The Bison Bomb

By Piper Bayard

American bison public domain, wikimedia commons

American bison
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

It began as an innocent, good willed attempt at providing supper for my family. Ground bison. Presumably completely dead and with no ill intentions toward me, my hair, or my kitchen.

I cooked it up around 1:00 p.m. and pushed the pot to the back burner. Little did I know that this simple act would trigger a chain of events that would lead to a Facebook status, a blog post, and an hour of kitchen rehabilitation.

Around 7:00 p.m., I returned to the scene. I noticed the innocuous-looking, room-temperature bison in the pan and decided to finish the spaghetti for the next day. I put the pan on the front burner and turned the heat to medium-low.

Five minutes later, I was cutting up red bell pepper and watching Criminal Minds over the kitchen bar. On the show, the unsub snuck into a man’s house, pointed a gun at him, and forced him onto the floor. The man was pleading for his life, the .40 Smith & Wesson mere inches from his head. Suddenly, BOOM! My bison exploded right on cue.

A hot air bubble? A build up of hydrogen sulfide? A Satanic connection to TV reruns? We will never know. But it rocketed ground up grazing undulate from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Bison on the bread box, bison on the microwave, bison in the water pitcher, bison on the appliances, even bison on the ceiling and light fixtures. We won’t discuss the bison in my hair. Total revenge of the bison.

The incident brought to mind the Al-Qaeda attempt at online media that they made a few years back with an article called, “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” So here you go all you Wannabe Jihadis. Take this advice from a mom. Get yourself some bison, follow the instructions above, and be sure to put your faces down into the pans where you’ve got a good view so that you can let us know exactly how these explosions happen.

What do you say, folks? Why do you think my bison explode?

Happy cooking!

Paved with Bad Intelligence–The Road to Antietam

By Jay Holmes

September 17, 1862, is remembered by US military history students as the bloodiest day in US history. It should also be remembered as a critical lesson to all members of the US intelligence community and the US military. Even a perfect intelligence windfall can be defeated by habitual bad intelligence.

 

Antietam National Cemetary image by Acroterion, wikimedia commons

Antietam National Cemetary
image by Acroterion, wikimedia commons

 

On December 20, 1860, the South Carolina state government voted to secede from the Union, beginning the American Civil War with a bloodless political act.

Many Southern politicians guessed that their states, too, could happily secede and slip away from the Union without suffering much loss. Wealthy Southern plantation owners thought that by seceding, they could continue to use slavery as their primary economic tool. Most Southerners did not own slaves or plantations, so the secession concept was marketed to them under the banner of “States’ Rights.” By May 1861, eleven Southern states had voted to secede and had formed the Confederate States of America.

President Lincoln, like a majority of Northerners, was opposed to slavery, but he thought that he was not in a position to declare an end to the practice. Slavery was still legal in the Union border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware, and Lincoln did not want those four states to secede and join the Confederacy.

On May 24, 1862, the US government signaled its determination to reverse the secession of the Southern states by sending an army across the Potomac River.

With the capture of Alexandria, Virginia, the US Army improved the security of nearby Washington D.C. and established a valuable base for operations against the Confederacy.

For the Confederacy, it was critical to prevent a Union capture of its capital, Richmond, Virginia, and the surrounding area, including the agriculturally rich Shenandoah Valley. In July, when the Union army moved south from Alexandria, the Confederacy concentrated all the forces it could muster for a counterattack.

On July 21, 1861, at Manassas Junction, the Confederates soundly defeated an overconfident and poorly organized Union Army and sent it into retreat to Alexandria. The battle is commonly referred to as the Battle of Bull Run.

 

Manassas National Battlefield Park image by ARSNL, public domain

Manassas National Battlefield Park
image by ARSNL, public domain

 

The Union defeat at Manassas shocked the overconfident Northerners. For the general public in the South, the victory proved the superiority of Southern military abilities and indicated certain victory and independence for the Confederate States.

The Confederacy was hoping for foreign assistance from cotton-consuming countries such as France and England and from neighboring Mexico. The victory at Manassas helped their diplomatic efforts.

While the general public in the South loudly celebrated the victory at Manassas, most of the South’s senior military leaders were not quite so willing to underestimate the North’s military abilities or political determination to retake the Confederacy. With each passing month, more Confederate leaders realized that time was not on their side, and that the Union would eventually organize itself sufficiently to use its vastly superior resources in manpower and industry to win the war.

