Category Archives: War

Boot Vs. Bolton

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No, not exactly. Just a juxtaposition of their views regarding Israel’s struggle against Hamas and possible solutions. Starting with Max Boot,

The Wall Street Journal today runs my article on the prospects for the Israeli invasion of Gaza. To sum up, I basically think that Israel has no choice but to strike back against Hamas, but it also has scant chances of eliminating Hamas or winning lasting peace. Hence the headline: “Israel’s Tragic Gaza Dilemma.” A year ago, in another Journal article I compared the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Anglo-Scottish conflict which ran for almost 450 years (1296-1745).

I hope I am not being too gloomy here. I realize my perspective runs counter to the typical American attitude that there is no problem in the world without a “solution.” Yet all attempts to “solve” the Israeli-Arab dispute have made, at best, limited progress–for instance with the cold peace that prevails between Israel and Egypt and Jordan. Notwithstanding those peace accords, which are deeply unpopular with the people of Egypt and Jordan, there is little reason to think that the Arabs as a whole, and the Palestinians in particular, have accommodated themselves to Israel’s right to exist. The more common view seems to be that, yes, perhaps Israel will exist for a few more decades, maybe a century or two, but eventually it will be wiped out just as were the Crusader kingdoms established by Europeans in the Holy Land during the Middle Ages.

Given this reality, Israelis have no choice but to get on with their lives as best they can while recognizing they will have to fight a constant, low-intensity struggle against groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. The real risk for Israel is not fighting these types of wars; it is the risk of complete annihilation which is raised by Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

John Bolton disagrees:

[W]e should ask why we still advocate the “two-state solution,” with Israel and “Palestine” living side by side in peace, as the mantra goes. We are obviously not progressing, and are probably going backward. We continue poring over the Middle East “road map” because that is all we have, faute de mieux, as they say in Foggy Bottom.

The logic to this position is long past its expiration date. Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine a new approach that the key players would receive enthusiastically. If the way out were obvious, after all, it would already have been suggested. So consider the following, unpopular and difficult to implement though it may be:

Let’s start by recognizing that trying to create a Palestinian Authority from the old PLO has failed and that any two-state solution based on the PA is stillborn. Hamas has killed the idea, and even the Holy Land is good for only one resurrection. Instead, we should look to a “three-state” approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. Among many anomalies, today’s conflict lies within the boundaries of three states nominally at peace. Having the two Arab states re-extend their prior political authority is an authentic way to extend the zone of peace and, more important, build on governments that are providing peace and stability in their own countries. “International observers” or the like cannot come close to what is necessary; we need real states with real security forces.

I sympathize with Bolton’s perspective but is it politically possible? I doubt it. Neither Egypt or Jordan seems likely to agree, or the Palestinians. Why would they? Given this dynamic, Boot’s “gloomy” analysis may be the best Israel can hope for, especially in the short to medium term.

IDF Enters Gaza

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Israeli ground forces have entered Gaza after a week of aerial and naval strikes and hours of artillery fire. Leaflets dropped on Gaza claimed:

Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately.

The stated objective is stopping the rockets launched by Hamas, destroying the terrorist infrastructure and eliminating the organizations’ leadership. The end-game is unclear. Does the Israeli leadership have the political will and public support to decisively defeat Hamas or will this end in another symbolic cease-fire?

The following is from YNet:

Israel Defense Forces ground troops entered the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, as the army launched its long anticipated ground operation.

An officer and a soldier were seriously wounded during the night-time fighting against Palestinian gunmen. They were evacuated to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Eighteen other soldiers sustained light to moderate wounds.

Eleven of the injured troops were evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment.

Army officials confirmed that dozens of terrorists were hurt in clashes with IDF ground troops, saying some of them were killed. In several cases, armed terrorists approached Israeli forces and were shot at by ground troops and IDF gunships. There are no reports of Israeli casualties at this time.

Large IDF ground forces, including Armored and Engineering corps units, as well as infantry soldiers are currently operating in the Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun areas, from which rockets have been launched toward Israel.

The army is preparing to enter the third phase of the operation, which is expected to be much broader in scope. In this framework tens of thousands of reserve soldiers will be heading to training bases in north and south Israel during the early hours of Sunday morning.

