Saturday, December 16, 2006
CHRISTMAS IN BEIRUT
Journal Entries from the Battlefield
BY Brian G. Lukas
Editor’s note: The name Beirut became a one-word symbol for the war torn Middle East of the late 1970s. Civil war had erupted in Lebanon in 1975, the result of clashes between Christian and Muslim groups, including members of the Druse religious sect and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and had escalated over several years. In 1982, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon; the two countries had already fought south of Beirut. As well, Syria had occupied the country since 1976. In 1983, the United Nations dispatched a multinational peace-keeping force, including U.S. Marines, to Beirut. The Marines left Beirut within a year because of terrorist attacks; on Oct. 23,1983, a truck loaded with explosives crashed into the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit Headquarters compound, killing 241 Marines.
“The Marines in Beirut seem to have gotten lost in the history books . . . they had a difficult mission,” says TV photographer Brian Lukas. He, along with news anchorwoman Angela Hill and editorialist Phil Johnson, all of WWL-TV/Channel 4, traveled to Beirut in late 1983 to cover Louisiana Marines stationed there at Christmastime. Lukas kept journal entries of his tense times there, excerpted here.
Christmas 1983 was just a few weeks away. I would travel to Beirut with Angela Hill and Phil Johnson to film and edit stories on local Marines from the New Orleans area. It was a time before portable satellite uplinks and the Internet, so we carried videotaped messages from the Marines’ families back in the United States. Our ambitious itinerary also included production of a documentary about this war-torn area. But as fighting between the various factions escalated, that idea was abandoned. Armed militias set up roadblocks in various sections of Beirut. The Islamic Jihad decided to add another element to its arsenal of terror and brutality: kidnapping Westerners.
•If there is hell on earth, it is here in Beirut. At the same time that I arrived in Beirut, the French Embassy was hit by a car bomb, with 20 people killed. Later that night, a French military base was blasted by a bomb-laden truck. Ten French soldiers were killed, and 23 were hurt. The explosion lit up the whole area. Terror – it is sheer terror. I can see it on the faces of the residents who walk cautiously on the streets. Here in Beirut, teenagers carry assault rifles, mainly M-16s. On the streets, women cradle their children tightly in their arms, begging any Westerners for help. The city smells like death. There is a stench of rotting corpses and smoldering trash strewn about from buildings destroyed by the fighting in the streets. To realize the inhumanity of war, you have to look deep in the faces of the civilian population. Then, if you dare, look deep into their eyes. There you will find the horror of war absorbed deep within the soul. I look into many eyes here in Beirut.
•In the eyes of the young Marines, I can see the uneasy and uncomfortable situation they are in. The U.S. Marines’ position at the Beirut International Airport keeps them under daily sniper and artillery attack. I remember when I was in Washington, D.C., for a White House press function when many of these same Marines from the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit invaded Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean. Now I am here in hell with them. The Marines, politically, are not invaders but are so-called “welcome guests,” strategically placed in Lebanon on a peace-keeping mission with the French and Italians as part of a multinational force. Our Marine contact is Capt. Dennis Brooks, the Marine public-information officer on the base, always “spring-loaded to say yes.” He remarked that the various militias near the Marine positions use their tanks like small arms fire: They quickly maneuver the tanks in firing position, release a shell and maneuver back quickly, then repeat the operation. Maximum destruction, I thought to myself. Total destruction was evident when we passed the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps – hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palestinians were killed here: men, women, and children. Our driver remarked, solemnly, that they were executed. The refugee camps are leveled, nothing remains, and where the victims of this civil war sought relief from the terror of war, only the bare reddish-brown earth remains visible from the nearby dusty road. Their graves are not even marked. It is as if they were never born.
•At night there is no time to dream; the evenings are fitful with the sounds of rifle fire. My bed is level with the window. Crazy, I thought, there are snipers on the roofs – one shot through the window and that’s it. I tried to sleep on the floor, but there is no sleep at night. The sounds of sniper fire and the thud of muffled mortar and artillery rounds are trying to find any “peace-keeper’s” position near the Avenue de Paris, the long, winding road facing the Mediterranean Sea.
•At one time Beirut played the Paris of the Middle East; now it plays a sorrowful tune of despair. My hotel in Beirut is owned by the Nassai family, Palestinian owners of the Commodore Hotel. The Commodore Hotel is on the Muslim side of Beirut. On the Christian side, the owner of the Alexandre failed to pay protection money to the thugs and every conceivable terrorist seeking consideration for the hotel’s existence. As a result, somebody exploded a huge car bomb in its parking lot, destroying the hotel. I couldn’t help but notice the line of cars ringing the Commodore Hotel here in Muslim West Beirut. Sometimes the cars were two or three deep. I quickly learned that these vehicles were buffers to prevent any car-bomb attacks on the Commodore. The ring of vehicles and payoffs couldn’t stop the instruments of distant destruction. My hotel room in the Commodore is on the fourth floor, room 405. I could not enter the room without noticing the shift in the door and several large cracks running down the length of the wall. A little later that day, I learned that room 405, my room, had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade just two weeks earlier.
•There is no sanctuary in this city. It’s a sad place and a sad time. Beirut is a city defined by fear, a city bisected by the green line – Christians in the East, Muslims in the West. This is a noisy, depressing, dangerous and disconcerting place to work. I tried not to sleep last night. It’s been several nights since I’ve had any sleep. The last thing I wanted was to be asleep when a car bomb went off and then to be buried under the rubble of concrete and steel from the top five floors. I often fall asleep at the dinner table. Veteran journalists from Europe and the U.S. networks in the hotel remark that this is one of the scariest wars they’ve covered. There is no “commuting” to this war; death and destruction are all around us.
Blackened pockmarks of war are carved into the façade of every building. The city is gravely wounded. And now a new threat is employed by the terrorists: They are kidnapping journalists and teachers at the American University in Beirut. A note was posted on the front bulletin board as we left the hotel. It was a warning from the Islamic Jihad. In very simple words, the note said that all Westerners must leave Beirut or “we will make the ground under your feet move.” It was a direct threat to destroy the hotel where the Western press reported the war. This is the same group that claimed responsibility for bombing the U.S. Marine base here in Beirut, and the U.S. embassies in Beirut and Kuwait.
•The war is escalating now. (A few months later, the Commodore Hotel would be completely destroyed by shelling and car bombs.) The American Embassy was heavily damaged by another car-bomb attack. Forty people were injured, and eight were killed in the suicide attack. The front of the embassy building, facing the seashore, is covered in what appears to be a seven-story green shroud. It hides the embassy’s exposed interior from probing eyes or people that pass through the zigzagged row of 55-gallon metal drums filled with dirt. The metal drums are defenses against another suicide attack. Marines are positioned throughout the building. Another contingent of Marines is stationed just across the street from the embassy. An American flag blew quietly in the wind next to a Marine guard watching the pedestrian movement in front of the embassy. The image of the American flag and the Marine standing with the sun setting on the Mediterranean Sea gave the drab gray seashore kind of a splendid appearance. In a melancholy way I felt a strong connection with home. The obvious presence of the American flag waving in the warm breeze made me feel very thankful that I live in and would return to the United States shortly. And if there is ever an image of the Marines in Beirut that will be forever stamped on my mind, it is that one single Marine and the American flag rippling in the wind next to him.
•On the corniche, in front of the American Embassy, the Marines are routinely targeted by snipers. It becomes very nerve-racking that at any time death may come by a sniper. As I filmed the area I noticed a small bunker with several Marines standing guard. One of them was Cpl. Brad Pellegrin from Slidell. It is the Christmas season, and he is making the best of a very bad situation by lining his bunker with makeshift ornaments. I forgot that we were nearing Christmas.
