestinian refugee camp outside Beirut, were clearly in awe of the place, treating the cells as if they were reliquaries and congratulating the Hezbollah employees.
Like me, the tourists were headed for the border at Kfar Kila, where one can walk right up to the electrified fence, and where Israeli cameras feed real-time pictures to a series of fortified observation stations just south of the line. An Israeli bunker sits about fifty feet in from the fence?one man told me that the Israeli soldiers never show their faces?and the Palestinians took turns taking pictures and yelling curses. I drove a short distance to a Hezbollah position that faces a massive concrete Israeli fortress called Tziporen. The tour bus, headed for the same place, stopped on the way at an overlook, and the Palestinians got out. On the Israeli side, on a track that ran parallel to the Lebanese road, was a Humvee and three Israeli soldiers. They were protecting a group of workers who were repairing a section of the road. The Israelis were no more than forty feet away, on the lower part of the slope. The experience for the Palestinians?and for a group of Kuwaitis who arrived by car?was something like a grizzly sighting in a national park. "Yahud!" one Kuwaiti said, dumbfounded. "Jews!" His friends produced video cameras and began filming. The Israeli soldiers waved; the Arabs did not. A few began cursing the soldiers and, once it was decided that the workers were Israeli Arabs, cursed them, too. "Ana bidi'ani kak!" one Palestinian yelled at the soldiers?"I want to fuck you up." "Jasus"?"spy"?another called out. An argument broke out on the ridge, and the Palestinians decided that it was not right to curse the Arab workers, who were only earning a living in oppressive circumstances. Apologies were offered, and what was by now a cavalcade moved forward, to the Hezbollah position opposite the Israeli fortress.
Tziporen, the fortress, overlooks the mausoleum of a Jewish sage named Rav Ashi, who was the redactor of the Babylonian Talmud, and who died in 427. The modest mausoleum sits half in Lebanon and half in Israel. Barbed wire runs atop it, and, with the help of a southerly breeze, the Hezbollah flag planted on the Lebanese side of the mausoleum flapped into Israel. The fighters at the Hezbollah position warned us not to get too close to the fence; the Israelis might fire. Rock throwing from a comfortable distance was encouraged, and the Palestinians aimed for the roof of the fort. On weekends, when the crowds are thicker, villagers drive in tractors full of rocks to supply the tourists.
Because it was too risky to approach the fence, it was impossible to read a large billboard planted three feet north of the line. It faced south into Israel, carrying what was obviously a message for the Israelis alone. The border is, of course, sealed, so it was a month before I got a clear look at the billboard. It read, in Hebrew, "Sharon?Don't Forget Your Soldiers Are Still in Lebanon." The message was written under a photograph of a Hezbollah guerrilla holding, by the hair, the severed head of an Israeli commando.
III?THE SUICIDE CHANNEL
The true propaganda engine of Hezbollah is the Al Manar satellite television station. Unlike most of Hezbollah's public offices, the studios of Al Manar are not shoddily built or cheaply decorated. The station's five-story headquarters building in the Dahiya, at the end of a short side street, is surrounded by taller apartment buildings. Guards carrying rifles patrol its perimeter, but, inside, Al Manar has a corporate atmosphere. The lobby is glass and marble, and behind the reception desk a pleasant young man answers the telephone. He sits beneath a portrait of Abbas al-Mussawi, the previous Hezbollah leader, who was assassinated ten years ago by Israel. At the reception desk, women whose dress is deemed immodest can borrow a chador.
Al Manar's news director is Hassan Fadlallah, who is in his early thirties and is a member of the same clan as Muhammad Hussayn Fadlallah, the Hezbollah spiritual leader. Fadlallah, a studious-looking man who had several days' stubble on his face, is working on a Ph.D. in education. He apologized for his poor English. A waiter brought us orange juice and tea.
I began by asking him to compare Al Manar and the most famous Arabic satellite channel, Al Jazeera. "Neutrality like that of Al Jazeera is out of the question for us," Fadlallah said. "We cover only the victim, not the aggressor. CNN is the Zionist news network, Al Jazeera is neutral, and Al Manar takes the side of the Palestinians."
