August 15, 2006

War Warps the Mind a Little

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

NORTHERN ISRAEL – War does strange things to the mind. The first time you hear the loud BOOM, BANG, and CRASH of incoming and outgoing artillery, you will jump. You will twitch. You will want to take cover. You will want to hide. You will feel like you could die at any second, like the air around you is drenched with gasoline, like the universe is gearing up to smash you to pieces.

It’s amazing how fast you get used to it, even if you have no military training and grew up in a tranquil conflict-free place in suburban America.

It took me four hours.

The BOOM, BANG, and CRASH had nothing to do with me. Oh sure, it could have had something to do with me. I could have been hit. There is no doubt.

But here’s the thing: war is slow. War in Northern Israel, anyway, was slow. It isn’t, or at least wasn’t, anything like fast street to street fighting in Hollywood movies. It wasn’t Black Hawk Down and it wasn’t Omaha Beach.

Any given location in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon would almost certainly never be hit with a missile, bomb, or artillery shell. Lebanon was hit more frequently, and Israel was hit more randomly, but the vast majority of people in both places weren’t even scratched, let alone killed.

Explosions crank your survival instinct up to eleven. But after a while straight math kicks in. You run numbers in your head, even subconsciously. Most specific locations aren’t hit, ever. And most of the time you are standing in one of those locations. Even if you do happen to briefly pass through one of the specific locations that are destined to take a hit, what are the odds, really, that you will be standing there when it actually happens?

Being in Northern Israel was not like being in Baghdad. No one was out to get me. Only Hezbollah fighters and leaders in Lebanon were targeted as individuals. All of Northern Israel was a collective target, but a very large one which I vanished into almost completely.

Hezbollah killed more cows than people in Israel.

The odds that any given place in Northern Israel would be hit were the same as the odds that any other given place in Northern Israel would be hit. Hezbollah’s rockets land almost at random. They are, therefore, pathetic military weapons, but perfect terrorist weapons.

There were a few exceptions. Kiryat Shmona was hit quite a lot, Metulla not at all. Still, anywhere out in the open was just as dangerous as anywhere else out in the open.

This is logical, but the mind doesn’t work like that when sensing danger from the environment.

Driving on an empty road and looking at an impact site up ahead is unsettling.

Burning Ridge From Road Northern Israel.jpg

Getting out of the car at Kibbutz Goshrim is a relief.

Kibbutz Goshrim.jpg

Each location photographed above was exactly, precisely, as dangerous as the other.

Trees blocked out the sky and made me feel safer. Obviously the branches of trees would do nothing to stop or slow a Katyusha attack. But when you’re under rocket and missile fire, the sky feels like a gigantic malevolent eyeball. When you’re underneath trees, the gigantic malevolent eyeball can’t see you. Therefore a rocket won’t hit you. That’s not how it is, but that’s what it feels like.

During my first several hours in the war zone I constantly tried to figure out what I could do to make myself safer. Should I stand here instead of there? How about if I crouch down a little bit? Maybe if I sit on the ground a rocket will miss my head? I figured it was better to stand near things than away from things, as long as those things were not cars.

All this thinking was useless. I would either be hit or I wouldn’t. Walking or driving fast could get me away from an incoming rocket, or it could get me closer. It was all totally random, and after every possibility was considered and rejected as useless the fear slipped away.

Fear forces you to think hard and fast about what you can do to protect yourself. As soon as you become 100 percent convinced that there is nothing more you can do to protect yourself, fear becomes a useless emotion. Then it goes away all on its own. You can’t talk yourself into or out of this mental space. It’s just something that happens.

This is the fatal weakness of terrorism.

When I tell you I was not afraid after four hours in the war zone, it is not because I am brave. Maybe going to the war zone made me a little bit brave, but feeling fearless inside it was different. It certainly helped that the rockets, missiles, and artillery shells were flying over my head rather than at my head.

Missile in Flight.jpg

Kibbutz Goshrim is the place where the IDF Spokesmen set up shop. Journalists came in and out of there all day. The lobby of the hotel had food, drinks, and free wi-fi. My laptop wouldn’t pick up the signal for some reason, but Noah Pollak’s did and he shared his computer.

Michael Oren Checking Email.JPG
Military historian and IDF Spokesman Michael Oren checks his email on Noah Pollak’s laptop in the war zone.

CBS CNN news correspondent John Roberts interviewed an IDF colonel out front.

John Roberts with CNN Cap Guy.JPG

Michael Oren translated. Roberts asked pedestrian questions. The colonel gave stock answers that sounded like propaganda.

Oren and Roberts.jpg

The entire exercise seemed pointless to me. I learned nothing at all from watching and listening.

John Roberts Interviewing Colonel.JPG

The funny thing about it, though, is that I felt safer than usual while it happened. I stood right next to three famous people. Hollywood screenwriter Dan Gordon was on site as well, volunteering as an IDF Spokesman. What are the odds that three famous people will all get taken out by one Hezbollah rocket? I mean, come on. The CBS news anchor isn’t going to get hit. He creates the Famous Guy Force Field. Michael Oren and Dan Gordon gave the Famous Guy Force Field two extra boosts.

This is the kind of stupid crap that goes through your mind as you struggle to cope with the threat of random attacks. If there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself, your mind will hallucinate bogus strategies.

I also simply got used to the threat of random attacks and forgot all about it, even as the sound of explosions rocked the kibbutz all day long.

The contrast between what I was seeing and what I was hearing really was odd. It was like watching a Green Gables episode with the volume turned down and the audio track for a war movie cranked up instead.

Statue on Kibbutz.JPG
I heard BOOM, BANG, and BOOM as I took this picture.

Noah and I sat in the hotel lobby and surfed around Web sites for digital cameras on his lap top. He was shopping for a new high-end camera and we discussed the pros and cons of various lenses. BOOM. We kept surfing. BANG. Ooh, check out that lens. CRASH. “Nikons are better than Sonys,” I said, “and more worth the money.”

I completely forgot I was in a war zone even though I could hear it outside. I was just as calm sitting there as if I were reading the morning newspaper at the Oregon Coast.

We all know fear is contagious. What might be less understood is that calm is also contagious. It’s hard to even want to freak out when no one else is freaking out.

New York City after September 11 was a lot scarier than Northern Israel on August 11.

Lots of people were in the hotel lobby, surfing the Internet, drinking coffee, interviewing spokesmen, filing stories, watching the news, ordering lunch, whatever.

Kibbutz Hotel Lobby.JPG

BOOM. No one was nervous. It’s not that they were hiding it. They really weren’t nervous. BANG. No one so much as raised an eyebrow at any loud noise. CRASH. It was as though the war outside were just a soundtrack on a movie turned up too loud. Nothing was hitting us, so what’s the big deal?

