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Shooting the Syrian Elephant

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.
The majority of Americans do not want to invade or bomb Syria. The majority of American leaders do. Such a disparity between the leaders and the people is not wholly unique, but it arises in this case not from the usual disparities of power or corruption.

Americans don’t want to fight Syria because it is no threat to them. American leaders admit that Syria is no threat to America. They want to bomb Syria because they feel that they ought to do it. And they feel that way because behind the power of the West stands the will of the East.Long before Animal Farm of 1984, George Orwell wrote a short essay about his time in the east. It’s titled “Shooting the Elephant.”

Orwell’s narrator is told of an elephant that has run riot and he dutifully follows up the report. “We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the East; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes.

“Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant.”

Substitute chemical weapons for elephant and the story becomes a familiar one.

Eventually, Orwell encounters a dead body and sends back for an elephant gun while a crowd gathers behind him eagerly waiting for him to shoot the elephant. “I had halted on the road,” he writes. “As soon as I saw the elephant I knew with perfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him. It is a serious matter to shoot a working elephant – it is comparable to destroying a huge and costly piece of machinery – and obviously one ought not to do it if it can possibly be avoided.”

It is likewise a serious matter to start a war. But the issue, whether with Obama’s red line or Orwell’s elephant is credibility.

“But at that moment I glanced round at the crowd that had followed me. It was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it.”

We now have to go into Syria because the crowd expects it of us. They have been clamoring for us to do it forever, listening impatiently to our excuses and dismissing them. And our function in the region has come down to shooting the elephant. It’s what the crowd wants us to do. And our leaders find themselves with no other role in international affairs except the hollow role of puppets.

“And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East.

“Here was I, the white man with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd – seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind.

“I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the “natives,” and so in every crisis he has got to do what the “natives” expect of him. He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

The United States, which had never intended to become an empire, now finds itself wearing a mask. Its leaders assert that it has to shoot the Syrian elephant to protect its credibility because the crowd of the Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis and the Turks want us to do it.

They expect us to do it. They have gathered to see us do it. They will see us do it.

Even Obama, for all his complicity with the power plays of the Muslim Brotherhood, seems unenthusiastic about shooting the Syrian elephant. But he knows that it has to be done because what else is there to do? Either we bomb Syria or admit our impotency. Either we play imperialists or get laughed at.That was the dilemma of Orwell’s narrator. It is also our dilemma. Orwell’s narrator was playing his part in a decaying empire that had lost its sense of purpose. It could do little else except order around the natives only to find that it was the one being ordered around.

America has no sense of purpose. Its leaders want to bomb Syria, but can articulate no sensible reason for doing so. They resort to humanitarian gibberish, but they would never move to stop genocide in Africa. Their motives are not humanitarian, they are conformist. They are conforming to the expectations of the foreign pressures of a region that they hope to order and govern.

“When the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys,” Orwell warned. In attempting to civilize the Muslim world, we have instead been forced to live by its rulers. We have not brought our order to them. They have brought their order to us.

Our interactions with them take place along the predetermined paths of their choosing. They decide what they want from us and we decide how quickly to give it to them. They decide that we should shoot the elephant and we stand around playing with the elephant gun, hoping that we can avoid this whole mess.

“And afterwards I was very glad that the coolie had been killed; it put me legally in the right and it gave me a sufficient pretext for shooting the elephant. I often wondered whether any of the others grasped that I had done it solely to avoid looking a fool,” Orwell writes.

That is the admission of the moment. We must bomb Syria to avoid looking like fools.

Obama drew his red line and now he must shoot the elephant. Even he doesn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about it, but he will shoot it.

To buy time, he has turned to Congress, hoping its proceedings will immunize him from the fallout or somehow convince Assad to step down. But he knows better. Despite his anti-colonialist roots and despite his membership in a radically anti-imperialist movement, he has been drafted once again in the cause of shooting elephants, carrying the white man’s burden and the liberal man’s burden to the east.

The question is not whether Syria ought to be shot, but why are we shooting it. And the answer is that it isn’t our choice. That answer reveals a great deal about our dysfunctional international policies and where they have gotten us.

