August 14, 2006

The Storm Before the Calm

The events in this essay took place on August 11 and 12.

METULLA, ISRAEL – Israel scrapped the proposed ceasefire agreement on August 11 and launched a full-scale ground invasion of Lebanon. Presumably the Israeli Defense Forces wanted to rapidly snap up territory between the border fence and the Litani River before agreeing to the real cease-fire that’s tenuously in effect at the time of this writing. The ceasefire does not require an Israeli withdrawal. Instead it puts their military operations in Lebanon into a holding pattern.

It didn’t take long for the IDF to reach the Litani. Noah Pollak and I watched it happen, as much as we could, from the roof of the Alaska Inn in Metulla right on the border.

Metulla Sunset During War.JPG
The sun sets over the Lebanese town of Kfar Kila in the distance behind Metulla, Israel.

To my knowledge, no Katyusha rockets hit Metulla at any time. The little town sits just inside a “peninsula” that juts into Lebanon. It is surrounded on three sizes by Hezbollah’s territory. Presumably Hezbollah didn’t fire rockets at Metulla because three out of four would miss Israel entirely and explode inside Lebanon. So even though Metulla is literally on the front line, it may be the safest town in all of Northern Israel.

All day long thunderous outgoing artillery tore holes through the sky on the way to Hezbollah targets. But as soon as the ground invasion began, all fell eerily quiet.

The only evidence of war from the top of the hotel was a fire burning in a Lebanese field off to the right.

Fire in Lebanon From Distance.jpg

Fire in Lebanon Up Close.jpg

Also, Israeli barricades had been set up just inside Lebanon on the other side of the fence.

Israeli Barricades in Lebanon.jpg

Just south of Metulla the war was a little more obvious, even though it was quiet there, too. Tanks and heavy artillery were set up in an idyllic field. It was an odd thing to see. The scenery is lovely up there. Lots of Israelis and foreigners like to visit on holiday because it’s so picturesque and serene. Yet war machinery was scattered all over the place. War, in my mind, occurs in ugly places. But that’s in the movies.

Tanks and Farmland.JPG

IDF Tent and Mountain.JPG

Tank Gunner Northern Israel.jpg

Tank Barrel Northern Israel.JPG

You have to understand what an Israeli invasion of Lebanon looks like. When Americans go to war they fly to the other side of the world and spend weeks or even months preparing to tackle some fly-blown dictatorship, then push hundreds of miles through enemy territory on the way to their targets. Israeli soldiers just take out some wire cutters, snip holes in the fence, and walk into Lebanon.

Tanks rolled into Lebanon, too. From the top of the Alaska Hotel I could see a whole line of them getting ready to blast through Fatima’s Gate and into Hezbollah’s territory.

Line of Tanks at Border.jpg

The scene looked ominous, but felt perfectly calm. Birds chirped. The sunset was lovely. The streets of Metulla were clean and well-ordered. A man in sweat pants, a t-shirt, and running shoes jogged through the streets with his dog running alongside, its tongue lolling out the side of its mouth. I waved hello to an elderly grandmother in her gardening hat sitting on her front porch drinking from a tall slender glass. Earlier Noah ordered ravioli in a restaurant and I ordered pizza. I asked a woman behind the counter if she was being paid extra wages for serving food while artillery and rockets exploded outside. “No,” she said and shrugged, as if to say why should they pay me more money?

Fox News interviewed Sheppard Smith from the roof of the Alaska, although I doubt he had much to report. Little was going on at the time. Metulla is a nice little resort town with its restaurants and its bed and breakfasts. And that’s what it looked and felt like.

Noah and I walked down the street to the line of tanks so we could interview some of the soldiers.

A young man with sunglasses and a pierced eyebrow asked me to take his picture. “Put me in your magazine,” he said, “next to the hot models in swimsuits and lingerie.”

Pierced Israeli Soldier.jpg

“I’ll see what I can do,” I said and laughed.

I raised my camera to take another man’s picture.

“No, no, no!” he said and held up his hand. “Last time I went into Lebanon, every guy with me who had his picture taken earlier that day was injured. None of us who didn’t have our pictures taken were injured. I know it’s superstitious and stupid, but I need to feel good before I go in there.”

“What’s it like fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon?” I said.

“It depends,” he said.

“On what?” I said.