The reserve soldiers may take part in the third phase of the operation or be deployed in central and northern Israel in case of escalation on those fronts.

H/t to Noah Pollak (Contentions) for this list of Israeli live-bloggers and links:

Our Israeli friends Carl in Jerusalem, Aussie Dave, and The Muqata are live-blogging the ground war. And don’t miss a couple of excellent analyses: Israel’s Gaza Strategy by Martin Kramer, and On The Ground in Gaza by Barry Rubin.

Coverage by Z Word here.

MORE:

These videos from the IDF’s Youtube channel show what Israel is facing including, mortars launched from UN schools and weapons caches hidden in mosques. They should also make apparent that, as opposed to what protesters are shrieking in the streets, Israel is not targeting civilians.

In fact, as Bill Roggio (Long War Journal) notes:

The Israeli strikes are remarkably accurate and are causing a relatively low degree of civilian deaths despite airstrikes being launched in built-up, urban areas.

Compare this with Hamas rocket and mortar attacks, or previous suicide attacks when the Palestinians terror groups could pull these off inside Israel. Hamas and others have clearly targeted civilians; the attacks are aimed at civilians in the heart of cities and villages. Yet the reporting invariably hints that the Israeli attacks are indiscriminate while the Palestinian attacks are a response to Israeli aggression and part of the “cycle of violence.”

Engage: Gaza Round Up

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Another Gaza round up, this time from Engage. If you have not peeped their new site, go have look:

Jeff Weintraub here.

Iranian Jews demonstrate their ‘loyalty’ to the regime, here.

Ben Cohen here and here and here.

Michele Sieff, here and here.

Eamonn McDonagh here and here.

David Aaronovitch here.

Alex Stein here.

Michael Weiss here.

David Grossman here.

Gene, Harry’s Place here.

Adam LeBor here.

Eric Lee here.

More on Operation Cast Lead

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Round up from around the web:

Ben Cohen (ZWord): Gaza and ANSWER

Contentious Centrist: Loads of posts here, here, here and here.

Elder of Ziyon: Protests don’t reflect reality and Why would Israel bomb a university? Here’s Why!

Terry Glavin: The Debasement of Language: “Israeli Genocide”

Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic): A Fatah Friend Writes: I’m Supporting the Israeli Air Force

Yossi Klein Halevi (TNR): Why Gaza Matters

Eric Lee (Labourstart): The Left, Israel and “Holocaust” in Gaza

Noah Pollak (Contentions): The Cycle of Cease-Fires

Michael Totten: What Would a Proportionate Response Look Like?

Random Thoughts: Gaza Round Up 3.5

Sultan Knish: The Gaza Picture Show and The Terrorists are Always the Victim

Much more at ZWord.

Better Late than Never: Israel Pounds Hamas in Gaza

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gaza-airstrike

[Israeli air strike in Rafah, AFP photo]

Over the past three days at least 100 rockets have been launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations into southern Israel. This is not a recent development. Thousands of rockets have fallen on Israel in the past eight years. Israel finally responded by leveling Hamas’ headquarters and other targets across Gaza.

60 warplanes struck more than 50 locations in the first few minutes of “Operation Cast Lead”, the largest Israeli military operation in Gaza since the 1967 War. In addition to attacking Hamas personnel and facilities including rocket launching sites, political offices, a police station, weapons warehouse, and radio station, the Israeli Air Force bombed tunnels along the Philadelphi Route, near the Israeli-Egyptian border. To conclude the operation, the military has mobilized over 6,500 reservists and may be preparing for a ground assault. David Hazony (Contentions) writes:

After a devastating set of aerial blows, Israeli tanks are now gathering at the border, and Barak is talking about calling up reserves. It is way too early to tell, but it is starting to look less like payback or deterrence, and more like the beginnings of a prolongued operation aimed at toppling the Hamas regime.

Rather than considering how they would respond in a similar situation, officials from the Philippines, Turkey, France, Russia and many other countries have condemned Israel. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged a “ceasefire and immediate halt to all violence”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay decried Israel’s use of “disproportionate” force while UN undersecretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes opined [h/t Cinnamon Stillwell]:

The Israeli reaction is not justified by those rocket attacks, even though it’s caused by those rocket attacks.

