Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Will WikiLeaks’ disclosures lead to international probes of Afghan War?

July 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Ira Sharkansky

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–“Document Leak May Hurt Efforts to Build War Support”

Each of us may have a different view of that headline in the New York Times, which derives from the paper’s activities, along with the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and WikiLeaks, to bring purloined documents to the public’s attention. Some will condemn the paper as working against the national interest or worse, and say that this is the latest chapter in a disingenuous effort against the war in Afghanistan.  Others will praise the paper for revealing to the public what should be known about a war destined for failure from the beginning. 
Those with a memory will say it all looks pretty much like the controversy surrounding the New York Time’s publication of Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers in 1971. That was a highlight in a campaign against a war that began with public support and ended in a mood of political embarrassment, and defeat for the party in power.
Ellsberg faced serious charges under the Espionage Act that could have put him in prison for the rest of his life, but a federal judge dismissed the case in the light of illegal activities directed against Ellsberg by the Nixon administration. Since then his story, and Vietnam, have been joined with Watergate in a grand condemnation of the Johnson and Nixon administrations. 
Now we will see if responsible people in the Obama administration remember the treatment of Ellsberg, and/or the story of Vietnam, and manage to avoid charges of how they defend a war that is, at the least, problematic.
We can quarrel about the public’s right to know the details of military actions, including errors in targeting, civilian casualties, convoluted relations with other governments, the deceptions that occur along the chain of command, and the disregard for human life that may reach the level of sadism. Control of such material is harder than in the 1970s, and perhaps impossible given the advent of the internet without a fixed base of entry, along with camera-equipped cell phones, tiny recording devices and other gadgets affordable and readily available to military personnel, journalists, and others. Censorship has become voluntary, and perhaps impossible to maintain in military operations that include tens or hundreds of thousands of participants. Some of those involved will be intense in their commitment to achieving military goals and impatient at any civilian control, while others will feel strongly about their own conceptions of decency. Individual attitudes change in the course of operations, and may move in the direction of disregard for civilian casualties or accurate reporting, or in the counter direction of disgust with any officially directed or condoned violence.
So far WikiLeaks does not have a Hebrew language version. Israel and the IDF may be spared, at least temporarily, anything equivalent to what is currently disturbing the Pentagon and White House. 
My own question is whether the current revelations will produce something like the torrent of investigations by the several organs of the United Nations and other do gooders to match Goldstone on Gaza, and the numerous commissions intent on revealing truth about Israel’s attack on peace loving Turks. 
A rhetorical question if I ever imagined one. We all know there is one rule for Israel, and another for countries with more supporters in international organizations.
International concern may push Israel to look more closely at its own behavior. The IDF has tried and punished soldiers and officers for unnecessary civilian casualties, and for distorting reports about military operations. Much of this has come as a result of established internal procedures or in response to revelations by Israeli media. Israel has no lack of Hebrew language web sites that reveal stories the establishment would prefer to keep quiet. What they lack, however, is a prominent central address having international exposure equivalent to WikiLeaks.
It is hard to say if commissions responsible to international organs or self-appointed outsiders claiming a concern for human rights have produced more assiduous inquiries by Israel, or a greater sense of isolation and persecution. My own perception is that a “damn the world” mentality has not become chronic with anything more than a fringe of Israeli society. On the other hand, skepticism and cynicism toward those claiming a right to criticize Israel are justified when it is only Israel that receives such treatment.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Remembering another July 4 when an American president stood up for Israel

July 4, 2010 Leave a comment

 By Rabbi Ben Kamin  

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO — One recalls July 4, 1976—the great Bicentennial—with much nostalgia and affection.  America was exactly 200 years old, had survived the Watergate scandals and a presidential resignation without bloodshed or constitutional tremors.   

The dreadful Vietnam War was over after some fifteen years of entanglement, though we struggled (and still do) with the cosmic shock of having lost 57,000 young lives in war that we lost and through which we all but lost our national soul.  Vietnam itself was a scarred waste of napalm and blood; for what?

But on July 4, 1976, the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, stood up in the White House and proclaimed:  “Today, Israel has given us the best present we could have on the Fourth of July.”  This decent and plain-spoken president then announced the details of Israel’s brilliant and daring rescue of 103 civilian hostages at Entebbe airport, near Kampala, in Uganda.

An Air France jet had taken off a week earlier and was skyjacked by Palestinian terrorists.  After landing at Entebbe, all the non-Jewish passengers were released (an act dubiously reminiscent of standard Nazi procedure).   The rescue of the hostages and the defeat of the terrorists and their Ugandan hosts was a feat of unparalleled intelligence and military luster.  One Israeli commando was killed—the commander of the mission, Jonathan Netanyahu, the brother of Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Ford was moved and had the integrity and uprightness to praise and congratulate our ally, Israel.  Indeed, the operation inspired a variety of American tactical rescue scenarios and the deployment of similar teams; American military reliance upon and interaction with Israeli intelligence and maneuvers has been a hallmark of the unique friendship between these two democracies for over sixty years.   It may be more important than ever, given the trending of Turkey (long before the recent contrived flotilla incident) away from the West and into the hands of Islamist plotters.

Why the ambivalence and hand-wringing now of our president and government about the fundamental and irreparable alliance we share with both the practical and historical narrative of the State of Israel?   

For the love of God, we wine and dine and wink and rationalize the ignominy of Afghanistan’s ungrateful and fraudulent  warlord president; we pine for Iran to turn into Oz; we practically apologize to the Arab global establishment after its hard-boiled and virulent opposition to the American ideals of education, liberty, creativity, and gender equality continue to be embellished by the unchecked Koranic provocation that blankets more and more millions of people from the Middle East to Africa to Asia and into Europe.

Why not love and admire our friend and acolyte and defender, Israel, its flaws (and our own) notwithstanding?   Would we prefer the Iranian / Hamas / Hezbollah public goals of Israeli and Jewish extermination?  Who would we then to turn to—Egypt?  Syria?  Somalia?  Iran?

Would that we had a president again who had the audacity to stand up for our real friends on July 4.

Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer and author based in San Diego.

McChrystal affair points up wisdom of punishing enemy but not occupying its territory

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The dismissal of General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan is not as seismic as some are contending, but it is significant. The comparison  with Truman and MacArthur is not appropriate. MacArthur acted against presidential policy, and helped create the military and political disaster of Chinese entry into the Korean War. McChrystal and his aides only criticized the president and his political advisors. They did it publicly, with the Rolling Stone format adding to the insult. His action was dismissable, but its significance goes beyond the details of how a general must respect his political superior. It indicates more about the folly of American war policy than the personalities who were commanding the most prominent part of it.  

We cannot know all the details, at least until biographies appear some years in the future. There seems little doubt, however, that it reflects a lack of clear and agreed policy about a conflict mired in something approaching chaos. 

Reports are that June was the heaviest casualty month for NATO forces in a 9 year war, as well as marking another lengthening of what already was the longest war in US history. Newspaper readers should be well aware of the corruption at the highest levels of what stands as the Afghan government, and its dealing with the Taliban behind the back of the Americans. One media personality said that the dismissal would be costly because McChrystal had good relations with Presient Karzai. But that  may be an acceptable cost insofar as Karzai does not rule much beyond his official residence, if even that. 

Also well known is how American forces must close their eyes to the “war on drugs” while fighting what they call the “war on terror.”

President Obama has recently said that his “goal is to break Taliban, and to empower Afghanistan.” Against that is a comment from a retired general, beyond the range of a dismissal, that “There is no way to win this war. It will end with an argument rather than a victory.” 

There is nothing close to obvious wisdom about what American and NATO forces should do in Afghanistan, or its cousin wars in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and perhaps elsewhere. Nine years have seen a lot of allied casualties and enough “collateral damage” to harden the goal of dealing with the terror that the politically correct refuse to describe as Islamic.

My own perspective sees a lesson in the experience of tiny Israel that the vastly more impressive United States could adopt as a way of preserving its own power over the long term. No one should try predicting the decline of this greatest of powers the world has seen, but it would be equally naive  to assume that dominance is permanent.