Wifi and Rifle.JPG

Noah and I spent the night in that hotel while cannons right outside fired sky-ripping artillery shells at Hezbollah. I slept perfectly soundly and did not wake up once.

*

The next day we went back to the Alaska Inn for the view. While we sat on the roof and looked into Lebanon a loud voice down below blared something in Hebrew over a loudspeaker.

“What was that?” Noah asked the Israeli woman standing next to us.

“He said Go to the shelters because a rocket is about to hit the roof of the hotel,” she said.

“Seriously?” I said.

“No,” she said and laughed. “But a rocket really is coming. It really is time to go to the shelters.”

We waited for the elevator. It seemed to take forever.

“Where is the shelter, anyway?” I said.

“I don’t know,” the Israeli woman said.

The elevator doors opened. We all got in. It took ages to get down to the lobby.

When the doors opened on the main floor, no one was moving. Everyone was perfectly calm as though nothing were happening.

I walked up to the front desk.

“Do you have a bomb shelter?” I calmly asked the young man standing next to the register.

“Of course,” he said.

“Should we go down there or does nobody care?” I said.

“Nobody care,” he said.

“Let’s get a Coke,” Noah said.

So we sat in the restaurant and asked the waiter for two Cokes.

I heard a faint whump somewhere off in the distance. The rocket had landed. Nobody moved. Nobody cared.

Post-script: Please hit the Pay Pal link and help pay travel expenses for independent non-corporate writing. I am not a rich person, and I can’t do this without you.

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
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Many thanks in advance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 10:02 AM
Comments

Michael, You are great. You always manage to make us feel like we are right there with you.

I was wondering though, what would you say to LP (now CM) when he asks you, how could you have spoken to those soldiers? Let me clarify my question. LP has posted often enough on these "pages" for all to know that he is a very reasonable fellow, so I am sure he has no problem that you are interacting with the civilians. But the soldiers? Aren't these the same ones that made "your friend a refugee"?

Posted by: Brooklyn at August 15, 2006 10:41 AM

Brooklyn,

I'm doing my job and he knows it. I haven't heard a peep of protest from him, and I don't expect I will.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 10:43 AM

Well done! Just one small correction: John Roberts works for CNN;).

Posted by: VS at August 15, 2006 10:47 AM

To ask a really off-topic question, why is the hotel called The Alaska Inn? Polar motif? Or is Alaska coincidentally a word in Hebrew?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at August 15, 2006 10:58 AM

Wow Michael,

You do a great job conveying the mood and feel to this surreal situation. Having lived through the civil war in Lebanon and the first Israeli invasion ('82), I know exactly what it is you're describing, and have experienced it myself. But up till now, I have never been able to really explain it to people here in the US. I think your writings here come as close as one could possibly come, though.

Posted by: bad vilbel at August 15, 2006 11:03 AM

MJT,

So true. When I lived in Lebanon in the '80s, people became so desensitized to the BOOMS and the BANGS unless the rockets landed in their immediate neighborhood. I remember hearing a radio report of a car bomb aftermath where 5 people had died and my reaction (albeit teenage reaction) was "5!? well, it could've been worse!"

War incorportes itself in "normal" life. That's probably the worst thing about it.

Posted by: Boomaxer at August 15, 2006 11:20 AM

This is the fatal weakness of terrorism.

I disagree. Middle eastern terrorist groups don't fight as a means to an end. This isn't "politics by other means" The state of mind of Israelis and their behavior is completely besides the point.

You can think of it as a sports event. Middle eastern Muslims want to see the Jews killed, so they support groups who do that killing. It's hard for an American to get his mind around the idea that public will could be that vile, but it is.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at August 15, 2006 11:29 AM

Michael,
Your frontline reporting is a billion times better than what we are fed on television every night. Your writing has always continued to amaze me over the years, and this is some of your best yet. Take care over there, and hope to see you when you come home. If hanging out with famous people increases safety, by all means, hang out with more famous people! But I have to wonder why a Hollywood screenwriter is there as a spokesman?
-Brett

Posted by: brett at August 15, 2006 11:46 AM

Yo, my man Brett! Good to see you here. We need to have a drink when I get back...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 11:49 AM

I think the fact that there is nothing you can do must be a key factor. During the worst of the suicide attacks, after the breakdown of Oslo, I never got used to it. I was always keeping an eye out in crowed places, because there was always the possibility that I might be able to do something.

Posted by: Yafawi at August 15, 2006 11:55 AM

Great post, BTW. I stopped in that very place on my way north exactly one year ago. I had forgotten about it, but I recognize the pink buildings and green lawns. There were a lot of sweet Ethiopian kids playing around when I was there.

Posted by: Yafawi at August 15, 2006 11:59 AM

Hmmm...

Despite the fact that Hezbollah killed a higher ratio of soldiers to civilians with their rockets than Israel killed with their bombs...

Despite the fact that their are legitimate military targets in most of the photos posted here, Noah and I spent the night in that hotel while cannons right outside fired sky-ripping artillery shells at Hezbollah. ...

We still get the lines like...Only Hezbollah fighters and leaders in Lebanon were targeted as individuals. All of Northern Israel was a collective target...

I understand the propaganda value of saying things like this...but, given Hezbollah's military performance in southern Lebanon, the talking point that they just randomly fired their rockets at Israel doesn't hold up.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 12:01 PM

Monkyboy: I understand the propaganda value of saying things like this

You don't have the slightest idea what in the hell you're talking about.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 12:04 PM

For one thing, buddy, the sound from artillery cannons travels for miles. There was not literally a cannon right next to my hotel room. I was not a human shield if that's what you're implying.

And even if there were artillery literally right next to my hotel, a Katyusha rocket has a margin of error of many miles. Hezbollah often misses Israel entirely with these things. They hit Syria at least twice, and I watched them hit Lebanon twice.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 12:08 PM

I learned nothing at all from watching and listening.

Come, come, Michael. Didn't you notice the importance of hair styling? The elves forged twenty stylings of power and you should learn to recogize them all.

James Jones captures the random nature of death during a bombing attack when he describes the landing on Guadacanal in The Thin Red Line. If you haven't read it you might give it a shot.

Posted by: chuck at August 15, 2006 12:09 PM

Really outstanding stuff. You and Lisa both describe perfectly the strange calmness of being helpless to do anything about the danger. I felt it when I watched the Willamette River flood around the house in ’96, and again when a loved one was on life support at OHSU and not expected to live. (She did) You both also describe a surreal normalness in the midst of chaos, she watching Law and Order struggling to hear over the bombs, and you camera shopping. I have several people in my office hooked. The perspective you give is not available anywhere else, keep it up, come home safe! I’ll buy you lunch!
-L

Posted by: lindsey at August 15, 2006 12:24 PM

Michael...I sent you a small Paypal donation, and I hope others do the same. Your stuff is terrific. Thanks for doing this. I keep wondering why your reports sound so honest, while those from the networks (which I really can't bear to watch) sound like bloviating crap. Why is this?