The Confederate leadership thought that their best strategy was to keep the Union busy on as many fronts as possible in order to ward off a major Union invasion of the South. They reasoned that, if the Confederacy lasted long enough, it would eventually receive enough foreign assistance to ensure its long-term independence. The single greatest diplomatic obstacle for the South in receiving foreign assistance was that they were seeking recognition and aid from nations that had already outlawed slavery. Those nations took a dim view of slavery in the Confederacy.

 

General Robert E. Lee public domain, Library of Congress

General Robert E. Lee
public domain, Library of Congress

 

By the summer of 1862, the South’s need for foreign aid was becoming more urgent. Confederate General Robert E. Lee thought that defensive victories on Southern ground would never be enough to gain the image of legitimacy that the Confederacy needed to acquire that aid. With the agreement of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, Lee devised a plan to invade Union territory in Maryland and West Virginia. They hoped that Maryland would respond to a Confederate invasion by joining the Confederacy, bringing much-needed conscripts and material wealth.

On September 2, 1862, Lee’s confident Army marched happily into Maryland. They might have been less cheerful if they had known that Lee’s plans were based on an extremely bad intelligence assessment of the conditions in that state. Although most Marylanders did not actively oppose Lee’s Army, they did not lend assistance or join his forces. The “liberation” of Maryland was not going as planned.

President Lincoln recognized Lee’s invasion as a serious problem, but he also recognized a great opportunity. The Union’s Army of the Potomac now had 75,000 well-equipped soldiers. That Army was well trained by its popular commander, General George McClellan. McClellan loved that Army, and they loved him. Morale was high, and the troops were ready and willing to face Lee’s soldiers.

 

General George McClellan public domain

General George McClellan
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

While Lee moved his army forward on a foundation of faulty intelligence, the Union forces had their own intelligence issues. In 1862, there was nothing like a “CIA,” or even a fledgling “OSS.” McClellan relied on Alan Pinkerton and his informal intelligence service. Pinkerton efficiently spied for McClelland.

Although Pinkerton’s men were able to gain access to Confederate information, Pinkerton lacked any basic ability to reasonably assess that information. He repeatedly overestimated the size of Lee’s forces. President Lincoln and the Union War Department never believed Pinkerton’s information, but McClellan did, and he operated accordingly. When McClellan maneuvered his army to oppose Lee, he did so under the assumption that he was facing a Confederate army numbering over 100,000 troops, when, in fact, Lee had 54,000. And so it was that two well-trained armies, both equipped with terribly inaccurate intelligence estimates, marched to battle.

Next week, we will look at the Battle of Antietam and how a perfect intelligence windfall was defeated by habitual intelligence mishandling.

And Boys Become Men

By Piper Bayard

Thirteen years ago today, a generation of little boys and girls learned that there are evil people in this world whose only desire is to kill everyone they cannot control. Even as children, it ignited a passion in them to protect the innocents. Those boys and girls are becoming men and women.

Tonight, my son’s friend is coming to dinner. He ships out to boot camp at the end of the month. He is only one of many.

Today, I not only remember the souls and the innocence we lost on 9/11, I also salute those who are still responding by dedicating their lives to keeping that relentless evil in check. And with all I am, I wish I had something more to give to those young men and women than steak, potatoes, peach pie, and a mother’s prayers.

Never forget.

Becoming Josephine — From Carefree Creole to Empress of France

By Piper Bayard

In BECOMING JOSEPHINE, Heather Webb eloquently traces the transformation of Rose Tascher, carefree Caribbean island girl, to Empress Josephine, wife of the most powerful man of her century—Napoléon Bonaparte.

 

Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb

 

Rose Tascher is a daydreaming Creole in Martinique who fantasizes of adventures in Paris and a grand life at the French court. When her beloved sister dies, Rose is sent in her place to marry Alexandre, an aristocrat and soldier. Before long, the stage of fancy dresses and glitzy balls devolves into a harrowing era of political witch hunts, when no one’s neck is safe from the guillotine. After narrowly escaping death in the infamous Les Carmes prison, Rose once more climbs her way up the social ladder. With her youth fading, along with her options for independence, her courtship with General Bonaparte ensues, and their rise to ultimate power begins.

Webb paints history with linguistic finesse, depicting characters and events with colorful, active palettes of expression. She draws her readers into the fear, uncertainty, and upheaval of revolutionary France through her vivid portrayal of Josephine Bonaparte as a passionate, imperfect, determined survivor. BECOMING JOSEPHINE is not only a refreshing perspective on the Napoleonic Era, it’s a great story.