The lesson Israeli leaders have learned, which has evaded American leaders is that the longer an army stays in a hostile place, the  harder it is to leave. It happened in Vietnam, and is happening in Iraq despite the fig trees planted around the continued violence. The McChrystal dismissal suggests that whatever fig trees are in store for Afghanistan will have to be of the thickest variety. Transparency is not in the cards

The corollary is that local rulers should be left to do what they want in their country, provided they do no harm to more powerful others. This modest but cogent strategy is what Israel did in Lebanon II and Gaza, and what the United States should have done in response to the 9-11 event labeled “Made in Afghanistan.” The appropriate epigram is “Hit hard and leave,” without aspiring to remake, or even to play politics in a country so far beyond the ken of outsiders. 

Sadly the lesson is too simple for a country that prides itself on highly educated military personnel, who learn social science and languages as well as tactics and strategy, plus all the civilian talent in universities and think tanks. The warnings were clear, but expertise is no guarantee of success. Competing experts typically point in different directions. Moreover, the president is Commander in Chief. One Bush with a mission to democratize Iraq or an Obama certain about increasing force in Afghanistan are enough to outweigh a great deal of talent in the military and around its flanks. 

It may be time to pray for the United States. Others will be praying in their own way for Afghanistan. Each will claim the support of the One God. It’s a scenario that Leo Tolstoi described in War and Peace, dealing with a conflict that occurred two centuries ago..

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

San Diego’s Historic Places: Veterans Memorial Museum hosts exhibit on Japanese-American members of the Armed Forces

May 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Traveling exhibit of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison


SAN DIEGO—Probably no event has seared into the consciousness of the Japanese-American community more painfully than their forced relocation from their homes on the West Coast of the United States to internment camps in the interior of the country during World War II.

This is the central portion of an exhibit at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Balboa Park that compellingly examines the 20th century history of Japanese American soldiers from San Diego.  The portable exhibit will remain through Memorial Day (May 31) and then be returned to the archives of the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

Although the exhibit covers more than 100 years, conceptually it is book-ended by the experiences of Navy cook Sago Takata, who was one of 60 men killed in 1905 when the USS Bennington’s boilers exploded in San Diego Bay, and those of Lt. Cmdr. Craig Osaki, who at the end of the 20th century was an expert in the Iraq War on the use and repair of robots to remove enemy-planted explosive devices.

A few months after Japan’s military forces bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, notices were posted on telephone poles and on walls in San Diego neighborhoods where Japanese Americans were known to live. Families were given one week to pack their belongings and prepare for relocation to the interior. Initially most families from San Diego were taken to the Santa Anita Race Track, where horse stalls served as their temporary homes until an internment camp at Poston, Arizona, could be readied.

Poston was one of ten major internment camps built by the United States government. “From August 1942 until Poston closed in late 1945, the families attempted to live normal lives under circumstances that were anything but normal,” the narrative said.

San Diegan Tetsuzo Hirasaki had been a close friend of the city’s chief librarian Clara Breed. Using a sharpened bed spring, he carved for her from mesquite wood a nameplate that she proudly displayed on her desk at the San Diego Public Library. Instead of being sent to Poston with the rest of his family, Hirasaki’s father, Chiyomatsu, had been sent to camps in North Dakota and New Mexico. The family asked Breed, who wrote a column, to do what she could to help reunite them.

At first, the military was not interested in enlisting Japanese Americans, considering them too great a security risk. Although Mas Tsuida was a seafaring fisherman, the Navy had no desire for his skills. Eventually, however, the U.S. Army created a segregated unit, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for Japanese Americans willing to fight in the European theatre against Nazi Germany.

After joining, Tsuida was sent to Fort Reilly, Kansas for his basic training. One day he and all the other Japanese-American soldiers were “herded into a single barracks surrounded by military police with machine guns at the ready,” the exhibit related. “President Franklin D. Roosevelt was visiting the base and the MPs were protecting him from those questionable U.S. soldiers.” Afterwards, Tsuida was sent to Naples, Italy, and would fight in Italy and France. He was injured in the October 1944 battle in which the 442nd was sent into the Vosges Mountains to rescue the “Lost Battalion,” which had been surrounded by the Germans. The 442nd was successful, but not without sustaining heavy casualties. At war’s end, Tsuida returned to his life as a fisherman.

Other Japanese-American soldiers had their basic training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, where those from the mainland United States found themselves thrown in with Japanese from Hawaii, with whom a fierce rivalry initially developed. However, as an exhibit photograph of San Diegan Sam Yamaguchi wearing Hawaiian garb illustrates, the two groups were molded in a single unit.

Among San Diegans fighting in World War II were Yasuichi ‘Jimmy’ Kimura, who used to drive a truck on local vegetable farms before his family was relocated to the internment camp. In the Army, he drove trucks and performed maintenance on them in both the European and North African campaigns. He was awarded a purple heart with an oak leaf cluster for wounds sustained during the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”

After the war, the services of Japanese-Americans were called upon as interpreters and in other capacities in the occupation of Japan and of Okinawa. San Diegan Francis Tanaka, who later would become a physician with Scripps Mercy Hospital, served as a medical interpreter on Okinawa in 1945 and 1946. Shizue Suwa, a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy nurse corps, was stationed in occupied Japan.

When the internment camps closed in late 1945, Japanese-Americans moved back to San Diego. Those whose family members had served in the military were eligible for veterans’ family housing. The exhibit extensively quotes from Grim The Battles, a 1954 memoir by Daisy Lee Worthington Worcester. Arriving at the Frontier Housing Project in the Midway District of San Diego, a group of Japanese-American families encountered the hostility of Anglo families already living there.

“The Japanese sat in chairs along the walls, heads cast down as if to avoid hostile glances but not enabling them to escape low murmured expressions of hatred. An emergency meeting of the tenant council was held that evening,” Worcester wrote. One woman who served as secretary of the tenant council threatened there would be “a dead Jap” before morning if any of them were placed in the unit where she lived. “The meeting lasted until midnight. There was not one person who did not take part in the discussion. I witnessed a miracle that night—the miracle of serious people thinking and feeling together, striving to be above all good Americans and decent human beings.” The upshot was that there was a complete turnaround, including by the woman who had made the ‘dead Jap’ threat. The tenants decided to oppose any discrimination on the basis of race or creed or color. Additionally, they formed a committee to welcome each Japanese-American family to the complex.

Although the war was over, the experience of the internment camps continued to have its influence on the Japanese-American community. The exhibit notes that the 1951 Korean conflict “brought a whole new generation of Japanese Americans into the military…. These Japanese American youths had spent their formative years in internment camps and most had watched their parents lose everything during World War II. Nevertheless, they served when called upon…”

Among San Diegans who went to Korea was Jim Yanagihara who served in a mobile hospital unit such as that made famous by the television series M*A*S*H. “As part of the multinational United Nations force, Yanagihara came into contact with soldiers from other countries and he had high praise especially for the Ethiopian soldiers. He recalls ‘I was really impressed by these soldiers. They never complained.’”

The comment can be juxtaposed with the forward to the exhibit on Japanese-American soldiers, which explained: “Two Japanese words provide a running theme for this exhibition and describe the motivations for Japanese-Americans to serve. One is giri meaning duty, and the other is gaman, which means to endure….”

These concepts were tested in the Vietnam War, when like other young men in the United States many questioned the justness of that war. However the Japanese Americans “did not find it easy to openly express their thoughts. Nearly all had an uncle, brother or father who had been interned and who had served with distinction during World War II and Korea…. Many of those who served in Vietnam were born in the U.S. internment camps.”

Alan Hayashi, who was born in the Poston, Arizona camp, was drafted into the Army in 1969 after graduation from San Diego State University. He “received the bronze star for actions to cut the supply chain known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Da Nang, as well as many other commendations from the United States and the Republic of Vietnam.” He commented that he was “raised with the value of loyalty to my country.”