Posted by: BillBC at August 15, 2006 12:30 PM

Michael,

I'm just saying your data doesn't support your conclusion.

Can I asked what objective methods you used to determine Hezbollah's targeting methods?

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 12:35 PM

"Famous Guy Force Field"

That is definitely going in the movie!

Great reporting. I am here goofing off when my final is due in 12 hours, but you make it worth it. Hey, can you get some more photos of IDF kid "off duty"? And if you could interview that John Roberts guy it would be a hoot! Ask him what "poolside reading" he did to prepare for this assignment!

Enjoy the cheese, olives, and tomatoes for breakfast! No, seriously, does anyone in Israel do a Portland style breakfast?

And how many foreign reporters are where you are, where are they from, are they pro or against Israel?

When you get home, we need to drive to the beach for wi-fi and coffee. ;)

Posted by: sean at August 15, 2006 12:50 PM

Be sure to get the name of Roberts' hair stylist! I'm just shocked to hear that pretty boy had little of substance to ask for the CNN market;) If that guy had to pay his own way into the war zone to report I'd bet he'd come up with a decent question or 2. Do you run into many other self funded freelance writers like yourself? Do you get the impression that Oren and other writers of substance appreciate your efforts? I don't see Oren asking the MSM eye candy to use the CNN computers to check e-mail! Of course I wasn't there... :)
How many more strikes does Monkey get before you Spank him?
-L

Posted by: lindsey at August 15, 2006 12:54 PM

Monkyboy,

Can I asked what objective methods you used to determine Hezbollah's targeting methods?

In my day, we had a place for you in every classroom. You would be asked to sit in the corner of the room on a stool, facing into the corner itself, and you would be required to wear a cone-shaped hat made of white paper.

*

Posted by: Jeffrey -- New York at August 15, 2006 12:54 PM

Mb: Can I asked what objective methods you used to determine Hezbollah's targeting methods?

You first.

Also, when calculating soldier/civilian rocket death ratios, surely you adjusted for IDF killed as a result of their having assaulted Hezzie fortified postions.

Of course you did.

Posted by: Stephen_M at August 15, 2006 12:55 PM

Monkey Boy... it is called a "target rich environment". Or "target poor".

That is, in northern Israel and then in souther Lebanon Hezbollah only needed to hit the dirt somewhere around Fatima's Gate at about Midnight Wednesday to have a good chance of hitting an IDF soldier, even though the Kayatusha rocket is notoriously inaccurate (this is not propagands, even Hez complains about this to Iran on Back To School shiopping days).

Meanwhile, the Hez are holed up in civilian homes and "hospitals" (such as in the Bekka Valeey). When the IDF goes looking for a "safe place to bomb" (ie with low "collateral damage") they have a hard time finding good targets. Often IDF airforce pilots have had to "miss" targets on purpose because at the last minute a civilian got in the way. Still, even with the best targeting info, high tech weapons, and best of intentions, since the target, Hezbollah, is using human shields there will be high civilian deaths (all this assumes that all civilian deaths as self-reported by Hezbollah through the Lebanese police via CNN are actually civilians and not Hez).

So, it is not "porpoganda" when Michael notes that the Hez fire randomly into Israel, they do. Or that the IDF fire at carefully chosen targets, they do. Nor is it contradictory that Hez managed to kill many more IDF to civilians than the IDF did in Lebanon.

It is not a function of the weapons or the intent, but rather that most of northern Israel was cleared of civs and filled with soldiers, that Israeli civs can get better medical atention, and that Lebanese civs were either forced by the Hez or chose to stay in S Lebanon and act as human shields.

Posted by: sean at August 15, 2006 01:09 PM

Jeffrey,

It should now be obvious to all but the densest supporters of Israel that unquestioning acceptance of IDF propaganda will lead to the eventual destruction of Israel.

Everything I've read leads me to the conclusion that Hezbollah is indeed targeting the IDF with thier rockets...they question is...how?

Early in the conflict, there were reports that the IDF had discovered IDF uniforms in several Hezbollah bunkers (there were a rash of thefts from Israeli military bases prior to the conflict).

I'd guess Michael propbably bumped into a few Hezbollah spotters enroute to all his interviews with the IDF's objective spokesmen.

Israel can either continue to believe affirmations about their moral superiority...or they can put up checkpoints throughout northern Israel to check the i.d. of all the soldiers passing through...

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 01:24 PM

Monkeyboy: The fact that the Israelis had a good civil defense resulting in relatively low Israeli civilian casualties does not translate into virtuosity for Hzb.

You are damaged beyond repair.

Posted by: Joe Marino at August 15, 2006 01:32 PM

Another terrific post, as always.

Posted by: Steve Smith at August 15, 2006 01:34 PM

Hello Michael! Wonderful observations. I would venture to say that this is exactly why WMD terrorism is such a catastrophic prospect. It is the only thing that brings the impact of terrorism to the scale of a major war. Obviously, you would have felt quite different if the Wehrmacht were sweeping in to the land you occupied. Hezbollah, or any terrorist group, can never achieve that level of penetration. But WMD's enable terrorists to destroy areas completely, to such an extent that your mere presence there overwhelms all calculations of the odds of survival.

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Douglas at August 15, 2006 01:35 PM

Monkeyboy:
The words of Hassan Nasrallah tells the world about how he feels about civillian casualties. "Our strength is the willingness to sacrafice Blood,Souls, children, Fathers, and Families." He sees civillian casualties as a military strength, not something to be avoided. This might just be one of the reasons for the high civillian death ratio. They are part of his military strategy, by his own words.

Posted by: kevin peters at August 15, 2006 01:45 PM

kevin,

Nasrallah also said this in a recent interview:

"It is unacceptable, it is forbidden, to harm the innocent," he told me, reflecting on Iraq. "To have Iraqis confronting the occupation army, this is natural. But if there are American tourists, or intellectuals, doctors, or professors who have nothing to do with this war, they are innocent, even though they are Americans, and it is forbidden. It is not acceptable to harm them."

http://tinyurl.com/o3p87

Again, propaganda has its uses, but I think the Israelis are starting to actually believe theirs, like Tony Montana snorting his own stash.

Here's Michael's account of a visit to Hezbollah:

http://tinyurl.com/qnxlt

Now compare it to his recent post where the IDF let him and his pal climb over their armor like kids playing on playground equipment...

Which side took this conflict more seriously?

Which side will win in the end?

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 02:06 PM

MB:
Of course when Hezbollah attacked the Israeli Foreign Office and the Jewish Senior center in Argentina with bombs his words about the innocent ring hollow. And you failed to respond to his words about the willingness to sacrafice his own peoples families,Fathers and children, his bragging that civilian deaths are a "strenth". Please explain his own words, this is not propaganda.

