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Saturday, July 31, 2010

"My First Chopper Mission": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 7)

Hello from F.O.B (Forward Operating Base Warrior) at a location in Iraq.

I arrived here 17 July at 0500 after a flight that left Balad at 0400. I was welcomed by Major G. - a Nurse Anesthesiologist - gave me a quick briefing about the base. The base is quite small and is predominantly US Army. They actually have no dedicated airplanes..only helicopters from the 1st Air Calvary Division.

The base is nestled into the southern part of a city which is a fairly large city that is a mix of Kurds, Turks and Arabs..somewhat volatile with ethnic tensions high because of a electoral standoff here - I dont know if you guys are follwing Iraqi politics..but it is incredible they actually have (democratic) "politics" here, after [so many] years of dictatorship in the region.

Like most of Iraq - despite the tensions - violence levels are still way down. Although scattered incidents (both against ordinary Iraqi citizens and us/iraqi troops) still occur.

I found thast my mian goal here is to fly Medivac missions. Aerovac is an airplanes..Medivacs are (Army) helicopters.

The reason to fly in a Medivac (as opposed to a Aerovac) is that its quicker. If sombody in the vicinity of this F.O.B is critically ill a C-130 would have to arrive from another location and would take a minimum of 3 hours to fly here and pick the patient up for transport to a Hospital. A helicoipter which is based here takes about 40 minutes to get the patient to the location.

The Medical Corps here is pretty thin..we have a emergecny medicine doc, internal medicine, general surgery and myself. They have an OR and basic labs and imaging. If a patient is sick they need basic stabilization here and then trasnport to Balad.

Having no rotary wing (helicopter) experience my first job was to go to the 1st Calvary and get a short lession from the Medivac team. (picture 3). I met the pilots, crew chief (folks in charge of aircraft maintenance and the back of the aircraft during flight) as well as the medics. They taught me where to sit, how to manuver, my job in the aircraft (aside from medical care it is watching out the back of the aircraft for other aircraft, wires, "Safire" (surface to air fire), etc. I also saw the wall featuring all the aircrew who had been killed in action in Iraq. Unlike the fixed wings aircraft, rotary aircraft had been shot down (fortunately, though, not in the past 2 years!)

I was hoping to have time to digest my new job but on 18 July (new city, day #2) my first mission began when a army solidier with a testicular torsion came to the ER. That is a potential emergency when you get decreased blood flow to the testicle. It is very painful. I put the drugs I would need on my vest (Morphine, Slaine, nausea drugs ) and a heart and oxygen monitor and oxygen with the patient and the patient was taken out to the waiting chopper

(I snapped a picture of myself and the flight medic while the patient was being loaded.)

The helicopter ride was pretty intense as unlike an airplane you feel every move the helicopter makes and cannot communicate due to the noise. I did have a wire that allowed me to hear and speak with the aircrew but not the patient. I basically communicated via thumbs up and thumbs down signs. The patients oxygen levels started to drop (due to shallow ventilations from the morphine and the fact that the cabin is not pressurized and oxygen levels are lower high in the sky). But this was correctred with more oxygen.

Because we are a medivac aircraft and cannot carry weapons we had an excort helicopter gunship the entire flight. It was reassuring to see them on the left. (pic #5). The pilots were in constant conversation about recent atacks and discussed what areas to avoid (populated centers, hill tops).

When we landed at our destination to refuel and drop off the patient I met the person manning the large caliber weapon on the helicopter gunship. It was a 22 year old woman! (1st picture below the text). I am always amazed in the military how so much responsibility is sucsessfully handled by such young people. Both of our pilots were mid 20's and the medic as 23 while the crew chief was 27. Over the hum of the rotars I had a brief conversation with this 22 year old woman who was defending my helicopter round-trip. She was from a small town in New York and wanted to eventually be a nurse. When I asked her why she did not want to be a doctor she said "I want to care for people, sir"..and with that bid me farewell and went back to protect us with her machine gun!

We dropped off the patient to the folks in the ER and then flew back.

I'll send more emails later.