We have been penned up, not by Haliburton or secret oil deals, so much as by our own need to live up to our own image abroad. Americans, who for the most part live insular lives, are unmoved by the elephant-shooting currents that tug at the likes of Obama or McCain. They feel no need to go shoot an elephant in some other country because the natives expect it of them. But our leaders increasingly live foreign lives with little consideration for the natives of the country that they govern. They give in to impulses like amnesty and gay marriage because of a steady pressure from a narrow crowd that insists that they are inevitable. Now they will give in on Syria because of that same crowd.

That sense of pressure reveals the hollowness of the men within. Men of strong moral courage do not commit crimes because the crowd expects them to. It does not kill to avoid being mocked. It is the hollow empire of hollow men that is compelled to such final extremities, acting out a farce to avoid the inevitable revelation that the emperor is naked and his empire has run out of pants.

The Republican Party is what it is because it lacks that sense of moral conviction. It takes positions for convenience. Its leaders respond to the pressure of the crowd, whether it is to oppose Obamacare or to support amnesty, they take on positions which they do not believe because they are expected of them.The Syrian elephant is only one more such position. One more hollow act of political conformity by men with political instincts but no sense of greater direction.

It is not so much that bombing Syria is wrong as that the armed forces of a nation cannot and should not be in the hands of men who take serious steps without any conviction that they are doing the best thing for their country, who act only because they are told that it is expected of them. Nothing rots the morale of an army faster than such commanders and nothing destroys a nation faster than the knowledge that, in the words of Hillary Clinton, nothing truly matters but the politics of it.

If we are going to shoot elephants then we should do so for our own reasons. Once we begin shooting elephants because it is expected of us, we become little better than the masters of a hollow empire waiting to be told by the world what to do.

BREAKING: 2 Dead in Mercaz Clal Shooting

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

A shooting has just occurred in the Mercaz Clal building, in the center of Jerusalem. Two people in a third floor law office were just shot and killed. A man in his 60s and a woman in her 20s.

Police are saying it appears to be a personal/criminal attack.

Mercaz Clal on Yafo street houses a police department, a branch of Mas Hachnasa (Tax Authority), and Hotzaah L’Poel (government debt collection agency), as well as numerous private businesses.

It was one of the first tall buildings built in Jerusalem. It also allegedly had a curse placed on it by a well-known Rabbi, after the new building blocked the sunlight to his yeshiva.

Update: The two people killed were Natan Jorno, 56, and his daughter Yamit Jorno, 26. They were killed by a disgruntled security guard over a personal dispute.

Terror on the Roads: Arabs Shoot at Bus

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Early Tuesday morning, Arabs shot at an Afikim bus number 101, that was driving to the Tapuach junction in the Shomron. There were no passengers in the bus at the time. The driver was not injured.

The army temporarily locked down Hawarwa, near Shechem, where the shooting occurred, while the IDF searched for the shooter.

The IDF found 4 pistol bullet casings at the site of the shooting.

Two weeks ago, another Afikim bus was also shot in the same area. That bus was carrying passengers and no one was injured.

A few days later, more than 30 bullets were shot at an armored army ambulance, 5 of which hit the armored plating. That attacked occurred in the Hursa village near Negohot. No one was injured.

There have been 6 shooting attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria in the past 2 months.

Overnight two firebombs were thrown, and there were eight stone throwing incidents, including at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, in different attacks throughout Judea and Samaria.

No one was injured in those attacks.

Updated: Kotel Security Guard Shot and Killed a Homeless Jewish Man

Friday, June 21st, 2013

A security guard shot and killed a Jewish man(46) at the Western Wall Friday morning. A team of Magen David Adom tried in vain to revive the victim. The man was shot as he was coming out of the lavatories.

The victim has been identified as Doron Ben-Shlush, a homeless man who most recently was living in the Chabad house near the Kotel.

The guard said that he thought he heard the man shouting Allahu Akbar and believed he saw him pulling something out of his pocket. Islamic terrorists generally yell ‘Allahu Akbar’ before they commit a terror attack.

Eyewitnesses told Wallah that they heard at least 10 shots being fired.

Reshet Bet reports that police are now investigating the security guard at the scene, and he has been placed under arrest for 5 days.

Maariv reports that the civilian guard is from Israel’s north, and this was only his second shift working as a guard at the Kotel.

Other Kotel guards said the victim was a regular visitor to the Kotel, but that he always acted in an unusually nervous manner, including giving out the occasional yell or scream.