Say what? Ami Isseroff ‘s (ZioNation) post “Gaza: Rights Versus Wisdom” is worth quoting at length:

Since the breakdown of the so-called truce, which was never very quiet in the best weaks, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States did nothing other than to bemoan the mythical humanitarian crisis in Gaza and call on Israel to send more supplies. The supplies were sent, both before and after the breakdown of the truce. Israel has maneuvered itself into a unique legal situation, where it is forced by world opinion and twisted juridical rulings to supply its declared enemy with war materiel. Building materials were used to construct bunkers. Cash released by Israel was used to pay the salaries of rocket launching crews and to purchase weapons smuggled in through the tunnels beneath the Rafah crossing. No country could remain forever silent and non-reactive in the face of the continued provocation.

The real issue in Gaza has nothing to do with Shalit or with sieges or rocket fire. The stakes are much bigger. The Hamas has been steadily and successfully pursuing a rather single minded program: to establish itself as the Palestinian government and supplant the Fatah, thereby voiding the concessions made by Palestinians in the Oslo process, without reversing any of the Israeli concessions. Once installed in Gaza and the West Bank and recognized as a “legitimate government” and “peace partner,” Hamas will use these territories to establish an official or unofficial Islamic state, and use it to launch terror attacks against Israel, as well as to foment subversion in Jordan and Egypt. These goals are to be reached by continuously “pushing the envelope” – establishing increasingly intolerable conditions as the status quo, accepted and approved by the entire world, in which Israel must acquiesce. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has a similar strategy vis-a-vis what is left of the Lebanese government, and is well on its way to implementing it.

Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement succinctly articulating what many Americans think about the situation:

Israel has a right, indeed a duty, to defend itself in response to the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza over the past week. No government in the world would sit by and allow its citizens to be subjected to this kind of indiscriminate bombardment. The loss of innocent life is a terrible tragedy, and the blame for that tragedy lies with Hamas.

Why is this so difficult to grasp?

Predictably, Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal blamed Israel for the escalation of hostilities and called on Palestinians to launch a Third Intifada. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh asserted, “Palestine has never witnessed an uglier massacre.” One wonders, uglier than Jenin and “Al Nakba“?

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran issued a religious decree on state television to Muslims around the world, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel’s attacks on Gaza. Large protest rallies have occurred throughout the Middle East in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In Mosul, Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated himself in the midst of an anti-Israel demonstration.

Further Reading:

Check out Elder of Ziyon’s Gaza reference articles here.

Small Wars Journal roundup here.

90 Years After Armistice, Remember Our Vets

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Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. The holiday was established to recognize the end of World War One (Armistice Day) as well as honoring the service of our armed forces in all conflicts. When I was a child the holiday was widely honored with parades, speeches and school closings. Today, Veterans Day is increasingly forgotten by many Americans. Remember, support our troops in the field and when they come home.

The following excerpt is from the Veterans of Foreign Wars website:

Remembering gives true meaning to sacrifice and service. Millions of Americans’ lives were forever altered because they donned a uniform to protect the freedoms and rights we take for granted. We owe an eternal debt of gratitude to them. And acknowledging Veterans Day is the time that debt comes due. It’s our way of keeping faith.

All of this is particularly relevant now, with the nation at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 4,800 Americans have been killed in the two war zones to date. Approximately 1.7 million tours have been logged so far with 600,000 individuals having served there. About 325,000 of them have used VA benefits and services. Many, present as well as past, have displayed exceptional courage on the battlefield, as this month’s issue clearly illustrates.

The 23.8 million veterans living in America deserve the recognition. It is often forgotten that legislative battles were waged over this day and its earlier version called Armistice Day in 1926, 1938, 1954 and throughout the 1970s. Let’s not take its value for granted.