Among the first San Diegans killed in the Vietnam War was Sgt. Shugi Julio Kaneko, whose family were Japanese Peruvians who, at the suggestion of the American government, were sent to an internment camp in Texas to possibly be traded for U.S. prisoners of war held by Japan. However, his family was not needed for such an exchange and they eventually settled in San Diego. Unlike the Japanese-Americans who eventually received a U.S. government apology and $20,000 as redress for their wrongful internment during World War II, the Japanese-Peruvians never were eligible for the award.

Although San Diegan Robert Ito didn’t serve in Vietnam—his draft number having never been called – he remembered vividly stories told to him by San Diegan David Uda “about the racism and the mean-spirited attitudes of his fellow U.S. soldiers,” according to the narration. “When U.S. helicopters flew over, he would dive in the brush for the cover because he (having Asian features) didn’t want to be mistaken for the enemy….”

Containing criticism as it does of the actions of the American government, the exhibit demonstrates that the Veterans Memorial Museum is not only a repository for the memoirs of San Diegans who served in the military but also is an institution willing to examine controversies affecting the military. This makes the museum an even more valuable resource in a city of proud military tradition. Elsewhere in the museum, there are exhibits about San Diegan experiences in different branches of the military, on different fronts and in different wars—providing a kaleidoscopic introduction to the U.S. military experience.

Speeches by veterans about their individual experiences often enliven visitors’ experiences at the museum.

Outside the museum, there are some permanent memorials, including monuments with the names of San Diegans who died in the Vietnam War. Moved from its original location in Old Town San Diego to the Veterans Memorial Museum, these plaques constituted what was considered the first-in-the-nation memorial to Vietnam Veterans, erected even while controversy about the war raged.

In a park leading to the museum’s front door, there is a sculpture by Robert Henderson of a B24 Liberator Bomber which as noted on a plaque had an impact both on the outcome of World War II and the development of San Diego’s industrial sector.

“The airplane was designed by Consolidated Aircraft Corporation where more than a third of all B24sx were build during World War II,” the plaque reports. “At the peak of production more than 45,000 San Diegans worked at Consolidated building the B24. Other San Diego manufacturers brought the number even higher. Subcontractors included Rohr Industries in Chula Vista, Ryan Aeronautical Company and Solar Corporation both in San Diego. The B24 Liberator was flown by all branches of the U.S. military and by every major ally during World War II. Altogether, 19,256 liberators of all types and models were built. The Consolidated B24 Liberator was the most mass produced American aircraft of all time.”

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  This article previously was published on

Obama using Israel as a scapegoat for his own failed policies

April 26, 2010 1 comment

By Rabbi Ben Kamin

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO–There was no particular courage required to excoriate the government of Israel when its housing minister announced the construction of so many new home units in the Jerusalem area exactly when Vice President Joe Biden was arriving in the country to discuss peace talks.  Many in the Israeli establishment and editorial community were just as mystified by the timing—even the arrogance.

But no courage whatsoever is required for one nation to tell its primary ally and devotee in the Middle East what to do generally within that ally’s municipal sovereignty (especially with respect to its capital city)—let alone try to micro-manage that ally’s business.  Timing is one thing, protocol is another.  No courage here—just temerity. 

Every American president before Obama, Republican and Democrat, has celebrated our extraordinarily special relationship with this brave and spirited little country.

Israel is boldly democratic, to a fault, and at the expense of its own functionality.  It is home to some 120 nationalities and it turns 62 this week without a single US soldier, sailor, or airman ever dying on its soil in a wartime action.  This is not Iraq, Kuwait, Vietnam, Korea, or Afghanistan–or Lebanon, where hundreds of American Marines were killed in a 1983 suicide bombing.

President Obama has practically broken his back extending invitations to, declarations of support for, and generally winking at President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan—known to have been elected by fraud, most highly questionable in the categories of democracy and gratitude.  For the better part of a decade, young Americans have been dying in the deserts and mountains of this fractious and bellicose nation of innumerable tribal conflagrations.
President Obama has visited Afghanistan—which is great and surely cheers our brave soldiers there.  He has not chosen to set foot yet in Israel, a republic that both mirrors and fawns over America, even while protecting US interests via its military, scientific, biotechnological, and strategic commitments and successes.

The United States recognized the State of Israel within moments of its independence on May 14, 1948.  President Harry Truman was clear-eyed and declarative.   Every American president since, Republican and Democrat, has celebrated our extraordinarily special relationship with this brave and spirited little country that still fights daily against terrorism and now the announced threat of Iranian nuclear annihilation.

The government of Israel formally recognized the existence of the Palestinian nation on September 13, 1993: I was there at the White House when this happened and witnessed the fateful handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat.  It is not the fault of Israel that what is now left, sadly, of the Palestinian nation is an unrecognizable bloody stand-off between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank. 

But to now equate America’s entanglements in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the tragic loss of US lives in those places, to Israel’s dangerous equation with the Palestinians is facile at best and libelous at worst.  In fact, even as the frustrations and failures of American policy in the Muslim world (including the just-now published government admission that we are not succeeding with Iran) grow, some Americans are simply dumping blame on our friendship with Israel.

This is a blood libel and we Americans have better principles than that.

Kamin is a freelance writer and author.  His Nothing Like Sunshine: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination was recently published.

Full-length documentary needs to be encyclopedic in length to cover Greenspun’s span

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

 QUESTION PERIOD—Brian Greenspun and Scott Goldstein listen to a question
posed by an audience member at San Diego Jewish Film Festival Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Lawrence Family JCC in La Jolla, California
By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story introduced to attendees of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival a man who in Las Vegas and among influential people in Israel had been a legend during his lifetime.  Publisher of the Las Vegas Sun until his death in 1989, Greenspun seemed to interact with 20th century American history the way the fictional movie character Forrest Gump did—although with a big difference.  Events somehow just happened to Gump, bringing him into contact with the rich and famous.   The real-life Herman “Hank” Greenspun, on the other hand, made events happen. 

Greenspun was a larger-than-life figure in Las Vegas, a public relations man with a talent for recognizing opportunity and a man who perceived a wide gap between the “law” and “justice.”  While he sometimes violated the former, he risked his life and reputation in pursuit of the latter.

That, at least, is the take on his life by film maker Scott Goldstein, who won a pair of Emmy’s as the producer of television’s “L.A. Law” Series.  But while Goldstein’s film, financed by the late publisher’s family, provides good material for the historical record, it is far from the last objective word on Greenspun’s life.  Far more digging is required.

Although the documentary covers numerous chapters in Greenspun’s life, none resonated more with the Jewish film festival  crowd than the extensive coverage of Greenspun’s efforts—in violation of American law—to obtain and smuggle arms to the Haganah during Israel’s Independence War of 1948. 

Working under future Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and with future Israel Aircraft Industries founder Al Schwimmer, Greenspun stole machine guns and tons of other weapons from a poorly-guarded military depot in Hawaii, shipped them first to Los Angeles and later to Mexico, and in the process threatened to kill an American and a Mexican boat captain who balked at smuggling the contraband.  He did not have to follow through, no doubt not only to their relief, but his as well.

So soon after the murder of the Six Million in the Holocaust, Greenspun fervently believed that the cause of Israel was just, even if support of the beleaguered Jews in the newly declared nation violated America’s neutrality law. Eventually, the FBI and the Justice Department decided to make an example of him and Schwimmer, bringing charges against them while dropping charges against lesser figures in the illegal gun-running operation. 

Schwimmer, a former American military officer who based his airplane-smuggling operations in Czechoslovakia and later moved to Israel, remained out of reach of the FBI, but Greenspun was put on trial and convicted.   However, the judge decided not to give Greenspun any prison time, opting instead to fine him $10,000 and to strip him of his citizenship rights.  As much as he loved politics, as a convicted felon Greenspun could not vote until he was pardoned for his actions by President John F. Kennedy.