One Boston Marathon Suspects Killed, Another Apprehended

Friday, April 19th, 2013

UPDATES BELOW

This article is being updated in realtime as information becomes available. 

Overview:

An MIT campus police officer was shot multiple times and killed on Thursday night. The shooting occurred around 10:30PM near Vasser and Main street (The Stata Building #32). The officer was taken to Massachusetts General, where he died of his wounds.

At 1:15 AM Boston time, there was an additional report of a carjacking, gunfire, and explosions, including grenades in Watertown, Boston. It is not clear if the two events are related.

Homeland security vehicles and heavily armed security personnel are in Watertown, according to  The Boston Channel.

Police are asking all people near MIT to stay indoors.

Police are currently searching for suspects. Police stay there are undetonated explosives in the area. They’ve asked people in the area  to turn off their cellphones due to fear of cellphone connected bombs.

Police are chasing after Mercedes SUV.

 

Updates: (Latest first)

8:24 AM Boston time - Dr. David Shoenfeld, a surgeon from Watertown went to Beth Israel hospital in early morning after hearing the shooting, and ended up as the doctor who treated the suspected terrorist who died. Suspects brother also ran him over.

8:11 AM Boston time – Suspects also have an older sister and brother.

8:01 AM Boston time Search may take hours. Entire city of Boston has been asked to stay indoors. Manhunt expanding.

7:52 AM Boston time Marathon bombers are believed to have arrived in the US with their family in 2002-2003

7:52 AM Boston time First suspect is ID’ed as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 22 (dead)

7:40 AM Boston time - Suspects may be brothers.

7:28 AM Boston time – Suspects lived in Turkey and Kazakhstan before coming to US.

7:06 AM Boston time - Police say Suspects had paramilitary training.

 6:50 AM Boston time - AP reports that the name of second suspect identified as “Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev”, a  19 year old foreign national living in Cambridge, possibly from Chechnya.

5:55 AM Boston time - Police leaving the house.

5:54 AM Boston time - Police entering home on Dexter Street with guns drawn, when no response received in door to door search.

5:49 AM Boston time - Boston police lock down towns around Watertown. All business are to remain closed while manhunt for Suspect #2 continues.

5:45 AM Boston time - Boston public transit has been shut down as a safety measure.

5:37 AM Boston time - Watertown residents still locked down as police look for suspect #2

 4:17 AM Boston time - Live police conference reviewing the events of the evening. One policeman was seriously injured in the earlier shootout. Police warn residents to not open doors, and drivers to not let anyone into their cars.

4:04 AM Boston time - Boston Police Commissioner confirms that Boston Marathon Suspect #1 is Dead. Search is on for Suspect #2.

 3:59 AM Boston time - Boston TV reports that Marathon Suspect #1 is dead and suspect #2 is still at large.

3:58 AM Boston time - Police will be doing a series of controlled explosions. Air horn will blow before explosion to prepare residents.

3:04 AM Boston time - Unofficially police have told pedestrians in Watertown that there are  “explosive everywhere” including grenades.

3:02 AM Boston time - Police confirm that only 1 suspect is in custody in Watertown. They are examining connection to Marathon bombing.

2:57 AM Boston time - Police confirm that MIT and Watertown events are connected.

2:49 AM Boston time - Boston Globe says one Boston Marathon suspect is now in custody. Twitter feeds saying second suspect also captured. This has not yet been confirmed by the FBI or the police.

2:21 AM Boston time - Police still searching in Watertown, but the event seems to be winding down.

2:15 AM Boston time - Watertown residents still told to stay indoors.

2:05 AM Boston time - MIT tells faculty/student body that the campus is now safe.

1:58 AM Boston time - 3rd suspect has been released and is not a suspect.

1:56 AM Boston time - Bomb disposal robot onsite in Watertown.

1:51 AM Boston time - Boston Channel in talking to residents report that police spoke with a person who had been in the carjacked vehicle and got away from the carjackers.

1:44 AM Boston time - Police are currently arresting third suspicious person right now in Watertown.

1:43 AM Boston time - Residents report seeing a lightly injured policeman taken away by ambulance. Police are doing searches in the area.

1:37 AM Boston time - Residents in Watertown hear explosion from a controlled explosion.

1:34 AM Boston time - Police are still looking for an “active shooter”, but it is not clear where.