"My First Flying Mission": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 6)

(This is the 6th installment of my friend Andy's dispatches from Iraq, where he serves as a doctor in the Air Force Reserves)

I flew my first flying mission today and it was uneventful from a medical perspective but quite an experience otherwise. It gave me the opportunity to see a broad swath of Iraq from the air. We started out in the pre- flight briefing (where I was told where my new home will be in about 48 hours!) and then went to a small base on the iranian border than back to Balad and off to Mosul and back to Balad. All these bases are in the north of the country. 

My role was to provide medcial support for certian high level passengers (ususaly generals) who I actually never got to meet because the back of the plane was so crowded. The pre-flight report was actually reassuring as there were no reports that SAMs (surface to air missles)  were being used against C-130's. 

I also met the flight crew and was suprised to find out that the co-pilot was a pittsburgher from Bethel Park who went to the air force academy. We talked about Pittsburgh sports and food for a long time and it tuned out a high school teacher of his was one of my patients when I was a resident!

We took on about 50 army soldiers armed to the teeth with and loaded"pallets" (which means gear) (pic #2), and took off for the North. The Iraqi countryside was EXTREMELY dry and barren. We landed at our first destintion and droped off some packages. For some reason after flying over this baren, inhospitable countryside for miles (picture #3) it was great to land at a distant base and see the American flag flapping in the breeze (picture 4) at the Air Base. 

We than flew to the small base on the iranian border and dropped off 50 soldiers stating their tour and picked up 50 mor who were going home. The soldiers told me they had been in iraq for about 14 month and essentially stood guard at the base and watched the iranians across the border...who peered straight back at them. 

We then drove some more and dropped off the soldiers and re-loaded AGAIN to drive to our next destination. When we were close, a sandstorm hit and the pilots had to land with vitually no visibility.  It was incredible as the pilots used radar and instruments and instructions from the control tower to land..it took 3 aproaches as they over shot the runway the first two times. It was strange to look down (pictures 5 & 6) at both cities, as they appeared peaceful from the air - but down below there were terrorists present who were often setting car bombs and IED's and killing many inocent people. It was hard to imagine there was a low level war going on below me. We then flew back to our base (picture 1 and 7).

Me and my Pittsburgh compatriot than went up the escape hatch and got a picture on top of the plane by the tail wing. This plane was so huge!

It was really a unique experience to be in the front of the airplane with the pilot and aircrew as the discussed flying the plane and how to handle the problems presented by the environment.

Goodbye for now,


"Shabbat Dinner In Iraq" An American doctor, and personal friend, serving as a doctor in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 5)

(This is the 5th installment of my friend Andy's dispatches from Iraq, where he serves as a doctor in the Air Force Reserves.)

I may be out of touch for a week or two (or maybe not!) as I am being "forward deployed" to a smaller base  in northern Iraq. It seems a ER doc there had a family emergency so I will be going there until they can find somebody else. It should take no more than 1 to 2 weeks as I am desperately needed here as throughout the theater there is a skeleton number of docs (and everything else) as the draw-down continues.

My understanding is that this base is far smaller and has less amenities then my current base which is the hub in Iraq. I believe the hospital is a field (tent) hospital and the labs and imaging are very rudimentary.

As opposed to my own with air-con and a TV I will likely share a tent with 1-2 other docs. My responsibilities will be ER shfts, taking care of the army helicopter pilots and support staff, and in the event we get a critically ill patient fly with the medivac (Blackhawk) helicopter back to balad with the patient.

My job today was to find transportation to my new location. I first checked and saw the C-130's would leave at 0230..in about 90 minutes from now. It would be a comfortable flight for me and I could use the NVG's (night vision goggles) as part of the flight crew..but I didn't want to go without sleep before starting at a new job.

My other option was a blackhawk helicopter. I called the blackhawk squadron and they said a flight to was leaving at 0430..but would first stop in Tikrit (Saddam Husein's hometown) to pick up some VIP's.

My feeling was 2 extra hours of sleep was not worth the risk of flying with VIP's in an airframe that HAD been shot down in Iraq..so I will stick with my C-130 crew. I arrive at my new base at 0600 (approximately) and somebody will be waiting to pick me up. A new adventure awaits.

We had my final Shabbat dinner/service tonight until I return and it was again very nice. Out of a base of 24,000 people (half US soldiers) we have a Jewish contingent of 5-6 at our services. We have a female "Cantor" who runs th service and has a beautiful voice. We also have a orthodox enlisted guy who serves as the rabbi and we all participate. Generally we in unison sing the blessing of the wine and bread and the kaddish and sing all the Shabbat songs.