This wasn’t in the documentary, but Schwimmer, interestingly, never wanted a pardon, arguing that to ask for one would suggest that he believed he had done something wrong.  Greenspun’s son, Brian, helped obtain one for Schwimmer anyway by appealing to President Bill Clinton, who had been the younger Greenspun’s classmate at Georgetown University.  

In describing the invaluable service that Greenspun had provided to the brand new state of Israel, its President Shimon Peres  practically choked up with gratitude during an interview in the documentary.  Hundreds if not thousands of Israeli soldiers would have died, had it not been for the weapons that Greenspun had helped obtain for Israel, Peres asserted,

Two years before Greenspun died, the American Jew  Jonathan Pollard was arrested for transferring classified secrets to Israel.  Many felt the former U.S. intelligence agent had done nothing more than deliver to Israel the kind of information that was rightly due to an American ally.  Others cast Pollard as nothing more than a profit-seeking opportunist, one who was ready to sell U.S. secrets not only to Israel but to other countries as well.  Although there was a plea bargain with prosecutors, Pollard was meted out a life sentence by the judge.

As moderator of the film festival presentation on Tuesday, February 16, of  Where I Stand, I was able to alternate with audience members in posing some questions to the younger Greenspun—who has succeeded his father as publisher of the Las Vegas Sun and director of a large Nevada media and real estate empire—as well as to Scott Goldstein, the movie maker. 

Given that both Pollard and the elder Greenspun had put their concern for Israel ahead of the laws of the United States, I asked what position Hank Greenspun had taken on the Pollard case. Brian Greenspun responded that he didn’t recall for certain, but suspected that his father believed people who break the law in pursuit of a moral  principle have to do so with a willingness to pay the price.  

Brian Greenspun related that during the time of the Vietnam War, when some protesters fled to Canada rather than be drafted, his father accompanied him to a college campus where there were recruiting stations for both the Army and Air Force reserve officers training corps.   The father told the son that it was likely he would have to serve in the military, and if he did, it was better to be an officer.  But if Brian couldn’t bring himself to do that, he should be willing to go to jail rather than to Canada.  He should stand up for what he believed, in other words.

Another chapter in the film dealt with Greenspun’s abortive efforts in the 1970s to be a peacemaker.  When Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat was in the midst of his historic negotiations with Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin for an Israeli-Egyptian peace, Greenspun tried through Adnan Khashoggi (who later became familiar to Americans who followed the Iran-Contra affair) to influence the Saudi Royal Family to give Mideast peace their blessing.  According to an interview with Hank Greenspun  included in the documentary, the Saudi family agreed, provided that Saudi Arabia be given sovereignty over the Temple Mount, where both the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque are located.  As Hank Greenspun told the story, the deal would have gone through—save for Saddam Hussein of Iraq raising such a fuss about it that the Saudi Royal Family backed away. Other, published, accounts say it wasn’t Hussein, it was  Prime Minister Begin who scuttled the deal: He reportedly was opposed to giving up Israel’s sovereignty over the place revered by Jews as the location of the first and second Temple.

As the documentary’s two chapters on Israel are exciting, and yet, are far from definitive history, so too are other chapters in the documentary not much more than slices of intriguing information that really need to be fleshed out by historians.   I don’t fault filmmaker Goldstein for this, he would need to do a many-part series of documentaries to cover these various chapters in depth.  He deserves credit for opening up the mine and showing us the veins of historical gold.

There are stories needing to be elaborated  in the documentary about the  mob’s impact on Las Vegas, and Greenspun’s relationship with some of the most notorious underworld figures.    We see him, a young, ambitious former Broadway New York public relations man, coming to Las Vegas, publishing a small magazine about Las Vegas entertainment, and encountering Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel on a stairway.  Pleased that Greenspun never called him “Bugsy” in print, instead identifying him by his given name of “Benjamin,” Siegel eventually offered Greenspun a job as public relations director for the Flamingo Hotel.  Greenspun knew whom he was getting into bed with, but decided to take the job anyway.

Siegel subsequently was murdered, the documentary explaining that the mob didn’t take kindly to all the money Siegel had lost on the Flamingo.  Later, during the Israel gun-running episode, when Longshoremen in New York threatened to reveal what cargo they really were loading, they were persuaded by members of the mob from Detroit that it would be better to load the material without extra pay, then to not load it with broken knee caps.  That this is included in the documentary at all hints that Greenspun had something to do with the mob connection.  Greenspun, meanwhile, as a part owner of the Desert Inn, found himself on the outs when a new owner – mobster Moe Dalitz—took it over.  Becoming publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, Greenspun campaigned against mobbed-up hotels, but according to Brian Greenspun, the mob tolerated him—at least most of the time.

In the documentary, Greenspun’s children tell of growing up with friends who were the children of mobsters, making them think that everyone’s father, except their own, had “the” as a middle name – as in “___ the lip” or “___the blade.”  One time, a gentleman who came to the door—and who was let into the house by the kids—turned out to be a mob hit man with a contract on Greenspun.  The publisher recognized him, and ascertaining that he was a family man, told the mobster he shouldn’t kill him in front of his children, but should wait until the following morning.  The hit man agreed, Greenspun made some phone calls, and the matter went away.  In Tuesday’s question and answer session, Brian Greenspun elaborated that the hit was due to a misunderstanding between different branches of the mob—apparently a dispute in which Greenspun wasn’t an essential ingredient.   Obviously there is more digging to do into this chapter, as there are in other chapters.

We see in the documentary stories about Greenspun’s clash against red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy; Greenspun’s successful backing for racial integration of Las Vegas casinos;  and Greenspun’s luring of Howard Hughes to Las Vegas, where the eccentric aircraft pioneer purchased a half dozen hotels from the mob as playthings.  

There is also a  bizarre chapter which played out in the Watergate hearings leading up to the resignation of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, in which the “plumbers” who broke into Democratic National Headquarters also planned to break into a safe Greenspun had in his office.

The Nixon operatives were concerned that papers in the safe  may have dealt with the question of whether Howard Hughes had funneled cash directly to Nixon and his family.  In Tuesday’s question and answer session, Brian Greenspun said actually the Hughes papers had to do with far more mundane matters, but that because Nixon had been embarrassed by a Hughes loan in the 1962 California governor’s race, his operatives feared history might repeat itself.  He said that Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt shared that information with him and his father after Hunt was released from prison.

In its effort to cover so much ground, the documentary had to gloss over many issues – including  how Greenspun had amassed his fortune in real estate by buying up Paradise Valley and his early approval, and later opposition, to nuclear testing in Nevada.  Members of the publisher’s family believe that exposure to above-ground testing may have triggered the cancer to which Greenspun succumbed.

While the documentary is far from complete – it skipped over entirely, for example, Greenspun’s unsuccessful run in 1962 for the Republican nomination for governor of Nevada – it is stirring, imaginative, and eye-opening—not the end , perhaps, but a significant beginning in the measurement of the impact one man can have on a society.

Goldstein said he hoped that the 2008 documentary, now making the rounds of Jewish film festivals, eventually will be seen by a larger television or cable audience,  although he said outfits such as the “History Channel” now seem to prefer “reality-style” programming rather than serious documentaries.  To my eyes, the documentary seems tailor-made for airing over the Public Broadcasting System. 

It deserves to be seen … and discussed.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

Targeted killings as instruments of Israeli and U.S. policy

February 15, 2010 2 comments

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Israel radio announced that The Times of London was accusing Israel of “waging covert war across the Middle East.” The worry was that this would be the start of another campaign to condemn and delegitimize Israel, recruit support for boycotts of its exports and its academics, and arrange arrest warrants for officials and military personnel.

The headline resembles what we heard on the radio, but the article is more descriptive than prescriptive.

It speculates about a series of killings that could be ascribed to Israel, and notes the lack of response from Israeli authorities. While it is impossible to predict how Israel-bashers will respond, the article itself contains neither condemnation nor overt criticism.