Posted by: kevin peters at August 15, 2006 02:19 PM

Monkyboy, with your endless "moral equivalency" suppositions you are hijacking the measured discourse on this board, which is getting really irritating.

Speaking of hijacking, maybe you should have been aboard United Flight 93 to see how noble Islamist men like Nasrallah think of civilians. Ah yes, but American air travellers and the Argentinian Jewish community and British and Spanish commuters and Russian schoolchildren are all guilty by association to their governments.

Perhaps if enough of the rest of us complain loud enough MJT will finally ban your ass. Hint, hint, MJT.

Posted by: jjdynomite at August 15, 2006 02:29 PM

If people would quit responding to the troll, it would go away. When MJT does ban someone people piss and moan about it. He is not a babysitter, He is busy writing GREAT STUFF for us.
DON'T FEED THE TROLLS!

Posted by: lindsey at August 15, 2006 02:55 PM

Really enjoying your coverage, Michael. Makes me sad I live in a city where, during a protest this past weekend, a block from my apartment, people held up signs like "Nazi Kikes, out of Lebanon", "Swastika = Star of David", but more amazingly -- Hezbollah, Hamas flags and photos of smiling Nasrallah. (Few Lebanese flags, strangely).

Check out this link for photos.

Posted by: anna at August 15, 2006 02:55 PM

jj,

My understanding of a "measured discourse" is when people objectively look at the facts and then express their conclusions.

For instance, douglas wrote:

Obviously, you would have felt quite different if the Wehrmacht were sweeping in to the land you occupied. Hezbollah, or any terrorist group, can never achieve that level of penetration.

And I think...the army the U.S. is busy equiping and training in Iraq for future Grand Ayatollah Sadr is a week's hard march from Jerusalem...

You guys may disagree with me, but I find your definition of "measured discourse" extremely dangerous for Israel...

Hope for the best...but plan for the worst.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 03:11 PM

Lindsey: Do you get the impression that Oren and other writers of substance appreciate your efforts? I don't see Oren asking the MSM eye candy to use the CNN computers to check e-mail!

You are very observant. Michael Oren ate dinner with Noah and me. Not with John Roberts.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 04:38 PM

Monkeyboy,

You have now officially had too many complaints. You are hereby ordered to raise your IQ by 15 points or post somewhere else.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 04:46 PM

Monkeyboy,

of course more Israeli soldiers died than civilians. The IDF is actually in front of their civilians, as opposed to Hesbollah who hide behind theirs. Thus the respective body counts.

Posted by: Carlos at August 15, 2006 05:00 PM

Hi Michael,

I read your stuff regularly.
Anyway, I live in Ramat Gan which is
pretty close to Tel Aviv ( 5 min by car; 15 by bus),
and I have a spare room you can use gladly
when you're in TA, and it's free...:))

Feel commutable to contact me, Amir.

amir_64@012.net.il

Posted by: Amir from Tel Aviv at August 15, 2006 05:06 PM

SimianChild,

Katyushas are missiles with very low accuracy. That's why they are normally used as barrage weapons, with the launcher shooting off it's entire complement of missiles, one after the other. Shooting two or three (as Michael has described the attacks) is going to have a low probability of hitting your target, unless, of course, your "target" is an entire town.

Artilery guns are much more accurate.

Also, the reason why Israeli civilian casualties were relatively low is due to Israeli civil defense, where most buildings have bomb shelters.

Of course, you already know all of this.

Ben zonah, y'mach shimcha.

Posted by: Bozoer Rebbe at August 15, 2006 05:54 PM

True, true, rebbe, but...

Not all the rockets Hezbollah used were Katyushas.

As for the accuracy of Israel's artillery guns...at the range they were firing at, they aren't very useful against anything but entire towns, either.

They only have a 50-50 chance of hitting a target the size of 3 football fields....and that's only if the guns and the ammo have been well maintained...and judging from the reports I saw, they weren't.

Let's wait for Michael's reports from Lebanon to judge the accuracy of the IDF's shells during this conflict. I doubt he'll be so sanguine when he sees his home away from home...

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 06:29 PM

There is also the fact that the AP considers every single Hezbollah member killed a civilian. After all, Hezbollah doesn't wear uniforms while fighting, only while parading for the cameras. All they need is to have someone gather up the weapons the fighters were carrying, and the bodies can be declared "civillian casualties."

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at August 15, 2006 06:52 PM

monkyboy: Please stop repeating that garbage propaganda about Israeli artillery. Where did you get such nonsense?

The length of a football field is around 110m. The Israeli guns are mostly upgraded M109s which I can't find accuracy figures for, but the worst figure I've seen for an M109 is 155 metres. That's 1.5 football fields, not 3. It will get better at shorter ranges, and is clearly sufficient against infantry, and quite possibly counter-battery fire with a sufficiently large barrage.

Why are you repeating the lies that they "aren't very useful against anything but entire towns"?:Please quit repeating terrorist talking points. Thank you.

Posted by: Nicholas at August 15, 2006 06:59 PM

Nicholas,

Not to question your math...but that's a 155m "CEP," or circular error probability.

Which means...draw a circle with a radius of 155m...the Israeli guns have a 50-50 chance of hitting it.

The area of a circle is...pi x r squared...do the math, I think you'll find I was being kind.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 15, 2006 07:07 PM

"Monkeyboy,

You have now officially had too many complaints. You are hereby ordered to raise your IQ by 15 points or post somewhere else"

MJT, don't you think that is a little harsh? I mean, you aren't asking anyone else to double their IQ

Posted by: Burt at August 15, 2006 07:41 PM

I've booked my trip to Israel. I'm going to the North in October, in a nice hotel, at a great price. And I'm going to eat nicely, tip well, and order a good bottle of Golani wine to help the economy there.

I can't help thinking, whenever I see the mainstream press, that they are like Wiley Coyote chasing Road Runner. Hezbollah gulls them over and over again, because the media is not only gullible, but also lazy. Hezb provides opportunities for easy heartwrenching stories, and brings you to them. All you have to do is turn the camera on. On the other hand, say bad things about Hezbollah and you can end up like FoxNews' Steve Centanni (or Jimmy Hoffa).

It's an easy call for your typical TV journalist selected primarily for their looks, and the communication degree from North Podunk State U. gives them a poor background to determine the facts on the ground. Is it any wonder the IDF is losing the media war? These reporters don't understand the history of the struggle, and they are so trained to be so morally rudderless that they equate the accidental killing of civilians in a war with the deliberate targeting of civilians as an act of terrorism.

Posted by: Strabo the Lesser at August 15, 2006 07:43 PM

http://yarchive.net/mil/artillery_effect.html

from the tankers forum, an interesting first person description of kayatush and artilery fire.