We were carrying messages from Cpl. Pellegrin’s family to give to him. It was a videotaped message to him from his wife, mother and child. As we showed the message to him I noticed an interesting effect on the other Marines . . . they gathered closer together to hear the family’s greeting to Brad. Closer the Marines came when Brad’s son said, “Daddy, I love you and miss you.” We played the videotape again and again. That’s when I realized that Brad’s family was now family to all the Marines that gathered to watch his videotape in front of the destroyed American Embassy. His family was their family; his son was their son or daughter. The Marines had a Christmas family now . . . and it was amazing to witness a little bit of loneliness disappear as they looked on. Christmas is family . . . even in Beirut.
•The makeshift Christmas ornaments lining the bunkers in front of the destroyed U.S. embassy were a welcome relief. It was a simple reminder of the hope that peace existed. Off in the distance, on the Mediterranean Sea, the sunset cast a shadow on the battleship New Jersey. The broad, flickering light from her was the firepower from her massive guns unleashed on the Druse militias, who rocketed the Marine base at the International Airport on Beirut’s southern edge. We would find out that a Marine was severely wounded; later he died.
•Overnight, hooded Shiite Muslims and their Druse allies drove Lebanese army units from most of their checkpoints on the Muslim West Beirut commercial thoroughfares and residential neighborhoods. I woke up to a very loud mechanical clanking just outside my hotel. The sounds of Lebanese military tanks rolling pass the hotel window quickly eliminated the little rest I hoped to get.
•Reports indicate at least 90 people killed last night and more than 300 wounded in the fighting; in just two days more than 160 people were killed, mostly civilians caught in the cross-fire. It’s a sickness – hatred is a cancer destroying everything here.
•At the Marine base this morning I could see the visible impact of the shelling by the U.S. 6th Fleet on the mountain range surrounding the base. Huge billows of smoke rose as the shells hit their targets. Cpls. Herbert McKnight and Greg Nelson, both from the New Orleans area, said the Marine base was shelled by rockets overnight. Herbert was stationed in a sandbag bunker on the rooftop of the base. This bunker, accessible only by a ladder, is the highest point on the Marine base. It also appears to be a very vulnerable position, an obvious target for a sniper. Cpl. Nelson, from Slidell, manned a .50-caliber machine gun overlooking the Kalda mountain range near the rear of the base. Cpl. Brian Campbell, only 19 years old and from Lafayette, was quickly unloading supplies from a helicopter. The copters didn’t stay long . . . they couldn’t – mortars usually found their targets. Brian, Greg and Herbert, these young Marines, were reminders that wars are fought by the very young, often placed in horrific circumstances and forced to grow up quickly. Several times I asked them to move their helmet up so I could see their eyes while filming. “Son, can you move your helmet up just a little?” I said. I would later say, “Marine, would you push your helmet back just a little?” Eighteen, 19 years old . . . here in hell, when others of their age are probably wrapping Christmas presents and acting goofy back home.
But on the Marine base at the Beirut International Airport, the one focal point no one can pass without some reflection of what happened months earlier is the huge crater. That crater once housed the Marines in a four story building. Every time I moved past it, I thought of the young men like Greg, Brian and Herbert, and then I said a small prayer for the families of the 241 Marines that died here.
•The Marine base alarm is sounding. The Druse militias are firing mortars now. In a few seconds, we must make the decision to stay on the Marine base during the shelling and miss our satellite deadline or leave and walk into the chaos and madness of the streets. We decide to leave. A condition-1 alert has been initiated . . . there are incoming mortar rounds in the distance, and the front gate will be locked shortly. The Marine base is the target.
We had to leave quickly. But as I left the Marine base I noticed a small memorial in front of the former Marine barracks. Despite the imminent danger, I couldn’t help but stop, notice and film the small bouquet of light blue flowers ringed around a Marine-issued camouflage hat. Above the flowers was a small, white sign facing east, toward the city of Beirut. The small sign simply described the Marines’ mission in Beirut: To the “24th MAU, they came in peace.”
It’s a dangerous world out there. •
Copyright New Orleans Publishing Group, L.L.C.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
NEW YORK (AFP) - Two men have been charged with terrorist offences in New York for allegedly providing access to a television station banned in the United States and linked to the Shiite militia group Hezbollah, prosecutors said.
Pakistani-born Javed Iqbal, 42, and US citizen Saleh Elahwal, 53, are accused of conspiring to provide viewers with satellite broadcasts by Al-Manar, an Arabic-language station seen as a mouthpiece for the Lebanese group.
They face a sentence of up to 110 years in jail if convicted on the charges of providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organisation.
According to prosecutors, Iqbal and Elahwal ran a satellite television business and allegedly offered to provide Al-Manar to an undercover agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation
The station, which was listed as a terrorist entity by US authorities in March, allegedly paid thousands of dollars to Iqbal's firm in return.
Iqbal was arrested on related charges in August.
Court documents released at the time said that Iqbal was interviewed at New York's Kennedy airport in May on returning from a trip to Lebanon.
An FBI agent entered his satellite television store some two weeks later, when Iqbal was alleged to have offered broadcasts of the banned channel.
The indictment further alleges that the two shipped satellite receivers to Al-Manar.
"Javed Iqbal and Saleh Elahwal engaged in transactions that support the terrorist organisations Hezbollah and Al-Manar, and did so for financial profit," US attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement.
"As terrorist organisations become more sophisticated, it is critical that we respond using all the enforcement tools the law provides."
Sunday, November 19, 2006
From Somalia and al-Qaeda to Hamas and American Hizballah Cells
By Steve Schippert
One might ask: “Why should the average American bother reading yet another lengthy report on the threat posed by Iran?” Or, more to the point: “Why should I care? Why should I be concerned? Iran is in the Middle East and seems bent on Israel.”
The answer is because Iran’s Hizballah has active terrorist cells in the United States. This, coupled with Iran’s role as the Central Banker of International Terrorism, should compel the average American to take Iranian threats seriously – such as Ahmadinejad’s recent open Jihad ultimatum to Europe. Created by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and responsible for (among other attacks) the bombing of the US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut which killed nearly 300, Hizballah’s presence in the United States is well documented. While Iran openly states that the ‘Zionist Regime’ should be “wiped off the map” and pledges to do just that – as do Hamas and others – even Israel is referred to as the ‘Little Satan’ while America remains the ‘Great Satan.’
Friday, November 17, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Robert T. Jordan
For modern Muslim reformists, a 21st Century interpretation of the Qur'an assures that: Man was created free, with a mind and a mission on earth to do good and avoid evil. His allegiance is to God and no one else. God will judge man for his deeds in the hereafter –- not anyone else. Man bears full responsibility for his deeds. Thus, freedom and responsibility means accountability. If these are the bases of the relationship with God Almighty, it should be the bases for all human relations in this world as well.
As Islamic fascist groups, such as Al Aqsa, Abu Sayaf, The Egyptian Brotherhood, HAMAS, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, rein terrorism throughout the world, the question arises as to why Islam’s moderates do not restrain this supposedly minority faction that high jacked their religion.
I posed these questions at a church briefing about Islam by an Arab Christian convert. “What happened to the Islamic reformists? Why aren’t the Islamic moderates responding with outrage?”
Our guest speaker smiled wryly, making a motion as if casting a fishing line into the water. “They are in the pond,” he said. “And al-Qaeda fishes for them. If they do not covert, they are killed.”
What I was referring to is a struggling group of moderate Moslems who urge fellow Moslems to initiate a modern interpretation of the Qur'anic text that would be in harmony with 21st Century ethics and civil thought.
The reformists base their call for Moslems to respect freedom of thought upon their interpretation that Allah (God) refrained from providing any worldly punishment any deviation or change of heart or mind on matters of religious faith. They assert that any penalty for such would be the province of God on judgment day.