Another article in the Washington Post may serve to limit a renewed focus on Israel. “Under Obama, more targeted killings than captures in counterterrorism efforts.”
The Post article is also descriptive, but may contain more ammunition for critics than the Times article about Israel. The Post details the choices faced by the administration between capture and killing, and indicates that the easier task of killing has the downside of wiping out a possible source of intelligence. It also notes the problems caused by American human rights advocates and the president’s pledge–so far not honored–of closing Guantanamo, and the closing of US military prisons in other countries. Without opportunities to hold suspects under American control but outside the United States, the choice of capture is less attractive. Holding suspects within the United States would subject the process to a range of legal constraints, which was the reason for using Guantanamo and those military and CIA facilities in countries willing to accommodate America’s security needs.

Israel as well as the United States has its opponents to killing the bad guys. Military personnel have said on numerous occasions that they would prefer capture, and getting what they can from the prisoners to help them go after others who are intent on violence, or to locate their stores of munitions. Israel holds some 12,000 Palestinian security prisoners in several facilities. It does not kill lightly. Operational realities often dictate killing rather than capture. On several occasion it has suspended the policy of assassinations, and it has stopped ongoing missions that would endanger numerous civilians. Other missions have killed enough civilians to produce considerable outrage, both locally and overseas.

The Washington Post article, along with reports over the years from Israel, suggest that both countries operate by similar norms. Ranking officers must approve each attack, and may operate under the close control of the highest civilian officials.

A highly critical article of US practice written in response to the Washington Post article indicates that some of the people targeted by the United States are American citizens. Three of them are said to be currently on the list for extermination. According to one official, if ”we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.”

Similarities between these features of American and Israeli counter-terrorism campaigns raise the question of who learned from who.

Both countries have a long record of assassination. John F. Kennedy is said to have approved the killing of Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem, and Richard Nixon is given ultimate responsibility for the death of Chilean president Salvador Allende.

The Washington Post credits George W. Bush with beginning the use of targeted killings as part of his war against terror after 9-11, and says that Barack Obama has increased their use.

To my knowledge, no American president has actually pulled a trigger or pressed a button to produce a targeted killing. Some assign a direct role in the assassination of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte to the young  Yitzhak Shamir, who became prime minister 35 years later.

The questions invited by this discussion are:

* Will the United Nations send Richard Goldstone against the United States of America? and

*Will Benyamin Netanyahu receive the Nobel Prize for Peace?

Do not accuse me of naivete. Cynicism maybe.

Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

February 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Garry Fabian 

Cooking duo eyes $100,000 prize

MELBOURNE,  3 February – Forget the stereotype of  the Jewish grandmother slaving away over bubbling  chicken soup and kneidlach in the kitchen,

Australia’s newest Jewish super chefs are Clint Yudelman and Noah Rose.

The culinary duo are the Victorian contestants on  Australia’s newest reality TV cooking show, My Kitchen Rules.

It took some organising to catch  up with  Yudelman in his family’s home in Caulfield North
to talk about the show and the prospect of fame and fortune.

The quiet but confident Mount Scopus Memorial  College graduate said he had found his way onto the cooking show after a friend applied to be a contestant.

Following phone and face-to-face interviews, the  24-year-old cooked a dish of seared tuna with Asian greens and Japanese sauce in 15 minutes to wow the casting agents.

And wow them he did, with Yudelman and Rose, 23,  selected as the only Victorians on the Channel  Seven show which premiered on February 1. In the  show five pairs travel to each others’ dinner  parties under the watchful eyes of celebrity chefs, and My Kitchen Rules judges, Peter Evans and Manu Feildel.

“It was a great opportunity to travel the country,” Yudelman said.

The pair ate at homes in Sydney, Adelaide,  Brisbane and Perth — where they stayed a few
extra days to surf and discover the culinary  delights of the Margaret River region.

After the initial dinner parties, the show moved  into a commercial kitchen, where contestants  pitted their abilities against each other.

“It was daunting and hard to be natural,”  Yudelman said of his first television experience.
“You had to pretend [the camera was] not there.”

He explained that the pair teamed up in the  kitchen because they both used to be vegetarians.

“We couldn’t eat salads all the time, so we had to get creative,” he said.

Rose agreed: “You need to be creative or it just  becomes boring being vegetarian. But it did
expose me to many different vegetables and spices.”

Eventually, however, they both returned to eating  meat, and Yudelman — who graduated as a vet last  year and has just begun practising in Brisbane —  joked that he is familiar with animals “from paddock to plate”.

Somewhat surprisingly for a couple of Jewish  boys, they list their favourite ingredient as fresh seafood. Rose opts for scallops, which he likes to serve  seared with seasonal produce. Yudelman’s  signature dish, meanwhile, is pan-fried Wagyu beef eye fillet finished in the oven, on lightly  sauteed snow peas with caramelised shallots,  sweet potato puree, red wine sauce and mushroom duxelle.

On a more Jewish note, though, Yudelman’s “dream  dinner party guests” are mostly members of the  tribe — the three lead men from the hit TV  comedy Seinfeld, Albert Einstein and Woody Allen.  Rose would also invite Jerry Seinfeld, as well as  Napoleon Bonaparte, Oscar Wilde and Tiger Woods.

It is not celebrities, however, who the boys will  have to impress to be crowned kings of the
kitchen, but their fellow contestants. And with a  $100,000 prize up for grabs, the winning chefs will certainly get their just desserts.

New Jewish School opens up in Sydney’s west

SYDNEY< 3 February – A new Jewish school, ­ the  B’nai Yakov School, ­ has opened in Sydney’s western suburbs.

Located at the Parramatta and District Synagogue,  the B’nai Yakov School is registered with the NSW  Board of Studies and will cater to children in years K-6.

Inaugural principal, Rabbi Yoseph Wernick, said:  “Although the Parramatta Jewish community has  always been small with around 100 families, it  has always been a vibrant and youthful community.

“For many years, families wishing to provide  their children with a Jewish day school education  would have to travel to Sydney’s larger Jewish  communities. Now that has changed.”

Rabbi Wernick said the school is integrating  Jewish and general studies in order to provide a Jewish knowledge base, while at the same time meeting all the requirements of the NSW Board of Studies.

It caters to students of all academic levels and  offers sports and physical education,
extra-curricular and social activities, as well  as enrichment and extension programs for gifted students.

The school is named after the synagogue’s former  minister, Rabbi Gerald (Yacov) Blaivas, who  served the Jewish community as a sofer (scribe)  and as rabbi of Illawarra Synagogue before  heading to Parramatta. He was also an advocate for Jewish children in court.

Rabbi Wernick said: “His dedication to the youth  in general, and to Jewish education in particular, is legendary.”

Countdown begins for Maccabi Games

SYDNEY, 3 February –  Maccabi Australia has  appointed Ellana Aarons to head Australia’s team  management at the second Maccabi Australia  International Games (MAIGs), to be held in December 2010 and January 2011 in Sydney.

With the tournament set to attract a healthy contingent of international competition, Aarons  said her challenge is to “better that and get  quality Australian teams on the field”.

In a bid to build the profile of the MAIGs and encourage Australian Jewry to support the event,  Aarons plans to “keep costs to a bare minimum” to entice local participation.

Aarons’ vision is for the MAIGs to not only be a  fierce international competition, but to attract  such local numbers that interstate Australian  rivalry can be rekindled at senior level by  fielding separate sides from NSW, Victoria and  Western Australia in major sports, such as basketball, football and netball.

“We would hope if there are quality athletes that would allow us to have two teams in a sport, we will be doing that,” Aarons said.

“We need to keep in mind it’s an international  competition, but in many ways for us, because we  won’t be able to get together [for training camps], our state-based sides will be stronger
anyway. Then you’re coming with mates, you’re  going to have a good time, it’s not ripping teams  apart to create new teams . it’s an opportunity to re-ignite state rivalry.”

The long-time Maccabi player and administrator’s  first task is to assemble a management committee,  before player nominations open in mid-April.