“On the place and on the day,” he said. “Sometimes when we go into Lebanon, nothing happens. We can’t find the Hezbollah. Other times they are everywhere and it’s hard.”

“Do you ever see civilians?” I said.

“No,” he said. “Not in the towns. Only in the villages.”

“What do they do when they see you?” I said.

“They go inside,” he said.

“Do they say anything to you?” I said.

“No,” he said. “They don’t say anything, they don’t wave, they don’t throw rocks. They just go in their houses.”

He didn’t want to talk about war. So instead we got into an argument over who has better coffee. Portland and Seattle, or Tel Aviv. He insisted Tel Aviv has better coffee, but he’s wrong.

Noah chatted with two young men who were getting ready to go into Lebanon ahead of the tanks to clear land mines. They didn’t seem nervous at all, although I can’t imagine that job isn’t unbearably stressful.

That was about all we could get out of the soldiers. They seemed happy to see us, not at all suspicious that we might be axe-grinding journalists or even anything other than journalists. No one asked us to show our credentials to get access. But they didn’t want to say much specific. I got the impression they liked us as a civilian distraction that kept their minds grounded in the world they were fighting to protect.

“Can we go with you guys into Lebanon?” Noah asked one of the soldiers.

“Do you want to?” the soldier said.

“Yeah,” Noah said.

The soldier didn’t know if it was possible. Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t. But I didn’t want to. There was no way I would enter Lebanon with an invading army, for all the usual reasons and also for personal reasons.

Night fell and the soldiers got twitchy. There’s something about darkness in war, even during the quiet times in a war. All of them were less talkative than before, and there was clearly no way Noah and I could get any useful or interesting information out of them then.

So we walked the line of tanks.

Tank Shot in Dark 1.JPG

Tank Shot in Dark 2.JPG

We came across some frightful-looking bulldozers that were sent to smash up Lord only knows what. I took a photo with Noah standing in front of one for perspective.

Israeli Bulldozer on Border.jpg

A soldier walked by.

“Don’t be here,” he said.

“We’re journalists,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “But this is a war zone. Don’t be here.”

So we went back to the hotel in the dark and sat on the roof.

The view north into Lebanon was an ominous sight.

The Lebanese town of Kfar Kila directly faces Metulla across a small patch of farmland. There is no no-man’s land there. The two towns may be in different countries, but they are almost in the exact same location.

Metulla and Kfar Kila.jpg
Kfar Kila, Lebanon, and Metulla, Israel, face each other during daylight hours

But that night all of Lebanon was black. It was as if Lebanon did not exist. The lights of emptied Israeli cities twinkled behind me, but Lebanon was enveloped in a vast darkness.

The fire burning in a Lebanese field off to the right was getting bigger and brighter. No fire department existed on the other side that could douse it. South Lebanon, always lawless and beyond the control of the state in Beirut, was a truly anarchic and perilous place on the night of August 11.

Distant flashes lit up the horizon. A low rumble of war in the distance sounded like thunder. It sounded like the physical breaking of Lebanon.


The next day was loud again, as was the middle of the night. Somehow I managed to sleep straight through my first (and so far only) night in a war zone while outgoing artillery tore holes in the sky over my head on route to Hezbollah.

IDF Spokesman Jonathan Davis told me he went jogging first thing in the morning and found a gigantic Katyusha rocket crater in the middle of a small stream near Kibbutz Hagoshrim. Noah and I drove to the spot. I took a picture and once again used Noah for scale.

Katyusha Crater in Water.JPG

It was unspeakably hot outside, much more so than the day before.

“I wonder if Olmert and Nasrallah are thinking of having a talk today,” I said to Noah. “Hey Nasrallah, Olmert would say. I want to kill you. You want to kill me. And it’s hotter than hell this time of the year. That much we can agree on. How about we put this off until November when we can at least fight in comfort? Whaddaya say?”

“Man,” Noah said. “I just want to be out here in my underwear and my flip-flops. Forget wearing a flak jacket and helmet. I can see the headline and lede now: Noah Pollak was killed today by shrapnel from a Katyusha because he was out in a war zone in his shorts.

When we got back to Metulla we heard loud machine-gun fire in Kfar Kila. We could walk to that town in half an hour from where we were standing. And the crazy thing is we really could have walked over there if we were that stupid. No one would stop us from crossing the fence and walking to our doom just on the other side of the line.

