|Israel Resource Review
||19th November, 2002
General Assembly of Jewish
Federations Gathers in Philadelphia Under a Cloud of War
It is difficult for any large organization to switch gears.
The United Jewish Communities The UJC of North America, which comprises all major Jewish
organizations in North America, gathers this week for its annual "General Assembly" at
the Marriot Hotel at 12th and Market Streets in Philadelphia, under the cloud of a new war
looming in the Middle East.
Why is this "G.A." different from annual meetings of the GA in the past?
This General Assembly follows more than a decade of "general assemblies" in which the UJC prepared its constituent Jewish federations for an era of peace.
As recently as October 13, 1999, the same UJC offered Yassir Arafat the Isaiah Award for Peace, as a gesture of support for Arafat's role in the Oslo peace process. After the prize was prematurely leaked the UJC cancelled the public event, although Arafat's office reported that
the UJC did indeed provide Arafat with the peace prize in private.
Today, awards for Arafat are not on the UJC agenda.
Last week's news that Arafat's own Fateh troops conducted a massacre at the left wing Kibbutz Metzer, killing a mother, her two small children a woman school teacher and the kibbutz secretary struck a deep note of shock throughout
the Jewish world, even in some Jewish groups who had held out hope of some kind of settlement with Arafat's Palestine Authority would be possible.
For those participants in the UJC General Assembly who had any illusions about whether the Fateh attack on Kibbutz Metzer did not reflect policy change for Arafat, a new addition to the Fateh website (www.fatehorg.org) on the morning that followed the Metzer attack provided the answer. Since the November 12th attack, the Fateh has conducted an daily interactive internet survey in which Arafat's organization asks its constituents as to "where it preferred to conduct martyrdom attacks with four options given: - On the areas taken by Israel after 1948 (like Kibbutz Metzer, founded in 1953 on the ruins of an abandoned Arab village); On areas taken by Israel after 1967 (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria);. On areas taken by Israel in 1948 AND 1967, or not at all. Option Number Three,
favoring attacks on almost all of Israel, continues to lead the winner of the Fateh interactive website
with a 66% response rate to the idea of attacking anywhere in Israel.
In light of such a bleak prospect for peace with Arafat's Palestinian Arab entity, the government of Israel has dispatched a team of security experts to brief the UJC General Assemble and to prepare Jewish Americans for the prospect of a widened war in the middle east, both with the Palestinian entity and with its ally and sponsor, Iraq.
Israel also dispatched its deputy prime minister, the former Soviet prisoner of Zion, Natan Scharansky, to ask Jewish groups for assistance that Israel will ask for in the months to come.
This will not the first time that the nascent state of Israel has reached out to the Jews of the US for support.
In 1948, the year of Israel's birth, the Jewish state's future prime minister Golda Meir crisscrossed the US, recruiting funds and volunteers to fight in Israel's war for independence.
Since that time, Israel has dispatched countless emissaries to their co-religionists in the US to ask for help in the tremendous burden of absorbing thousands of Jews from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union and. of late, from Argentina.
Israel has always viewed the Jews in the US as its strongest ally, and this week's gathering
at the UJC General Assembly in Philadelphia provides no exception to that perception.
Yet Israel should not be under any illusions that Jews in the US will continue to provide
automatic unified support for the Jewish state, even during a time of war.
There are at least a dozen small Jewish organizations in the US work closely with the Palestinian Authority, and
at least three organizations in Philadelphia that raise funds to support Israeli soldiers who choose to desert
their units at this time.
Can Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Scharansky win over those participants at the UJC General Assembly who still believe in the chance for peace with Arafat's Palestinian Authority?
That is the $64,000 question of the week at the Marriot.