AMVETS

Foundation for American Veterans

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Operation Gratitude

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Wounded Warrior Project

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American Forces Attack al Qaeda Cell in Syria

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United States Special Operations Forces crossed the Syrian border in an operation targeting the home of Abu Ghadiyah, leader of an al-Qaeda-linked Syrian network that smuggled jihadists, arms and money into Iraq. In February (2008) the U.S. Treasury Department identified Abu Ghadiyah as head of al Qaeda in Iraq’s (AQI’s) facilitation network:

which controls the flow of money, weapons, terrorists, and other resources through Syria into Iraq. Former AQI leader Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi appointed Badran as AQI’s Syrian commander for logistics in 2004. After Zarqawi’s death, Badran began working for the new AQI leader, Abu Ayyub Al-Masri. As of late-September 2006, Badran took orders directly from Masri, or through a deputy.

The attack was conducted by four helicopters with accounts varying whether ground forces were involved. The NYT cites an unnamed source claiming “two dozen American commandos in specially equipped Black Hawk helicopters…fought a brief gun battle with Abu Ghadiya and several members of his cell.” Syrian witnesses describe two Arab men taken aboard helicopters and flown out of the area. The Associated Press notes:

U.S. authorities have said Abu Ghadiyah’s real name is Badran Turki al-Mazidih, an Iraqi in his early 30s who served as al-Qaida in Iraq’s head of logistics in Syria since 2004. His job included providing foreign fighters with passports, weapons, guides and safe houses as they slipped into Iraq and made their way to Baghdad and other major cities where the Sunni insurgency was raging.

In the past weeks, U.S. forces in western Iraq have been stepping up their efforts to control the flow of foreign fighters over the Syrian border. Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, describes Syria as “a transit station for al Qaeda foreign terrorists on their way to Iraq.” While the numbers of foreign fighters caught and killed in Iraq has been on the decline since the advent of the surge and the Sunni Awakening, the region where the operation occurred has remained a primary route for money, weapons and men supporting the Sunni insurgency. As long as he stayed in Syria, Abu Ghadiyah remained out of reach of U.S. and coalition forces. That is, until Sunday.

Syrian officials condemned the attack as an act of “serious aggression” and government controlled newspapers claimed the U.S. had committed “war crimes.” The Russian government, set to sell new missile systems to Syria, has accused the United States of “fuelling dangerous tension in the Middle East”. This attack sends a clear message to the Syrian government: If you are providing safe passage for terrorists, the U.S. will take unilateral action.

Were the Jewish Partisans Stalinist Dupes?

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[H/t to A.L. for bringing this to my attention. Above image of Jewish Partisans from Vilnius is from the Holocaust Research Project]

Nazi hunter: Lithuania hunts ex-partisans, lets war criminals roam free

By Yossi Melman

A few months ago, Lithuanian policemen and agents from the security service knocked on Rachel Margolis’ door in Vilna. Fortunately she was not home, and was thus saved the humiliation of an interrogation. Margolis, almost 90, was a Jewish partisan during World War II, and is finding it difficult to recover from the trauma even now, when she is living in her daughter’s home in Rehovot.

“My sin in the eyes of the nationalists and the anti-Semites in the Lithuanian government,” she says, “was that I was a partisan and fought against the Nazis and their collaborators.”

The Lithuanian policemen and agents wanted to interrogate her about her memoir, in which she told about her partisan colleagues who in January 1944 attacked the village of Koniuchy (or in Lithuanian, Kaniukai).

The Lithuanian partisans, who operated under the aegis of the Central Partisan Command of the Soviet Union, had information that there was a German garrison in the village. After the fact, it turned out that the Germans had abandoned the place. In the battle that ensued, 38 villagers were killed, including women and children. In independent Lithuania, with a tendency to rewrite history after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, they describe this attack as a “massacre,” and a special prosecutor opened an investigation.

Margolis says she was not even in Lithuania at the time of the attack, and was active in another partisan unit in White Russia.

“I wrote a book about the war, and in it I mentioned in a few lines that I had heard from partisan friends about the attack,” she says.

In the book she mentions another partisan friend who was among the attackers, Fania Brantsovsky, and another partisan, Sara Ginaite, both of whom are also suspects and wanted for interrogation.