I had expected to see serious damage in Lebanese border towns. But those I saw did not appear damaged at all, at least not from my vantage point. Noah scanned the towns from the roof with a pair of binoculars borrowed from a Guardian reporter. He told me he couldn’t locate a single damaged building, not even right on the border where the buildings were easiest for Israelis to hit.

Obviously there is damage in South Lebanon. Those outgoing artillery shells aren’t landing on nothing. For all I know, Bint Jbail is a pile of rubble. But in the vicinity of Metulla, the damage seemed pretty minimal.

There wasn’t much going on that we could see aside from an Israeli tank kicking up dust just to the right of Kfar Kila.

Dust from Kfar Kila.jpg

The IDF spokesmen still had their gag orders and wouldn’t tell us a thing. Military police shooed us away from the soldiers and told us to stay in the hotel or get out of the area. So we decided it was time to head back to Tel Aviv.

Our fuel was running low, so we filled up the gas tank south of Kiryat Shmona.

Israeli gas stations are incredibly annoying. After you swipe your credit card at the pump, the computer asks for your Israeli national ID number. Noah lives in Israel, but he’s an American. He didn’t have an ID number to enter. Obviously, I didn’t either. So we asked an IDF soldier who happened to be there if he would use his credit card to get us some gas if we gave him some cash.

“Of course,” he said and swiped his card into the machine. “Where are you guys from?” he said as he punched in his number.

“We’re both Americans,” Noah said.

“Are you tourists?” he said.

I laughed. “Here?” I said. “No, we’re not tourists. We’re journalists.”

“There are adrenaline tourists up here,” he said. “There are agents in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who set up the tours.”

It couldn’t be too dangerous in Northern Israel if this sort of thing was going on, I thought. Surely there are no “adrenaline tours” in South Lebanon now.

Then a Katyusha rocket exploded inside a residential neighborhood in Kiryat Shmona.

Kiryat Shmona on Fire.JPG

“Wow,” Noah said. “Let’s go take pictures of that.”

“No,” said the IDF soldier. “Don’t go there.”

“Remember,” I said to Noah. “More rockets often follow the first. They arrive in pairs and in threes. I’d love to take a picture of that, but it would be crazy to go there right now.

So we didn’t go there. We went kinda sorta near it and kept a reasonable distance. We drove to a place where we could take pictures without actually standing where another rocket might land any second.

On the way back to Tel Aviv we passed once again through entire towns eerily emptied of people. As far as I know there has been no looting of houses, of stores, or of anything else. It would be so easy to steal whatever you want in an apocalyptic environment. But I don’t think anyone did.

Many countries in the world would not be so lucky, including the United States. Looting was rampant in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Israel is a small country, though. Everyone seems to know everyone else. War brings people together with a shared sense of purpose. So while the laws fell silent in the north of the country, common human decency didn’t break.

Post-script: I can’t go into war zones for free, and Israeli hotels are not cheap during this thing. Please hit the Pay Pal button so I can stick around longer.

If you would like to donate money for travel expenses and you don't want to use Pay Pal, you can send a check or money order to:

Michael Totten
P.O. Box 312
Portland, OR 97207-0312

Many thanks in advance.

All photos copyright Michael J. Totten

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 14, 2006 10:35 AM


Michael...everyone's a critic so why should I not be?

I read your & Lisa's account of Metulla being un-hit and I wondered if that was really a good idea. Isn't that a bit like saying, "OK, hizbies, come & hit us?"

Posted by: sophia at August 14, 2006 10:57 AM

Once again, a great write-up. Keep up the good work, Michael.
Donation on the way...

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at August 14, 2006 11:01 AM

MJT, that was an excellent report, and also really sad. B&B towns like Rosh Pina happen to be in some of the most gorgeous pastoral environments in the world, and now it's been emptied of humanity in the name of murdering Jews -- and killing Arabs in response.

It just makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration why religion makes some people so irrationally violent, when they could all be sitting around enjoying some Turkish coffee and listening to the birds chirp. Sigh.

Posted by: jjdynomite at August 14, 2006 11:35 AM

Religion does not make "some people so irrationally violent," though it is often used to justify such actions. Even if religion did not exist, people would still find excuses to kill each other.

Posted by: moderata at August 14, 2006 11:50 AM


Good write-up.