Posted by: sean at August 15, 2006 07:54 PM

Michael, RE: Your Post.

I'm laughing my ass off at your perfect description of my first few days in Nam. It's amazing how normal the abnormal can become.

My paternal Grandfather came from Lebanon as a kid in 1900 and built an empire. I can only wonder what he would think now. If you get to Bhroumanah
(spelling approximate), ask the older folks about George Hamid.

And the laughs kept coming. A commenter suggested that Hezbollah sent Forward Observers ahead in Israeli uniforms to direct Katusha attacks.

What was their first radio message, "It's a go, the city is still where it was last week."

I know it seems stupid, but what're you going to do?

George Abou Hamid III
New Jersey, USA
US Army, Vietnam 3/70-2/71

Posted by: G Hamid at August 15, 2006 07:55 PM

The most evil of propoganda is the propoganda that contains elements of truth at its core.

Of course the accuracy of FIELD ARTILLARY is not the same as GPS guided smart bombs. That is obvious.

It is also obvious that ALL sides in a conflict use propaganda. Truth is ALWAYS the first casualty in a conflict. This conflict is no exception.

But the bottom line here should be fairly obvious. . . .it is not polite to lob shells at your neighbor. Sooner or later -> a military response will be made.

The message to the Lebonese government should also be obvious: If you allow one party to fight a war from within your border. . . don't be surprised if the other party also decides to fight that war inside your border.

Posted by: onesnark at August 15, 2006 07:56 PM

It's amazing how normal the abnormal can become.

Alexander Dugin said the same in his book An American in the Gulag. He was beaten with a rubber truncheon, causing a hernia through which part of his intestines descended into his scrotum, giving him a bad case of enlarged, hanging balls. In such condition he entered the Gulag and, as you say, noticed how the abnormal soon becomes normal.

Posted by: chuck at August 15, 2006 08:11 PM

This was great, Michael, you brought the war experience up close to me.
Thanks.

Posted by: Tim at August 15, 2006 08:58 PM

Michael, First of all, I want to know when you're coming out with your first novel. You have such a way with words ...
Second, and I quote "Fear forces you to think hard and fast about what you can do to protect yourself. As soon as you become 100 percent convinced that there is nothing more you can do to protect yourself, fear becomes a useless emotion. Then it goes away all on its own. You can’t talk yourself into or out of this mental space. It’s just something that happens.

This is the fatal weakness of terrorism."

I remember when I read Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning" about his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps -- he said that it's amazing what man can get used to.

Michael, you're amazing! Thank you for your true and honest reporting. You make it so human and so real for us all.

Posted by: Beth Barnat at August 15, 2006 10:03 PM

Michael, First of all, I want to know when you're coming out with your first novel. You have such a way with words ...
Second, and I quote "Fear forces you to think hard and fast about what you can do to protect yourself. As soon as you become 100 percent convinced that there is nothing more you can do to protect yourself, fear becomes a useless emotion. Then it goes away all on its own. You can’t talk yourself into or out of this mental space. It’s just something that happens.

This is the fatal weakness of terrorism."

I remember when I read Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning" about his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps -- he said that it's amazing what man can get used to.

Michael, you're amazing! Thank you for your true and honest reporting. You make it so human and so real for us all.

Posted by: Beth Barnat at August 15, 2006 10:04 PM

Interesting. You mention that Israel is firing artillery at Hezbollah from right outside your hotel. I suppose if Hezbollah was firing rockets from beside a hotel housing civilians, that Israel might hit that hotel by accident and blame Hezbollah for hiding behind civilians.

Fortunately, Hezbollah's aim is not so good, and their rockets are not so accurate, or perhaps the low civilian and cow fatalities are possibly related to the fact that Hezbollah is really not targeting civilians, but is instead firing primarily at military targets. These targets may in some cases be situated in close proximity to civilians, as in your case, in which case, civilians may be hurt or killed.

I would be interested in what censorship rules exist in Northern Israel, if any.

Posted by: Paul Todd at August 15, 2006 11:08 PM

You mention that Israel is firing artillery at Hezbollah from right outside your hotel. I suppose if Hezbollah was firing rockets from beside a hotel housing civilians, that Israel might hit that hotel by accident and blame Hezbollah for hiding behind civilians.

The sound travels very loudly for many miles. The guns are not literally right next to the hotel. You saw my pictures of the guns, right? The guns are out in open fields.

I would be interested in what censorship rules exist in Northern Israel, if any.

Once I was asked not to take photos. That's it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 15, 2006 11:23 PM

Great work.

I thought you might mention how, for non-drivers, driving a car seems so dangerous. And so many drivers do, in fact, die every year. (Still more per passenger mile than air travel; not sure if more per trip).

We actually don't have good language to discuss risks.

Like the risk that Iran gets nukes; then Hez or some terror group; then Tel Aviv goes mushroom.

Did Israel's response to the Hez murder-kidnap crimes increase, decrease, or not change the nuke risk? If it decreased the risk, and I think it did, then it was probably worth it. Despite Israel's loss (no disarmed Hez yet; soldiers not freed), perhaps a Pyrrhic loss. ("Phyrric" also possible.)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 15, 2006 11:55 PM

It should also be noted that in the region where Michael was, it is practically impossible to be more than a couple miles from a kibbutz or town.

Posted by: maor at August 15, 2006 11:55 PM

Mike,
I’m totally addicted to your blog. Its one thing to read the news and get information, and totally another thing to read some well written human perspective and reaction to those events in real time. I’ve never been near a war zone but reading your report reminded me of the first big storm I hit out at sea in Alaska, at first I was totally freaked out but as the hours, and indeed days, wore on, it was just business as usual and I never gave it much thought thereafter. I don’t see this cease fire lasting very long…
Stay safe,
John W.

Posted by: John W. at August 16, 2006 12:10 AM

Lookit, Let's use a little common sense here. Does anyone honestly suppose that if those IDF guns were actually firing from just outside Michael's hotel and therefore using civilians as cover, that John Robert's and CNN wouldn't be blabbing that story on broken headline news every minute from now to Kingdom Come? Or the New York Times or The Washington Post or the BBC, or any of the other major media dying for the big story that'll win 'em all Pulitzer's and finally put the stake in the heart of Israel? Those guys are dying for just such a story, and no amount of "please don't report that" by IDF or Israeli Government officials could possibly prevent them from publishing. Those desciples of the Eason Jordon school of journalism will censor and lie through their teeth to maintain "access to Saddam, and his baby milk factories", but as for giving the Jewish state the slightest break or benefit of the doubt, well that'll be a cold day in hell.

Posted by: Daddy at August 16, 2006 12:30 AM

To ask a really off-topic question, why is the hotel called The Alaska Inn? Polar motif? Or is Alaska coincidentally a word in Hebrew?

My guess is that it's because it's so far north.