They are a extremely nice bunch of people and l look forward to going to dinner together every friday night (meet at 530PM) and then go to the services at 700PM.

The bread is made fresh by the orthodox guy in a bread maker and the wine is supplied by the us military. The prayer books on the inside say:

"Dedicated to the gallant men and woman of Jewish decent who choose to defend our country."

They are from the Jewish War Veterans of America.

I realy love going to the services and I feel a very intimate connection with the people. It is another surreal experience. We have 5 Jewish professionals (2 docs, a dentist a nurse and a psychologist) which is not surprising. But we are in Air Force or Army fitness gear, are all (excpet for me-I'll wait until its DEMANDED) wearing sidearms and as the chapel is next to the fight line the background music to the service is often the roar of F-16's.

The location-a base in the middle of Iraq that was once home to Saddam Hussien (hardly a fan of Israel or a friend of his own Jewish population) is another unique variable. When we join together to sing Hebrew songs together that I have been singing since childhood in this environment I really get choked up. It feels nice to belong to a small group where you can have such an immediate and intimate connection with other people. Its nice to be in such an unfilmilair enviroment and be involved in somethng that is like a old blanket since childhood. It reaffirms to me that my faith is important and I am greatful for my childhood Jewish education.

Good Shabbos to all, and happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1493 Days, 3 Hours, 27 Minutes, and still counting...

A poster I saw in the Gilad Shalit tent outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem

On Charges of "Jewish domination of the Media"

This originally was posted at CiF Watch

Occasionally, thinly veiled covers for anti-Semitic invectives wear down, and the explicit hate is laid bare for all to see. Many of us have noted a disturbing ideological trend, in which classic anti-Semitic tropes about the dangers of Jewish power and influence in politics have become increasingly popular by some on the Left - rendering such bigotry nearly banal within some circles.

Typically, this narrative is advanced using the rhetoric of human rights and anti-imperialism, and carefully avoids making such charges against Jews as such – referring instead to the injurious effects of the “Israel Lobby.”

Glenn Greenwald, who blogs at Salon.com, (and is a member in good standing of the Walt and Mearsheimer brigade of “dissidents” who bravely “expose” the injurious effects of the organized Jewish community on the American body politic) has honed such furtive rhetoric to an art.

However, even his respectable veneer has occasionally been eroded. In 2007, he said
“…the influence of self-proclaimed “pro-Israeli” American Jewish groups in helping to push the country into what looks more and more every day to be an inevitable conflict with Iran is very significant and cannot be ignored.”
Antony Lerman, writing in Comment is Free, in defense of C4s documentary which “investigated” The Israel Lobby, stated cooly that wealthy British Jews are indeed linked to “payments of large sums of money to politicians, power and influence.”

And, as any reader of CiF Watch is well aware, reader comment threads in response to almost any Israel-related essay at Comment is Free often reveal a slew of vile accusations that the UK is held captive by the organized Jewish community.

Oliver Stone – film-maker, conspiracy enthusiast, and ardent defender of South American Narco-Terrorist Movements - has recently “revealed” the real reason there is so much “talk” about Jewish victims of The Holocaust. (Hint: It apparently has nothing to do with natural human compassion for the millions of innocent victims, which included 1.5 million children, slaughtered by the Nazi regime.)

From an interview with Oliver Stone in The Sunday Times (Courtesy of Normblog):
The 10-part documentary [which Stone is planning] will address Stalin and Hitler “in context”, he says. “Hitler was a Frankenstein but there was also a Dr Frankenstein. German industrialists, the Americans and the British. He had a lot of support.”
He also seeks to put his atrocities in proportion: “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30m.”
Why such a focus on the Holocaust then? “The Jewish domination of the media,” he says. “There’s a major lobby in the United States. They are hard workers. They stay on top of every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Israel has f***** up United States foreign policy for years.”
I can assure the readers of this blog that CiF Watch’s cadre of writers are indeed very hard workers, and, fully intend to continue staying on top of every comment inspired by such bigotry – this insidious, and seemingly immutable, belief that the Jewish community represents some sort of organic obstacle to peace and progress in our time.