Two comments:

1. This Hezbollah-territory is still Lebanon first and foremost.

2. You claim that South Lebanon was always lawless and beyond the control of the state in Beirut.

You have to ask yourself: How hard did the state in Beirut want to make respect its law and its control on South Lebanon?

And how effectively did Israel or Syria help or harm in this regard?

Posted by: Lira at August 14, 2006 11:55 AM

Michael, perhaps the reason why the border towns haven't been harder (or at all) hit is because they will be pressure points for returning populations once this war is over. I can understand the israelis not wanting to damage any border towns if they rely heavily on tourism; showing a group of tourists a town or village that had the bejeezus blown out of it isn't that attractive a view. For journalists viewing the damage from the Israeli side it certainly allays the suspicion that Israel was overly agressive in it's campaing against Hezbollah. Maybe it's all just political optics, I'm not in a good position behind the safety of my monitor to ask anyone in the loop.

Excellent post by the way.

Posted by: Paul MacPhail at August 14, 2006 12:06 PM

Looks like Israel is just like New Orleans after all:

"If our fighters deep in Lebanese territory are left without food our water, I believe they can break into local Lebanese stores to solve that problem," Brigadier General Avi Mizrahi, the head of the Israel Defense Forces logistics branch, said Monday.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 14, 2006 12:26 PM

Michael, I just gladly mailed a donation. Please be cautious!

Posted by: Larry at August 14, 2006 12:49 PM


Steve Centanni, his camera man and a bodyguard were just kidnapped in Gaza outside of the Palestinian Security headquarters. Fox News has just confirmed on air.

The men, along with a bodyguard, were parked near the headquarters of the Palestinian security services when two trucks filled with gunmen pulled up and boxed them in, according to the employee. The gunmen took the two out of their sports utility vehicle, which was marked "TV," and drove away, he said.

Major militant groups in Gaza denied having any connection to the abduction, and there was no immediate word of any demands made.

Security officials put police across Gaza on alert to find the gunmen and free the journalists, said Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal.

"This is not acceptable at all," he said.

Link to USA Today story-39 minutes ago-USA Today

Please be careful.

Posted by: Rory at August 14, 2006 01:00 PM


"There was no way I would enter Lebanon with an invading army, for all the usual reasons and also for personal reasons."

what on earth would "non personal usual reasons" be?


Posted by: Warren Windrem at August 14, 2006 01:13 PM

Your personalized reporting, observations, and pictures really accented the irony of viewing such beauty in the midst of such horror. It felt like a good buddy was sharing his experiences with me.
Let's hope this insanity ends soon and the central government in Lebanon takes control of the country. Also, let's hope that the Bush administration puts more emphasis on winning the hearts and minds of Arabs as well as Israelis and less on war as a solution to the Middle East turmoil.
Good work, Michael. Thanks.

Posted by: Dick McMichael at August 14, 2006 01:32 PM

what on earth would "non personal usual reasons" be?

Not wanting to get killed.

I guess you could chalk that up as a "personal reason."

What I meant, though, is that I lived in Lebanon for a while and wouldn't feel at all comfortable riding back in with an invading army.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 14, 2006 01:54 PM

There was a story in Y-Net which seems to me important:,7340,L-3291235,00.html

"Soldiers' petition: Keep fighting

Reserve troops who fought in Lebanon urge government to continue operations until abducted soldiers released by Hanan Greenberg"

It seems like many of these soldiers don't want to go home till the job is done.

Posted by: scribe at August 14, 2006 01:58 PM

You complain about Israeli gas stations, but US gas stations are just as bad for overseas visitors to use. They generally require a zip code with a credit card, so that visitors' credit cards do not work automatically and you have to go see the attendant!

Posted by: Freeman at August 14, 2006 01:59 PM

Scary article, scribe.

It reminds me of the sad fact that 80% of U.S. troops in Iraq think they are somehow avenging the 9/11 attacks.

I wonder if those Israeli troops have access to the news?

Posted by: monkyboy at August 14, 2006 02:30 PM

I have never, ever, been asked to enter a ZIP code to pump gas. Which state(s) did you visit? This is the first I've heard of it.

What a dumb idea. It's so provincial.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 14, 2006 02:45 PM

It reminds me of the sad fact that MT allows MonkeyBoy to keep posting on the site.