Meanwhile, MAIG’s chairman Jeff Houseman said  that 13 countries have confirmed their
attendance, with further details to be formalised  when he attends a meeting in Israel in May.

The Games will be officially launched on February 14 with a gala function at the IMAX theatre’s  Star Room, in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

Heads of delegation from the US, Canada, and  possibly South Africa and Brazil, will join
Maccabi Australia in launching the MAIGs, and  Houseman has implored Sydney Maccabi clubs and players to support the event.

While it is still early days, Houseman has  declared that preparations are “going well”.

“The sports are going extremely well,” he assessed. “It’s just a matter of countries
putting their hand up and hopefully we’ll have a better idea after the meeting. Cycling [which was not on the original list] has come on big time, which is just incredible.

“The rugby club has asked for rugby to be put on, and we’re seeing if there is any interest. If
countries put up their hands, Australia has to as well.”

Rabbi Apple reflects on a lifetime of issues

SYDNEY, 4 February – Rabbi Raymond Apple says he  is “not a great believer in people writing  autobiographies unless they’ve had a very  exciting and dramatic life, which I really haven’t.”

So, in shaping his memoir, he resisted the idea of writing a standard autobiography.

“But to amuse myself, I started writing a series  of reflective chapters about the involvements and  commitments that have been part of my life. And  it ended being around 100 such chapters,” said  the emeritus rabbi of Sydney’s The Great Synagogue.

Sorted alphabetically, these essays, from  Aborigines to Zionism, give a thematic view of
the issues that have mattered to him ­ among  them, social justice, Jewish history, the arts,
his rabbinic colleagues and sport ­ rather than a chronology of events.

“If you want to know what I did in a particular  year, you won’t find it, but if you want to know  the sort of person I am, you’ll get the impression by looking at the book,” the
Australian rabbinic doyen, who now makes his home in Israel, he said.

The book, To Be Continued, will be launched by Professor Alan Crown and the Australian Jewish  Historical Society at The University of Sydney on February 8.

Both Prof Crown and Rabbi Apple are honorary  masters of the university’s Mandelbaum House, where the event will take place.

Describing his writing style as “light-hearted  and almost self-deprecating,” Rabbi Apple
declared: “I think it’s important almost to be able to laugh at yourself.”

Rabbi Apple was educated in Melbourne, attained  his s’micha in London, and took up his post with The Great in 1972.

An Australian interfaith pioneer, he was a  founding member and joint president of the
Australian Council of Christians and Jews, and  has spoken out on social justice issues.

As suggested by the memoir’s title, Rabbi Apple  saw his departure from The Great as a chance for continuity.

Living in Jerusalem with his wife Marian, and  writing there, has inspired the rabbi, who said
he spent a lifetime enhancing others’ religiosity “to work on my own soul.”

A taste of Kosher comes to town

MELBOURNE, 5 February – Kosher foodies will have  the opportunity to sample the latest products and innovations later this month.

Eskal KosherFest Australia 2010, Australian  kashrut’s trade fair, will take place on Sunday,
February 14 at St Kilda Town Hall, with  organisers expecting around 5000 people to pass through the doors.

The exhibitors will include Australian manufacturers, importers and retailers of kosher foods and beverages.

Josh Bartak, head of the exhibition’s organising  committee, said the event allows those in the  industry to use their stands to demonstrate and  explain the development of a particular product or company.

“KosherFest gives manufacturers, importers,  distributors and retailers of kosher products the  opportunity to showcase their goods in a fun, family-friendly environment.”

Organisers have added rides to entertain children, while parents and grandparents can
enjoy food samples and live cooking demonstrations, Bartak said.

Organisers are emphasising the broad appeal of  kosher products beyond the Jewish community, and  quote figures from the Israel Trade Commission  showing that the potential market for kosher  foods in Australia is more than one million people.

Kosher products have attracted interest from  Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist communities, as well  as vegetarians, vegans and those with special dietary needs.

“This year, there is also a cheese and wine bar  for consumers to rest and kibitz [chat],” Bartak said.

Among a diverse spread of 27 exhibitors this year  are Fisher & Paykel, Yumi’s, Coles, the City of  Port Phillip and health foods retailer Bodhi Kitchen.

New Australian ambassador to Israel

CANBERRA, 5 February – Australia will have a new ambassador to Israel with Andrea Faulkner set to  take over from James Larsen in March.

Faulkner, a diplomat who has previously spent  time in Tel Aviv, has extensive experience in the  Australian foreign service. She recently served  as assistant secretary of the Department of  Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Africa branch.

She represented Australia in Vietnam, as  second-in-command of the embassy in Hanoi. She
has also worked in Paris and had a previous stint in the Tel Aviv embassy.

In announcing Faulkner’s appointment, Foreign  Minister Stephen Smith spoke highly of Australia and Israel’s relationship.

“Australia and Israel’s longstanding and warm  friendship is based on Australia’s historical
support for Israel and our shared commitment to  freedom, security and democracy,” Smith said.

Larsen leaves Israel after more than three years in the job.

Arab Bully Boy tactic threatens  UN aspiration

CANBERRA,  5 February – The Jewish community is  calling on the Australian Government to stick to  its guns in its support for Israel, despite Arab  representatives attempting to blackmail the country into changing its views or lose the  chance of a United Nations (UN) seat.

As reported in The Australian this week, Arab  League representative Hashem Yousseff, who is  currently in the country, said Australia’s  staunch support for the Jewish State will be
“taken into consideration” when Arab nations vote  on whether Australia should take a temporary UN  Security Council seat in 2013-14.

The Israeli embassy in Canberra issued a statement rejecting Yousseff’s logic.

“Any nation considering their support for a vote  on a Security Council seat should first reflect on the merits of the nominee and the contribution  that they may make to international affairs,  before considering their own self-interest,” it declared.

“Australia has illustrated its dedication to  upholding its values in the international sphere.”

Israel has already offered its support for  Australia’s bid at a seat on the UN’s most influential body.

“We believe Australia is a nation of principle  and dedication to the betterment of worldwide citizens,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Executive Council of Australian Jewry  (ECAJ) president Robert Goot accused the 22-nation Arab League of using bullying tactics.

“He [Yousseff] should know that Australians do  not succumb to standover behaviour,” Goot said.

“It would be a good thing for Australia to have a  seat on the UN Security Council, but not if the price for obtaining it is to abandon our principles and bow to bully-boy threats.”

Goot put his confidence in the Australian Government, saying he believes Australia’s  leadership “has the moral fibre” to continue  supporting Israel, a two-state solution and peace in the Middle East.

Dr Colin Rubenstein from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council argued Yousseff’s comments were unsurprising considering his organisation’s track record.

“Unfortunately, the Arab League has rarely  displayed any inclination to be a constructive
force for Middle East peace and their  traditionally retrograde and unhelpful strategy
of focusing on boycotts and diplomatic posturing  to isolate, condemn and debunk Israel was again  on display in Mr Yousseff’s statements,” Dr Rubenstein said.

Australia, together with the United States,  Canada and a number of micro-states, consistently opposes anti-Israel motions in the UN General Assembly.

Since the Rudd Government won its term, Australia  has changed its decision on three unbinding votes pertaining to Israel, but it remained one of only a handful of nations last year to reject the  adoption of the controversial Goldstone report on the Gaza war.

Welcome mat pulled from Israeli academic

MELBOURNE, 5 February – An invitation to an  Israeli academic to speak in Melbourne has been  cancelled  because she heads an organisation that  aided a UN report critical of Israel’s conduct during last year’s war in Gaza.

Professor Naomi Chazan, who was a member of the  Israeli parliament from 1992 to 2003, was to  address a fund-raiser at Beth Weizmann Community  Centre next week. But her invitation by the Union of Progessive Judaism was withdrawn after it  emerged that the New Israel Fund, of which she is  president, has given millions of dollars in  grants to Israeli non-government organistions  that had spoken to a UN investigation team, led by Justice Richard Goldstone.