Saad E. Ibrahim, in his article: Democratization and Islamic Reformation, points to many Qur'anic verses where Mohammad is commanded to abstain from harsh manners in advocating the new faith of Islam:
"Invite all to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious, for the Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His path." [Verse 125, Sura 16, al Nahl] "Those who spend freely, whether in prosperity or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon all men; for God loves those who do good." [Verse 134, Sura 3, Al Omran]
“In the last ten years, Muslim militants killed thirty times more fellow Muslims than non-Muslims. In other words, the wrath of Islamic zealots is more directed against other Muslims, whom they consider ‘corrupt’ or ‘decadent’.’” Ibrahim says. “The question, therefore, is, what are the roots of this madness, and whether something can be done about it?”
But Islamist radicals want to ignore these parts of the Qur'an. They want to take all of Islam back to the 7th Century’s strict punitive controls and ignore any parts of the Qur'an that support freedom and equality other than their limited view.
Former Tunisian Education Minister Mohammed al-Sharafi told a gathering of Moslem moderates in 2004 that, "if a child learns an idealized view of the past that sanctifies its history and tradition, then looks around and sees in society what goes against what he's learned, he will have some sort of a schizophrenia that might lead to violence." This disconnect is easily exploited as the terrorist leaders prey upon naïve youths to sacrifice themselves for their idealized goal of one global theocratic state.
Ibrahim wonders which version of the Qur'an will be taught to future generations.
The Charter of Medina
The Charter of Medina embodies the Prophet Mohammed's understanding and practice of pluralism. Upon his flight from Mecca to Yathrib in 622, he proposed a new name for it -- "civicus," or "medina" in Arabic. Muslim newcomers were to co-exist peacefully with non-Muslim communities and tribes in the same city. A written Charter negotiated and signed by the elders of 17 distinct groups in Civicus (The Charter of Medina) asserts the basic values and rights of the peaceful coexistence, including:
• Freedom of religious belief and worship for each and all;
• equality in all worldly rights and obligations,
• communal settlement of disputes, and
• shared responsibility in the defense of Civicus against outsider threats.
Coming nearly six centuries before the Magna Carta (1215), the Charter of Medina is probably the earliest formulation of the basis of what later on defined "civil society."
Conservative Reaction to Reform
Where Islamic reformists see peace and harmony in their modern interpretations of the Qur'an, conservative activists see danger. Ibrahim points out that conservatives closely allied with the heads of Islamic governments control all media and education. They also use Islamic law to proscribe, intimidate and persecute any reformists brave enough to speak out.
Ibrahim explains that the militant Islamists response to the reformist movement of the 1970s was to take direct action against the reformists by intimidating, assaulting or assassinating them.
“Two dramatic cases in point were the kidnapping and killing of Sheikh al Dhabi in July 1977 and the assassination in daylight of Dr. Faray Fouda, shortly after a public debate with an arch-conservative sheikh in June 1992,” Ibrahim explains: “Worse still is when the arch-conservatives incite the state to persecute Islamic reformists. The most dramatic case in point is the execution of four leading Sudanese Islamic reformists, known as the Republican Brothers, in January 1985, on charges of ‘heresy’ and ‘apostasy’. Their religious crime was their public rejection of the Shari'aa, as handed down from the ulama of ten centuries ago.”
What Must Be Done
The Islamic reformists stress that the Qur'an must be reinterpreted from an “ancient” 10th Century understanding into modern terms that harmonize with current thought.
They point to the dark periods of Christianity, such as the Inquisition and the crusades, when church and state were inseparable. They point out that “pure spirituality” came within the Christian faith only after the Reformation, which introduced the concept of separation of church and state.
That will only come through a democratization of Islamic governments that adopt concepts of individual liberty and the separation between religious belief and governmental law.
But democracy alone is not the answer. As seen in Palestine and Lebanon, democratic elections may be co-opted when fanatical factions are capable of unduly influencing the process by external support and influence.
The seeds of moderate thought and individual freedom cannot thrive very well in the hostile environment of Islamic fascism. But evidence exists that the planted seeds only need encouragement and support to flourish. The alternative is enslavement or death.
(Robert Jordan is a Former PAO Major with the United States Marine Corps and Beirut Veteran)
Sunday, September 24, 2006
U.S. Marine Jordan tells of surviving suicide bombing
By Masha Rifkin
Sep 18 2006
Deckhead: U.S. Marine Jordan tells of surviving suicide bombing
On October 23, 1983, a Hezbollah suicide bomber drove a truck loaded with explosives to Beirut International Airport, where the U.S. Marines had set up their headquarters. Once outside of the barracks, the suicide bomber detonated his explosives, resulting in the deaths of over 241 servicemen. Major Robert Jordan, a former marine and homeland security expert who spoke yesterday about his experiences, was one of the few survivors of the attack.
At the time, Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war and had asked the Marines to intervene and evacuate the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
According to Jordan, the Marines had just begun to succeed in this task, when Hezbollah thought they would be able to silence them and send them home with their tail between their legs.
“This was the moment of truth,” Jordan said referring to the aforementioned attack. “We were being tested culturally, politically and militarily.” Soon after the attack, President Ronald Reagan decided to withdraw from Lebanon — an action that Jordan disagreed with. “Folks, we failed that test,” he criticized. “[If we had passed it] there might not have been a Gulf War, or Somalia or Kosovo.”
Jordan explained that Islamists “do not want to compromise, they want to re-establish the caliphate as it was in 1675.” To all those who view negotiation as the only solution to conflict, Jordan said, “War is a failure of diplomacy, and we should use it sparingly. But when it is used, it should involve only total force and total victory.”
Jordan emphasized that terrorism is real and is a continuous threat. “People are afraid to point fingers and make accusations … but we have to get back to reality.” He said that while the American public argues over whether or not the Bush Administration entered Iraq for oil, Iran and other Islamist nations are “using oil money to finance terrorism.”
According to Jordan, many Americans sit too complacently denying the idea of Islamo-fascism, while future terrorists infiltrate our society and universities. “As weird as it sounds, Osama bin Laden did us a favor — he exposed what’s going on,” Jordan said. Still, Jordan believes the American public forgets too quickly. One should “be open minded enough to educate oneself to the reality of what’s going on. There are people in the world who don’t care about you and me…just power and control,” he stressed.
“This one is for all the marbles,” Jordan continued. If Americans stay on their path of denial, Islamism will soon infiltrate American society, and we will be given “three choices: convert to Islam, pay a huge punitive tax for living under their regime, or [Islamists] will be happy to liberate your head.”
So what can we do to make sure that our heads and necks stay attached? “You should not be intimidated or terrified by terrorism,” Jordan reiterated. “You should understand it.” In his lecture, Jordan paraphrased a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “It is criminal for our generation to pass on our duties and obligations to the next.” Jordan expressed that his generation had failed in that regard — by the marines’ failure to finish their job in 1983 and in other instances. Now, our generation and the generations of our children and grandchildren have received the burden of living in, and attempting to eradicate, the time of terrorism.
“Your responsibility is to teach future generations.” He further explained that he is “tapped” into the Department of Homeland Security and sees regularly how terrorist plots are neutralized: “People like you and me see suspicious activity and send it in to the authorities.” He then described, “Specialists then analyze those that are deemed of the most importance.”
Jordan continued that moderate Muslims, who understand the regime they live in, are either silenced or killed, but to successfully win the war on terror, their voices must be supported. He referenced a friend who said, “They are in the pond — and al-Qaeda is fishing for them.”
Overall, students seemed to react positively to the lecture.
“It was interesting to hear the perspective of someone from the military community and therefore personally and intimately involved in the Middle East conflict,” said Daniel Balson ’07.
Tatyana Rozenberg ’07 said, “It was very refreshing to have someone like Major Jordan on campus. It seems most people today, especially on college campuses, are blind to the reality of what’s going on.”