Why is the article scary MB? Are you concerned that the terrorists (i.e. Hezbos) might be killed?


Posted by: Ron Snyder at August 14, 2006 02:47 PM

No, Ron,

It scares me to think that the soldiers in the article thought the point of this conflict was to free the two kidnapped soldiers because:

1. Israel lost 116 soldiers killed and many more wounded.

2. It's likely the IDF killed the two kidnapped soldiers in their bombing campaign against Hezbollah positions.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 14, 2006 03:06 PM

Well off the point, but - I've never been asked for a zip code at a gas station but I have at many other places. I usually give 12345 but sometimes 98765 or 56789. When asked for a phone number I always say: "I don't have one, the phone company took the phone out because I didn't pay the bill." For an address, I always say that I don't have one; I'm homeless and sleep in my car.

Why do people give real answers to these "none of your damn business questions"?

And yes, my credit card payment has always been cheerfully accepted.

Posted by: TJ Sawyer at August 14, 2006 03:13 PM


I'm pretty sure even the most clueless Israeli is vastly more aware than you are of why Israel fights.

Posted by: Carlos at August 14, 2006 03:31 PM

When I use an American Express card at stations in California and Louisisna, I have to enter the billing zip code.


Posted by: Chip Anderson at August 14, 2006 03:35 PM

I drove from South Carolina to Maine and back this summer. I had to enter my zip code at several gas stations along the way. I understand that it is an anti-theft measure. Someone using a stolen credit card out-of-state may not know the zip code of the real owner and may be reluctant to go and tell a clerk that they don't know their zip code. Its sort of like the security code you have on your postings. BTW keep up the good work!

Posted by: Ken Harkins at August 14, 2006 03:50 PM

Credit Cards and ID/ZIP - it's to help prevent CC theft. Could be they have the real card, could be they cloned your card onto a fake card (say at a restaurant). They go into to a gas station and get free gas. Adds up fast at 3.70 a gallon.

Posted by: James at August 14, 2006 03:52 PM

Excellent reporting!

I only had to enter a ZIP code to pump gas once so far in Garland, TX (inspiration for Arlen, TX in King of the Hill). It appears to be an effort to fight credit card fraud.

Posted by: George B at August 14, 2006 03:58 PM

Here in San Diego, all the gas pumps I've met ask me for the billing zip code when I swipe my card. Both Visa and Discover.

Posted by: lj at August 14, 2006 04:06 PM

Hi, Michael,

I'm new to this sort of thing... but all politics aside, I must say that you just made this whole tragic conflict much more human and real for me. Despite having studied international relations and history fairly extensively, I still haven't been able to quite grasp the true extent of what's going on out there ... until I read this:

"War, in my mind, occurs in ugly places. But that’s in the movies."

Not so long ago, I also believed that war only occurs between ugly people... but now my younger brother is getting set to ship out for his third tour in Iraq as an Army Ranger, and I can no longer safely believe that. He is built like a brick wall and knows a hundred different ways to kill a man, and yet when he comes home he's still the sweet, strange little kid I grew up with who can make me laugh like no one else in this world.

Your incredible picture of that young soldier only reaffirmed this tragic dichotomy for me - the humanity and humor in his eyes was so beautiful, yet totally heartbreaking.

Thank you for bringing this to a level we can all understand. Keep it up, and be safe.

Posted by: Zedq at August 14, 2006 04:14 PM

The little "peninsula" that Metulla is in has an interesting history.

When the shape of the Palestine mandate was being determined in negotiations between the French and the British, the Prime Minister was David Lloyd George. Lloyd George was brought up a Methodist and knew his Bible. The lands given to the Jews were to stretch, according to one passage of scripture, "from Dan to Beersheba."

No one knew where Dan was, there were only vague guesses. A border was drawn, but at the last minute, Dan was located! Lloyd George demanded a border rectification--by God the British Mandate must include the whole Holy Land!. And the French agreed, but although the border was extended northward to encompass Dan (which is right near Metulla), it was depressed to the southward from the western side of the "peninsula" to the Mediterranean.

Thus did Israel acquire its weird little "flange" or "panhandle" at the top right side. And that's why Metulla--and Dan--are in Israel today.

Posted by: Jeff at August 14, 2006 04:33 PM

I thought the articel quite heartening, monkeyboy.