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War without death:
The Pentagon Promotes a Vision of Combat
as Bloodless and Antiseptic
Patrick J. Sloyan
Correspondent, San Francisco Chronicle
Leon Daniel, like others who reported from Vietnam during the 1960s,
knew about war and death. So he was puzzled by the lack of corpses at
the tip of the Neutral Zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq on February 25,
Clearly there had been plenty of killing. The 1st Infantry Division
(Mechanized) had smashed through the defensive front line of Saddam
Hussein's army the day before, February 24, the opening of the Desert Storm
ground war to retake Kuwait. Daniel, representing United Press
International, was part of a press pool held back from witnessing the
assault on 8,000 Iraqi defenders.
"They wouldn't let us see anything," said Daniel, who had seen about
everything as a combat correspondent.
The artillery barrage alone was enough to cause a slaughter. The attack
began with a 30-minute bombardment by howitzers and multiple-launch
rockets scattering thousands of tiny bomblets, followed by a wave of
8,400 American soldiers riding in 3,000 battle tanks, Bradley fighting
vehicles, Humvees, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles.
It wasn't until late in the afternoon of February 25 that the press pool
was permitted to see where the attack occurred. There were groups of
Iraqi prisoners. About 2,000 had surrendered. But there were no bodies,
no stench of feces, no blood stains, no bits of human beings.
"You get a little firefight in Vietnam and the bodies would be stacked
up like cordwood," Daniel said. Finally, Daniel found the division
public affairs officer, an Army major.
"Where the hell are all the bodies?" Daniel said.
"What bodies?" the officer replied.
Daniel and the rest of the world would not find out until months later
why the dead had vanished. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers, some of them
alive and firing their weapons from World War I-style trenches, were
buried by plows mounted on Abrams battle tanks. The Abrams flanked the
trench lines so that tons of sand from the plows funneled into the
trenches. Just behind the tanks, actually straddling the trench line,
came Bradleys pumping 7.62mm machine gun bullets into the Iraqi troops.
"I came through right after the lead company," said Army Col. Anthony
Moreno, who commanded the lead brigade during the 1st Mech's assault.
"What you saw was a bunch of buried trenches with people's arms and
land things sticking out of them. For all I know, we could have killed
A thinner line of trenches on Moreno's left flank was attacked by the
1st Brigade commanded by Col. Lon Maggart. He estimated his troops
buried about 650 Iraqi soldiers. Darkness halted the attack on the
Iraqi trench line. By the next day, the 3rd Brigade joined in the
grisly innovation. "A lot of people were killed," said Col. David
Weisman, the unit commander.
One reason there was no trace of what happened in the Neutral Zone on
those two days was that Armored Combat Earth Movers came behind the
armored burial brigade, leveling the ground and smoothing away
projecting Iraqi arms, legs and equipment.
PFC Joe Queen of the 1st Engineers was impervious to small arms fire
inside the cockpit of the huge earth mover. He remained cool and
professional as he smoothed away all signs of the carnage. Queen won
the Bronze Star for his efforts. "A lot of guys were seared," Queen
said, "but I enjoyed it." Col. Moreno estimated more than 70 miles of
trenches and earthen bunkers were attacked, filled in and smoothed over
on February 24-25.
Hidden from the public
What happened at the Neutral Zone that day has become a metaphor for
the conduct of modern warfare. While political leaders bask in voter
approval for destroying designated enemies, they are increasingly
determined to mask the reality of warfare that causes voters to recoil.
There was no more sophisticated practitioner of this art of bloodless
warfare than President George H.W. Bush. As a Navy pilot during World
War II, Bush knew the ugly side of war. He once recounted how a sailor
wandered into an aircraft propeller on their carrier in the South
Pacific. The chief petty officer in charge of the flight deck called
for brooms to sweep the man's guts overboard. "I can still hear him,"
Bush said of the chief's orders. "I have seen the hideous face of war."
The elder Bush was badly stung by the reality of warfare while
president. After the 1989 American invasion of Panama -- where
reporters were also blocked from witnessing a brief slaughter in Panama
City -- Bush held a White House news conference to boast about the
dramatic assault on the Central American leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega.
Bush was chipper and wisecracking with reporters when two major
networks shifted coverage to the arrival ceremony for American soldiers
killed in Panama at the Air Force Base in Dover, Del.