By Masha Rifkin at Sep 18 2006 - 11:31pm
Friday, July 28, 2006
Hezbollah leader said to be hiding in Iranian Embassy
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
July 28, 2006
Intelligence reports indicate the leader of Hezbollah is hiding in a foreign mission in Beirut, possibly the Iranian Embassy, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.
Israeli military and intelligence forces are continuing to hunt for Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary-general, who fled his headquarters in Beirut shortly before Israeli jets bombed the building last week.
"We think he is in an embassy," said one U.S. official with access to the intelligence reports, while Israeli intelligence speculates Sheik Nasrallah is hiding in the Iranian Embassy.
If confirmed, the reports could lead to an Israeli air strike on the embassy, possibly leading to a widening of the conflict, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Foreign embassies are sovereign territory and an attack on an embassy could be considered an act of war.
But other reports from the region indicate Sheik Nasrallah may be in Damascus. A Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Seyassah, reported from the Syrian capital yesterday that Sheik Nasrallah was seen moving through the city with Syrian guards in an intelligence agency car, Associated Press reported. He was dressed in civilian clothes, not his normal clerical robe.
The newspaper quoted Syrian government sources as saying Iranian national security council official Ali Larijani was in Damascus and was to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Sheik Nasrallah.
Hezbollah officials in Beirut said they did not know whether Sheik Nasrallah had gone to Damascus.
Asked about the reports of Sheik Nasrallah in Syria, a U.S. official said they are unconfirmed, but noted that because of the proximity, it is easy to travel between Lebanon and Damascus.
U.S. officials confirmed the existence of intelligence reports about Sheik Nasrallah hiding in a Beirut embassy after Israel's Ma'ariv newspaper reported Wednesday that the Hezbollah leader was thought to be in the Iranian Embassy. The newspaper, quoting intelligence officials, said Sheik Nasrallah has set up an operations center in an embassy basement that is coordinating Hezbollah attacks.
However, the U.S. officials said the intelligence reports have not confirmed Sheik Nasrallah's precise location.
Iran's embassy in Beirut is located in the Shi'ite stronghold known as the Bir Hasan section, in the western part of the city.
The embassy also is a major base for Iranian intelligence and is used by large numbers of Ministry of Intelligence and Security agents, as well as by senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran's shock troops that are linked to international terrorist activities.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The Israelis, like today, needed to defend themselves from unwanted aggression against their people. Israel decided that if Lebanon would not, or could not, get these radical Islamists out of Lebanon, then Israel would have to do it.
The PLO , Hezbollah, and others, backed by the Iranians, Syrians, and others, rocketed the Israeli border towns on a daily basis. The tanks rolled, the warplanes flew, and the next thing the World knew was, Israel was taking over Lebanon.
The hand wringing began. "Oh my God, how could they? The Jews are expanding their empire!" the Worlds Press spoke, demanding Israel stop and withdraw from Southern Lebanon. Enter the United States.
Poor Arafat was trapped in Beirut and about to be taken by the Israelis. "Save Him!" the World cried. "Don't let him fall into the evil hands of the Israelis" The pressure mounted what would the U.S. do?
Ronald Reagan sent in the Marines. In August the Marines escorted the criminal Arafat out of Lebanon. Case closed. Marines, pack up .
Hold it, calm down, I hear something in Southern Lebanon, what's that?
Some Christian Militia have slaughtered some Shia's? Say it aint so! We can't have that, send in the Marines! Well, the rest is history, but does history record the thanks the Marines got for saving the criminal Arafat? No. The thanks we received was the largest non nuclear explosion to date. A truck loaded with explosives driven by a madman, trained and financed by the Shia Hezbollah regime of Iran. The truck was gladly donated by Syria.
Now some 23 years later the same thing is happening. Hezbollah has become a parasite on Lebanon, sucking the blood of the Country as they struggle to regain the Lebanon of old. Just as Lebanon was coming out of it's coma, the parasite Hezbollah, strikes it down.
The U.S. has been here before. Now, it will be different. Now, we have seen the fanatic as what he really is. September 11th will not be forgotten. Unfortunately, the 23rd of October 1983 was, and we did not learn from it.
This time around lets wake up and realize that we can't save Lebanon from itself. The only people that can save Lebanon are the true Lebanese and they are in short supply
Monday, June 26, 2006
KHOBAR TOWERS: 10 YEARS LATER
By Michelle Malkin ·
Louis Freeh, writing in the WSJ earlier this week, looks back:
On June 25, 1996, Iran again attacked America at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, exploding a huge truck bomb that devastated Khobar Towers and murdered 19 U.S. airmen as they rested in their dormitory. These young heroes spent every day risking their lives enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq; that is, protecting Iraqi Shiites from their own murderous tyrant. When I visited this horrific scene soon after the attack, I watched dozens of dedicated FBI agents combing through the wreckage in 120-degree heat, reverently handling the human remains of our brave young men. More than 400 of our Air Force men and women were wounded in this well-planned attack, and I was humbled by their courage and spirit. I later met with the families of our lost Khobar heroes and promised that we would do whatever was necessary to bring these terrorists to American justice. The courage and dignity these wonderful families have consistently exemplified has been one of the most powerful experiences of my 26 years of public service.
The FBI's investigation of the Khobar attack was extraordinarily persistent, indeed relentless. Our fallen heroes and their families deserve nothing less. Working in close cooperation with the White House, State Department, CIA and Department of Defense, I made a series of trips to Saudi Arabia beginning in 1996. FBI agents opened an office in Riyadh and aligned themselves closely with the Mabaheth, the kingdom's antiterrorist police. Over the course of our investigation the evidence became clear that while the attack was staged by Saudi Hezbollah members, the entire operation was planned, funded and coordinated by Iran's security services, the IRGC and MOIS, acting on orders from the highest levels of the regime in Tehran.
In order to return an indictment and bring these terrorists to American justice, it became essential that FBI agents be permitted to interview several of the participating Hezbollah terrorists who were detained in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the interviews was to confirm--with usable, co-conspirator testimonial evidence--the Iranian complicity that Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Mabaheth had already relayed to us. (For the record, the FBI's investigation only succeeded because of the real cooperation provided by Prince Bandar and our colleagues in the Mabaheth.) FBI agents had never before been permitted to interview firsthand Saudis detained in the kingdom.
Unfortunately, the White House was unable or unwilling to help the FBI gain access to these critical witnesses. The only direction from the Clinton administration regarding Iran was to order the FBI to stop photographing and fingerprinting official Iranian delegations entering the U.S. because it was adversely impacting our "relationship" with Tehran. We had argued that the MOIS was using these groups to infiltrate its agents into the U.S.
After months of inaction, I finally turned to the former President Bush, who immediately interceded with Crown Prince Abdullah on the FBI's behalf. Mr. Bush personally asked the Saudis to let the FBI do one-on-one interviews of the detained Khobar bombers. The Saudis immediately acceded. After Mr. Bush's Saturday meeting with the Crown Prince in Washington, Ambassador Wyche Fowler, Dale Watson, the FBI's excellent counterterrorism chief, and I were summoned to a Monday meeting where the crown prince directed that the FBI be given direct access to the Saudi detainees. This was the investigative breakthrough for which we had been waiting for several years.
Mr. Bush typically disclaimed any credit for his critical intervention but he earned the gratitude of many FBI agents and the Khobar families. I quickly dispatched the FBI case agents back to Saudi Arabia, where they interviewed, one-on-one, six of the Hezbollah members who actually carried out the attack. All of them directly implicated the IRGC, MOIS and senior Iranian government officials in the planning and execution of this attack. Armed with this evidence, the FBI recommended a criminal indictment that would identify Iran as the sponsor of the Khobar bombing. Finding a problem for every solution, the Clinton administration refused to support a prosecution.