“That’s Lithuanian chutzpah,” says Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “To date, Lithuanian governments have not punished a single Lithuanian war criminal. In spite of our considerable efforts and the large amount of information we have given them, they handled three cases with astonishing slowness. Not one of the three served a single day in prison. On the other hand, they’re not ashamed to persecute and harass Lithuanian partisans who fought the Nazis. What is common to all these cases is that they’re all Jews. Instead of punishing Lithuanian criminals who collaborated with the Nazis and murdered Jews, they’re harassing the partisans, Jewish heroes.”

Perhaps the height of chutzpah was the attempt by Lithuania to investigate Dr. Yitzhak Arad, a Holocaust historian and one-time partisan, a former brigadier general and a chief education officer in the Israel Defense Forces, and the chairman of the board of Yad Vashem.

The Lithuanian claim against Arad was that he served in a Soviet security services, the NKVD, which engaged in murder and looting, and that he was involved in the murder of innocent Lithuanians. In the Lithuanian newspaper, Republika, they even published an article two years ago entitled “The expert with blood on his hands.”

Arad explained that the Lithuanian claims against him were false. The Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem sharply protested the Lithuanian demand, and refused to cooperate with the request.

However, there are some in Israel who believe that neither the Foreign Ministry nor Yad Vashem are acting with the determination expected of them, and are demonstrating weakness. There are voices who believe that Israel should lower its diplomatic contacts with Lithuania if it continues harassing Jewish and Israeli partisans. One of the critics is Zuroff.

“In the State of Israel, they prefer to let Jewish organizations do the dirty work and fight against the rewriting of history in Lithuania,” Zuroff said. “The State of Israel and those involved in the issue should have made it unequivocally clear to the Lithuanian government that it is crossing all the red lines.”

Another harsh critic of Israeli policy is historian Prof. Dov Levin, an expert on Lithuanian Jewry. Levin chronicles in his books how more than 200,00 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, mainly by the Lithuanian collaborators who were eager to engage in murder without the German Nazis having to convince them.

Levin, himself a partisan in Lithuania and a member of the Yad Vashem council, was opposed to the decision about 10 years ago by the Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem to cooperate with Lithuania in the study of the history of World War II. His view was not accepted, and a joint international committee of Israeli, Lithuanian and other historians was established.

The committee, actually two subcommittees, is studying the murder of the Jews in the Holocaust in Lithuania as well as the murder of Lithuanians, during the period of the Soviet occupation of the country from 1940-1941 – as part of the infamous 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – as well as the Soviet period from 1945 until independence in 1991.

By doing so, the committee is unfortunately helping the Lithuanians equate the two historical developments. Levin believes that Yad Vashem should have severed any connection with the Lithuanian government and ended its activity.

I dissed the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in a previous post (and at numerous comments on other blogs) for being Stalinist dupes rather than principled anti-fascists. I stand by that assertion. But this article in Haaretz regarding Jewish communist partisans displays the complexity of these issues. Were the Jewish partisans dupes as well? If not, why not?

I think not. For one thing, the situation of Jews in Lithuania was not analogous to the situation of the volunteers in the U.S. Lithuania was occupied by the Nazis and Lithuanian civilians participated in the Holocaust. Jews had four options in Lithuania. First, resistance; second, collaboration in the hopes of personal and family survival; third, seeking refuge where that was possible; and fourth, deportation to the camps. In the case of Lithuanian resistance, the communist partisan units were the only option.

Jews had choices in other countries. The Jewish Fighting Organization in Poland (more below) is one example and escapees from the Slovakian Novaky labor camp formed an independent Jewish brigade affiliated with the Zionist Hashomer Hatzair.

Regarding Lithuania, the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation notes:

In 1943, Lithuanian Jewish partisans became unified under the direction of Soviet Lithuanian partisan movement. Admission of Jews to the partisans was limited for political and military reasons as well as because of antisemitism. Even in some of the mixed units Jews experienced discrimination. Yet the partisan movement was their only vehicle to actively fight against the Nazis. In some cases, all-Jewish units were formed within the larger organization of Lithuanian partisans.