Highly recommended.

 

 

5 Espionage Myths — The November Man

 

By Piper Bayard

 

The November Man movie poster

The November Man movie poster

 

The November Man is an espionage movie in which an ex-CIA operative is brought back by the Company for a personal mission in Moscow, only to find himself pitted against his protégé. It is a fast action thriller starring Pierce Brosnan and Luke Bracey that rockets viewers through the Russian and Serbian shadow world with everything from brutal assassins to rogue top-level operatives. It is also a comprehensive collection of espionage myths.

 

Myth One – CIA operatives are all ready and willing to off their own at any given moment just because a bureaucrat orders it.

Truth – US intelligence operatives are not murderous automatons who blindly kill whomever they are told to, up to and including their mentors and protégés.

 

It was common in Stalin’s KGB for Soviet operatives to kill each other. In fact, the KGB had a special branch for the express purpose of targeting fellow agents. However, such pointless slaughter has never been part of the US intelligence culture. Americans don’t put up with that crap. Presidents come and go with their various agendas, and long after they are booking their lecture tours and cutting ribbons on their presidential libraries, operatives are still on the job. Our intelligence community consists of flesh and blood human beings who would not live long if they didn’t question and comprehend their missions. They are not slovenly attack dogs to be released on any target that a transient bureaucratic overlord decides is inconvenient to their political goals, particularly when that target is one of their own.

 

Myth Two – Operatives think nothing of killing innocent people.

Truth – People who randomly kill innocents are serial killers and criminal psychopaths, not highly trained intelligence operatives.

 

Killing is serious business, and the intelligence community has had standing orders for decades to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible. An operative who randomly kills innocent people would be quickly weeded out. Such behavior is unacceptable in the intelligence community.

 

Myth Three – Operatives can’t have families.

Truth – Operatives, like anyone else, can have loved ones and families that they adore.

 

While it is true that many field operatives are either single or divorced, that is due to the nature of the job and not to any taboo about bonding with other humans. The fact is that few spouses are up for, “I need to go. Can’t say where. Can’t say when I’ll be home. Sorry, but I can’t leave you a number, either.” The lifestyle is very hard on relationships, and spouses must be as committed to leading the double life as the operative is. Not many are, and they are not to blame for that. However, as my writing partner proves, some do sustain marriages and family ties for decades.

 

Myth Four – People can be killers, or they can love, but they can’t do both.

Truth – Dedicated operatives often go into the field because they DO love.

 

The notion that someone who is trained to kill the likes of Bin Laden can’t love is patently absurd. Many operatives go into the field because they are unwilling to sit still and do nothing while brutal despots butcher innocent people.

 

Myth Five – Assassins look like assassins.

Truth – Assassins look like the school secretary, the grocery store manager, the bank teller, the janitor, or anyone else who can blend in with a crowd.

 

It is not required for operatives to speak in foreign accents and wear either tailored business suits or black leather.

 

Russian Assassin from The November Man

Russian Assassin from The November Man

 

 

While not a common myth, another notable fiction in The November Man is the notion that bullets from handguns travel at four times the speed of sound . . . Excuse me? A handgun? More like a hand held rocket launcher. Clearly, Hollywood is holding out on the Navy.

 

If you care nothing for accuracy about espionage or human nature in your spy thrillers, then go ahead and spend the $13 and enjoy Pierce Brosnan doing what he does best. However, if you do know anything at all about firearms, operatives, psychology, history, NATO, or intelligence work, this movie will make your head explode at a velocity of four times the speed of sound.

Bad News for ISIS

By Jay Holmes

On June 29, 2014, after gaining control over large swaths of northern Iraq, ISIS declared itself to be a caliphate.

Its intention is to expand this caliphate from Morocco to Malaysia and Indonesia. ISIS “Caliph,” is supreme leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi—we’ll call him Abu. Abu made it clear that ISIS considers itself to be the one true Islamic authority for all of the world’s Islamic population. He called on all the world’s Muslims to declare their allegiance to ISIS and to obey his dictates. Fortunately, most of the world’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims show no interest in bowing down to Abu. However, while Abu’s lack of majority support might confine his greater caliphate dreams to the fantasy realm, it will not keep ISIS from creating more misery in the real world.