The prosecution and criminal indictment for these murders had to wait for a new administration. In February 2001, working with exactly the same evidence but with a talented new prosecutor, James B. Comey Jr. (now U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York), Attorney General John Ashcroft's personal intervention, and White House support, the case was presented to a grand jury. On June 21, 2001, only four days before some of the terrorist charges would have become barred by the five-year statute of limitations, the grand jury indicted 13 Hezbollah terrorists for the Khobar attack and identified Iran as the sponsor.
Nonetheless, the terrorists who murdered 19 U.S. airmen and wounded hundreds more have yet to be brought to American justice. Whenever U.S. diplomats hold talks with representatives of Iran's Islamic government, Khobar Towers should be the top item on their agenda. The arrest and turnover to U.S. authorities of Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Mughassil and Ali Saed bin Ali Al-Houri, two of the indicted Hezbollah leaders of the Khobar attack believed to be in Iran, should be part of any "normalization" discussion. Furthermore, access and accountability by IRGC, MOIS and other senior Iranian government leaders for their complicity in the attack should be nonnegotiable.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The Muslim extremist President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." More recently he said, "We say that this fake regime (Israel) cannot logically continue to live." His comments have drawn widespread condemnation from civilized nations in the world community. Increasing the level of alarm over his outrageous comments is the fact that his radical government is gaining speed in their pursuit of the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Clearly Iran under the radical Ahmadinejad rule fits the classic definition of a terrorist state. They extensively promote, export and support terrorism in the world. His comments about destroying Israel are, in fact, policy among many Mideastern terrorist organizations. They differ in approaches, but nearly all Muslim extremist terrorist organizations (including alQueda) agree that the removal of Israel is the first step in the global Jihad of Islamic Imperialism. Indeed, some international scholars have named Iran a key player in what they call the new "Axis of Islam" growing in the Middle East. They see a sinister force by the uniting of Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, Hammas, the Muslim Brotherhood, elements of Iraquis Shiites and others in an anti-Israel, anti-American alliance backed by Russia.
The Lebanon based terrorist organization known as Hizbullah is an Islamist Shiite group inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979 and formed soon after. Hizbullah is Arabic for Party of God. It's also known as the Islamic Jihad, Revolutionary Justice Organization, Organization of the Oppressed on Earth and the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine. Hizbullah's long range goal is the extension of radical Shiite Islamist ideologies worldwide. Their shorter range objectives are the expulsion of western and Israeli influence and the establishment of an Islamist state in Lebanon patterned after the Iranian Islamic Republic, the destruction of Israel, and the capture and rule of Jerusalem. Hizbullah leaders view the United States as their real enemy. A noteworthy aspect of their ideology is their openness to cooperation with Sunni and other Islamist groups. Study reveals their connections with other terrorist groups include; al-Queda, Hammas, the P.L.O., Fatah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, to name a few. Like al-Queda, Hizbullah's reach is worldwide, extending from the Mid-east to Central and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. In North America Hizbullah operated and raised funds from Canada until 2002 when Canada finally outlawed them. In the same year two operatives were arrested in North Carolina and convicted of providing material support to a terrorist group. There have been unconfirmed reports of a Hizbullah sleeper cell in Texas preparing to target the U.S. oil industry. The Iranian connection to Hizbullah is especially important since Hizbullah is based in a country bordering Israel. Current estimates indicate Iran provides them more than $100 million annually underwriting social services and military equipment and supplies.
Of all Iranian attempts to export their Islamic revolution, Hizbullah is the most successful. This effectively gives Iran an operational arm bordering their declared enemy Israel. Many of Hizbullah's terrorist operations are conducted in close coordination with Tehran. Another terrorist supporting geographical partner with Hizbullah is Syria. Their relationship is complex and although officially secular, Syria helped the founding of Hizbullah. Syria's aim was to protect their control over Lebanon at that time. Syria supported Hizbullah's undertaking of international terrorist activities in its war against Israel. Massive shipments of weapons were transferred from Iran to Lebanon via Damascus, Syria. The current president of Syria is much closer to the leadership of Hizbullah than was his father.
Hizbullah pioneered many terrorist tactics, including suicide bombing and simultaneous truck or car bombings. They've also developed expertise in building effective explosive devices. Since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Hizbullah has received
enormous amounts of weaponry from Iran. Sophisticated antiaircraft and anti-tank missiles along with over 10,000 medium and long range rockets that place more than a third of Israel within their striking range, have been delivered. It's certainly not much of a stretch to believe that Iran's President Ahmadinejad would like to deliver nuclear weapons to his proxy on Israel's border.
An example of the danger presented by Hizbullah can be learned by looking at their terrorist activities over 20 years.
In the two decades between 1983 and 2003 approximately 64 incidents of terrorism were generated by that terrorist organization. These incidents included but were not limited to kidnappings, assassinations, torture, suicide bombings and other mayhem resulting in about 795 people killed and more than 1407 wounded, maimed or otherwise injured. The targets of the terrorists included both military and civilian personnel world wide. Many of the events were directed at Israel and their citizens, but other nationalities, including U.S. citizens, were also targeted. The most infamous terrorist attack directed at the United States by elements of Hizbullah was the suicide truck bombing of the U.S. Marine Headquarters and barracks of the Peacekeeping force in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. That suicide attack resulted in the deaths of 241 young Marines and many others injured. A nearby French base was also attacked resulting in the deaths of at least 56 French soldiers, while the exact number of French injured is unknown. Like al-Queda and Hammas, Hizbullah is a radical and lethal terrorist organization based on its own despicable merits. However, when you combine them with the current Iranian government and others, their lethality and capability for mass murder and mayhem increases exponentially as the threat to western civilization increases.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Marine Corps News | Mark Sixbey | May 22, 2006
Camp Fallujah, Iraq - A Darkhorse Marine was decorated with the nation�s fourth highest award for valor by the 1st Marine Division commanding general here, May 19.
Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski presented the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device to 1st Lt. Alfred L. Butler IV, Weapons Company executive officer, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment outside the battalion�s command post.
�I knew his father, and I think he�s following in his footsteps,� Natonski said. �This is his third deployment to Iraq, and he�s done a marvelous job over here.�
The 27-year-old from Jacksonville, N.C., earned the award for his actions and leadership while commanding an 81mm Mortar Platoon on Dec. 23, 2004 during combat operations in Fallujah. He is currently on duty in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.
�It was one of those days when everyone ran out of ammo,� said Butler, a graduate of Western Carolina University. �We even used AK-47�s.�
According to the award citation, as insurgents ambushed his platoon, Butler rushed to the attack where he found several men pinned under heavy automatic weapons fire on a stairwell. He evacuated them from the house and learned insurgents isolated additional men on the second floor. He quickly organized an assault force and raced to an adjacent house under constant small arms fire to recover the men.
Cpl. Justin Butler, a mortarman in the platoon, saw his platoon commander from across the street while laying suppressive fire.
�When we were on the roof, he was the first one I saw standing up to see the situation while everyone was getting shot at,� said the 21-year-old from Dyer, Ind. �It pumped everybody up that he would do that just to know everything that�s going on.�
The platoon commander led his team as they cleared two buildings, jumping from roof-to-roof to reach them. He shielded the bodies of the fallen Marines when a grenade landed nearby with complete disregard for his own safety, then threw two grenades into a room filled with insurgents.
While delivering cover fire, Butler moved the men across to an adjacent rooftop, personally evacuating a wounded Marine under constant small arms fire and grenade attacks. His actions preserved the lives of the men.
Butler credited the decoration to the Marines under his command.
�I owe those Marines my life,� he said. �The things they did that day are the sort of things you read about in books. What they do for each other and what they sacrifice for each other makes you not want to leave the Marine Corps. They hold up the tradition of 3/5 and live up to the legacy.�
Alfred Butler III, was a Marine major who was killed in Beirut when his son was only five-years-old. Butler said most of what he knows of his father he learned from Marines who served with him.