The president of the Zionist Council of Victoria,  Dr Danny Lamm said that the invitation to
Professor Chazan was extended by an affiliate  member of his organisation.. But he said that her  association with the  New Israel Fund was “intolerable.”

“When I became aware of the  New Israel Fund’s  activities with regard to the Goldstone report, I  withdrew our participation. Organisations that  they have funded have done damage to Israel and  as a consequence we don’t want to have anything
to do with the New Israel Fund,”  Lamm added.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

All military should be required to report Islamist extremists in the ranks –Senate Homeland Security Committee

January 14, 2010 1 comment


WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)—Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, (Independent, Connecticut)  and Ranking Member Susan Collins, (Repubilcan, Maine) – who are conducting an investigation into the shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last November – issued preliminary policy recommendations Wednesday to the Department of Defense (DoD).

The recommendations, which came in a letter to DoD Secretary Robert Gates, focus on explicitly prohibiting violent Islamist extremism in the military and training servicemembers to recognize, address, and report such extremism.

The Committee held a November 19 hearing on the Fort Hood shootings and has been investigating violent Islamist extremism and homegrown radicalization for over three years.

Lieberman and Collins’ letter to Secretary Gates follows:

 Dear Secretary Gates:

The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has initiated an investigation into the events surrounding the November 5, 2009, shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, pursuant to the Committee’s authority under Rule XXV(K)(1) of the Standing Rules of the Senate, Section 101 of S. Res. 445 (108th Congress), and Section 12 of S. Res. 73 (111th Congress).  The purpose of our investigation is to assess the information the U.S. Government had prior to the shootings and the actions it took in response to that information.  Ultimately, the investigation will identify the steps necessary to protect the United States against future acts of terrorism by homegrown violent Islamist extremists.

 We are committed to completing a comprehensive fact-finding investigation concerning the U.S. Government’s failure to identify Major Nidal Malik Hasan as a possible threat and to take action that may have prevented the attacks.  Even at this stage of our investigation, however, it has become apparent to us that DoD’s approach to the threat of servicemembers who adopt a violent Islamist extremist ideology needs to be revised.  Updating that approach will protect from suspicion the thousands of Muslim-Americans who serve honorably in the U.S. military and maintain the bonds of trust among servicemembers of all religions which is so essential to our military’s effectiveness.

I.                DoD Should Update Its Approach to Extremism in the Ranks Given the Threat of   Homegrown Terrorism Inspired by Violent Islamist Extremism.

During the past four years, our Committee has conducted an extensive investigation of the threat facing the United States from homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremism.  The Committee’s work makes clear – particularly in light of the increased number of attacks, plots, and arrests during 2009 – that the threat of homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremism has evolved and is expanding.  In over a dozen incidents in 2009, U.S. citizens or residents sought to mount an attack within the United States, including one who shot two Army recruiters in Arkansas, a number who apparently fought for al-Shaabab in Somalia, seven men in North Carolina who allegedly planned to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, and several who plotted to bomb a synagogue in New York City.  The violent Islamist terrorist threat includes individuals who self-radicalize by visiting Internet websites or reading other propaganda that promotes terrorist causes, i.e., without any connection to or affiliation with an established or recognized group.  Efforts to detect and disrupt terrorist activity are complicated when these self-radicalized terrorists operate as “lone wolves.”  

This Committee and senior Executive Branch officials have identified domestic violent Islamist extremism as a rising threat.  As Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently stated, “We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as al Qaeda.  Homegrown terrorism is here.  And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

The Department has previously adopted policies to address servicemembers engaged in certain violent extremist activities.  Policies exist that address servicemembers who become involved in both racist activities and criminal gangs.  However, there have been cases of servicemembers becoming radicalized to violent Islamist extremism, including Sergeant Hasan Akbar, who murdered fellow servicemembers at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait in 2003.  Given these events, and the increasing incidence of violent Islamist extremism in the United States, the Department must revisit its policies and procedures to ensure that violent radicalization, whether based on violent Islamist extremist doctrine or other causes, can be identified and action taken to prevent attacks before they occur.

Exhibiting signs of violent extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations, including those associated with violent Islamist extremism, is incompatible with military service and access to classified or sensitive information.  An April 2005 report by DoD’s Defense Personnel Security Research Center, Screening for Potential Terrorists in the Enlisted Military Accessions Process, concluded that “the allegiance to the U.S. and the willingness to defend its Constitution must be questioned of anyone who materially supports or ideologically advocates the legitimacy of Militant Jihadism” and that “determination of participation in or support or advocacy of Militant Jihadist groups and their ideologies should be grounds for denial of acceptance into the Armed Forces of the U.S. and denial of access to classified or sensitive information.”  As seen in the cases of Major Hasan and Sergeant Akbar, the adoption of violent Islamist extremism has been associated with violence against military personnel and other Americans. 

We believe that DoD’s approach to countering the threat of violent extremism by servicemembers needs to be updated to reflect the current threat of homegrown violent Islamist extremism faced by the United States.  Even though we have not completed our investigation of Major Hasan’s conduct and his colleagues’ and commanders’ response to him specifically, we make the following recommendations based on our knowledge of the overall threat of homegrown violent Islamist extremism, our careful review of relevant DoD and Army policies, and interviews and testimony of former high-ranking DoD personnel, intelligence, and military officials and briefings by current officials.  We may supplement these recommendations based on the specific facts of Major Hasan’s case and on additional information. 

II.        DoD Should Increase Training of DoD Personnel Concerning Violent Islamist Extremism.

Increased training of servicemembers at all levels – from enlisted personnel to commanders – is needed to ensure that they can understand the warning signs of violent Islamist extremism.  Such training will need to be crafted carefully and will likely need to vary by rank.  Training should include:

•           Why exhibiting violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations is incompatible with military service and access to classified or sensitive information.

•           The process of violent radicalization, including the warning signs of violent Islamist extremism. 

•           Servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations are not necessarily members of any established or recognized group.  Instead, the servicemember could be a “lone wolf,” having undergone a process of self-radicalization via Internet sites, literature, or videos.

•           What violent Islamist extremism is, and how terrorists distort the Islamic faith to promote violence.

Existing DoD policies provide some authority for commanders and other appropriate officials to respond to servicemembers that exhibit signs of violent extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  However, commanders should be trained to apply such policies to servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremism and to recognize those signs in a specific servicemember.  Relevant policies include but are not limited to:

•  Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy:  This policy gives every commander broad discretion to prohibit activities by servicemembers in order to preserve good order, discipline, and morale.  Training should ensure that commanders are aware that exhibiting signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations by a servicemember would constitute a threat to good order, discipline, and morale.  The training should explain the difference between religious faith and observance, on the one hand, and violent extremist views, behaviors, and affiliations on the other – albeit recognizing that warning signs of extremist views, behaviors, and affiliations should not be ignored just because they are comingled with religious faith or observance.

•           DoD Directive 1332.30, Separation of Regular and Reserve Commissioned Officers:  Training of DoD personnel should clarify that exhibiting violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations by an officer would constitute substandard “attitude or character” for which separation from military service may result.

III.       DoD Should Revise its Policies to Address Violent Extremism Generally and Violent Islamist Extremism in Particular.

Other DoD policies should be revised to address servicemembers who exhibit violent extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations, including those associated with violent Islamist extremism. 

The Department should update DoD Instruction 1325.06, Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces.  The Department originally issued the Instruction in response to Vietnam-era anti-war activities by servicemembers and has updated the Instruction to address servicemembers involved in supremacist activities and criminal gangs.  The most recent version of the Instruction prohibits not only servicemember participation in certain organizations but also prohibits “actively advocat[ing] supremacist doctrine, ideology, or causes.”  The inclusion of active advocacy broadens the instruction to cover situations in which a servicemember acts alone without involvement with a group.  However, the history of the Instruction, combined with the common understanding of the term “supremacist,” suggests that the prohibition is limited to racial extremism.  Accordingly, the Instruction should be broadened so that it clearly applies to other types of violent extremism, including violent Islamist extremism. 