 

ISIS logo public domain, wikimedia commons

ISIS logo
public domain, wikimedia commons

 

If you have been following the news and find yourself unable to draw clear conclusions about ISIS’s impact and the world’s response to it, don’t feel bad. The media’s interpretations and opinions on ISIS vary even more widely than what we saw during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even well-respected analysts are struggling to achieve much consensus in their evaluations. Disliking ISIS is simple. Predicting the impacts of ISIS and defining effective responses requires a bit more work.

Reading the basics of ISIS history is a tedious challenge, even for CIA analysts that have been on the case for several years.

ISIS’s terror group pedigree is based on political incest and bastardry conducted at a frenetic pace. While ISIS is consistent in hating everyone that is not their brand of Sunni Muslim, ISIS’s best friend this morning is their avowed enemy this afternoon and their holy martyr tomorrow. Some of the rapid changes in alliances, friendships, and death lists are based on ruthless pragmatic opportunism. However, that alone can’t quite explain all of their instability. The Taliban are known to be opiate consumers, and many members of Al-Qaeda have a taste for hashish and alcohol. Perhaps ISIS is buying its “energy supplements for jihad” from Walter White. If they are not consuming meth, they are at least faking the symptoms quite well.

I am certain that publishing this article will have me near the top of the ISIS death list, but only for the briefest moment. In the ISIS universe, life is a rich pageantry of endless top priority targets that blossom with each new moment. In its loud and colorful world, hysteria is its own reward.

Western responses to ISIS have been yawningly predictable.

In the USA, Republican loyalists blame Obama, and Democrat loyalists blame Bush. In Europe, the responses range from “Blame it on America” to blaming it on whichever national political party they least like. The world is always so simple for party loyalists. It might be hard for some Americans and Europeans to imagine, but sometimes things actually do occur in the world without the USA or Europe being the cause.

ISIS has a complicated history, but it has some consistent characteristics. Such as, ISIS is barbaric and ruthlessly violent. In fact, it is so violent that it had a falling out with Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda terrorist leaders considered ISIS to be too violent and indiscriminate in its killing of fellow Sunnis. From Al-Qaeda’s point of view, the worst brutality should be reserved for non-Sunnis. That argument with Al-Qaeda, combined with generous funding from Gulf State billionaires, resulted in ISIS’s founding fathers abandoning their Al-Qaeda affiliation and setting their sights on creating their own world order.

A small portion of ISIS’s brutality toward the Yazd minority in northern Iraq has now been well documented by the media. What the media and the United Nations have not covered well is the ongoing genocide against Christian groups and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.

For several months, ISIS has conducted a systematic genocide against Christian communities in Syria. Thousands of Christians have been raped—boys and girls alike. Torture and beheadings are daily occurrences in ISIS’s war against Christianity. Christians represent a greater threat to ISIS because they are far more numerous and more cosmopolitan than the Yazd community.

ISIS’s wealthy Gulf State supporters have been aware of this genocide since it began, but they continued to fund the group.

Now that ISIS has succeeded in presenting a credible threat to the Iraqi government, some of their Gulf State patrons are having second thoughts. Funding genocide is all well and good until they have to greet the genocidal maniacs at their own doorsteps.

A few months ago, a decrease in funding from the Gulf States would have been a crisis for ISIS. Now, it hardly matters. Intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS has stolen nearly half a billion dollars from banks in the cities that they now control. As the badly-led Iraqi Army melted away during ISIS’s advance across northern Iraq, ISIS also captured ammunition, tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft weapons, trucks, radios and other assorted military equipment. ISIS is in better material condition than they ever have been before.

But it’s not all good news for ISIS.

While bribing and intimidating Iraqi Army leaders into desertion was easy, ISIS discovered that the Kurds are not quite as eager to desert their positions or surrender. As the Kurds brought the ISIS advance to a halt, and the Yazd genocide became the latest cause célèbre in the West, Western governments felt a ground swell of support for action in Iraq. After long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s no simple task to get the jaded and bankrupted Western public interested in committing to action in a seemingly hopeless cause like Iraq, but ISIS has succeeded in doing just that.

The Kurds are, in some ways, unique in Iraq. Unlike other Iraqi communities, the Kurds have never seemed hopeless, and they have a track record of having delivered on the agreements that they have made with Western governments. The credibility that the Kurdish community has established with Westerners makes it easier for Europeans and Americans to accept delivering military and humanitarian aid to them. Western aid to the Kurds is clearly bad news for ISIS.

The bad news for ISIS doesn’t stop there. The group can no longer count on the feeble and inept government of Prime Minister Maliki to keep Iraq weak and fractured. Maliki is gone. He resigned on August 14. It’s possible he imagined that the West and most Iraqis were about to arrange an unfortunate accident for him, and that his Iranian pals were no longer going to be able to keep him safe.