�It�s nice that he knew my father and served with him,� he said. �My knowledge of him as a person is through people like General Natonski and what they say about him and the man he was. From what I understand, he was a great man, great Marine, husband and father. If I can be half of that, I think I�ll be fine.�
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
He bought it right away, took it home and set it up in his front yard. Then Lloyd Seekamp told his wife, "I'm going to get them all."
And that's why you can find a line of five saluting, flag-holding statues in the Seekamp front yard in west Greeley. And that's why Eaton Grove Nursery north of Greeley is temporarily out of the military statues. Lloyd bought all they had.
The concrete military statues are about four feet tall, with a coating that makes them appear to be bronze. Represented are the Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force and a female Army officer.
For Lloyd and Zola Seekamp, they are more than just statues. Lloyd was a U.S. Marine for seven years beginning in 1950. He was just off the coast of Korea when the armistice that ended that war was signed.
In 1957, he was one of only 11 Marines in Beirut, Lebanon, guarding the U.S. Embassy, when he met an embassy secretary, Zola Estep. Three months later, they were married.
"We really don't talk about how quickly we got married," Zola said. "But we've been married 49 years, so I guess it worked."
Lloyd was the oldest of 14 kids in a dairy farm family in Wisconsin; Zola grew up in Lamar. He got to Lebanon after other assignments as a Marine. Zola joined the U.S. State Department in 1954 and went to London before Beirut.
"Beirut was beautiful in those days," Zola said. "That was before the problems in the Middle East, and it was very quiet."
After they married, the couple returned to the U.S., and Lloyd went into the agricultural feed business. He's been doing it now for 40 years.
In 1981, after living in Greeley seven years, the Seekamps started a seed business in their basement. It grew into a good living, and Lloyd retired a few years ago.
Now 74, Lloyd still goes to work each day, but this time he's working with his son-in-law's Peterson Pet Food business.
"I'm on the road a lot," Lloyd said, "doing what I do best -- selling."
And he comes home each evening, greeted by the five military statues in his front yard. "It still breaks me up a little when I see them," Lloyd said. "We need to show support for our military and remember what they've done for us."
They worry about vandals or thieves stealing the statues, so they keep a close eye on them. They don't want their address in the paper, fearing it will be an invitation for someone who doesn't like the military.
But they've been surprised, by the people who stop in front to view the statues or the people who come to the door to ask about their display.
"It's good to see so many people who care about the soldiers," Zola said.
It even makes the crusty old Marine smile.
Staff writer Mike Peters' column about Weld County people appears Mondays in the Tribune. His humor column, the Gnarly Trombone, appears Saturdays. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com
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Friday, March 24, 2006
There are some in the Bush Administration who want to find peace in the Middle east at any cost. Getting much needed funds to the Hamas would be a great way to gain intelligence and stabilize the area. I have to say, this has been tried by Israel's Prime Minister Sharon by giving the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinians. The effect of which is continued warfare against Israel. It didn't work and I don't think it ever will.
As long as the Palestinians align themselves with Moslem Extremists there is no chance for peace, as the quotes listed below attest to:
On the Jews 'raising the number' of Holocaust victims:
"Having more victims meant greater rights and stronger privilege to join the negotiation table for dividing the spoils of war once it was over. However, since Zionism was not a fighting partner - suffering victims in a battle - it had no escape but to offer up human beings, under any name, to raise the number of victims, which they could then boast of at the moment of accounting."
"It seems that the interest of the Zionist movement ... is to inflate this figure so that their gains will be greater. This led them to emphasize this figure in order to gain the solidarity of international public opinion with Zionism. Many scholars have debated the figure of six million and reached stunning conclusions - fixing the number of Jewish victims at only a few hundred thousand."
[The Other Side: The secret relations between Nazism and the leadership of the Zionist movement, Mahmoud Abbas, 1983, Translation by Simon Wiesenthal Center.]
Israelis have no history in the Land - because they are "Khazars, who are not connected to the land but to the words of the Torah".
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 16, 2003]
Half a month after its electoral victory, a Hamas website presented the parting video messages of two Hamas suicide terrorists. One message was for Jews, whose blood Hamas promises to drink until Jews "leave the Muslim countries," and the second to a mother, as she helps dress her son for battle prior to his suicide terror mission."My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries."
"In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country... This operation is revenge against the sons of monkeys and pigs."
"I dedicate this wedding [i.e. death for Allah] to all of those who have chosen Allah as their goal, the Quran as their constitution and the Prophet [Muhammad] as their role model. Jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine - all of Palestine - from the impurity of the Jews...
"My dear mother, you who have cared for me, today I sacrifice my life to be your intercessor [on Judgment Day]. O my love and soul, wipe your tears, don't be saddened. In the name of Allah, I've achieve all that I've aspired. Don't let me see you sad on my wedding day with the Maidens of Paradise. So be happy and not sad, because in the name of Allah, after death is merciful Allah's paradise."
"My dear mother, don't cry over us
We have to seek, my mother, the help of Allah
My dear mother, don't cry over us
We have to seek, my mother, the help of Allah"
[Hamas website, February 12, 2006]
This is the root cause of the violence in the Middle East. Each side has bloody hands, but Hamas has their entire organization committed to not only Israel's destruction but the West as well.
As Veterans of Beirut we all know the problems of the Middle East. It all seems so clear to us. Why not the rest of world?
Friday, March 17, 2006
PUBLIC INFORMATION DEPARTMENT
PO Box 567, Buies Creek, NC 27506
Tel: (910) 893-1224 w Fax: (910) 893-1922
Marine Corps general and author to be Barden lecturer
Maj.Gen.Ray L. Smith, USMC (Ret.) will be the featured speaker at Campbell University’s Barden Forum, Monday, Mar. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hartness Lecture Hall of the Science building. Smith is the author of “The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division.” Free and open to the public, the lecture is sponsored by Campbell’s Department of Government, History and Justice.
A native of Oklahoma, Smith enlisted in the Marine Corps in Dec. 1965 and graduated as the Platoon and Series Honorman at San Diego in 1966. He graduated from Officers Candidate School in 1967. He was also selected to participate in the Bootstrap Program in 1978. Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies in 1980 and his master’s degree in Military Science from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He also received a master’s degree in International Relations.
A decorated war veteran, Smith’s duty assignments included two tours in Vietnam. He also led troops into Grenada and Beirut as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. In addition, his assignments included Japan and Korea. Smith ended his military career as commanding general of the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune N.C. He retired from the Marines in 1999. On his last day of active duty, Smith was a convocation speaker and received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Campbell University.
Smith currently serves as president of the board of directors of the Marine Corps Museum of the Carolinas and as a member of the board of Caring Communities. He has also served on the Jacksonville USO Executive Council and the board of directors of the Jacksonville-Onslow Area Chamber of Commerce. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame and received the Mack McKinney Award. In addition, he is a member of the North Carolina Advisory Commission on Military Affairs.
For more information about the General Smith lecture, contact Vicki Crowell (910) 893-1480 or (800) 334-4111, ext.1480.
Monday, March 06, 2006
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GREENSBORO — Despite the planning, cutting through red tape and security clearances, Jim Carter encounters what the military calls the SNAFUs.
Recently, at Piedmont Triad International Airport, Carter arranged for the mother of a female Marine to get around the security screening and be poised at the gate to embrace her daughter, who was arriving for a break from Iraq.
Carter and the mother were supposed to meet at a certain place. They missed connections. Once they linked, the daughter had already reached the baggage carousel.
The emotional moment had been missed.
But that hasn't happened often, says Carter, who runs a virtual USO at PTI, although it's not in his mission statement as director of security, chief of communications and airport police reserve officer.
He tries to make reunions joyous for troops returning for brief breaks from the war. He seeks to dignify sad occasions for families whose loved ones arrive in caskets.