- Adam Levick

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Saying Goodbye to my Crew": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 4)

(This is the fourth dispatch from my good friend Andy, an American serving in Iraq as a doctor in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.)

As I inch to the half way point of my tour, the staff at the military hospital has undergone a near 100% transition over the past 96 hours. Included in that process was the need to say goodbye to the people who I've been working with so closely for the past 6 weeks.

Its interesting how quickly you develop a bond with people when you work in such an intimate, and yet inherently inhospitable, environment. Although this hospital has been staffed by thousands of people since the war began in 2003 nobody can imagine a group as close, hard working and fun as their own!

Because I came in the middle of their rotation I was lucky to be a fresh face in a group that was already a well-oiled machine. Because of their competence and unity, I only had to focus on being a good physician, and my transition was realtively easy. They also were able to advise me about ways to neutralize problems that periodically crop up - such as rolling power outages in 120 degree heat, dust storms, the location of all saftey bunkers on any given route, and (most importantly) the sadness of being so, so far from the ones you love - a distance that Skype simply cannot diminish.

I greatly enjoyed working will never forget this cast of characters who introduced me to Iraq:

Wally is an Air Force PJ (Para Jumper rescue team) and my work out partner. His regiman increased my pull up capabilities from 0 to 6 by the time he departed. Wally recently received a "Dear John" letter during my time here. His wife sent him a message via Skype telling him that she, and their daughter, was leaving him. Its a profound understatement to note that he was dreading the thought of going home to an empty house.

Tod is a Psychiatric Nurse and one of the most compassionate patient advocates I had ever met. He truly challenged the sytem by publishing reports of the Army's rising mental health issue and suicide rates and some solutions he developed to stem the tide. His enthusiasm for his job was infectous.

Chaplain B., who was a Christian minister that went out of his way to be inclusive to all religions. He almost functioned as a match maker for Jewish soldiers, and kept our friday night Shabbat services on track.

Captian D. - She was the lone person from my unit who was from my home town of Pittsburgh that was deployed in Iraq at this time. Her husband is currently serving in Afghanistan and they will be away seperated for over 14 months. She was going home with mixed emotions, as she was leaving a war zone while her husband would be in danger for another 8 months.

Simon - an experienced veteran of 4 deployments who was our "bulldog" - named for the person who organized our sqadron for recieving and delivering patients at the flight line. He was so calm and organized that I believed mobilizing 40 patients (10 on stretchers), 1 doc, 6 med techs, 3 volunteers and 4 drivers onto 2 buses and 2 ambulances at "0 dark hundered" (miitary terminology for the wee hours of the AM) to drive in concert to a heavily secured flightline and load patients onto an airplane in 120 degree heat was actually EASY. I would be cured of that delusion the next day when we tried the same mission with a brand new team!

They left at 0400 on 7 July, 2010 and the new group (who arrived 5 July, 2010) was on its own.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Andy's Great Uncle, & a Family Tradition of Service": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 3)

(This is the third dispatch from my good friend Andy, an American serving in Iraq as a doctor in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. In this post, Andy writes about his recently deceased Great Uncle, Leo, who served in WWII. It should be noted, that Andy's father, Larry, is also a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces)

While being in the military is often very difficult for my family and professional life it offers a number of very positive experiences. What I find particularly moving is the visceral connection I have with my fellow soldiers, as well as a similar bond with those who have served our country from past generations - an immediate connection based on a shared experience, and shared values.
It is through this camraderie that I was blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with my Great Uncle Leo Lobl, who died very recently in his 90s. Uncle Leo (and his wife Sarah) were people who I thought about often for a number of reasons. Leo had an almost twin like physical resemblence to my grandfather, Albert Lobl, who passed away when I was in college. Leo also was a loyal attendee of all our family's important events - from Bar Mitzvahs to weddings, and I found him to be an extremely thoughtful and loving man. Unfortunately my contact with Leo had been diminished in recent years.

Uncle Leo was a veteran of the European campaign in World War Two. When he heard I was in Iraq he sent me a number of beautiful emails of encouragement and took a great interest in what I was doing. During our communication I was able to learn about his prolonged tour of Europe (which makes my 90+ day tour in Iraq look like a blink of an eye) and the creature comforts soldiers now enjoy - luxuries unheard of when he wore our nation's uniform. I also had the oportunity to connect with Leo's daughter Karen and we made plans for a Pittsburgh-Chicago Lobl family reunion in the fall, but am quite sad that Uncle Leo will not be there.