Fadlallah paused for a moment, and said he would like to amend his comment on CNN. "We were very happy with Ted Turner," he said. "We were so happy that he was getting closer to the truth." He was referring to recent comments by Turner, the founder of CNN, who talked about suicide bombers and the Israeli Army and then said, "So who are the terrorists? I would make a case that both sides are involved in terrorism." Turner was criticized harshly in the American press and by supporters of Israel, and later said that he regretted "any implication that I believe the actions taken by Israel to protect its people are equal to terrorism." Fadlallah claimed that Turner revised his statement because "the Jews threatened his life." He said Al Manar's opposition to neutrality means that, unlike Al Jazeera, his station would never feature interviews or comments by Israeli officials. "We're not looking to interview Sharon," Fadlallah said. "We want to get close to him in order to kill him."
Al Manar would not rule out broadcasting comments from non-Israeli Jews. "There would be one or two we would put on our shows. For example, we would like to have Noam Chomsky." Fadlallah suggested, half jokingly, that I appear on a question-and-answer show. (Later, another Al Manar official suggested that I answer questions about what he termed "the true meaning of the Talmud.")
Fadlallah said that one of Al Manar's goals is to set in context the role of Jews in world affairs. Anti-Semitism, he said, was banned from the station, but he was considering a program on "scholars who dissent on the issue of the Holocaust," which would include the work of the French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. "There are contradictions," Fadlallah said. "Many Europeans believe that the Holocaust was a myth invented so that the Jews could get compensation. Everyone knows how the Jews punish people who seek the truth about the Holocaust."
It would be a mistake, Fadlallah went on, to focus solely on Al Manar's antiIsrael programs. "We have news programming, kids' shows, game shows, political news, and culture." At the same time, he said, Al Manar is "trying to keep the people in the mood of suffering," and most of the station's daily schedule, including its game shows and children's programming, tends to center on Israel. A program called "The Spider's House" explores what Hezbollah sees as Israel's weaknesses; "In Spite of the Wounds" portrays as heroes men who were wounded fighting Israel in South Lebanon. On a game show entitled "The Viewer Is the Witness," contestants guess the names of prominent Israeli politicians and military figures, who are played by Lebanese actors. Al Manar also has a weekly program called "Terrorists."
Avi Jorisch, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank, who is writing a book about Al Manar, has visited the station and watched several hundred hours of its programming. The show "Terrorists," he told me, airs vintage footage of what it terms "Zionist crimes," which include, by Hezbollah's definition, any Israeli action, offensive or defensive. According to Jorisch, Al Manar, with its estimated ten million viewers, is not as popular in the Arab world as Al Jazeera, although he noted that Arab viewership is not audited. He said that his Lebanese sources credit Al Manar as the second most popular station among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. (Al Manar can be received in the United States via satellite.)
Al Manar regularly airs raw footage of violence in the occupied territories, and it will break into its programming with what one Al Manar official called "patriotic music videos" to announce Palestinian attacks and applaud the killing of Israelis. When I visited the station, the videos were being produced in a basement editing room by a young man named Firas Mansour. Al Manar has modern equipment, and the day I was there Mansour, who was in charge of mixing the videos, was working on a Windows-based editing suite. Mansour is in his late twenties, and he was dressed in hip-hop style. His hair was gelled, and he wore a gold chain, a heavy silver bracelet, and a goatee. He spoke colloquial American English. I asked him where he learned it. "Boston," he said.
Mansour showed me some recent footage from the West Bank, of Israeli soldiers firing on Palestinians. Accompanying the video was a Hezbollah fighting song. "What I'm doing is synchronizing the gunshots to form the downbeat of the song," he told me. "This is my technique. I thought of it." He had come up with a title: "I'm going to call it 'Death to Israel.' " Mansour said that he can produce two or three videos on a good day. "What I do is, first, I try to feel the music. Then I find the pictures to go along with it." He pulled up another video, this one almost ready to air. "Try and see if you could figure out the theme of this one," he said.
The video began with Israeli soldiers firing on Palestinians. Then the screen filled with pictures of Palestinians carrying the wounded to ambulances, followed by an angry funeral scene. Suddenly, the scene shifted to Israelis under fire. An Israeli soldier was on the ground, rocking back and forth, next to a burning jeep; this was followed by scenes of Jewish funerals, with coffins draped in the Israeli flag being lowered into graves.
Mansour pressed a button, and the images disappeared from the screen. "The idea is that even if the Jews are killing us we can still kill them. That we derive our power from blood. It's saying, 'Get ready to blow yourselves up, because this is the only way to liberate Palestine.' '' The video, he said, would be shown after the next attack in Israel. He said he was thinking of calling it "We Will Kill All the Jews." I suggested that these videos would encourage the recruitment of suicide bombers among the Palestinians. "Exactly," he replied.