"Picture a former Marine carrying an Army captain's duffle bag to the car," Bettie Stocks Rhodes, of Reidsville, says in an e-mail to the News & Record after her son-in-law, Capt. Ben Shepherd, arrived from Iraq recently for a two-week stay.
"Efficiently, quietly and humbly, Jim Carter honors and assists soldiers arriving ...
"My deepest gratitude goes to Jim Carter, who continues to serve his country."
Carter was a sergeant and later a warrant officer in the Marines.
In helping military people and parents, he wants them to avoid what he encountered upon returning from a second tour in Vietnam in 1969.
At the airport in Los Angeles, a "flower child," he says, tried to cram a flower into the medals and ribbons on his uniform.
"Don't touch me or the uniform, and don't spit on me, and we'll get along fine," he recalled saying.
She uttered something about him being a baby killer.
Thousands of returning Vietnam veterans experienced similar hostility. Or they felt ignored.
Even though the war in Iraq may be as unpopular to some people as Vietnam, Carter hasn't witnessed the same hostility toward those fighting it.
He felt goose bumps when he watched a uniformed Marine lieutenant, his ankle broken from a chopper crash, refuse a wheelchair. He hobbled on crutches the length of the concourse. Travelers at gates arose in applause.
"I am glad people finally woke up," Carter says. "The troops out there are not the enemy."
He says his eyes welled when an airline pilot delayed departure until Marines in dress blues finished lifting a casket covered with an American flag and carried it to a hearse.
Carter always arranges for grieving families to be near the plane.
One woman, he says, ran "and kissed her son's casket."
The father of another dead Marine kept repeating: "I should have never let him out of my sight."
Later, Carter says, the man conceded that his son, who had re-enlisted, "died doing what he wanted to do."
Carter gave the Marines 27 years.
"I miss the heck out of the Corps," he says.
That's obvious from his office decor -- outfitted in Marine red and gold. It beats any Marine recruiting station. It's jammed with Marine plaques, figurines, models of the Iwo Jima statue, photos of his old units, recruiting posters, one of his former uniform jackets in a frame and posters bearing gung-ho slogans.
"It's God's job to judge the terrorists. It's our mission to arrange the meeting," a sticker on a desk drawer says.
He gets irritated at the geographical illiteracy of young Marines. They land at PTI and seek a cab to Camp Lejeune. They think the base is nearby, not 200 miles away.
"Do you have $300 for a cab to Lejeune," Carter asks them.
A dozen times he has driven Marines to the bus station and bought them a ticket to Lejeune. He warns they'd better repay him next payday. Only two have stiffed him.
The Alabama native quit high school to join the Marines in 1960, rose to sergeant and became a warrant officer in 1969. Later, he spent five years on the inspector and instructor staff with the Greensboro Marine Corps Reserve unit. The I&I staff are regular Marines who assist reservists.
During that time, 241 Marines were killed in 1983 during a terrorist attack on a barracks in Beirut, He and the I&I staff knocked on doors to tell two Greensboro-area parents their sons were dead. The staff served as honor guards at the casket arrivals and at the burials.
Parental reactions, he says, range from emotional outbreaks and anger to quiet acceptance. In the Beirut bombing, one woman believed that because her son's finger had been found, the rest of him was in a hospital recovering.
When Carter retired from the Marines in 1988, he returned to the area to a house he bought while on I&I duty and went to work for the airport police.
Homecomings on furloughs and leaves from Iraq are happy times, though the returns two weeks afterward aren't. When Shepherd, the captain whose duffel bag Carter had carried to the car when he arrived, had to return to the war, Carter was there. He says the captain slid a letter into the stroller of the baby he had seen for the first time when he came home.
Carter says he couldn't do what he does without the cooperation of airport manager Ted Johnson and others. He wishes he could do more -- and wishes some parents would, too.
"I'll see a soldier up there," he says, "and no one is with him. Someone should be there to see that person off."
Contact Jim Schlosser at 373-7081 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, February 18, 2006
By ERIC SCHMITT
Published: February 13, 2006
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Feb. 7 — Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer is busy these days poring over classified intelligence reports on the insurgency in Iraq's restive Anbar Province.
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But as General Zilmer, a 53-year-old veteran of the Persian Gulf war in 1991, prepares to take command this month of 30,000 marines and soldiers in what may be the most dangerous region in Iraq, he is also focusing on some less obvious projects.
Those include collecting information on the 10 largest employers in the province, the vast desert area west of Baghdad, trying to figure out how to ensure that local police officers and health workers there are being paid and thinking about the region's business challenges like an entrepreneur.
As new Marine commanders prepare to head to Iraq for a yearlong tour and gird for new battles there with insurgents, they say they must also put greater emphasis on helping the new Iraqi government provide essential city services, create jobs and promote local governmental control.
"Our focus of operations has been along security lines in the past, and they'll remain imperative," said General Zilmer, who as a young officer in the 1980's served in the Marine peacekeeping mission in Beirut. "That said, we think there are other things that also require attention to be successful, including economics and governance. These are all happening at once."
That philosophy fits neatly under the strategy of Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli of the Army, the new overall commander of daily operations in Iraq, who says the military must not shortchange reconstruction and democratization efforts even while it battles insurgents.
Here at this sprawling base north of San Diego, General Zilmer's 700-member staff from the First Marine Expeditionary Force has been taking that guidance to heart.
Last month, General Zilmer sponsored a two-day conference here to develop ideas on how to help speed reconstruction and the growth of civic organizations in Anbar, a contested region about the size of Arkansas that includes Falluja and Ramadi.
The 75 participants in the conference included military civil affairs specialists, specialists from the State and Commerce Departments, Iraqi business groups and an array of American private contractors who are working in Iraq. Practical tips, like those General Zilmer is studying, flowed from the meeting. Marines said they met contacts who could help them in Iraq.
"They'll be working in the most dangerous part of Iraq, and will need to have a lot of flexibility on the ground," said Frederick D. Barton, a specialist on reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who attended the conference.
General Zilmer said an officer might be assigned to Amman, Jordan, to help promote job growth and business development in western Iraq. Marine commanders expressed support for establishing military-civilian provincial reconstruction teams in Anbar similar to those operating in Afghanistan and other parts of Iraq.
The Marines express hope that promoting economic gains and political growth in the impoverished region will dissuade Sunnis in Anbar from supporting the insurgency.
"This is all about converting those Iraqis on the fence," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, who oversees all marines in Southwest Asia, including Iraq, from his headquarters here.
But Marine commanders say they face a shrinking window of opportunity. American influence is expected to diminish as Iraq's new government takes control. If Sunnis feel shut out of the political process by Shiite and Kurdish leaders, insurgent attacks are expected to increase, despite a series of operations last summer and fall in the Euphrates River Valley that commanders say disrupted the insurgents' ability to send suicide bombers into Baghdad and other major cities.
The 30,000 marines and soldiers in Anbar have represented about 20 percent of the total American force in Iraq since last April, but they also have suffered about 35 percent of the combat deaths in that period. Homemade bombs remain the No. 1 killer.
"I don't see it decreasing," said Brig. Gen. Robert B. Neller, a veteran of American military missions in Panama, Somalia and Bosnia and General Zilmer's deputy for operations, referring to the number of bombs. "It's clearly the weapon of choice."
To combat the insurgency, the Marines plan to increase the training of Iraqi soldiers, border guards and the police force, whose numbers in the province have grown to about 24,000 from a few thousand a year ago. "Some of them still have a long way to go," General Zilmer said, referring to the recruits.
With growing domestic pressure to reduce the number of American forces in Iraq, General Zilmer will command a staff that is about 500 marines smaller than that of the headquarters he is replacing. He and his deputies have been talking regularly with the departing command under Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson in Anbar since last summer, and they visited Iraq in October.
More than 60 percent of the marines under General Zilmer have previously served in Iraq or Afghanistan. They conducted training exercises in mock Iraqi villages in the nearby Mojave Desert, including tactics to counter roadside bombings. For his headquarters staff, General Zilmer had briefings prepared on Iraqi culture, geography and politics.