Comparing it to the Iraq war is off the mark. (Usually when posters throw around analogies its because they don't have an indepth knowledge of what they are talking about.)

These soldiers are fighting for their family, and neighbors. It's a small country and people feel responsible for each other.

I find the willingness to go on fighting for their buddies very salutory.

Posted by: scribe at August 14, 2006 04:45 PM

I wish I could agree with you, scribe.

As long as dissent is tolerated around here, let me say...

This conflict struck me as one of the most pointless post-WWII wars fought by a modern nation.

Somebody has to run things in the Muslim dominated nations, and on the crazy scale (The Taliban being a 10), Hezbollah strikes me as about a 4.

Rather than worry about Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, I think we need to make an all out push to stabilize Iraq before it's too late, because Muqtada al-Sadr, Saddam's heir apparent, strikes me as an 11 on the crazy scale.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 14, 2006 05:03 PM

Monkyboy, it's more than a little silly to make stabilizing Iraq and taking Iran down a peg into an either/or. The instability in Iraq is written and produced by Iran, as is Hezbollah and its war against Israel. To kill the snake, cut off the head.

Posted by: Stacy at August 14, 2006 05:30 PM

Any country that is controlled by Muslim Terrorists strikes me as an 11 on the crazy scale.

We cannot stabilize Iraq -we can, and I think have, provided the Iraqis with the opportunity to do so. Just as with Lebanon, if the Iraqis cannot control their own country then I do not care what happens to them or their country as long as they do not affect other people.

I've been in the security field for about 20 years, and have had the opportunity to attend a few restricted seminars on security. At one event I attended about two years ago I had the pleasure of seating at a lunch table with 5 or 6 members of the Knesset. Great conversation. To a man they said that Egypt was the "Great Power" of the Arab states.

Muslim fanaticism has to concern Egypt as much as any country in the Middle East, yet I read very little about Egypt other than that they are apparently quite aggressive and ruthless in controlling (to the extent possible) Muslim Terrorists in their country.


Posted by: Ron Snyder at August 14, 2006 05:37 PM


Even if Bushie were crazy enough to take on the mullahs of Iran and their Chinese and Russian patrons...what are his options?

An impotent air campaign that will secure the mullah's hold on Iran for generations?

Or maybe an actual invasion with our worn-out forces taking on the guys who taught Hezbollah how to fight?

Accepting Iran as it is and still fixing Iraq is our best shot.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 14, 2006 05:59 PM

Just ask the attendant to swipe the card for you, or pay inside. This threw me for a loop the first time it happened to me.

Of course, in Kiryat Shmona they may not have an attendant on duty. I sure wouldn't stick around that place to pump gas with the Katyushas raining down around me.

Posted by: Dougie-Pundit at August 14, 2006 06:00 PM

Monkey Boy, as one of those Marines who has served, and will serve again, in Iraq, I find your 80% statistic ridiculous. Absolutely without question, no one that I have served with believes we are in Iraq to avenge 9/11. As far as I can tell you must have pulled that ridiculous number out of your lower GI. Mike should not ban you for dissent, but he should give you a sound spanking for posting assinine assertions, that have absolutely no basis in fact.

Mike, keep up the good work, and watch your six over there. Hopefully Lebanon will grab this opportunity by the balls, and make sure Hezbollah can't drag their country into any more wars.

Posted by: Brad at August 14, 2006 06:14 PM

Accepting Iran as it is and still fixing Iraq is our best shot. - MB

"Our" my ass. We know what side you on MB.

Posted by: Joe Marino at August 14, 2006 06:18 PM


The wide-ranging poll also shows that 58% of those serving in country say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure. While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks,..”

Posted by: monkyboy at August 14, 2006 06:28 PM


Zogby?:) Maybe you should link to some Hersh articles as well.

Posted by: mike at August 14, 2006 07:23 PM

This article is interesting:

Posted by: ilana at August 14, 2006 07:32 PM

Michael.. I also found US gas stations to be a pain for tourists. I did a road trip from California to Nevada.

I can recall at least 3 or 4 different gas stations in California requiring me to enter a US Zip code to swipe my credit card.

I don't remember Nevada very well. I think it was the same situation.

Posted by: Jono at August 14, 2006 08:17 PM

I love the writeups. Please stay safe.

I'm disappointed in the gratuitous slam on the residents of new orleans, most of whom were taking the necessary food to survive.