Millions of viewers watched as the network television screens were
split: Bush bantering with the press while flag-draped coffins were
carried off Air Force planes by honor guards.
Afterward, on Bush's orders, the Pentagon banned future news coverage
of honor guard ceremonies for the dead. The ban was continued by
President Bill Clinton.
Shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush summoned
battlefield commanders to Camp David, Md., for a council of war. Army
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, chief of Central Command with military
responsibility for the Persian Gulf region, flew from Tampa, Fla. He
and Central Command's air boss, Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Homer, were
flown from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., by helicopter to the retreat in
the Catoctin Mountains near Thurmont, Md. Homer said golf carts took
them to the president's cabin. Bush was wearing a windbreaker.
"The president was very concerned about casualties," Homer recalled.
"Not just our casualties but Iraqi casualties. He was very emphatic. He
wanted casualties minimized on both sides. He went around the room and
asked each military commander if his orders were understood. We all
said we would do our best."
According to Homer, he took a number of steps to limit the use of anti-
personnel bombs during more than 30 days of air attacks on Iraqi army
positions. Schwarzkopf's psychological warfare experts littered Iraqi
troops with leaflets that warned of imminent attacks by B-52 Strategic
Bombers. Arabic warnings told troops to avoid sleeping in tanks or near
artillery positions because they were prime targets for allied aircraft
attacking day and night.
"We could have killed many more with cluster munitions," Homer said.
Cluster bomblets are dropped from aircraft and create lethal minefields
around troop emplacements.
But Bush's Camp David orders were also translated into minimizing the
perception -- if not the reality -- of Desert Storm casualties. The
president's point man for controlling these perceptions was Dick
Cheney, then secretary of Defense. And to Cheney, that meant
controlling the press, which he saw as a collective voice that
portrayed the Pentagon as a can't-do agency that wasted too much money
and routinely failed in its mission.
"I did not look on the press as an asset," Cheney said in an interview
after Desert Storm. He was interviewed by the authors of a Freedom
Forum book, "America's Team -- The Odd Couple," which explored the
relationship between the media and the Defense Department.
To Cheney, containing the military was his way of protecting the
Pentagon's credibility. "Frankly, I looked on it as a problem to be
managed," Cheney said of the media.
Control of Information
This management had two key ingredients: Control the flow of
information through high level briefings while impeding reporters such
as Leon Daniel. According to Cheney, he and Army Gen. Colin Powell,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, orchestrated the briefings
because "the information function was extraordinarily important. I did
not have a lot of confidence that I could leave that to the press."
The relentless appetite of broadcasting networks made Pentagon control
a simple matter. Virtually every U.S. weapon system is monitored by
television cameras either on board warplanes and helicopters or held by
military cameramen or individual soldiers.
This "gun camera" footage may be released or withheld depending on the
decisions of political bosses of the military. So when the air war
began in January 1991, the media was fed carefully selected footage by
Schwarzkopf in Saudi Arabia and Powell in Washington, D.C. Most of it
was downright misleading.
Briefings by Schwarzkopf and other military officers mostly featured
laser- guided or television-guided missiles and bombs. But of all the
tons of high explosives dropped during more than a month of
night-and-day air attacks, only 6 percent were smart bombs. The vast
majority were controlled by gravity, usually dropped from above 15,000
feet -- 35,000 feet for U.S. heavy bombers --
where winds can dramatically affect accuracy. And there never was any
footage of the B-52 bomber strikes that carpeted Iraqi troop positions.
98% Accuracy, A Fiction
Films of Navy ships launching Tomahawk cruise missiles in the Persian
Gulf were almost daily fare from the military. Years later, the Navy
would concede that these subsonic jets with 2,000-pound warheads had
Tomahawk missiles are guided by onboard computers that match
prerecorded terrain maps, shifting left or right as landmarks are
spotted. But the faceless desert offered few points of reference and
most Tomahawks wandered off, just as the French Legion's lost platoon
did in the Sahara. The only reliable landmark turned out to be the
Tigris River and Tomahawks were programmed to use it as a road to
Baghdad and other targets. But Iraqi anti- aircraft gunners quickly
blanketed the riverside. The slow-moving Tomahawks were easy targets.
