Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘civil war in Lebanon

Interview with a general in Israel air force: Who is Specter?

Robert Fisk covered for 9 years the civil war in Lebanon as correspondent to the British The Times and described in minute details the events of the preemptive war of Israel on Lebanon in 1982.

Fisk witnessed the bombing of hundreds of civilian building in Beirut and described the carnage.

On July 27, Fisk dispatched to the Times a telex asking Walker to conduct interviews with Israeli pilots.  Walker replied that Israel does not allow any interviews with pilots.

Israel had the habit of describing its pilots as the best in the world and that the pilots are trained to hit targets with “surgeon precision“.  Surgeon precision was the exact term used for their gunners… The evidence on the ground demonstrated that they were very poor in accuracy and thousands of innocent civilians were dying like flies after each bombing raid.

Natanya (Israel), April 14, 1987

I called Brigadier General of Israel Air Force from Jerusalem and asked him “How all this happened. Why your air-force pilots and you could have done what you did?”.  

Specter understood my question and he was in the mood of talking.  Specter was the commander of Galilee air force base in 1982, during the savage Israeli incursion in Lebanon and the occupation of its Capital Beirut.

Specter was in his garden, a tall, olive colored skin and large faced.  He seemed intelligent, active, and he talked of the moral obligations of handling military arms…His shy wife Elisa followed him with a tray of tea.

Specter was listening to Bach and said: “How can I be of help?”

Specter barely spoke English and took his time selecting his words.  He said: “We were under the impression that we were not targeting civilian areas, but specific targets in civilian quarters.  We didn’t use bomb launcher jets such it was used in WWII. The targets were selected in the battle fields.  We could see our targets.  We were the support force. Long time passed before we realized that something fishy was happening.”

I asked him: “Have you ever visited Beirut, even after Israel occupied this city?”

He replied: “None of us ever visited the targets we were about to demolish or after they were hit. All we did is to get up, hit the target and return to base. Pilots rested for 15 minutes before going on another mission; they carried out three missions a day.”

I asked: “Did any one of the pilots complain? Did any one of them knew what were the consequences of their bombing?”  

Specter replied: “At first, a few pilots expressed sensitivity to the collateral damages on civilians.  Their sensitivity was always fresh. General David Every discussed the issue in every report.

From then on, Specter sounded more confident and shook his head for confirmation, and used to smile when he believed that I comprehended what he was conveying. He went on: “There were rules of engagement:

1. The first rule was to never drop bombs if the pilot could not determine the target.

2. Second, targets not on the lists should not be hit unless fired upon, on condition that the target is 3 miles away from civilian areas…”

I asked him: “Did all pilot abide by these rules?”

Specter said: “I just gave instructions and flew. Officers of the intelligence services selected the targets, their importance, and the timing for the missions.  We had no feedback whether we hit the targets: We had no private sources on the ground. The rule was to drop bombs in the sea if we failed to pinpoint our target.” (It was never recorded that any pilot did drop bombs in the sea)

I asked him: “Who are these intelligence officers? From where did they get their sources of information?”

Specter made a large swap with his hand from right to left and said: “I cannot answer it

I said: “Did the pilots have any confidence in the pieces of intelligence for the targets?”

Specter replied: “I can say this in an after thought that we got suspicious of our bombing. People in Israel started to ask questions: There was something in common between their worries and what we felt in our air-force ghettos of bases.  We believed that we went far overboard, and our missions had no military utilities”.

I drew a sketch of the civilian area in Beirut that was devastated on July 27 and that I witnessed personally.

Specter didn’t confirm and resumed: “There might be reasons. For example, a personal vendetta from the pilot or for targeting the erroneous buildings.”  I said: “Do you mean that the intelligence officer gave on purpose the wrong coordinates?” Specter replied: “Errors come from both sources.  It is also possible that the terrorists had vacated the area before the target was hit…”

I said: “What about the casualties. Don’t pilots ever read or follow-up on what happened after their mission?”

Specter replied: “They occasionally do.  But you are aware of Begin PM opinion “If Hitler was present among innocent civilians, I would have blown up the location…”  Specter looked perturbed of what he just said.

Specter resumed: “We knew that we were targeting civilian quarters. Our tactic was that if we blew up a few buildings then the people in Beirut would vacate the capital.  But the number of targeted civilian building kept climbing and the people stayed in their buildings. The intelligence officers would tell us how many terrorists were located in this or that building and when they will meet…I started to warn my pilots of the doubtful targets the intelligence officers were providing…”  But he admitted that no discussions on current issues of targeting civilian buildings were undertaken

I brought to Specter’s attention that he was constantly referring to the Lebanese and Palestinians as “terrorists“.

Specter then refrained from mentioning terrorists again in the interview.

I asked: “When the pilots began to realize that most of the targets were wrong and misleading?”

Specter said: “It was the genocide in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut that was the cornerstone of our reversal and questioning.  We realized that what we were doing was not plain mistakes but a horrendous error. It was then that pilots started saying “How can we be sure that information on targets are correct?”

Specter got voluble and said: “Look, there is a problem. We are saying to our pilot if you want to refuse orders then you better agree on our ideology before joining the air force.”

I asked: “Tell me. How does it feel to bomb Beirut? How Beirut looked to you?” 

Specter said: “Beirut is an exact replica copy of Haifa in every thing. In missions, you just focus on the target. It is after you return that you revert to normal life.”  It dawned on me that pilots were trained to fly over Haifa before  being sent on missions to bomb Beirut.

I asked: “If you say that the missions were professional and precise, that the bombing were surgically executed, why all these errors? Isn’t the targeting a matter of computer precision?”

