Tag Archives: war

On Breaking the Cycle of Hate in Gaza and Israel

5 Aug

Gaza rubble

Dangerous are the men and women with nothing to lose. Count the people of Gaza among them.

 

They will have the world burn and themselves with it. They are accustomed to death, to being trapped and hunted, and will die just to make a point.

 

Gaza is a place often described as an open-air prison. The people can’t leave. They are caged. What goes in and out is controlled. Not even a fish can be taken from the sea. The view of that sea can ease the claustrophobia, but only if one ignores the war ships on the horizon.

 

Mohammed Suliman, a Palestinian human rights worker in Gaza, compares the plight of his people to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. In the Huffington Post he writes:

 

“The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto ‘to live and die in dignity.’ As I sit in my own besieged ghetto, I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation.”

 

There is nothing unnatural in what the Gazans do. In their situation, most of us would do the same. We don’t realize that, and won’t admit to that, only because we can’t see ourselves living such a life, can’t even imagine that such a life exists.

 

If the Palestinians in Gaza were docile, their conditions would be better.

Gaza map2The blockade of Gaza is justified as way to combat Palestinian terrorism. And so in striking out at those who created the blockade, Gaza must face its own terror.

 

Israel says it will make Gaza pay an “intolerable price,” which it can. Hamas says it will destroy Israel, which it cannot.

 

Hamas, which rules Gaza, sends men into Israel with guns and bombs. It sends in barrages of largely ineffective missiles. In return, Israel destroys Gaza neighborhoods with jet fighters and missiles, effective ones.

 

The death toll is lopsided. In Gaza, schools, hospitals, homes and places of refuge are bombed. So-called “human shields” die rather than shield. Maternity hospitals become morgues.

 

What Israel sees as Palestinian terrorism, the Palestinians see as resistance. There is no common ground for negotiations. This lack of understanding is ironic, since the Hamas approach was used by Jewish freedom fighters in their battle for independence with Britain.

 

What both sides can understand, however, is the preponderance of hate and the need for vengeance and retribution. There is no thought or concern for humanity.

 

While American critics of Israel are being silenced with charges of anti-Semitism, and while real and vicious anti-Semitism grows in sympathetic Europe, I try to remember humanity.

 

I try to avoid the obscuring cloak of religion and see people simply as people and tragedy simply as tragedy. I ignore old scores but recognize the destructive dynamics of power and politics and the readiness to kill to maintain power.

 

I try to see the many victims of power, and the people who must rally around it for protection and as a way to secure the basic necessities of life.

 

With this kind of view, perhaps some answers can be found. Yet the situation grows increasingly complex.

 

There is new instability in the Middle East that is making matters worse. A growing number of Arab nations see Hamas and the Islamic movement as a threat. Like Israel, they want Hamas neutralized. And so these countries, mainly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, provide back channel support and momentum in the campaign against Gaza. In a way, we are witnessing a proxy war in the Sunni-Shiite fight for regional dominance, which is further complicated by an intra-Sunni rivalry.

 

As a result, hostility is layered upon hostility, making resolution much harder to achieve.

 

When the current war ends, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia may find – to their disappointment — that Hamas actually is stronger. After absorbing such terrific blows, it may win concessions pushed by the United Nations and the international community. Some of the borders around Gaza could open.

 

With people being able to get TVs, medicine, motorbikes and much more of what they need and desire, a degree of calm and possibly optimism will set in. The intelligent thing for Israel and Egypt to do is to go beyond any negotiated settlement and open borders even wider and increase that optimism. They should rebuild schools, hospitals and neighborhoods. They should initiate cultural exchanges and promote commerce and trade.

 

Gaza should be made a decent place to live.

 

Regardless, some Palestinian fighters will continue their attacks, keeping Israel under threat. But slowly, very slowly, sympathy for Hamas could shift to a more accommodating faction. With hate and revenge so insidious, nothing short of a Gandhi-esque approach will work in Gaza. And it will take time.

 

As a big assist, America’s warlike attitudes in these conflicts must end. American Jewish organization and American Jews in general can and should play a part in a new peace initiative. Likewise, Christian organizations must seek to heal and stop seeing Arab progress as a threat to Biblical prophecy. All who value religion need to recognize the importance and necessity of brotherhood and the sanctity of life.

 

A continuation of current policy only guarantees resistance, rebellion, instability, unhappiness, death and a bankruptcy of our collective spirit.

 

Mohammed al-Banna, a Palestinian who in one morning lost nine of his in-laws, told the New York Times, “The aggression here is creating a new generation of youth who want revenge for all the crimes.”

There is no future in this. The cycle of hate and death needs to be broken. The outstanding question is: Who or what has the courage, stamina, patience, temperament and love of mankind to do it?

By Lanny Morgnanesi

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Afghanistan: Will lessons be learned?