The anti-Semitism of the Middle East groups that oppose Israel's right to exist often seems instrumental?anti-Jewish stereotypes are another weapon in the anti-Israeli armamentarium. The rhetoric is repellent, but in the past it did not quite touch the malignancy of genocidal anti-Semitism. The language has changed, however. In April, in a sermon delivered in the Gaza Strip, Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, a Palestinian Authority imam, said, "Oh, Allah, accept our martyrs in the highest Heaven. Oh, Allah, show the Jews a black day. Oh, Allah, annihilate the Jews and their supporters." (The translation was made by the Middle East Media Research Institute.) In Saudi Arabia, where anti-Semitism permeates the newspapers and the mosques, the imam of the Al Harram mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Abd al-Rahman alSudais, recently declared, "Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil forefathers of the even more evil Jews of today: infidels, falsifiers of words, calf worshippers, prophet murderers, deniers of prophecies . . . the scum of the human race, accursed by Allah." Hezbollah has been at the vanguard of this shift toward frank anti-Semitism, and its leaders frequently resort to epidemiological metaphors in describing the role of Jews in world affairs. Ibrahim Mussawi, the urbane and scholarly-seeming director of English-language news at Al Manar, called Jews "a lesion on the forehead of history." A biochemist named Hussein Haj Hassan, a Hezbollah official who represents Baalbek in the Lebanese parliament, told me that he is not anti-Semitic, but he has noticed that the Jews are a pan-national group "that functions in a way that lets them act as parasites in the nations that have given them shelter."
The Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, a biographer of Sayyid Muhammad Fadlallah, told me that he has sensed a shift in hard-line Shiite thinking in the past twenty years. In the first burst of revolution in Iran, the United States was cast by Ayatollah Khomeini and his allies as the "Great Satan." Israel occupied the role of "Little Satan." This has been reversed, Kramer said. Today, Shiite authorities in Lebanon view America as one more tool of the Jews, who have achieved covert world domination. President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, who is often described as a reformer, last year called Israel "a parasite in the heart of the Muslim world."
There are bitter feelings, to be sure, about Israel's invasion of Lebanon, about Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, about the Israeli Air Force's not infrequent patrols in the skies over Beirut. But even some cosmopolitan Beirutis I met, Christians as well as Muslims, seemed surprisingly open to anti-Jewish propaganda?for instance, that the World Trade Center was destroyed by Jews.
A young Shiite scholar named Amal Saad-Ghorayeb has advanced what in Lebanon is a controversial argument: that Hezbollah is not merely anti-Israel but deeply, theologically anti-Jewish. Her new book, "Hezbollah: Politics & Religion," dissects the anti-Jewish roots of Hezbollah ideology. Hezbollah, she argues, believes that Jews, by the nature of Judaism, possess fatal character flaws.
I met Saad-Ghorayeb one afternoon in a caf? near the Lebanese American University, where she is an assistant professor. She was wearing an orange spaghetti-strap tank top, a knee-length skirt, and silver hoop earrings. She is thirty years old and married, and has a four-year-old daughter. Her father, Abdo Saad, is a prominent Shiite pollster; her mother is Christian.
Saad-Ghorayeb calls Israel "an aberration, a colonialist state that embraces its victimhood in order to displace another people." Yet her opposition to anti-Semitism seemed sincere, as when she described the anti-Jewish feeling that underlies Hezbollah's ideology. "There is a real antipathy to Jews as Jews," she said. "It is exacerbated by Zionism, but it existed before Zionism." She observed that Hezbollah, like many other Arab groups, is in the thrall of a belief system that she called "moral utilitarianism." Hezbollah, in other words, will find the religious justification for an act as long as the act is useful. "For the Arabs, the end often justifies the means, even if the means are dubious," she said. "If it works, it's moral."
In her book, she argues that Hezbollah's Koranic reading of Jewish history has led its leaders to believe that Jewish theology is evil. She criticizes the scholar Bernard Lewis for downplaying the depth of traditional Islamic antiJudaism, especially when compared with Christian anti-Semitism. "Lewis commits the . . . grave error of depicting traditional Islam as more tolerant of Jews . . . thereby implying that Zionism was the cause of Arab-Islamic anti-Semitism," she writes.