Poland was a different situation:

Because of the widespread Nazi hunts for escaped Jews, and centuries old antisemitism among some locals, many Polish Jewish partisans sought affiliation with Polish partisan groups. This was a difficult and dangerous task-a Jewish partisan could be robbed of his weapon, or killed for approaching a partisan unit. However, numerous Polish partisan units welcomed Jews, such as the People’s Guard. In the Generalgouvernement area of Poland (divided into four districts Warsaw, Cracow, Radom, and Lublin), hundreds of Jewish partisans belonged to Polish units of the People’s Guard, to the Home Army (AK), and to other groups. Considerable numbers of these Jewish partisans operated in commando units, and dozens of Jews took leadership roles as commanders.

Jews also fought as partisans in all-Jewish units, such as the ZOB (the Jewish Fighting Organization), which was active throughout occupied Poland. Against incredible odds, thousands of Polish Jewish partisans fought back, and most lost their lives. Many did not expect to survive, as reflected in the motto of one Jewish partisan group: “For those who seek life, we are not the address.”

Here is a map describing Jewish partisan activity in ten countries.

For more information on Jewish partisans, click on the image that says “Resist” on the left column of this blog or click here.

Read more about antisemitism in Lithuania here.

Remembering the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia 40 Years On

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“The only defense against Moscow’s imperialism is an alliance with the West. That is the main lesson of August 1968.”–Czech Premier Mirek Topolanek

[Image © Josef Koudelka/Magnum Photos]

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately. I’m getting ready to head out of town for a few days and have been busy with guests. But I wanted to post something on the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Not only for the event’s historical importance but it seems relevant to what’s happening today in Georgia.

From (VOA):

Forty years ago, on the night of August 20-21, 1968, 2,000 tanks and 200,000 Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops entered Czechoslovakia. Failed negotiations in Bratislava over a program of political liberalization known as “Prague Spring” served as the precipitating event.

The 1968 invasion was successful in stopping the partial democratization reforms begun by Czechoslovak Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek. That August night, Eastern bloc armies from five Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and East Germany – joined the invasion.

A Czech Perspective

The invasion was followed by a wave of emigrations, about 300,000 in total, typically of highly qualified people. Among those who came to the United States was Jiri Fisher, formerly a broadcaster in VOA’s Czech Service, who was 19 years old at the time. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Fisher says he was returning home after an island vacation in Yugoslavia. He was incredulous when a German family on the ship told him that there was “einen Krieg” [a war] in Czechoslovakia. Together they tuned into Radio Prague on a little transition radio, Fisher says, and they heard that Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Soviet Army and Warsaw Pact and that “people were getting killed.” To this day, he says, it gives him “chills” to remember that night.

Jiri Fisher says he and his friends ended up in the northern port city of Rijeka on the Adriatic coast. Yugoslavia’s President Tito went on TV, Fisher recalls, telling his people that “we have to take care of all Czechs and Slovaks who are trapped in our country” because the Soviet Army had shut down the borders. He says he and his friends then went on to Zagreb, where thousands of people were gathered in front of the consulate, and where people from Zagreb were “fighting for us – for whom they would take home.” Later he made his way to Vienna, and then to his hometown of Brno in the region of Moravia, and ultimately to the United States. Like many of his countryman, Fisher says, his life had been changed forever.

[read it all and listen to Latham’s report here]

Read More:

BBC: Eyewitness, Prague Spring Crushed

Dubček Jr.: People cannot be blamed for their leaders

IHT: Czechs and Slovaks Remember 1968 Invasion

Czechs and Slovaks held ceremonies Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed the liberal reforms of Alexander Dubcek and ended an era known as the “Prague Spring.”

Czech President Vaclav Klaus traveled to the Slovak capital, Bratislava, while Slovak Premier Robert Fico joined his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek in Prague for the commemoration ceremonies.

Symbols of that era such as a Soviet T-54 tank and homemade posters protesting the invasion were on display in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, the main location of clashes between Soviet troops and Prague citizens.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia also marked the anniversary with speeches, conferences and film screenings.

“Communism is beyond reform. Every attempt to liberalize it leads to its destruction,” Topolanek wrote in an opinion piece in Thursday’s Lidove Noviny daily. “The only defense against Moscow’s imperialism is an alliance with the West. That is the main lesson of August 1968.”