A silver lining to my deployment to Iraq is that it has allowed me to renew my relationship with Uncle Leo in a real and personal fashion. I believe Uncle Leo's own experience during World War Two gave him an intuition about how communicate with sombody who was also far from home in a hostile enviroment. His emails provided an imeasurable boost to my spirits.

I am grateful to Leo Lobl for his love, service to our country, and gentle caring nature. Andy

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tisha B'Av and Jewish Power (Published on CiF Watch)

A revised, and more fleshed out version of the essay I published last year on my blog:

“People resent the Jews for having emerged from their immemorial weakness and fearlessly resorted to force. They thereby betrayed the mission that history had assigned to them – being a people...that did not get tangled up in the obtuse narrowness of the nation-state.”
– Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt

Soon, Jews in Israel and around the world will observe Tisha B'Av, a day of mourning to commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout their history on the same date on the Hebrew calendar – the ninth day of the month of Av in the Hebrew Calendar. Tisha B'Av primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, but on this day we also reflect on the many other tragedies which occurred on this date, from the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 to the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Like many in Jerusalem, I intend to spend some time on this day at the Kotel participating in what represents a public bereavement for the many victims of our collective calamities. Typically, however, in addition to such mourning, I can’t help but reflect on this painful annual recollection of suffering and catastrophe in the context of the Jewish community's often ambivalent relationship with power. And, such ruminations are only heightened by my new citizenship in the modern Jewish state, a nation often forced to exercise power in order to prevent additional tragedies from befalling the Jewish people.

Indeed, Israel's creation can be seen as a direct response to these calamitous events – an attempt to turn history around and act instead of being acted upon. Whether defending itself in war, or aiding/rescuing endangered Jewish communities around the world, the Jewish collective has had at its disposal for the past 62 years – and for the first time in over 2000 years – a state apparatus with the means (logistically, politically, diplomatically, and militarily) to protect its people’s interests, just as other communities represented by nation-states have had through the ages.

However, with this organized exercise of power comes a price, a unique moral burden that many Jews seem unwilling or unable to bear - as any exertion of power, any control over your own fate, inevitably carries with it a the loss of innocence often projected upon people perceived to be powerless.

Israeli military power (exercised against terrorism and small scale regional threats, and in actual wars against state actors, and its territorial repercussions), and the relative success and political power of Jewish communities in the West – as well as the influence of a broader political culture which selectively eschews particularistic moral sympathies which fall on the wrong side of the arbitrary post-colonial divide – seems to instil in many Jews a loss of identification with their community. This chasm often finds expression in the need to identify in a way uniquely separate from such seemingly crude “ethnocentric” expressions of political and military power. Many Jews today find it more ethically comforting to identify with non-Jewish "progressive” causes than with their own community – which today carries with it the continual necessity to defend a nation (one representing a very particular identity) in all the complexities and compromises that are invariably associated with even the most progressive national enterprises.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Rules of Engagement": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 2)

(This is the second dispatch from my good friend Andy, an American serving in Iraq as a doctor in the U.S. Air Force Reserves)

I was speaking with Jeff (my brother) yesterday on Skype and he was asking me a lot of questions that I have been asking myself. Specifically about the "Rules of engagement" that are quite controversial and some say hampering the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

One interesting aspect of my time here is that I can function as somewhat of an "embedded reporter"...being able to ask every silly question of our troops that you can imagine. Because I am their Doc and also wear the same uniform there is a level of trust and they are always happy to tell me how they feel about any given subject.

The have been speaking a lot recently about changes in the "rules of engagement" (ROE) here and in Afghanistan, and how that has effected both the safety of our troops and the war in general. "Rules of Engagement" are an official policy that dictates how US troops can respond to perceived threats. Initially the troops here had very loose ROE.

As the security situation here showed improvement the US and Iraqi government negotiated a new agreement starting in 2008. This agreement was to reflect the improved security in Iraq and greater reliance on the Iraqi forces.