Saad-Ghorayeb is hesitant to label Hezbollah's outlook anti-Semitism, however. She prefers the term "antiJudaism," since in her terms anti-Semitism is a race-based hatred, while anti-Judaism is religion-based. Hezbollah, she says, tries to mask its antiJudaism for "public-relations reasons," but she argues that a study of its language, spoken and written, reveals an underlying truth. She quoted from a speech delivered by Hassan Nasrallah, in which he said, "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli." To Saad-Ghorayeb, this statement "provides moral justification and ideological justification for dehumanizing the Jews." In this view, she went on, "the Israeli Jew becomes a legitimate target for extermination. And it also legitimatizes attacks on non-Israeli Jews."
Larry Johnson, a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton State Department, once told me, "There's a fundamental view here of the Jew as subhuman. Hezbollah is the direct ideological heir of the Nazis." Saad-Ghorayeb disagrees. Nasrallah may skirt the line between racialist anti-Semitism and theological anti-Judaism, she said, but she argued that mainstream Hezbollah ideology provides the Jews with an obvious way to repair themselves in God's eyes: by converting to Islam.
IV?"THE LOGIC OF WAR"
One day near the end of my stay in Lebanon, I visited Sayyid Fadlallah, Hezbollah's spiritual leader, at his home in the Dahiya. Fadlallah, who is sixty-seven, is a surpassingly important figure in Shiism, inside and outside Lebanon. As many as twenty thousand people pray with him each Friday at a cavernous mosque near his home. He is a squat man with a white beard, and wears the black turban of the sayyid, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Fadlallah has long denied any official role in Hezbollah. Some experts take him at his word; others believe that he is dissembling. However, intellectually Fadlallah has taken an independent course, and people close to him told me that he privately scorns Hezbollah's most important patron, Ayatollah Khamenei, as a mediocre thinker and cleric.
Several attempts have been made to assassinate Fadlallah. He believes that the C.I.A., working with Saudi Arabia, tried to kill him by setting off a bomb near his apartment building in 1985, an event cited in Bob Woodward's book "Veil: The Secret Wars of the C.I.A. 1981-1987," which, Fadlallah told me, he has read carefully and repeatedly. His offices are well guarded by men who have apparently been assigned to him by Hezbollah. My briefcase was taken from me for ten minutes and thoroughly searched by the guards. A man carrying a pistol sat in on our interview, along with three translators: Fadlallah's; mine (a Christian woman from East Beirut, who had been required to wear a chador for the occasion); and Abdo Saad, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb's father, who had arranged the interview.
Fadlallah entered the meeting room slowly and deliberately. He sat in a plush chair, the rest of us on couches near him. The room was lit with fluorescent light; as always, a picture of Khomeini stared down from the wall.
Fadlallah framed the core issues in political, not religious, terms. "The Israelis believe that after three thousand years they came back to Palestine," he said. "But can the American Indian come back to America after all this time? Can the Celts go back to Britain?" He said that he has no objection to Jewish statehood, but not at the expense of Palestinians. "The problem between Muslims and Jews has to do with security issues."
Like many Muslim clerics, he holds romantic, condescending, and contradictory views of the historic relationship between Jews and Muslims. He is aware that for hundreds of years, while Jews were persecuted and ostracized in Christian Europe, they were granted the status of protected inferiors by the caliphs, and subjected only to infrequent pogroms. Yet, despite his assertion that the dispute between Jews and Muslims was political, he made the theological observation that the Jews "never recognized Islam as a true religion." I asked him if he agreed with this passage from the Koran: "Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans." Yes, he said. "The Jews don't consider Islam to be a religion."
I tried to turn the conversation to Islamic beliefs?in particular, the rationale for suicide attacks. In the early nineteen-eighties, Fadlallah was accused of blessing the suicide bomber who destroyed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, a charge that he heatedly denied to me. He pointed out that he was among the first Islamic clerics to condemn the September 11th attacks, though he blamed American foreign policy for creating the atmosphere that led to them. He has, however, endorsed attacks on Israeli civilians. Suicide, he said, is not an absolute value. It is an option left to a people who are without options, and so the act is no longer considered suicide but martyrdom in the name of self-defense. "This is part of the logic of war," he said.