The infamously corrupt and incredibly incompetent Maliki has been replaced by Haider al Abaidi. Al Abaidi will not remind anyone of George Washington. He in no way resembles Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He is not a savior, and he will not resolve all of Iraq’s problems, but unlike Maliki, he will not do his determined best to alienate most of the Iraqi population. This translates into more cooperation with the West and, more importantly, more Iraqis cooperating with each other. That’s also bad news for ISIS.

In a German blitzkrieg-like fashion, ISIS has moved quickly and deliberately. The group stripped away much of its soldiers and equipment from its battle in Syria to conduct its offensive in Iraq. Now that ISIS is facing counterattack by American-backed Kurds and a better led Iraqi Army, it cannot shift its troops back to Syria. Assad’s Syrian Army and native Syrian rebels are in a position to take advantage of ISIS’s force realignment to Iraq, and they have begun to do so. Assad has celebrated some small victories and recaptured territory from ISIS. If the native Syrian rebels can find enough support, they might now establish a solid position in Syria.

ISIS is enjoying looking at its map of its new “Caliphate.” If it looks a little more closely, it will notice that it has maneuvered itself into a three front war, and two of their principal enemies are rapidly improving. More bad news for ISIS.

Many Western viewers have seen a photo of an ISIS wannabe holding up an ISIS flag in front of the White House. That’s as close as an ISIS flag will come to flying over the White House. Before ISIS can even establish a real caliphate across Islam, it will need to do two things. It will need to destroy its growing list of enemies in the Middle East, and it will need to competently administer the territory that it now holds. I doubt that it will do either.

Here is my best guess:

ISIS will not be swept aside quickly. It will continue its skilled manipulation of on-line media platforms. It also might conduct successful terrorist attacks against the West, even as it loses ground in Syria and the Middle East. However, now that ISIS has succeeded in alienating most of the planet, it will eventually be reduced to the marginalized position from whence it spawned.

Another Day, Another Battle–The Israeli Counter-Attack on Hamas

By Jay Holmes

In April of 2014, Hamas, which governs the Palestinian Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which governs the Palestinian areas of the West Bank, agreed to make peace and form a unity government. Predictably, Israel reacted negatively to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. Israel viewed it as a victory for radicalism and terrorism within the Palestinian camp.

 

Woman holding Hamas flag. Unaltered image by Kimdime.

Woman holding Hamas flag.
Unaltered image by Kimdime.

 

The governments of China, the EU, India, Turkey, and the USA joined the UN in agreeing to negotiate with the new Hamas-Fatah unity government. These countries and organizations announced their agreement to work with the Hamas-Fatah union in spite of the fact that Hamas has not waivered from its stated central goal of annihilating Israel and converting all of Palestine, including what is now Israel, into a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist state. This was particularly odd on the part of the EU and the USA, since those governments had previously been very clear in declaring Hamas to be a terror organization.

After the EU and the USA announced their acceptance of the new Hamas-Fatah union, Israel became less receptive toward EU/USA brokered peace negotiations. From the Israeli point of view, the EU and the USA could easily afford to trust the new Palestinian unity government because rockets from Gaza and terrorist attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank would not be targeting either of them. The new Palestinian government took power on June 2, 2014.

On June 12, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped from the West Bank. At the same time, the number of Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel increased sharply. The Israeli Air Force responded to the increased rocket attacks by launching air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza.

 

Israel Defense Forces searching for kidnapped teens near Hebron. Unaltered image by Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Defense Forces searching for kidnapped teens near Hebron.
Unaltered image by Israel Defense Forces.

 

Hamas did not claim the kidnappings of the three teens. The culpability for that action lies with Hamas’s affiliated terror group, Qawasameh. However, not wanting to miss an opportunity to pursue its favorite pastime of shooting itself in the foot, Hamas loudly applauded the kidnappings of the three Israeli children. Evidence indicates that Hamas had supplied weapons and cash to Qawasameh to conduct these kidnappings and murders.

The kidnappings and Hamas’s gloating about them have served to silence the voices of reconciliation within Israel. On June 30, the dead bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens were found near Hebron. The Israeli government came under increasing pressure from its citizens to act against the kidnappers. In July, Israel rounded up Hamas leaders and some of their affiliated terrorist pals in the West Bank.