1:30 AM Boston time: Unconfirmed reports are that police now have 2 suspects in custody in Watertown, but it is not known if they are connected to the MIT shooting. One suspect has been taken to a hospital.

 

 

 

 

Terror Network Apprehended Near Bethlehem

Friday, March 29th, 2013

The Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet), in coordinated efforts with the IDF and Israel Police, arrested a large terror network over the course of January and February of this year. The network was based in Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem. The network’s operatives, members of Fatah-Tanzim, carried out a large number of shooting and firebomb attacks using improvised weapons against the Israeli town of Migdal Oz. None of the attacks resulted in casualties.

Following investigations, the members of the network confessed to having carried out the attacks as well as having planned more shooting attacks in the Gush Etzion region. Their arrests prevented the operatives from executing their plans. The investigations led to the confiscation of six improvised weapons and a dummy explosive device.

Among the leaders of the network arrested by security forces are: Rafat Mohammad Isa Takatka (32), Rafat Mahmoud Musa Hian (31), Anas Halami Taleb Takatka (24), Sachiv Abed Eljamil Hassan Takatka (24) and Ahmad Anwar Mohammad Takatka (27).

Indictments were brought against the terrorists in the military court in Judea for severe security violations including: shooting at a person, membership of an illegal organization, manufacturing weapons and possession of explosive objects.

There has been a significant increase in terror activity in and around Beit Fajjar, and therefore more than 50 operatives from the village have been brought in for questioning in order to prevent further acts of terror.

Ten Ways to Help Newtown’s Grieving Families

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, several people have contacted me, asking how to help the families who lost young children because our family suffered its own tragedy. After my 13-year-old son Koby and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were murdered by terrorists here in Israel in 2001, I was sure that when I went outside, the whole world would have changed. That the sky would have turned red and the trees returned to rocks. I thought that there was no way that I or the world would survive my loss.

Grieving requires a new language.

Because the language once used to speak of art projects and homework and work and what’s for dinner no longer suffices. A new language must be learned instead that questions where God is and how such pain and sadness can exist in the world and how on earth we can contain this suffering and anger which threatens to undo us, as individuals and as a community. It asks: How can we live with the absence?

I can’t tell the families how to go on because at this point there is no going on. There is only the hard business of grieving. It is a job in itself. It requires courage and patience to face the emptiness and the longing and the loss and the horror and the might have been, and the if only. If only I had kept him home from school. If only we had never moved to this town. If only Lanzo had had no guns in his house.

There is no such thing as closure for the victims’ families. But there may eventually be disclosure, a sense of mission. My family began the Koby Mandell Foundation, which runs healing programs and camps for 500 bereaved children each summer. The only way to rise from tragedy is to create meaning. And the first step in the victims’ families’ journey toward creating meaning is to receive kindness.

When your life is torpedoed there is often no way to continue. The ship is sinking and you can’t bail out enough water to save yourself. No, you are dependent on the kindness of strangers. And here is the point: it’s the community that will save these families by keeping them afloat. Even when they feel that they would prefer to drown.

Everybody is talking about gun control, which is necessary. But what keeps communities safe is talking, knowing what is going on in each other’s homes, reaching out to each other because it’s okay to ask if the other is okay.

So I say this to the people of Newtown. Continue to reach out. The grieving families no doubt are receiving a lot of help right now. But eventually that help will go away. The families will be left alone. Stay with them for the long run.

I would give anything not to have learned the vital importance of loving words, helpful deeds and the embrace of community. But I hope my experience can provide guidance that will help ease the pain of others.

So here are ten ways to help Newtown’s grieving families:

1. Sometimes words can cheapen or even desecrate. It is important to use words sparingly. Let the mourning family set the tone.

2. Even if you missed the funeral, you can still visit or call the person, even if it is months or even a year later. It is better to make the connection. And the family needs ongoing support. They will receive a lot of attention at first, and then slowly, the attention and care fades away. Be there for the long run.

3. Even if you don’t know the person that well, the family will feel honored by your presence. It tells them that the person who is gone matters.

4. Every person has something to give to a person in pain. One person may not be good with words but can cook or bring drinks or pick up the other child from soccer. Know what you are good at and use that talent or skill to help the family.

5. Keep calling. Don’t tell the person that they should call you if they need you. You are responsible for calling them. You are there to support them. Don’t expect anything back from them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/ten-ways-to-help-newtowns-grieving-families/2012/12/28/

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