On the killing of Israeli civilians, Fadlallah said, "In a state of war, it is permissible for Palestinians to kill Jews. When there is peace, this is not permissible." He does not believe in a peaceful settlement between two states, one Palestinian, the other Israeli; rather, he favors the disappearance of Israel.
I thought about Saad-Ghorayeb's argument that many in Hezbollah consider all Jews guilty of conspiring against Islam, and I asked Fadlallah if it was permissible to kill Jews beyond the borders of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors are considered by the governments of Israel, the United States, and Argentina to be responsible for the single deadliest anti-Semitic attack since the end of the Second World War: the suicide truck-bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in 1994, which left more than a hundred people dead. As in the case of other accusations of terrorism, Hezbollah and Iran say that they were not involved in the attack. "We are against the killing of Jews outside Palestine," Fadlallah said. "Unless they transfer the war outside Palestine." When I asked if they had, Fadlallah raised an eyebrow, and let the question go unanswered.
Major General Benny Gantz is the chief of the Israeli Army's Northern Command, which is responsible for defending Israel from Hezbollah and Syria and any other threats from the north. Until recently, Gantz was the commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank.
When we met this summer, at an airbase outside Tel Aviv, he seemed pleased to have left behind the moral and strategic ambiguities of service in the West Bank. Gantz is forty-three, tall, lean, and cynical. Much of his career has been spent dealing with the Lebanon question. Before serving in the West Bank, he was the top Israeli officer in Lebanon in the days leading up to the withdrawal. A helicopter was waiting to carry him north to the border after our meeting. Gantz is almost certain that he will soon wage war against Hezbollah and Syria. "I'll be surprised if we don't see this fight," he said.
The Israelis believe that in South Lebanon Hezbollah has more than eight thousand rockets, weapons that are far more sophisticated than any previously seen in the group's arsenal. They include the Iranian-made Fajr-5 rocket, which has a range of up to forty-five miles, meaning that Israel's industrial heartland, in the area south of Haifa, falls within Hezbollah's reach. One intelligence official put it this way: "It's not tenable for us to have a jihadist organization on our border with the capability of destroying Israel's main oil refinery."
Hezbollah officials told me that they possessed no rockets whatsoever. But one reporter who has covered Hezbollah and the South for several years said he believes that Hezbollah has established a "balance of terror" along the border. The reporter, Nicholas Blanford, of the Beirut English-language newspaper the Daily Star, said that he is "pretty certain" that Hezbollah has "extensive weaponry down there, stashed away." He added, "Their refrain is, we're ready for all eventualities."
Blanford, who has good sources in the Hezbollah leadership, said, "They seem to be convinced that sooner or later there's going to be an Israeli-Arab conflict. In the long term, Israel cannot put up with this threat from Hezbollah." It seems clear that in ordinary times Israel would already have moved against Hezbollah. But these are not ordinary times. Intelligence officials told me that Israel cannot act pre?mptively against Hezbollah while America is trying to shore up Arab support for, or acquiescence in, a campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein. To do otherwise would be to risk angering the Bush Administration, which needs Israel to show restraint. One Israeli Army officer I spoke to put it bluntly: "The day after the American attack, we can move."
Both Israel and the United States believe that, at the outset of an American campaign against Saddam, Iraq will fire missiles at Israel?perhaps with chemical or biological payloads?in order to provoke an Israeli conventional, or even nuclear, response. But Hezbollah, which is better situated than Iraq to do damage to Israel, might do Saddam's work itself, forcing Israel to retaliate, and crippling the American effort against an Arab state. Hezbollah is not known to possess unconventional payloads for its missiles, though its state sponsors, Iran and Syria, maintain extensive biological- and chemical-weapons programs.
If Hezbollah wants to provoke Israel, it has other options. Early this year, it tried to smuggle fifty tons of heavy Iranian weapons?including mines, mortars, and missiles?to the Palestinian Authority aboard a ship called the Karine A. The Israeli Navy seized the ship in the Red Sea. Intelligence officials believe that the operation was under the control of a deputy of Imad Mugniyah, the Hezbollah security operative. According to a story in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, King Abdullah of Jordan told American officials that Iran was behind attempts to launch at least seventeen rockets at Israeli targets from Jordanian territory. Hezbollah, meanwhile, is working with Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad, which, like Hezbollah, is sponsored by Iran, and which, like Hezbollah, is searching for the means to deliver a serious blow to Israel.