On July 17, Israel and Hamas agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire for the purpose of delivering food and medicine to Gaza. After the ceasefire ended, the Israeli Army entered Gaza with the stated purpose of destroying tunnels that served Hamas and other terrorist groups as weapons depots and passages for terrorist raids into Israel from Gaza. The Israelis claim that they found evidence indicating plans to use the tunnels for a massive, coordinated terrorist strike against Israel in September of this year.

 

 

On August 1, the EU and the USA announced that they had negotiated a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire to assist the thousands of wounded Palestinians in Gaza. About an hour into the ceasefire, Hamas fighters demonstrated their usual lack of concern for the Palestinians in Gaza by attacking Israeli Army forces and negating the ceasefire.

On August 3, the Israeli Army announced that it had destroyed most of the known Hamas tunnel networks, and that it had withdrawn from most of Gaza. Two days later, the Israeli Army completed its withdrawal from all of Gaza.

As soon as Israel withdrew from Gaza, another 72-hour ceasefire took effect. This time, Hamas did not overtly violate the ceasefire. After the ceasefire ended, Hamas again launched rockets from Gaza into Israel, and the Israelis resumed shelling Gaza.

Thanks to Israel’s “Iron Dome” air defense system, most of the Hamas rockets did not reach targets in inhabited areas of Israel. Thanks to the Iron Dome system and Israel’s well-organized emergency medical facilities, the fatality rate during this summer’s fighting in Gaza have thus far amounted to less than one hundred Israeli deaths, but approximately 1,800 Palestinian deaths. Israel claims that between forty and fifty percent of the Palestinian deaths have been Hamas and affiliated combatants. Hamas claims that nearly all of the Palestinian deaths have been innocent civilians.

In Gaza, at least three UN facilities have been hit. The assumption has been that they were hit by Israel, but Israel points out that they never target UN aid locations or shelters, and Israel says it suspects that Hamas is responsible for at least some of the damage to UN locations. The TV coverage of grief stricken refugees weeping over dead children in UN shelters has been a public relations disaster for Israel, but what actually occurred and who is responsible for the tragedies has not yet been determined. If evidence indicates that Israel is not responsible for the attacks on UN locations, it will still be too late to prevent the public relations damage.

Interestingly, the Arab nations have not loudly condemned Israeli military action. This might be because many of Hamas’s usual allies in Kuwait and Qatar are experiencing second thoughts about instigating radical Islamic movements as they watch ISIS Islamic fundamentalists rape and pillage their way across neighboring Iraq. Most of the condemnation of Israel has come from the UN and from the West.

 

Apartment yard destroyed by Hamas rocket Unaltered image by The Israel Project.

Apartment yard destroyed by Hamas rocket
Unaltered image by The Israel Project.

 

Since Hamas’s consolidation of power in Gaza in 2005, Western nations have almost completely stopped economic aid to Gaza. At the same time, Israel has tried to maintain an effective blockade of Gaza to prevent increased imports of rocket parts and other weapons from Iran. It is at times amusing to listen to various Iranian government spokesmen contradict each other as they brag about giving rockets, improved rocket technology, and other weapons to Hamas, while simultaneously denying sending Hamas rockets and weapons. I imagine that Iranian government foreign policy meetings must resemble a Three Stooges episode or a Marx Brothers movie.

In any event, while the rockets continue to fly into Israel from Gaza, the Israelis aren’t laughing. The exchange of fire between Hamas and their affiliates in Gaza and the Israeli Army continues. Early Sunday morning, August 10, Hamas rejected peace talks in Egypt. Then, around 8 A.M. Washington, D.C. time, Hamas announced that it is willing to participate in peace talks in Egypt. It could well be by the time this article is published that Hamas will have changed their minds three more times.

So what does this all mean for Israel and the Palestinian people in the near future? Sadly, my best guess is that although Hamas might be temporarily motivated to lower the level of fighting, they will still maintain their despotic rule in Gaza while they attempt to improve and replenish their rocket inventory with help from Iran. The Israelis will try to improve their very expensive Iron Dome system while simultaneously trying to improve their intelligence on terrorist activity by Hamas and their affiliate gangs in Gaza. The Israeli people will continue to live with the tension that has always been pervasive in Israel, and the civilians in Gaza will continue to suffer under the miserable administration that Hamas and Fatah have thus far delivered.

For the rest of the world, I would not recommend a vacation to either Gaza or Israel right now. Tragically, millions of children caught in the middle of the conflict don’t have that choice.