Posted by: dbt at August 14, 2006 09:48 PM

You write such beautiful poetry. If it wasn't true, it wouldn't be so sad. The countryside in Lebanon and Israel looks so much like Northern California, where I live. Thanks for your good work.

Posted by: Beth Barnat at August 14, 2006 09:51 PM

You write such beautiful poetry. If it wasn't true, it wouldn't be so sad. The countryside in Lebanon and Israel looks so much like Northern California, where I live. Thanks for your good work.

Posted by: Beth Barnat at August 14, 2006 09:51 PM

You write such beautiful poetry. If it wasn't true, it wouldn't be so sad. The countryside in Lebanon and Israel looks so much like Northern California, where I live. Thanks for your good work.

Posted by: Beth Barnat at August 14, 2006 09:52 PM

OK first of all I did two tours and the poll on the lack of knowledge among the troops is dead on.

Depending on Brad's unit I would say the Marines the number might be a more respectable 50% vs 80%.

But I can tell you for sure that everyone in 101 was shocked at the 4th ID which destoyed everything positive in relations wiht Iraqis.

On the Lebanon crisis, I can't see this as a victory for Israel on any level. I agree with Krauthammer in seeing it as an abject defeat. Once again the IDF was humbled (and it didn't need to be). Isreal is in more danger than ever for falling for the abduction bait.

The worst decison was to go with the sustained air all over Lebanon which did nothing serious, and leave the ground as a tepid afterthought.

Posted by: CA at August 14, 2006 11:35 PM

Hey, Beth. Lighten up on the post button. (just teasing) But Lebanon looks like Norcal, while Israel is total Socal, especially San Diego County. Lived in both Cals, and that's my call anyway.

Posted by: allan at August 14, 2006 11:43 PM

Jeff, you're right about Dan, but it doesn't explain Metulla. Metulla and Dan are in seperate tiny peninsulas at the northern tip of Israel.
If you walked from Metulla to Dan, you would be in Lebanon practically the whole time.

Posted by: maor at August 15, 2006 01:01 AM

Well MB, I guess my next question would be, who the hell did Zogby poll? The Guatemalen National Guard? While I appreciate CA giving us the benefit of the doubt (lol), I still feel that the poll numbers are, shall we say, less than accurate. Finally, what the hell does the 4th Infantry's supposed mistreatment of the Iraqis, have to do with Zogby's ridiculous poll?

Posted by: Brad at August 15, 2006 02:10 AM

monky, I think that you are terribly misguided.
First, Hezb'allah is just as crazy as any of the other Muslim organizations. The difference is in current capabilities.
Secondly, the US is a superior fighting force militarily than Iran. Our soldiers in Iraq are now experienced, and if Iran really went to war with us it would be a death knell for them.
Thirdly, our air camps under Bush have been highly effective. If we were going to hit Iran we would hit them hard & fast.
Fourth, do not look too deeply into a poll, especially a Zogby poll. did 85% believe that avenging 9/11 is the ONLY reason they are there? Sounds like a semantic nuance, but its not. It is all the difference in the world.
Fifth, accepting Iran is playing into the plans of our enemies.
Sixth, Russia and China are only patrons of Iran as long as Iran doesn't do something crazy. The chances of us needing to engage them as well are slim to none (though any military strategist who knows otherwise can surely correct.)
Seventh, this war/battle, monky, is not 'Post WW2' , it is "Pre WW3". Changes the perspective a bit.

Posted by: RiverCocytus at August 15, 2006 04:23 AM

RE zip codes at gas stations. This is a relatively new security feature that seems to have become very popular. However, it only seems to kick in if you are making a purchase outside of your home state. For example, living in New Jersey and commuting into NYC, I now need to enter my zipcode when I purchase MetroCards for the NYC subway, but not when I purchase tickets for New Jersey transit. I've asked around and the in state out of state fromat seems consistant, at least in NJ, NY, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Same with gas stations that have at the pump paying stations.(Zip codes are generally not required if the payment is being made person to person.)

Posted by: shaulie at August 15, 2006 04:59 AM

Michael, I was starting to think that you had cajones bigger than your brain. I feel better now. Whatever you do, don't be in Jerusalem around the 22nd. Maybe not Tel Aviv or Haifa either. Based on what Madmouth Armageddonjihad has been saying, you might be safer in a smaller town in Katyusha range.