There is no affection for Saddam Hussein among the ruling mullahs in Iran, which lost a vicious war to Iraq in the nineteen-eighties, with hundreds of thousands of Iranians dead; or in the office of President Bashar al-Assad, in Syria. But some American analysts think that both regimes are alarmed by the prospect of Saddam's overthrow. Dennis Ross, the Clinton Administration's Middle East envoy, told me that American success against Iraq would legitimatize American-led "regime change" in the Middle East. It would also leave Iran surrounded by pro-American governments, in Kabul, Baghdad, and Istanbul. "They see encirclement," Ross said. "This explains the incredible flow of weaponry to Hezbollah after Israel left Lebanon."
Ross said that Bashar al-Assad's interest in forestalling an American attack on Iraq by igniting an Arab-Israeli war is more subtle, but still present. "Bashar realizes that if we go ahead and do this in Iraq he runs an enormous risk" by continuing to support terrorist organizations. The State Department lists Syria as a sponsor of terror. Ross also believes that Bashar, unlike his late father, is not thoughtful enough to grasp the cost of a war with Israel. "He still thinks that Israel will stay within certain boundaries," Ross said. "He needs to hear from us that, if he provokes a war, don't expect us to come to your rescue. He's playing with fire." Indeed, in April this year the Bush Administration had to intervene with Syria to halt Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel.
General Gantz told me that if Hezbollah uses rockets against Israel his forces will be hunting Syrians as well as Lebanese Shiites. Lebanon may be the battlefield, he said, but the twenty thousand Syrian soldiers in Lebanon will be fair targets. "Israel doesn't have to deal with Hezbollah as Hezbollah," he continued. "This is the Hezbollah tail wagging the Syrian dog. As far as I'm concerned, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese and Syrian forces. Syria will pay the price. I'm not saying when or where. But it will be severe."
The Syrian Army, which used to have the Soviet Union as its patron, is no match for Israel, Gantz said. "I think the Syrians can create a few problems for us. But it's very hard to see in what way they're better than us. I just don't know how Bashar is going to rebuild his army after this. Assad, the father, was a smart guy. He knew how to walk a tightrope. His son is trying to dance on it."
In conversations with people in Beirut, and especially in the Christian areas to the city's north, I found great anxiety about an Israeli counterstrike against Lebanon. Hezbollah understands that the Lebanese have grown used to peace, and that they fear an Israeli attack; many Lebanese would hold Hezbollah responsible for the devastation caused by an Israeli attack. Among some of Lebanon's religious groups, particularly the Maronite Christians and the Druze, there is a feeling that the Syrians have overstayed their welcome in the country. These groups fear Hezbollah, too, but they do not express it; after all, Hezbollah is the only militia that is still armed, long after the end of the civil war.
Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres, mentioned these constraints when I spoke to him recently. "Hezbollah must not appear to be the destroyer of Lebanon," he said. Peres noted, however, that Hezbollah is an organization devoted to jihad, not to logic. "These are religious people. With the religious you can hardly negotiate. They think they have supreme permission to kill people and go to war. This is their nature."
When I met with Prime Minister Hariri, he alluded to some of these worries. Hariri, a Sunni, is a billionaire builder who made most of his money in Saudi Arabia. We spoke in a building that he constructed in Beirut, with his own money, to serve as his "palace"; it seems to be modelled on a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Hariri has tense relations with Hezbollah, which has accused him of trying to thwart development in poor Shiite areas. Hariri understands that Israel will make the Lebanese people suffer for any attacks that are launched from Lebanese territory. He loathes and fears Ariel Sharon, and said to me that Sharon was "no different" from Hitler in his belief "in racial purity." The people of southern Lebanon do not want the Israelis provoked, Hariri said. "Look around the South," he said. "Look at all the building."
In recent weeks, the borderland has become even more unstable. An Israeli soldier was killed last month when Hezbollah fired on an Israeli outpost in Shebaa; and the Lebanese government, with the endorsement of Hezbollah, announced plans to divert water that would otherwise be carried by the Hatsbani River into Israel. Israel has said that it will not allow Lebanon to curtail its water supply. General Gantz assumes that internal political considerations will not trump its desire for jihad. As he prepared to board his helicopter and fly to the border, he said, "I was the last officer to leave Lebanon, and maybe I'll be the first one to return."
(This is the first part of a two-part article.)
IN THE PARTY OF GOD
by JEFFREY GOLDBERG
Hezbollah sets up operations in South America and the United States.