Specter said: “It is all visual.  The computer helps in the timing. We hold the map and the photographs in our left hand and try to locate our target.  The computer is for the correct timing of dropping the bombs or firing the missile on our visual target.”

Note 1:  I reviewed many chapters of “Affliction of a Nation“.

You may start with this post

Note 2: Israel used all kinds of most modern bombs on Beirut such as phosphorous bombs, cluster bombs, and bombs that perforate floors and detonate in basement where hundred of people huddle

Over 40, 000 civilians died in the siege of Beirut in 1982 by Israeli shells.

What’s the difference among developing and developed democracies?  Successful Civil Wars?

There are major differences between developed and developing liberal democracies.  Before I expand with an example, there are three major factors for discriminating among various liberal democracies.

First, developed liberal democracies have stable and sustainable institutions to evaluating and proposing reforms based on specific programs.   Whereas developing democracies are barely skin-deep clones of previous colonial systems they are familiar with, which didn’t match the level of consciousness and awareness of the natives in real applications. Consequently, the lack of institutions to follow-up on any draft program for reforms generated haphazard systems that kept mutating as new “military” leaders came to power.

Second, developed democracies have diversified their economic bases in services, industries, and agriculture.  Statistics are kept and serious budgets are presented yearly.  This is not the case in developing “democracies”.

Third, cultural and educational activities are affordable in developed democracies.  Public libraries and community facilities are spread all over the land.  Thus, learning and culture are not exclusive to the elite classes, and common people have vast opportunities to learn and become free reflecting citizens, if they wish and want to.  This is not the case in developing democracies where activities are mostly concentrated in States Capitals.

The common denominator among the developed democracies is that they all experienced a protracted civil war with first, the objective of establishing a strong central power, and second, the alliance for a central power was the victor in the civil war.

Woo to countries waging a civil war and ending up without a definite victor. Woo to countries engaging in a civil war without a program of uniting the people and working on a vast basis of alliances among all religious sects of the middle classes.

The other main differences can be explained explicitly with examples.

Let me consider the case of Lebanon.  Lebanon experienced a savaged civil war in 1975 and lasted 13 years.   The war harvested 10% in casualties (300,000 of dead, physically handicapped, and mentally disabled individuals); it also affected 30% of the population in the forms of transfer to other localities, immigration, poverty, and family dislocation.

Before the civil war, Lebanon enjoyed a semi liberal democracy that set this State system apart from the surrounding Arab States political systems.  A semi liberal democracy means that the elite class (including the clerics of 19 religious sects) hold the levers for electing deputies and municipal councils that represent their interests: they were grabbing the power and went overboard, since major reforms could not be attained without sustained and pragmatic programs from the political movement.

Election laws are fundamentally biased toward the elite class in finance and feudal standing.

Lebanon of 1974, a year prior to the civil war, and particularly the Capital Beirut, experienced extraordinarily cultural, social, and political activities, quantitatively and qualitatively.

First, the number of women writers increased dramatically.  As Georges Rassi wrote: “In the Arab World, every woman writer is worth 100 free minded men”.

Second, many famous authors and poets opted to write columns in dailies; a move that brought them in close touch with the people and the daily difficulties.

Third, artists and thinkers from all over the Arab World settled in Beirut.  Most of these intellectuals were fleeing oppression and persecution for free expressions.  The Egyptian intellectuals flocked in great number as President Sadat had decided to connect with Israel and leave the Arab problems and the Palestinian cause way behind.

Fourth, the Lebanese TV witnessed a big jump in quality of local productions thanks to the director Paul Tannous.

Fifth, many cultural clubs were instituted, and Arab States organized exhibitions and cultural events.

Most importantly, women became very vocal and active for women rights and drastic reforms in the laws and social awareness.  Late author Mai Ghoussoub was very young then but she was one of the leaders of “Committees for Free women.”  Initially, men were permitted to join in the discussions until they proved to be elements of heckling and disturbances.  The committees of free women decided to meet among women because their cause must be priority in urgent reforms and not a usual side-show tackled by reformist political parties.

There were plenty of excuses, and still being voiced, laying the blame on regional and foreign powers battling for their interests and differences in Lebanon at Lebanon’s expense.  That may be the tip of the iceberg of material evidences hiding the real fundamental reasons.

Fact is, all regional and international powers had their secret agencies and services, their political parties, their dailies, magazines, airwaves and their representatives in the Parliament, executive branch and directors of public institutions.

In a fragile system based on officially recognized 19 religious sects enjoying the rights of sole civil administrators of their caste members, the “citizen” is identified by his religious sect.  The only evidence of a State in Lebanon is issuing passports to “citizens” and printing currency.

It is interesting that France and the USA were battling out the Lebanese radio airwaves.  It is reasonable to foresee what happens when reforms are voiced in demonstrations and marches when the rest of the Lebanese were entirely ignored by the central government and the political movements.

Outside Beirut, the Lebanese were living the same traditional culture as during the Ottoman Empire and organized under the caste system of religious sect and feudal landlords.

It was a great opportunity to realizing Ben Gurion strategy: “The Zionist State has two main enemies:  the religious and ethnic diversities in Lebanon and Iraq.  These two States have to be disintegrated into ethnic cantons”  Kissinger of the US and the Egyptian President Sadat made sure to keeping the fire on and pull this civil war to its devastating consequences.

Note 1: A sample of the most active cinema directors are:  Maroun Baghdadi, Jean Cham3oun, Silvio Tabet, Samir Ghossayn, Samir nasri, Berhane Alawiyeh, Heini Srour, Rafic Hajjar, Akhdar Hamina, Nabil Maleh…




June 2023

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