Posted by: Milhouse at August 16, 2006 12:59 AM

I'll bet your mother never sleeps.

Posted by: Kelly at August 16, 2006 04:57 AM

Monkeyboy:

"Nasrallah also said this in a recent interview:

'It is unacceptable, it is forbidden, to harm the innocent," he told me, reflecting on Iraq. "To have Iraqis confronting the occupation army, this is natural. But if there are American tourists, or intellectuals, doctors, or professors who have nothing to do with this war, they are innocent, even though they are Americans, and it is forbidden. It is not acceptable to harm them.'"

Israel has a citizen soldiery and utilizes military conscription, so any civilian in Israel is considered a potential combatant and thus a legitimate target in the eyes of Hezbollah. If you don't believe me, consider that Nasrallah has said as much himself:

"Although Hezbollah has denounced attacks on Western civilians—Nawaf al-Musawi, the party's foreign minister, told me in no uncertain terms that he viewed September 11 as an act of terrorism—it makes an exception in the case of Israel. As Nasrallah puts it, 'in occupied Palestine there is no difference between a soldier and a civilian, for they are all invaders, occupiers and usurpers of the land.'...But until such a settlement [two state solution] is reached, he will, he said, continue to encourage Palestinian suicide bombers." {my emphasis}

Hamas and Islamic Jihad give the same rationale for their use of suicide bombings against civilian targets in Israel.

Also, Hezbollah inserts ball bearings into the warheads of its Katyusha rockets, which serve as anti-personnel fragmentation (shrapnel). According to Human Rights Watch (no friend of Israel), this is done in a deliberate attempt to exacerbate civilian casualties:

"In addition, the warheads used suggest a desire to maximize harm to civilians. Some of the rockets launched against Haifa over the past two days contained hundreds of metal ball bearings that are of limited use against military targets but cause great harm to civilians and civilian property."

Posted by: KevinS at August 16, 2006 06:14 AM

My laptop wouldn’t pick up the signal for some reason

Chances are you have AMD instead of Intel. (Sorta like the Sony / Nikon thing.)

Posted by: greenmamba at August 16, 2006 06:52 AM

You should have invited the Israeli woman to a Coke. Hehe...

Posted by: Lebanon Lover at August 16, 2006 06:54 AM

"'It is unacceptable, it is forbidden, to harm the innocent," he told me, reflecting on Iraq. "To have Iraqis confronting the occupation army, this is natural. But if there are American tourists, or intellectuals, doctors, or professors who have nothing to do with this war, they are innocent, even though they are Americans, and it is forbidden. It is not acceptable to harm them.'"

I would say something like that as well, if there was a possibility that I might tick off Americans. He's smart enough to realize that we could drop a few friendly bombs right in bedroom ...just to say hello.

Posted by: Stahl-Hofer at August 16, 2006 08:41 AM

Fankly I don't understand your contibutions, Monkyboy. You are a funny lille monkey.You want to convince Michael that he did not experience what he experienced? Or that his perceptions are faulty because they don't conform to your dogma? U think he works for Mossad? You want him to confirm what you have read on some "useful idiots" far left sites. Monkeyboy, do what Michael does, go there and see for yourself. May be we will read you if it is good. In the meantime, read and enjoy like the rest of us. If not move on. There are many sites out there for you to enjoy. I suggest the Guardian, Juan Cole, even Haaretz.

Posted by: ruth at August 16, 2006 08:45 AM

Mm.

I would take anythning Nasrallah says with a rather large spoonful of salt. Especially where treatment of noncombatants is concerned.

In the middle east, there is frequently a big difference between what people say, and what they actually do.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Anderson

Posted by: rosignol at August 16, 2006 08:51 AM

I haven't read the other comments so I don't know what's been said, but I want to say, I am hoping that Hizbollah scores a few more major "victories" like the one it just did - that would be the end of them!

Posted by: Kevin at August 16, 2006 09:40 AM

Confirmation Bias is what I'm talking about, Ruth...

The tendency of most humans have that, once they reach a conclusion, they simply filter out any facts that run counter to that conclusion.

A couple weeks ago, I was watching a BBC report from Israel. A reporter and his cameraman were being driven to the Israel-Lebanon border by an IDF handler...the cameraman was filming along the way.

They came across a scene similar to Michael's pictures, some Israeli Howitzers in a field. And two of the Howitzers were burning...direct hits from Hezbollah rockets, the IDF handler reported.

A lucky shot?

The next day, I saw the report that 12 Israeli artillerymen had been killed by a Hezbollah rocket in Kfar Giladi.

Another lucky shot?

Then there's the fact that the vast majority of north Israel civilians have evactuated the area or are hiding in shelters, leaving just a few adrenaline junkie civilians for Hezbollah to shoot at if they are indeed aiming just at civilians.

So when I saw Michael's report of an Israeli military base that's been under attack for three weeks, and his shots of Israeli tanks in the streets and IDF officers in hotels...accompanied by this line:

Hezbollah stuffs all manner of nasty pieces of metal into their rockets so they can maximize the number of civilians they kill.

I assumed Michael is suffering from Confirmation Bias.

The facts, as far as I've seen, indicate at least some of Hezbollah's rockets were aimed directly at the IDF.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 16, 2006 12:23 PM

Monkyboy,

Just because Hezbollah hit 12 soldiers with a rocket does not mean those 12 soldiers were targetted. Did Hezbollah aim at all the cows they hit too? A rocket could have hit me, but no one was aiming at me.

Katyushas can't be aimed at anything even remotely specific. It would be impossible not to hit some soldiers in Israel with those Katyushas just as it would be impossible not to hits cows, civilians, trees, cars, mountains, grass, streams, and everything else.

The city of Kiryat Shmona was hit with more than 100 rockets on the last day of the fighting. There are no soldiers in Kiryat Shmona. Nothing in particular in Kiryat Shmona was targetted, but the city as a whole was very much targetted, more targetted than anywhere else in Israel.

You seem to be completely and absolutely unaware of what actually went on up there in the north. Try to remedy that or - seriously - post somewhere else. You are writing about a different war, a war that did not take place. And you're annoying everyone here because of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2006 12:44 PM

The war had two sides, Michael.

When are you going to Lebanon?

Posted by: monkyboy at August 16, 2006 12:50 PM

I'm not talking about sides, you idiot. I'm talking about events in Northern Israel. As in, what actually happened.

You live in an alternate reality. Literally everyone here is tired of your asinine posts and adolescent "understanding" of terrorism, war, guerilla tactics, and just about everything else.

You want to beat up on Israel. Fine. I did it, too, before I got here. Now I'm just describing what I'm seeing and hearing, and you're telling me (from your basement or wherever the hell you're at) that I did not see what I know I saw.

It's time for you to move on. Grownups are trying to talk here.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 16, 2006 12:57 PM

I don't want to beat up Israel, Michael.