Issue of 2002-10-28
The patrol boat, a Boston Whaler, was worn at its edges, and it was pocked with bullet holes along its starboard side. It had a four-man crew, officers of the Brazilian Federal Police. They carried AK-47s and side arms, and they wore jeans, sunglasses, and bulletproof vests, which made them sweat. The patrol chief steered the boat into the middle of the Paran? River?half a mile wide, muddy, and sluggish. He opened up the boat's two Suzuki engines, and as we moved north the outskirts of the Brazilian city of Foz do Igua?u came into view on the right; on the opposite side was the Paraguayan jungle, where smoke from cooking fires rose above the tree line. The chief, who was worried about snipers, kept the boat moving fast. He pointed to a series of chutes, dug out from the banks on the Paraguayan side, down which drug smugglers move bales of marijuana to the river.
A decaying iron bridge, the International Friendship Bridge, connects Foz do Igua?u to its Paraguayan sister city, Ciudad del Este, the City of the East. Ciudad del Este is at the heart of the zone known as the Triple Frontier, the point where Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina meet, which has served for nearly thirty years as a hospitable base of operations for smugglers, counterfeiters, and tax dodgers. The Triple Frontier has earned its reputation as one of the most lawless places in the world. Now, it is believed, the Frontier is also the center of Middle Eastern terrorism in South America.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants
on: July 22, 2006, 10:29:04 PM
July 21, 2006
A Strange War
Israel is at last being given an opportunity to unload on jihadists.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
Sum up the declarations of Hezbollah?s leaders, Syrian diplomats, Iranian nuts, West Bank terrorists, and Arab commentators ? and this latest Middle East war seems one of the strangest in a long history of strange conflicts. For example, have we ever witnessed a conflict in which one of the belligerents ? Iran ? that shipped thousands of rockets into Lebanon, and promises that it will soon destroy Israel, vehemently denies that its own missile technicians are on the ground in the Bekka Valley. Wouldn?t it wish to brag of such solidarity?
Or why, after boasting of the new targets that his lethal missiles will hit in Israel , does Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (?We are ready for it ? war, war on every level?) now harp that Israel is hitting too deep into Lebanon ? Don?t enemies expect one another to hit deep? Isn?t that what ?war on every level? is all about?
Meanwhile, why do the G-8 or the United Nations even talk of putting more peacekeeping troops into southern Lebanon, when in the past such rent-a-cops and uniformed bystanders have never stopped hostilities? Does anyone remember that it was Hezbollah who blew up French and American troops who last tried to provide ?stability? between the warring parties?
Why do not Iran and Syria ? or for that matter other Arab states ? now attack Israel to join the terrorists that they have armed? Surely the two-front attack by Hamas and Hezbollah could be helped by at least one conventional Islamic military. After promising us all year that he was going to ?wipe out? Israel , is not this the moment for Mr. Ahmadinejad to strike?
And why ? when Hezbollah rockets are hidden in apartment basements, then brought out of private homes to target civilians in Israel ? would terrorists who exist to murder noncombatants complain that some ?civilians? have been hit? Would not they prefer to lionize ?martyrs? who helped to store their arms?
We can answer these absurdities by summing up the war very briefly. Iran and Syria feel the noose tightening around their necks ? especially the ring of democracies in nearby Afghanistan , Iraq , Turkey , and perhaps Lebanon . Even the toothless U.N. finally is forced to focus on Iranian nukes and Syrian murder plots. And neither Syria can overturn the Lebanese government nor can Iran the Iraqi democracy. Instead, both are afraid that their rhetoric may soon earn some hard bombing, since their ?air defenses? are hardly defenses at all.
So they tell Hamas and Hezbollah to tap their missile caches, kidnap a few soldiers, and generally try to turn the world?s attention to the collateral damage inflicted on ?refugees? by a stirred-up Zionist enemy.
For their part, the terrorist killers hope to kidnap, ransom, and send off missiles, and then, when caught and hit, play the usual victim card of racism, colonialism, Zionism, and about every other -ism that they think will win a bailout from some guilt-ridden, terrorist-frightened, Jew-hating, or otherwise oil-hungry Western nation.
The only difference from the usual scripted Middle East war is that this time, privately at least, most of the West, and perhaps some in the Arab world as well, want Israel to wipe out Hezbollah, and perhaps hit Syria or Iran . The terrorists and their sponsors know this, and rage accordingly when their military impotence is revealed to a global audience ? especially after no reprieve is forthcoming to save their ?pride? and ?honor.?