The new agreement was markedly different and tightened the ROE quite a bit. Without getting into the specifics of the particular changes in the new rules of engagement - its safe to say that, the higher you get in the chain of command the greater the belief that the new rules give more responsibility to the Iraqi military and make the war less of an American led effort. They also point to the fact that despite these new rules casualties (US and Iraqi) continue to to drop. Currently in Afghanistan (with which I have less immediate contact) the situation is difficult.

The prior General (Mcrystal) believed that a large part of our problems there lay in large numbers of civilian casualties alienating the local population. Therefore he instituted restrictive rules of engagement especially when it came to air support. The belief was that less civillain casualties would lead to more support for the US/Afghan government. The troops there (that have come to Iraq) seem to believe restrictive rules of engagement at this point (when the war is still very "hot") make it more difficult for the US troops to defend both themselves and the local population.

There are reports that the new commander (Petreaus) is reviewing the ROE and may make changes. It is quite complicated. I will write more in the next couple days ! I have enclosed my IRAQ clock which shows me inching past the 40% done mark!!! - Andy

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Fireworks Provided by the Locals": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 1)

My good friend, Andy, is a doctor in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. The following is his Guest Blog, commenting on his experiences celebrating July 4th while serving in Iraq. I've known Andy for quite a few years, and, while I don't wish to embarrass him with praise that he's certainly not seeking, I do want to say that Andy's patriotism, and sense of duty, continues to inspire me, and represents a profound tribute to his mother and father, and the values they instilled in their three children.

(Andy is second from the right in the photo above)

Yesterday was a memoriable July 4TH. Like most Americans I have wonderful childhood memories of fireworks and picnics with my family, usually in my beloved Pittsburgh, PA at scenic Point State Park in the heart of downtown.

This 4th of July was obviously different. I worked my usual shift in the morning. In the evening I was invited to a BBQ that the US Army PRC (provincial reconstruction team) was having.

They are the people who criss cross Iraq building bridges, clinics, hospitals and comunity centers in order to improve the lives of the Iraqi citizens.

I have become friends with an Army Major named Paul who is a West Point Graduate and engineer who is a company commander for the PRC teams. He also has a young child and will be leaving Iraq soon. He has spent a year here which is standard for the Army. I will miss him.

The day was eventful initially for the increased number of attacks on the base. I counted 6 in the morning and afternoon. I wondered if the increased attacks (the average is 1-2 daily) had something to do with the holiday.

I picked up some non-alcoholic beer at the BX (base exchange) after work and headed to the party. In Iraq alcohol is forbidden (although like anything that is "forbidden" people are pretty industrious) so only the non-alcoholic beer is sold. When I arrived at the party I felt like I was in a soldiers of fortune magazine. Dressed in civillian clothes were guys with every imaginable accent. English, South African, Australian, Irish and French. They were part of a company that provides security to the PRC teams as they operate throughout Iraq.

The goal is to have these projects appear more civillian and thus less vulnerable to attack. All of these guys had substantial military experience fighting for their national armies in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Now they were working as contractors to provide security for the reconstruction effort.

The most interesting conversation I had was with a former British soldier who fought against the Serbs during the war in Bosnia and than ended up marrying a Bosnian Serb woman. He now lives in Bosnia. As they have acssess to the country they got steak from a city in Iraqi Kurdistan called Irbil.

It was simply the best steak I have had in my life!

I also met the American active duty army troops who work under Paul. They all seemed to greatly love there work [which allows them] to interact with the Iraqi people and [helps them] re-build [their] communities. Paul is leaving soon and his replacement had just been pulled from Afghanistan to take over his command. In Afghanistan he was an infantry commander doing patrols along the border with Pakistan. Needless to say he was happy with his relatively safer new surroundings.

We spent the July 4th evening eating juicy steak and drinking non alchaholic amid sand bags and blast walls with "fireworks supplied by the locals". There was a palpable sense of camraderie among the troops of various services and nations all far from home and celebrating together. We all would have much rather been elsewhere last night but it was a remarkable 4th of July that I will never forget.


Friday, July 2, 2010

My essay, published on CIF Watch, responding to an anti-Israel diatribe by Ben White, at The Guardian

Ben White, author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, who penned an essay in the radical anti-Zionist magazine, Counterpunch, in 2002, in which he expressed understanding and empathy for those who are anti-Semites – describing it as a natural reaction to what he described as the inherent “Racial Supremacy” embodied by the Jewish state – would seem an odd choice to offer insights to readers of The Guardian on the challenges of achieving peace in the Middle East.