I am trying to counter the biaes of the people who would willingly sacrifice Israel itself as long as they can maintain their own smug feeling of superiority...and I see you firmly on their side.

Israel is in real trouble and magical thinking isn't going to help it one bit...

Posted by: monkyboy at August 16, 2006 01:23 PM

MB:
The vast majority of the posters on this site know very well the dangers that are facing Israel. And many have been very critical of how Israel has conducted this fight, and the Israeli's themselves are going to pass judgement on the Israeli government that will probably fall because of their failures. And MT has lambasted some aspects of Israel's war plans and has been attacked as too pro-Lebanese by many backers of Israel. I have read enough of your posts on other sites and I have seen the way that you rarely offer solutions and how you fail to respond to reasonable questions about your arguments. You , on other sites, have tried to argue how reasonable the government of Iran is, that how Tehran is a reasonable place to live, that Lebanon would be more "secure" under Syrian domination. Real Politic is a reasonable form of foreign policy argument but you use the arguments of "human rights" against the U.S. and Israel while at the same time you use the arguments of real politic to defend Iran, Syria, and the other forms of political repression in the middle east. None of us are free from hypocrisy but you hop back and forth so quickly that your cynical attitude shines brightly through the fog of your faux sincerity. The following is a guess of mine but I have read enough of your posts to know that you don't give a rats a## about Israel and you would sooner see it and it's inhabitants eliminated so your pretend concern is especially insulting.

Posted by: kevin peters at August 16, 2006 01:44 PM

kevin,

Can you name a country Iran has invaded since the mullahs took over 27 years ago?

How many countries have America and Israel invaded during the same period?

I truly hope Israel gets serious about its future now, but if they just replace Olmert with Netanyahu...the Israelis might as well pack their bags...he's Bush, Cheney and Rummy wrapped together.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 16, 2006 02:03 PM

"..I am trying to counter the biaes of the people..."

And what if not one person is willing to let go of his/her biases? How about your own biases? What's your response to someone countering yours? See how ridiculous that statement becomes when you really think about it? It just gets to be a big old yelling match.

The point in simple terms is that this unique blog is based on things that happen. Not what would have happened, what should have happened, or what is going to happen. That's for the comment section. Now MJT has closed off comments in the past because such screeching got out of hand. He's been pretty accepting to wide ranging comments, not to browbeating counterattacks on those with biases which do not match your own, i.e., comment with a thoughtful opinion and leave it at that. Simple deal. Now, c'mon, gimme five, have a beer, and just ride a little lower in the saddle when you find yourself on a high horse.

ps- you've had some good points, but you kill the goodwill when you keep on beating people on the head with them

Posted by: allan at August 16, 2006 02:16 PM

MT:
I apologize for wasting your bandwidth sparring with MB. I should have known better , I have gotten into this circle jerk with him/her before and it has always amounted to two one sided conversations because there is never a response and I will take the advice given many posts ago to stop feeding the troll. Sorry. You have a great site. I learn quite a bit from it.

Posted by: kevin peters at August 16, 2006 02:26 PM

Okay, Michael, now you've done it. Flashback city.

Cu Chi, Vietnam, late 1967. My hooch is about 100 yards from four 155mm SP howitzers. They fire in support of US and ARVN troops on a more or less continuous basis. I sleep through it all for at least two months, even when they fire right over our hooch. Except, one time -- a C-ration can fell off a shelf and beaned me (no pun intended).

Dong Tam, Vietnam, mid-1968. I stand in the control tower watching mortar rounds hit an area about 150 yards away. Nothing between me and the bursting bombs but distance and 2 inches of teak.

Blase? Stupid? Both, perhaps. War is noisy and a guy has to sleep sometime. Or take a crap. Or have a quiet beer. Even if it ain't quiet.

Thanks for bringing that back. Heh.

Keep up the good work.

Jim

Posted by: Jim at August 16, 2006 02:34 PM

Good point, allan.

Though I think if you reread this comment thread, you will see quite a lot of screeching aimed at me, while I try to avoid ad hominem attacks:

I'm not talking about sides, you idiot.

Hehe.

Here's my main point:

There are a lot of people who are always for war for reasons that have nothing to do with the secruity of America or Israel. They are pro-war for financial, political or religious reason.

They want to "excite" their political base, land another military contract, draw more viewers to their media outlet, sell more copies of their "patriotic" song or many just feel living in a country at war gives meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives.

I actually had a friend tell me the other day that he hoped the cease-fire wouldn't hold because he liked wacthing the coverage better than pre-season NFL games.

He was counting on Israel and Hezbollah to fight (and provide him with entertainment) up until the regular NFL season starts...then a cease-fire would be fine by him.

Unfortunately..these self-interested proponents of was get the most attention these days. And their ad copy like:

Iran is bent on total domination of the Middle East

Katyushas can't be aimed at anything even remotely specific

Hezbollah is just as bad as al Qeada...and they're working together!

...gets repeated, without thought, even by people who actually care about the security of America and Israel...

Posted by: monkyboy at August 16, 2006 03:39 PM

This is a story for the blogosphere. It's about hanging out with journalists, like the one about drinking with Hitchens. Shouldn't yall be getting yous asses shot off or something?

Posted by: steve beadle at August 16, 2006 04:20 PM

MT:
Good writing from this trip, as well as from previous visits to Israel, Lebanon, Libya. Please keep it up.
There is a good discussion of the accuracy of Israel’s 155 SP artillery at http://www.thedonovan.com/ . He states “The M109-series guns the Israelis are using are designed to be able to hit within 0-20 meters of their aimpoint under standard conditions,” and then goes on to explain some of the conditions. I think it is clear to anyone who wants to look at facts that the Israeli artillery is targeting specific points, with the occasional area fire mission when in an immediate counter battery role. Israel is using force to eliminate a military threat that acted first. The tools and tactics of Hez make it equally clear that they are trying to eliminate Israel and its citizens just because they are (mostly) Jews.
MB brings up a good point with some of the photos, including tanks and APCs staging on city streets and a soldier’s rifle resting in a chair in a hotel lobby. If Hez targets the tanks or the soldier’s billets, how do you think the collateral damage would be reported? This is a serious question, not an attempt at snark. I have no reason to think the IDF is hiding behind civilians as Hez does, but they do sometimes intermingle.
Finally, when you get some reading time, try “The World Within War.” http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0674962028 Good discussions on the beauty of combat and firefights (as long as they are at a distance from you) and the process soldiers go through of fear - acclimatization to battle – proficiency – fatalism.

Posted by: Robert Macaulay at August 16, 2006 04:58 PM

Time for me to come out of observation, Buzz Buzz

WAR's OVER

And the Hezbollahs are still in Lebanon and many Lebanese servived and many of theme are now home-less and job-less. Lebanon took a beating. There has been many financial and other offers of support, from many other Countries and/or States. As well as the Hezbollah's.