Posted by: The Monster at August 15, 2006 05:41 AM

Cracking piece Michael as per normal. I do hope that you do well in the fund-raising for yourself. Stay safe mate.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at August 15, 2006 08:30 AM


Metula's land was actually bought on 1986 by Baron de Rothschild and at the time of the first world war, conquered by the British. After the War of Independence, follwing a cease-fire, the private agricultural lands of Metula which were at Ayun Valley, were given to the Lebanese people and that why the houses left so close to the border.

Posted by: sigalit at August 15, 2006 10:38 AM

Sixth, Russia and China are only patrons of Iran as long as Iran doesn't do something crazy.

These guys are trying to develop nuclear weapons and chanting 'Death to America!', and you don't think they're going to do 'something crazy'?

Sorry, but I think you are being incredibly optimistic.

The chances of us needing to engage them as well are slim to none (though any military strategist who knows otherwise can surely correct.)

I'm not a military strategist. However, President Bush has said that an Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable, and it's become fairly clear that Iran will not be enticed into halting enrichment.

Do the math.

Posted by: rosignol at August 16, 2006 01:36 AM

Another difference between Americans going to war and Israeli soldiers doing so is the fact that the Katyusha rockets flying overhead may kill the soldiers' families. We are literally fighting in our backyard. It was very difficult for the soldiers to come back after heavy fighting in south Lebanon to find that the numbers of rockets fired didn't decrease. It also made the fact that the Israeli government knuckled under and didn't finish the job that much more difficult to accept.

Posted by: westbankmama at August 16, 2006 04:25 AM

Outstanding Journalism. Sumbled across this.

Brillant demonstration of the power of individual reporting enabled via the Internet.

Great stuff, keep up the good work!

Posted by: HungryHorse at August 16, 2006 04:51 PM

The current terrorism or violence has started from American sponsored Afghan "Jihad". Al-Qaida was trained armed and financially sponsored by CIA and MOSSAD with the help of ISI (Pakistan’s military intelligence). What I see all the Al-Qaeda operations ended up benefiting US policy. They brought US in Afghanistan; Bin Ladin gave speeches like he was involved in Iraq and gave US another reason to attack Iraq. He also acknowledges that he wanted Bush to win the election, that’s why his video came just before the elections. Educated Muslims believe Bin Ladin is the neocons member in the field, but media put all the responsibility on the religion Islam. Attack on Iraq was to protect Israel. Iran is a target because its Nuclear weapons can be a threat to Israel. US call everyone a terrorist who is against Israel's policies. On the other hand Israel is not accepting any UN resolutions. She has occupied lands from all its neighbours, committing atrocities in Palestinian territories. Why is Israel so important for US even risking American lives and image, spending tax payer’s money to protect Israel?

Posted by: Mike at August 17, 2006 03:23 PM

re credit cards @ gas stations.

in the UK we use a PIN number. its the same PIN number you would use at an ATM to withdraw cash - but at gas stations they have a little keypad device into which you enter your PIN number to confirm the payment.

Posted by: justin at August 19, 2006 05:10 AM

Those aren't barriers that the Israelis have set up. Those are aircraft parking bays - the remnants of Marjayoun Airfield, which was built when the French controlled Syria/Lebanon.

Posted by: Jon at September 1, 2006 03:22 AM

I was there in 1982 when Israel had to push the PLO out of southern Lebanon. I spent a few nights in the bomb shelter as the rockets landed on our kibbutz. The Israelis invaded pretty quickly that time, and the whole valley filled with the smoke of war, which lingered for a week. When Israel went in this time, I was expecting them to do some serious tail kicking. Instead they settled for less than their best. I hope this is not a sign of things to come for them. They cannot afford to lose a war, even on a limited scale. Thanks for writing and keeping us in touch. My heart is always with Israel.

Posted by: owlhoot at September 2, 2006 08:04 PM

The Israelis aren't fighting because of religion; they're fighting because of terrorism. The Israeli army left Lebanon in 2000. In those five years, about a thousand Israeli citizens a year, mainly civilians, were killed by terrorists. (These were throughout the country, not just by Hezbollah.)

This war started because Hezbolla terrorists crossed the border and killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. They also fired deadly rockets into civilian areas on the same day, and at least six people were wounded. Most news sources left the rockets out of the story.

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