During the war, the Pentagon claimed a 98 percent success rate for
Tomahawks. That number later dwindled to less than 10 percent
Just as distorted were Schwarzkopf's claims of destruction of Iraqi
Scud missiles. After the war, studies by Army and Pentagon think tanks
could not identify a single successful interception of a Scud warhead
by the U.S. Army's Patriot anti-missile system.
Schwarzkopf portrayed Air Force attacks on Scud launch sites as
successful. The Air Force had filled the night sky with F-15E bombers
with radar and infrared systems that could turn night into day. Targets
were attacked with laser-guided warheads. In one briefing in Riyadh,
Schwarzkopf showed F-15E footage of what he said was a Scud missile
launcher being destroyed. Later, it turned out that the suspected Scud
system was in fact an oil truck.
A year after Desert Storm, the official Air Force study concluded that
not a single Scud launcher was destroyed during the war. The study said
Iraq ended the conflict with as many Scud launchers as it had when the
In manipulating the first and often most lasting perception of Desert
the Bush administration produced not a single picture or video of
anyone being killed. This sanitized, bloodless presentation by military
briefers left the world presuming Desert Storm was a war without death.
That image was reinforced by limitations imposed on reporters on the
battlefield. Under rules developed by Cheney and Powell, journalists
were not allowed to move without military escorts. All interviews had
to be monitored by military public affairs escorts. Every line of copy,
every still photograph,
every strip of film had to be approved -- censored -- before being
filed. And these rules were ruthlessly enforced.
Reporters Driven Away
When a Scud missile eventually hit American troops during the ground
war, reporters raced to the scene. The 1,000-pound warhead landed on a
makeshift barracks for Pennsylvania national guard troops near the
Saudi seaport of Dahran.
Scott Applewhite, a photographer for the Associated Press, was one of
the first on the scene. There were more than 25 dead and 70 badly
wounded. As Applewhite photographed the carnage, he was approached by
U.S. military police,
who ordered him to leave.
He produced credentials that entitled him to be there. But the soldiers
punched Applewhite, handcuffed him and ripped the film from his
cameras, Applewhite said. More than 70 reporters were arrested,
detained, threatened at gunpoint and literally chased from the front
lines when they attempted to defy Pentagon rules.
More than 150 reporters who participated in the Pentagon pool system
failed to produce a single eyewitness account of the clash between
300,000 allied troops and an estimated 300,000 Iraqi troops. There was
not one photograph, not a strip of film by pool members of a dead body
-- American or Iraqi.
Even if they had recorded the reality of the battlefield, it was
unlikely it would have been approved by the military-controlled
distribution system. As the ground war began, Cheney declared a press
blackout, effectively blocking distribution of battlefield press
reports. While Cheney's action was challenged by Marlin Fitzwater, the
White House press secretary, the ban remained in effect. Most news
accounts were delayed for days, long enough to make them worthless to
Accounts of Iraqi troops escaping from Kuwait -- the carnage on the so-
called Highway of Death -- were recorded by journalists operating
outside the pool system.
Schwarzkopf repeatedly brushed off questions about the Iraqi death toll
when the ground war ended in early March. Not until 2000, during a
television broadcast, would he estimate Iraq losses in the tens of
thousands. The only precise estimate came from Cheney. In a formal
report to Congress, Cheney said U.S. soldiers found only 457 Iraqi
bodies on the battlefield.
To Cheney, who helped Bush's approval rating soar off the charts during
Desert Storm, the press coverage had been flawless. "The best-covered
war ever, " Cheney said. "The American people saw up close with their
own eyes through the magic of television what the U.S. military was
capable of doing."
Patrick J. Sloyan is a reporter for Newsday. He wrote this article
while on an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship, and it first
appeared in the APF Reporter.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.
This piece ran in the San Francisco Chronicle
on November 17, 2002
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