After all, for every one Israeli Hezbollah kills, they lose ten. You are not winning when ?victory? is assessed in terms of a single hit on an Israeli warship. Their ace-in-the-hole strategy ? emblematic of the entire pathetic Islamist way of war ? is that they can disrupt the good Western life of their enemies that they are both attracted to and thus also hate. But, as Israel has shown, a Western public can be quite willing to endure shelling if it knows that such strikes will lead to a devastating counter-response.
What should the United States do? If it really cares about human life and future peace, then we should talk ad nauseam about ?restraint? and ?proportionality? while privately assuring Israel the leeway to smash both Hamas and Hezbollah ? and humiliate Syria and Iran, who may well come off very poorly from their longed-for but bizarre war.
Only then will Israel restore some semblance of deterrence and strengthen nascent democratic movements in both Lebanon and even the West Bank . This is the truth that everyone from London to Cairo knows, but dares not speak. So for now, let us pray that the brave pilots and ground commanders of the IDF can teach these primordial tribesmen a lesson that they will not soon forget ? and thus do civilization?s dirty work on the other side of the proverbial Rhine.
In this regard, it is time to stop the silly slurs that American policy in the Middle East is either in shambles or culpable for the present war. In fact, if we keep our cool, the Bush doctrine is working. Both Afghans and Iraqis each day fight and kill Islamist terrorists; neither was doing so before 9/11. Syria and Iran have never been more isolated; neither was isolated when Bill Clinton praised the ?democracy? in Tehran or when an American secretary of State sat on the tarmac in Damascus for hours to pay homage to Syria ?s gangsters. Israel is at last being given an opportunity to unload on jihadists; that was impossible during the Arafat fraud that grew out of the Oslo debacle. Europe is waking up to the dangers of radical Islamism; in the past, it bragged of its aid and arms sales to terrorist governments from the West Bank to Baghdad .
Some final observations on Hezbollah and Hamas. There is no longer a Soviet deterrent to bail out a failed Arab offensive. There is no longer empathy for poor Islamist ?freedom fighters.? The truth is that it is an open question as to which regime ? Iran or Syria ? is the greater international pariah. After a recent trip to the Middle East, I noticed that the unfortunate prejudicial stares given to a passenger with an Iranian passport were surpassed only by those accorded another on his way to Damascus .
So after 9/11, the London bombings, the Madrid murders, the French riots, the Beslan atrocities, the killings in India, the Danish cartoon debacle, Theo Van Gogh, and the daily arrests of Islamic terrorists trying to blow up, behead, or shoot innocent people around the globe, the world is sick of the jihadist ilk. And for all the efforts of the BBC, Reuters, Western academics, and the horde of appeasers and apologists that usually bail these terrorist killers out when their rhetoric finally outruns their muscle, this time they can?t.
Instead, a disgusted world secretly wants these terrorists to get what they deserve. And who knows: This time they just might.
?2006 Victor Davis Hanson
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Political Rants
on: July 22, 2006, 07:35:28 AM
An Appropriate Response
By RICHARD PERLE
Published: July 22, 2006
ISRAEL must see the current fighting through to a conclusion that is unambiguously a defeat for Hezbollah and Hamas.
The world?s diplomats, always generous with advice for the Israelis, cheered when Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. They pretended not to notice as Hezbollah poured Iranian-supplied rockets into Lebanon: first a hundred, then a thousand, then ten thousand and even more. None of the world?s foreign ministries described Israel?s failure to respond to Hezbollah?s arming as a disproportionate response to an obvious menace.
The word ?disproportionate? re-emerged in recent days as a criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert?s epiphany: Israel is a country that two terrorist organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, are dedicated to destroying, and following the advice of diplomats to respond ?proportionately? would leave those terrorists free to pursue that goal.
Israel must now deal a blow of such magnitude to those who would destroy it as to leave no doubt that its earlier policy of acquiescence is over. This means precise military action against Hezbollah and its infrastructure in Lebanon and Syria, for as long as it takes and without regard to mindless diplomatic blather about proportionality. For what appears to some to be a disproportionate response to small incursions and kidnappings is, in fact, an entirely appropriate response to the existential struggle in which Israel is now engaged. ? RICHARD PERLE, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1981 to 1987.