More on Georgia and Russia (and a bit re: Poland)

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Since I last posted about Russia’s invasion of Georgia the conflict escalated from South Ossetia to Abkhazia and into central Georgia. Russia has agreed to a cease-fire but the specifics are sketchy at this time. Here are some selections from the web:

Max Boot (Contentions)

I am relieved to hear the Russia has called off its invasion of Georgia, although whether actions on the ground will match the words emanating from Moscow remains to be seen. But I am very, very depressed at the pusillanimous reaction to Russian aggression in what used to be called the Free World. Far too many are rushing to blame the victims. A perfect example of this mindset is this column by Newsweek’s Michael Hirsch. He begins, “There is no excusing Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Georgia,” but then he proceeds to offer one excuse after another. “Since the cold war ended,” he writes, “the United States has been pushing the buttons of Russian frustration and paranoia by moving ever further into Moscow’s former sphere of influence. And we have rarely stopped to consider whether we were overreaching, even as evidence mounted that the patience of a wealthier and more assertive Russia was wearing very thin.”

and more here.

Abe Greenwald (Contentions): What are friends for?:

Georgia has our attention (or is sharing it with John Edwards). John McCain, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush have issued assorted statements on the matter, French president Nicolas Sarkozy has dashed through the motions of European diplomacy, and President Bush has sent Condoleezza Rice dashing after him. Additionally, American Navy vessels are heading toward the Black Sea–to deliver aid. But a week after Russian tanks and jets set Georgia ablaze–and three days since the announcement of a ceasefire–Russian troops patrol Georgian cities with virtual impunity. No nation has defended Georgia and no Georgian ally has even given her the means to defend herself. Moreover, no agreements have been drafted explicitly securing Georgia’s territorial integrity. In this way, Saakashvili got the West dead wrong.

Victim status doesn’t get you what it used to. There was a time when an American friend or a strategically critical state under attack got more than color commentary from the White House and a boat full of Ace bandages. When Russia rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 we didn’t give Afghans our sympathy; we gave them guns–big ones. When Saddam tried to annex Kuwait, we went in and sent him back home. Today a real invasion will get a symbolic vote, a high profile condemnation, and a Facebook group.

Bob from Brockley has a nice set of links here. Bob takes a critical approach to reports in the Western media here:

Western media is not simply accepting Georgian lies, but accepting lies from both sides, to satisfy our thirst for news, in the context of a lack of decent coverage on the ground.

I agree with Bob but isn’t this the case in every conflict where reporters on the ground are scare? Western newspapers rely on government reports, interviews with officials, interviews with the opposition, etc. Look at Darfur. There are not many western reporters there. Newspapers report what the government in Khartum claims and what those resisting the government claim and what human rights organizations/NGOs claim. Same with Zimbabwe. We know what we know about these conflicts largely based on propaganda. Even in wars we today consider rather clear-cut, like World War II, most of the information produced by Western media was propaganda.

I also think it is important to make a distinction between “accepting lies” and reporting the position of an official of a government or political movement. If a media outlet notes, “according to Georgian officials 2,000 Georgian civilians were killed” and “according to Russian officials, 2,000 Russian civilians were killed” that is different than claiming “2,000 Georgian civilians and 2,000 Russian civilians were killed.” All of the MSM reports I have read are careful to point out which side is making a particular claim so I do not agree that reporters are accepting the lies of either side.

Pundits (and most bloggers) are a different case. Unless they are reporting facts on the ground (for example, the number and type of military units involved in a particular skirmish) I expect them to have an ideological interpretation of the conflict and communicate that in their opinions.

Kellie Strom (Air Force Amazons): They’re all the bloody same over there:

I’m a lousy chess player, but from what I read it looks to me as though Russia has been advancing its pawns in the hope that one of them would be taken, allowing its main force to attack. Georgia was facing losses either way, whether at the hands of the advancing pawns, or in risking confrontation with the main Russian forces. I’m not yet convinced that Georgian actions were wholly unreasonable. If they hadn’t responded, the Russian reaction to weakness would have undoubtedly have been an even greater buildup of their forces within the contested areas, and a continuation, if not escalation, of actions by its proxy separatist forces.

Sultan Knish: Pat Buchanan, the Kremlin’s New Whore

Lastly, within days of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Poland agreed to serve as a base for a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system. Do you blame them?