For now, General Zilmer discounts fears that simmering sectarian strife in Anbar could boil into civil war.
"The challenge," he said, "will be to demonstrate to them that there's some benefit to being a single people, to being an Iraqi people."
Thursday, January 19, 2006
The MEMRI Report
By STEVEN STALINSKY
January 18, 2006
The 1983 attack on American Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 was Hezbollah's coming-out party. To this day, the attack is lauded on its TV channel Al-Manar. A Hezbollah "poet," Atef Moussa, appeared on May 22, 2005, and said,"Who says we are afraid of war? ... Who can compare to the men of Hezbollah? ... These enemies [the American military] turned out to be as light as cardboard. Bush knows it. Beirut remains dangerous for the Marines. Our proof is here, they left in shame. Our people sail the seas of martyrdom."
In an anti-American speech mocking the American military on March 8, 2005, Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Nasrallah, also referred to the attack: "I address the following to America ... to President Bush ... to Condoleezza Rice ... and to American-Lebanese field commander Satterfield ... Lebanon will not ... throw its heart to your soldiers' dogs so they will eat it ... You can make yourself heard by the commander of the American forces in the region, who is of Lebanese origin, John Abizaid ... Are you Lebanese afraid of the American naval fleets? These naval fleets have come in the past, and were defeated, and if they come again, they will be defeated again..."
As reported in the NY Sun direct quotes from Hezbollah TV
Sunday, January 15, 2006
'The enemy of my enemy is cramping my style'
By Steve Schippert
Following al-Qaeda in Iraq’s recent claim of responsibility for late-December rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon, it appears that Lebanese security is taking steps with some haste to counter al-Qaeda’s ability to establish a foothold in Lebanon. It was reported Friday that Lebanese authorities had arrested 13 Al-Qaeda suspects in a sweep that netted them in different parts of the country. They were charged by a Lebanese military court with “establishing a gang to carry out terrorist acts, forging official and private documents and possessing unlicensed arms.”
Among the thirteen al-Qaeda suspects were seven Syrians, three Lebanese, a Saudi Arabian, a Jordanian and a Palestinian. Their statements under custody have been contradictory, as they appear to shift from claiming al-Qaeda membership to Jund al-Islam (the group claiming responsibility for the assassination of Rafik Hariri and twenty others in a February 2005 Beirut bombing) and vice versa. Their particular membership in one or the other group, at least in principle, should mean little, as neither of the groups issue membership badges, but rather are bonded by a shared ideology without a physical brand.
As al-Qaeda (including Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq) has increasingly indicated an intent to directly attack Israel, the leadership has chosen to establish a foothold in Lebanon and Gaza. Beirut’s Daily Star reported of an alleged al-Qaeda statement that warned the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon that they would face attacks from al-Qaeda if they did not conform to their ideology.
“We have been trying hard to enter the Sabra and Shatila camp, which is considered the symbol of Palestinian camps in Lebanon … Since this camp needs reform, you have to take these warnings seriously, because today we warn but tomorrow we will liquidate dozens of people…Our suicide bombings will target all the United Nations buildings inside and outside the camp, as well as agents such as [Palestinian officials] Abbas Zaki and Khaled Aref and several foreign embassies.”
The Palestinian residents of the camps seem to be summarily unimpressed with al-Qaeda’s apparent attempt to take control of reforming the camps in order to instill a Taliban-like rule. Said one Palestinian resident, “Osama bin Laden should go and fight the Zionists before coming here to reform the camps. We don’t live in an extremist Islamic country; Shatila is the camp of the martyrs, the camp of the struggle.” Regarding the direct threat to the UN buildings in the camps (clinics and schools), the man retorted, “Do they want to destroy them too?”
Hezbollah Shias also views the encroachment of Sunni al-Qaeda in Lebanon with wary eyes, quite happy to have another hand in attacking Israel, but quite displeased with the rise of militant Sunni Islam, especially on their own turf.
Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general, warned al-Qaeda about setting up shop in Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon. Qassem said, “We don’t know how many [al-Qaeda are in Lebanon] and we don’t know their plans or if they intend to do operations here. It’s important to caution everyone not to make Lebanon an arena for settling scores. It will be a dangerous development if that happens.”
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Moqtada Sadr called for a settling of differences between Shi’ite and Sunni terrorist groups in an interview on Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya channel. He said, “The Islamic world is being subjected to a strong Western aggression that requires us to join forces…I am with any movement that is dedicated to the principles of Islam and justice and rejects oppression whether it is Hizbullah or Hamas.” Whether or not he would cede control of any territory he may hold dominance over to achieve that, as Hezbollah refuses to do, he did not say.
It is worthy of note the increasing level of Red-on-Red infighting throughout the region: In Iraq, in the West Bank and Gaza, and now, potentially, in Lebanon. As it continues to develop, al-Qaeda’s recent moves to diversify from Iraq and seek new targets appears to include direct moves on Israel, which means establishing and recruiting from areas that are already controlled by other groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (among others) in the Palestinian Territories. Many also expect that the first move by Iran in any hot conflict with the West will be to export terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East and enflame the entire region.
With all of them, the convergence point is Israel. But as diverse Sunni and Shi’ite groups of varying flavors of jihad begin to increasingly share the same battlespace, rather than the widely expected cooperation under the unifying Sun Tzu precept of ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’, it is more likely that what will be quite commonly heard and seen is ‘The enemy of my enemy is cramping my style.’ Sheikh Naim Qassem revealed as much, tipping Hezbollah’s hand in advance.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
"No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy".
Jumblat Calls on America to Do in Syria What it Did in Iraq
Beirut, January 5: A syndicated columnist reported in an opinion piece published today in the Beirut Daily Star and partly carried in Arabic by other Beirut daily newspapers that Walid Jumblatt told him in a telephone interview, when asked what he wanted from America: "You came to Iraq & you can do the same thing in Syria."
The piece was written by David Ignatius, who opened up by referring to gangster movies. He spoke first of the television interview by former Syrian VP Abdel Halim Khaddam, whom he called an old mafia don and a turncoat, then turned his attention to Jumblatt.
To understand the latest turns of the screw in Syria and Lebanon, Ignatius wrote, I spoke by telephone yesterday with Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druze community and something of a warlord himself.
Ignatius added: The Druze leader is holed up in his ancestral fortress of Moukhtara, in the Chouf Mountains. Like other Lebanese I spoke with this week, he fears a deadly new attack by the Syrians that would attempt to trigger sectarian conflict in Lebanon -- and take the heat off Damascus. Jumblatt argues that the only stable outcome will be regime change in Syria -- a "Milosevic solution" that will bring Assad to justice through the United Nations.
What makes the Syria-Lebanon situation especially volatile, Jumblatt explained to Ignatius, is that it is linked to the radical new Iranian regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Jumblatt argued that Iran is using its alliance with Assad and Hezbollah in its larger strategic battles against Israel and the United States. "It's as if we are defending Iranian nuclear facilities from the border of Lebanon," he said.
Jumblatt said: "If Bush considers Lebanon one of his major achievements, now is the time to protect Lebanon," He told Ignatius: What can the United States do, realistically, to keep the Syria-Lebanon situation from exploding? The answer partly is to stick with the U.N. investigation that is slowly wrenching out the truth about Hariri's murder. The challenge for the United States, said Jumblat, is to help Lebanon become strong enough to resist Syrian hegemony. A potential breakthrough would be a U.S.-brokered agreement for Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms area along the Lebanon border, under a U.N. agreement that the territory belongs to Lebanon. That would give the struggling Lebanese government a symbolic victory -- and would undercut Hezbollah's rationale for maintaining its militia. That issue should be at the top of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's in-box as she starts the new year -- perhaps along with an old tape of "The Godfather."