Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘rules of engagement

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 https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/kids-burned-by-phosphorous-bombs-usage-not-internationally-illegal-yet/

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.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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