[Stuck on the paper : a nice coloured picture of a table in a garden with flowers and nice things to eat, and the following words : "One day we will do that in Tennessee!"]
26 July 2006
Dear Yvonne and family,
I hope your grandchildren and the extended family can get together and enjoy your life and your freedom!
Here in Germany, it is also very hot. Yesterday, after I came back from my one-hour walk in the prison yard, my electronic thermometer showed 41.8 degrees centigrade. The guards are quite nice, they open the cells a bit longer, and are understanding in the use of showers. None of these old German prisons, all built around Bismarck’s time or around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, are able to be retrofitted for air-conditioning.
In the news of 11.15 a.m. on 26 July 06, there is talk about the bombing and shelling of a U.N. observer post by the Israelis. 4 U.N. soldiers were killed in this hill top outpost, which apparently was known to the Israelis for 20 years. It was clearly marked, visible for miles. Israeli forces bombarded it with 14 shells and a precision bomb from a plane! Israel has always bragged about its infallible, all-knowing intelligence, which allows them to bombard huge office towers, apartment buildings, shops, even ordinary petrol stations – all because so is the claim. Hizbollah supposedly hides there! Well, they cannot have it both ways: they can’t claim to be super precise in the city of Beirut and then shell a U.N. outpost on a mountain top, which is well marked and known to them for two decades.
The German T.V. commentators say that Kofi Anan called it a calculated, deliberate attack. The German T.V. news reports from local correspondents that the reason, or the feeling for the attack is that these U.N. observers could see the whole area into which the Israeli ground troops are moving – and did not want to have eyewitnesses to their behaviour. T.V. N 24 news repeats these reports, reporting is Monique Junker, the time 11.31 a.m., Israel reports apparently 24 wounded, 9 dead, Israeli soldiers in the town next or below the eradicated U.N. outpost.
The Western world is caught between a rock and a hard place! The Germans are drawing the conclusion that Israel in the past has won its stunning victories in the air and on the ground in the "Six Day War" when it defeated the entire armies and air forces of 4 Arab states – and now they have been involved for two weeks already, against a bunch of guerillas. David Schiller, an Israeli military strategist (expert commentator) said that there were only 2,000 Hizbollah fighters in South Lebanon, other stations claim that there were 10,000 Hizbollah fighters in South Lebanon, who supposedly had 12,000 Katusha rockets and some longer range ones. This compares to 2,000 rockets already fired into Israel, according to Israeli sources.
Yvonne, the best source to find out what is at the bottom of all this trouble there is by the British Middle-East correspondent Robert Fisk. The title is "Pity the People", it’s an 800 page in-depth study by this courageous, incorruptible former 25 year veteran Beirut based London Times correspondent, who switched to The Independent of London after the usual pressure was brought against him at the Times. That book was bedside reading for me in my cell in Toronto West in 2004. It is the most profound study of that troubled area, and the major forces involved. I don’t think anyone not directly there should venture an analysis without having had the insights of Robert Fisk !
As to myself, I visited Israel, all the way up to El Kuneitra, the largest town on the Golan Heights. I also went to Kiriat Shimona (phonetic spelling) of course that means I went to all the biblical sites, the Jordan river, the Dead Sea, etc., so when I hear of these places, see the maps on the T.V. news, like the roads winding up to the Bekaa Valley toward Damascus, and into the areas of the "Druze" and the "Maronite-Christian" areas, I have driven and walked there. Spoken to Israeli male and female soldiers, even given them lifts in my car, to their army outposts, when I criss-crossed Israel and that region. Yvonne – I always needed to not only see places in a map, or a "globus" (I just heard a report by Anthony Mills, reporting for CNN from that U.N. outpost. The man on the scene said that the Israeli shelling was creeping up on that outpost. They are actually showing pictures of these Israeli shells exploding all around that hill – warning the Israelis of the proximity of the U.N. outpost – the Israelis said not to worry, they were going to correct the problems. The next thing were 14 Israeli artillery shells scoring direct hits on the outpost. Then came an Israeli precision bomb scoring also a direct hit. It is this series of events that prompted Kofi Anan and his staff calling a seemingly deliberate, targeted attack on the U.N. position.)
But back to my way of learning – I needed not only to see a name of a place on a map, I needed to visit there in person, to sense it, to feel it, to smell it – yes, Yvonne, to SMELL a place is often more impressive than to see it. You can see a film, or a photo – but the smell or the stench of a place is with a person much longer than "a picture". So, to have smelled Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, a kibbutz, etc., that was my way of not just seeing, but in effect experiencing the thousands of little impulses and impressions one gets to sense, feel, touch, smell, drink and eat! Those trips turned young Ernst from an innocent, university student theoretician into an astute observer of not only the Middle-East but of Africa, Arabia, Iran, India, China, Japan – even Mexico! And of course Russia! I will never forget Stalingrad, Leningrad – and Moskow! I had to see and feel it, to understand it.
CNN today, on 26 July 06, stated in an interview with U.S. brigadier general (army intelligence) James "Spider" Marks, that there are 3,000 Hizbollah fighters, whom he calls dedicated and well-trained. He says that Israel will buy a victory in Lebanon at a very much higher cost, in men and material, than they expected. He also says that the Israelis had already been 15 days at this, and had not yet won even those two little villages close to the border! Although victory had been proclaimed they were still fighting and Israelis are still being killed.
Yvonne, you will recall the analysis of the Iraq war I sent you in 2003-2004 when I outlined what the aims of that Fifth Column [Remember this is a censored letter] were which had gotten a hold of American policy making – and implementation – which resulted in 9/11 and its aftermath. That policy involved destabilization of whole regions. Nobody can disagree with the observation that Iraq, and Afghanistan, have not been destabilized, as has now been Lebanon! We should not overlook that one aspect of destroying Beirut and its infrastructure is that. Those latter day Phoenicians had rebuilt the damage done by an earlier Israeli assault in 1982-84, and the 20 year nightmare of inter-ethnic, inter-faith civil war. Talk about destabilizing an area – that is A POLICY because Beirut was more vibrant, more creative, more robust, more fashionable – and more successful economically than Israel’s moribund society and economy! Beirut showed Israel up – negatively!
Therefore, we should not discount the aim of turning the infrastructure of Lebanon into dust and rubble as a Rome versus Carthage type policy. There are of course military, political aspects, to Israel’s policy. No permanent victory will result from this military operation. Not only Lebanon – but also Israel will emerge from this latest excursion by the IDF as losers. Even intelligence and military analysts across the whole range of European and American powers, ex-colonels, generals, brigadiers seem to feel that this operation is taking longer than expected – some are actually saying that Israel cannot win this operation, except spin-doctors will never admit it as a set-back.
We shall see – in a few weeks – or months. The war is a massive drain on the Israeli economy, which was already in trouble before this latest adventure. This is a censored letter.
Pity those civilians – I experienced their lot as a boy.
All the best to you.