The Army also should update its Pamphlet 600-15, Extremist Activities.  This pamphlet, issued in response to the racially-motivated murders committed by servicemembers at Fort Bragg in 1995 and DoD’s subsequent revision of Instruction 1325.06 in 1996, is heavily oriented toward supremacist activities and other racial extremism.  The pamphlet should be expanded to address servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Accordingly, the Army should revise the pamphlet to discuss signs of such views, behaviors, or affiliations.  In doing so, the Army should specify that servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations, may do so as the result of self-radicalization or as “lone wolves.”  The Army should also consider how the Instruction should be revised to prospectively address future threats from other violent extremist ideologies.  The other Services should make corresponding changes to their policies and procedures. 

IV.       DoD Should Ensure that Servicemembers Report Signs of Violent Islamist Extremism.

The Department and the Services should also revise their policies to ensure that servicemembers have a clear obligation to report servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  As General Keane testified before our Committee, “It should not be an act of moral courage for a soldier to identify a fellow soldier who is displaying extremist behavior.  It should be an obligation.”

DoD’s policies do not clearly require that servicemembers report other personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Neither the version of DoD Instruction 1325.06 on extremism, Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces, in effect before the Fort Hood shootings nor the revised directive issued in November 2009 contains a reporting obligation by servicemembers with respect to the types of activities covered by that Instruction.  In addition, DoD Instruction 5240.6, entitled Counterintelligence (CI) Awareness, Briefing, and Reporting Programs, includes a requirement that servicemembers report “circumstances that could pose a threat to security of U.S. personnel, DoD resources, and classified national security information.”  This Instruction could be read to require reporting of violent Islamist extremist activities by servicemembers.  However, the reporting requirements within this policy focus primarily on threats from foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations.  As such, the policy’s main requirement is that DoD personnel report contacts with such organizations, not that they report personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  The Department should revise its policies to ensure that servicemembers understand they have an obligation to report personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations. 

Likewise, Army policies are vague regarding the extent of any obligation that Army personnel have to report other personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Army Pamphlet 600-15 contains a brief reference to servicemembers needing to “report specific indicators [of extremism] to the chain of command.”  But the Pamphlet does not detail an individual servicemembers’ reporting obligations or sanctions for noncompliance, and thus contrasts to the highly structured reporting obligation for subversion and espionage under Army Regulation 381-12, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the U.S. Army (SAEDA).  However, even Army Regulation 381-12 does not appear to require that Army personnel report other personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  For example:

•           Army Regulation 381-12’s requirements for reporting “contacts by [Army] personnel with persons whom they know or suspect to be members of or associated with…terrorist organizations” and “active attempts to encourage military or civilian employees to violate laws, disobey lawful orders or regulations, or disrupt military activities” do not seem to address servicemembers who merely exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations and do not encourage other servicemembers to take any specific actions. 

•           Army Regulation 381-12 also requires reporting of “information concerning any international or domestic terrorist activity or sabotage that poses an actual or potential threat to Army or other U.S. facilities, activities, personnel, or resources.”  However, signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations prior to any indication of terrorist activity or sabotage would not appear to trigger this reporting requirement.

Accordingly, the Army needs to revise its policies to clearly and unequivocally require that servicemembers report fellow servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Concomitantly, the Army needs to ensure that its personnel receive training that clearly outlines their obligation to report indicators of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliation.  The training should explain how such activities differ from the exercise of religious faith, including the practice of Islam.  The other Services also should clearly require that their servicemembers report signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations and provide training. 

The threat posed by servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations raises both personnel and counterintelligence / subversion concerns.  The extremism policies referenced above are promulgated by the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Personnel while the counterintelligence/subversion policies referenced above are promulgated by the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Intelligence.  Senior Department and Service officials should ensure sufficient coordination between the personnel and the counterintelligence/ subversion components of their organizations to ensure that violent Islamist extremism among servicemembers is handled appropriately.

*                                 *                                 *

Clearly, violent Islamist extremism is highly distinct from Islam, and thousands of Muslim-Americans serve honorably in the military.  We believe that the changes recommended above will not serve to increase scrutiny of these servicemembers’ religious beliefs or practices or to cause tension with their colleagues.  To the contrary: we believe that the opposite will occur.  Efforts by DoD to educate its personnel concerning what violent Islamist extremism is and what the warning signs of such extremism are – as distinguished from the practice of the Islamic faith – will increase trust between the thousands of Muslim-Americans serving honorably and their colleagues.  Clear policies and training should foster greater respect for Muslim-Americans who serve in the military.  We trust that, given the sensitivity of this issue, DoD will proceed to make the revisions and changes outlined in this letter in a manner that seeks to avoid unintended consequences and interpretations of its new policies and training.

We understand that the Department’s initial review concerning the Fort Hood shooting is scheduled to conclude on January 15, 2010.  We understand that the initial review will focus on the military’s personnel evaluation system; we plan to review that system in the course of our full investigation.  We assume that the Department’s overall review will assess the adequacy of the Department’s approach to violent Islamist extremism among DoD personnel and hope that our recommendations as outlined above will be helpful to your review.  As mentioned above, we will continue our investigation and may make further recommendations in this area based on the specific facts concerning Major Hasan and any *
additional information.

Preceding provided by Senators Lieberman and Collins

Will new Gaza rocket attacks provoke another big Israeli response?

January 11, 2010 1 comment
By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–Ha’aretz headlines an escalation. Some 20 rockets and mortars have been fired toward Israel in recent days, so far with no casualties and minimum property damage. Ten Palestinians have been killed in retaliations by the air force, and there has been damage to structures as well as the tunnels used to smuggle goods from Egypt. Reports are that Hamas rulers are not interested in escalation, but allow other groups to do what they want.

So far no demands from the good people of the earth that it is all Israel’s fault, due to Gazans’ suffering, and that Israel must stop the blockade and the carnage. Or maybe there is, but I haven’t noticed. Or it has not yet begun. Or people have forgotten, are more concerned with winter, the escapades of the Northern Irish politician’s wife, Obama’s plundering American pocketbooks for the sake of the nation’s health, or some other catastrophe.  

It is best to view what is happening in Gaza as simply another example of Palestinian madness. Activists unlimber their home made munitions, point them in the general direction of Israel with little chance of doing significant damage, and produce deaths of their own people and a hardening of the blockade. Now Egypt is building an underground barrier against the smugglers’ tunnels, and with every rocket Israel closes its border for a day or so, stopping the shipment of food and other humanitarian supplies.

Politicians and military personnel are saying that another major operation will be necessary. It’s only a matter of time.

A year ago more than a thousand Gazans died. Ten Israeli soldiers also lost their lives, some of them due to accidents or mistaken friendly fire. The rubble is still prominent. People are passing their second winter in crude shelters. Foreign governments and activists shake their fists and say nasty things about Israel’s disproportionate responses, but do nothing more. Who wants rockets and mortars landing in their towns, even if they seldom produce injuries?

Toward the end of the Vietnam war, American officers lamented that they had already destroyed everything of value from the air, and further strikes did nothing more than bounce the rubble. Israel will bounce some of the rubble in Gaza, and most likely kill more Gazans if the rockets continue. It won’t be pleasant. It will not free Gilad Shalit. It will not do anything to solve the problems of Israel and Palestine. It will not solve the dispute between the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, without which there is no point at Israel trying to woo either of them to peace negotiations.

The American emissary, George Mitchell, is threatening. If Israel. does not make substantial efforts toward peace, his country might cancel the guarantees provided for Israel’s international lending.


Israel politicians have responded that they do not need the guarantees. Its economy weathered the American-provoked economic crisis rather well, and its credit rating allows loans at decent rates without American assurances of repayment.

The Palestinian leadership of the West Bank is holding to the Obama-inspired demand that Israel stop all construction in its settlements, including the post-1967 neighborhoods of Jerusalem. They will not participate in negotiations until that occurs.


Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University