White’s book on “Israeli Apartheid” refers, not to the post ’67 occupied territory, but to the 1948 boundaries of the state. Indeed his thesis is that “Apartheid” and “Ethnic Cleansing” was necessary components of the Zionist enterprise. He said, “For political Zionism to come to fruition...it was necessary to carry out as large a scale as possible ethnic cleansing of the country’s unwanted Arab natives. But even in 1948...Israel was unable to fully ‘cleanse’ the land of the Palestinians. As a result, Israel’s fallback position was to implement an apartheid regime of exclusion and discrimination.”

Ben White, like other commentators viscerally hostile to Israel, must begin any analysis of the Middle East Peace Process by mischaracterizing the offer proposed by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton – subsequently rejected by Yasser Arafat. White mocks “the narrative of a rejectionist Palestinian leadership that had turned down an incredibly generous offer and instead opted for a campaign of violence.” As evidence of this “myth”, he links to an essay in 2001 by Ewan MsCaskell, which echoes the Palestinian narrative which argues that “The Palestine that would have emerged from such a settlement...would have been in about half-a-dozen chunks, with huge Jewish settlements in between - a Middle East Bantustan.”

Of course, the continuation of this narrative requires one to ignore incontrovertible evidence offered by, among others, Clinton’s chief negotiator Dennis Ross, as well as President Clinton himself – both of whom have stated categorically that what was offered represented a viable state with contiguous borders, and indeed represented the most generous offer ever presented by an Israeli Prime Minister. In his book, The Missing Peace, Ross includes a map of the final offer which clearly demonstrates that the characterization of Palestinian “Bantustans” was categorically false. The proposal included not only a contiguous Palestinian state, but the inclusion of East Jerusalem as its capital city. 

After undermining past Israeli offers of Palestinian statehood, White – like any good post-colonialist who typically processes history as merely a product of specific relations between “the powerful and the powerless” – sees, as the root of the current stalemate, not the details of a specific offer or negotiation framework, but rather in the “the futility of negotiations between unequals.”

What’s striking about such analyzes of the Middle East – which view the world in this “oppressed vs. oppressor” paradigm – is their almost total failure to acknowledge the role played by the Palestinians themselves, or, more strikingly, the existence of other “powerful” non-Israeli actors in the conflict. As such, nowhere in White’s commentary does he even mention the role of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria in perpetuating the conflict and creating an obstacle to achieving a final status agreement. 

White’s commentary on Israel, like so many others on these pages, simply refuses to acknowledge that the logic of withdraw – the almost religious belief that occupation is the root cause of conflict and any subsequent Israeli withdraw would certainly ameliorate this condition - represents a political equation has been proven time and again to be utterly without foundation.
Israeli withdraw from Southern Lebanon in 2000, it was predicted, would greatly weaken Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon’s military and political affairs, when, in fact, the Iranian backed terror group has (even after UN Resolution 1701 following the Second Lebanon War) become increasingly powerful, and now is believed to be in possession of some 40,000 rockets – some capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

Likewise Israel’s unilateral withdraw from Gaza didn’t dampen Palestinian support for radicalism, as is evident by Hamas’ rise to, and consolidation of, political power and their subsequent bombardment of Israeli civilian communities with tens of thousands of rockets.
Of course, the refusal of commentators such as White to acknowledge the role of malevolent state and non-state actors – movements and governments who have, without qualification, rejected the right of Israel to exists within any borders – in order to maintain this facile David vs. Goliath paradigm, is a staple of the anti-Israel left.

What seems to matter most to such ideologues is advancing a narrative of Israeli oppression, a caricature of a grotesque and manipulative Goliath that delights in inflicting pain and suffering. This defamation has unmistakable parallels to the historical caricature of the ugly, manipulative, conspiring Jewish villain we know all too well. Israel, for many of its enemies, has indeed become the Jew writ large. 

The 19th-century German social democrat, August Bebel, referred to left-wing anti-Semitism as the "socialism of fools.” White’s crude anti-Zionism – masquerading as anti-racism and anti-colonialism – is nothing more than the “anti-imperialism of fools”.