My Question

Do they except the United States and other Democratic Countries and/or States. offers ( Which most likely will come with strings ) and revamp their government and state, To become a full pelage democracy
or
Do they except "Hezbollah's generosity". Which is at hand ( Yeah there's strings there to, But Lebanon is familiar with them ) and maintain a democracy as it was. MJTs famous quote, "almost-democracy"

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:06 AM | June 21, 2006

[…]

Many Lebanese were either too young to remember or too poor to have ever tasted the cosmopolitan life of the Beirut city center, so they never mourned its passing. But for those members of the Christian and Muslim bourgeoisie who really exploited the beautiful side of Beirut, life will never be quite the same again without it. True, they had never paid much attention to the Shiite, Palestinian, and even Christian underclasses upon whose backs Beirut’s joie de vivre rested, and they believed in the fantasy of Lebanese democracy much more than they ever should have, but they were my friends and I happened to be a witness when their world was murdered.

READ THIS PAGE for the full poem and 51 facts about Michael"

Back to observation mood,
high on the wall

Posted by: J.Fly at August 16, 2006 06:20 PM

Katyushas have the same guidance system as your run-of-the-mill July 4th bottle rocket.
You just aim it in the general direction of your choosing and let it rip.
Where it falls is anyone's guess.

My relatives in the Bekaa tell me that Hezbollah is actively engaging in relief to ALL Lebanese... Christians, Druze, Sunni, etc... not just Shia...
The Lebanese government is castrated and immobile and outside NGOs simply dont have the money and resources to compete with the Hez...

Me thinks Hezbollah isn't going away any time soon... if anything, they have more street cred than ever... Can't wait for the sequel...

Posted by: R. El Saghir at August 17, 2006 01:03 AM

"War Warps the Mind.. BOOM! BANG! CRASH!
for crying out loud this had my sides hurting. Really, you put me in stitches here. Sorry but for a former military man it sounded like an old comic book.

BOOM! BANG! CRASH! Gunshy Dog snoops around Heziville, stay tuned for more adventures boys and girls...

Give us some scoops Michael, I could not find any substance to this article. So you had shaky knees and are/were wet behind the ears. Is that all?

Posted by: Bobio at August 17, 2006 06:38 AM

"Can't wait for the sequel"...!?!

R. El Saghir, methinks you have inhaled a bit too much Agent Orange in your younger days.

Certain commenters seem to have this brazen assumption that the people of Israel have willingly chosen to embrace an agressive, militaristic culture. I'm sure, El Saghir, the soldiers you worked with put up a good front so as not to show weakness, but in my reality of knowing enough Israelis in the 18-21 year-old age range, they would, to a wo/man, much rather be in college and getting laid than putting on uniforms. And once they finish conscription they'd rather engage in, uh, 21st century endeavors like inventing Intel dual-core processors than suiting up for one month a year.

I'm curious if you could find a similar mindset in those unfortunate Shi'ites in Southern Lebanon. Putting it another way, if Ashkenzi (European-origin) Israeli Jews had the Palestinian-on-the-street mindset they'd still be in German and Polish refugee camps right now blowing up public buses.

But no, it's kind of hard for Israeli kids to go to school or work in a perpetual state of war declared by every single Islamic state at one time or another (and non-state actors such as Hez'bollah and the PLO), except for Jordan and Egypt today. I guess the collective Arab/Muslim world other than Egypt and Jordan needs something to do since they aren't winning Nobel prizes in anything anytime soon.

The entire Muslim world -- and most of the Christian world other than (currently) the US, Canada, Australia and, um, Vanatau -- has some sort of problem with Jews who can stand up for themselves, period. In fact, first Communism and now the Jewish State is the only reason that Christians and Muslims have not declared a direct 10th Crusade on each other over the past 60 years.

Is that the "sequel" you're itching for, El Saghir? Because if there's another 9/11 it looks like you're gonna get one, and it will be interesting to see how you'd negotiate fighting in a predominantly Christian army (including Lebanese Christians like General Abizaid). Now that's a blog I'd like to read!

Posted by: jjdynomite at August 17, 2006 07:05 AM

Keep up the awesome reporting and work!

Please visit my blog!

http://egyptianobserver.blogspot.com

Posted by: The Egyptian Observer at August 17, 2006 09:43 AM

Calm the fuck down... the comment I made regarding the "sequel" was a lame attempt at SARCASM... I wrote that in the spirit of SADNESS... as in... it is only going to get worse, not better... as in... I would prefer anything BUT the sequel...
good lord...

Sorry of this ruins your impression, but the IDF I trained with was as gung-ho a force as I've EVER seen... they were highly trained, highly motivated and they BELIEVED in their mission. Which made them all the more effective and dangerous.

So your argument is that the pretty much the entire Muslim world is essentially dumb and violent and has NOTHING else to do but work for the destruction of Israel? Meannwhile poor Israelis are annoyed by the buzzing flies while working on their Nobel prizes... that is your argument, right? Perhaps you should sit back for a moment and ponder on how incredibly bad that sounds.

Posted by: R. El Saghir at August 17, 2006 11:09 AM

monkeyboy said:

There are a lot of people who are always for war for reasons that have nothing to do with the secruity of America or Israel. They are pro-war for financial, political or religious reason.

This, and what follows it, is a textbook example of a straw man argument. Since you cannot answer your opponent's actual argument, you postulate a caricature of your opponent's argument and then argue with the caricature, which you have conveniently constructed to be so outrageous that even your meager skills at logic can top it.

The question is, who do you think you are fooling with this transparent tactic? For the most part, the people that post here are far too intelligent to fall for such a crude logical fallacy.

Posted by: Michael Smith at August 17, 2006 11:56 AM

Michael,

America now spends $500,000,000,000 a year on "defense."

That's a pretty big straw man.

Posted by: monkyboy at August 17, 2006 12:20 PM

MUST---NOT---FEED---TROLL....
ARRRRRGH!

Posted by: L at August 17, 2006 12:38 PM

"What are the odds that three famous people will all get taken out by one Hezbollah rocket? I mean, come on."

Actually, they are quite high Michael. Everyone knows that celebrities always die in threes. Now if you had had four celebrities surrounding you, then you would have been safe.

Posted by: Justin Levine at August 17, 2006 04:01 PM

MUST---NOT---FEED---TROLL....
ARRRRRGH!

I understand your point, L. And I am under no illusions about changing the troll’s mind. As a wise man once said, you cannot reason a person out of a position that they did not first reason themselves into. The only point in responding is to prevent third parties from falling for the troll’s falsehoods, misrepresentations, innuendos, smears, fallacies and other invalid forms of argument.

Posted by: Michael Smith at August 18, 2006 05:03 AM

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