13 Oct

When the war in Afghanistan started 11 years ago, I got a haircut.

My barber was a former Russian intelligence officer who served his country in Afghanistan. I wanted him to assess America’s chances.

“We leveled the place,” he said. “We turned it into a parking lot. We destroyed it. We did everything we could, and we still lost. You will, too.”

Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan, after an attack on a camel caravan from Pakistan

There was a time when the United States, for the sake of its image, could not leave a conflict without winning. Politicians refused to be blamed for a lost war. In the Vietnam era, with that war’s purpose forgotten and everyone tired of the slaughter, there were government recommendations to “declare victory and leave.”

Which is pretty much what President Nixon did.

We seem to have progressed since then and no longer require victory in war or even face saving. After $500 billion and 2,000 lives, our role in Afghanistan is ending. There will be no “Mission Accomplished” banners. Some who fought there aren’t even sure what the mission was.

But we still retain this idea that well-armed, well-financed invaders can defeat a local population that doesn’t want to be occupied and has a history of expelling invaders by simply not giving up.

Some in Washington, for sure, would like another test in Iran.

The United States attained its freedom by fighting a guerrilla war against a powerful, well-trained, well-armed, advanced nation. Yet we fail to recognize the power of the underdog or even devise the proper tactics against him.

Better to take the advice in a New York Times review of the book, THE GREAT GAMBLE: The Soviet War in Afghanistanby Gregory Feifer:

“Never underestimate fanatics who know the terrain.”

Now, with a lot less money to spend on arbitrary wars, we may finally take that lesson to heart.

By Lanny Morgnanesi

 

In a fight with a laser-guided missile, don’t bring a motorcycle

7 Jul

By Lanny Morgnanesi

I think I’m trying to make a point with what follows. I’m just not sure what that point is. I will admit that for me the information I’m offering suggests some kind of gross, cosmic imbalance.

A Star Wars fanatic might call it a disturbance in the Force.

While Americans may not want to spend much on universal health care, we do spend a great deal to kill, whether we want to or not. Below is the long, indirect money trail that ultimately led to the execution of a man on a motorcycle. Intelligence agents had determined that he was a Taliban commander with plans to bomb a government building in Afghanistan. Details can be found in the New York Times.

Here’s the money trail:

 

$4.5 billion was spent on an aircraft carrier that assists in the Afghan war.

$100 million was spent for an F/A-18 strike fighter that sits on the carrier.

$100,000 was spent for an AGM-65E laser-guided missile aboard the fighter plane.

$160,000 was spent on the sortie that took the fighter off the carrier, into Afghanistan and up against the man on the motorcycle.

 

Having received his orders, the fighter pilot located Abdul Qayum riding along a dirt road on the back of bike driven by a very unlucky man. The fighter approached in a way that prevented Abdul Qayum and his driver from either seeing or hearing it.

The pilot released the AGM-65E laser-guided missile and accurately struck the motorcycle head-on, probably with about the force of a freight train.

There was very little left of the bodies or the motorcycle.

The world didn’t come to a halt because of this.  It was a simple consequence of war.

Still, it poses an important question:

Did our government do right or did it do wrong by Abdul Qayum and the American people? More specifically, is it immoral or just stupid to spend so much money and use so much technology to kill a single person? If so, what cost would be both moral and smart, and who determines that?

In my heart, I wish I had answers. Do you?

The hidden scope of war

3 Jan

The horrors of war are easily depicted in photographs of violence and inhumanity. Recently I saw another kind of war photo. In some respects, its relative tranquility was more unsettling than battlefield scenes.

The aerial picture was of trucks, perhaps hundreds of them, all carrying fuel. They were not moving. Rather, they were creating a monumental traffic jam on an expansive thoroughfare through Karachi, Pakistan. They owned the road. Only two or three other cars can be seen.

Their fuel was going to feed our war in Afghanistan. With so many trucks about, it was difficult to believe this part of the city could be concerned with anything else.

I found it startling to see that much fuel assembled in a single moment, in a single day, for a single purpose. It reminded me of Herodotus’ report on the massive Persian army that invaded Greece. In his account, he relates how the camping soldiers would routinely drink three or four rivers dry.

An exaggeration for sure, but, like the truck photo, a telling description of war’s magnitude.

The photo I saw was in the Dec. 19 Bloomberg Businessweek.  It sent three thoughts coursing through my mind:

What incredible resolve, determination and expense it takes to wage war.

  1. Americans can never know or measure the effects, good and bad, that the non-violent side of war has on a primitive economy and its culture, or what happens when it suddenly goes away.
  2. If the U.S. didn’t have to move all those fuel trucks across the world, how many more roads, bridges and schools could be built at home, and would Social Security and Medicare even be a problem?

One photo did this to me. I suggest you take a look and maybe read the accompanying article, “Convoy of Chaos.” Please comment and criticize.

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