Category: Palestine

Border forts

It’s interesting how news about the war in Iraq dribbles out. Today’s local paper has a front-page story about a James Vandenberg, a Little Rock architect who serves in the Civil Engineering Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve Seabees. He recently spent 10 months in the Al Anbar region of Iraq. Here’s the part of the story that makes me wonder what in the heck is going on over there:

He and his team worked to build 32 Beau Geste-style forts, with rounded corner towers and a center courtyard, along 550 miles of the border between Al Anbar, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

I don’t know much about what it takes to manage artificial borders, but 32 forts certainly doesn’t sound much like a temporary occupation to me. Are we trying to keep people in or out? Do we have similar numbers of “forts” (interesting how we don’t call them that here in the US unless they’re quaint relics from our Indian-killing days) along our California and Arizona borders with Mexico (approx. 500 miles)?

Apparently the forts are quite easy to destroy — many were destroyed with landmines during construction. Vandenberg said there were about 320 such forts throughout Iraq’s border areas. Why? Is that common for all countries in that region? Did we destroy the ones that were already there, or is this new construction?

Vandenberg’s team also built a hospital, which I think is a good thing. Unfortunately, it was built to replace one destroyed by “Allies” during the war (because “Iraqis had taken over the hospital and were using it as an intelligence center”). Isn’t it amazing how there is never unjustified collateral damage? It’s always because “Iraqis had taken over” (who else?) or because of Syrian infiltrators or because the country is “infested” with insurgents. Kinda like when Israel continues to kill an apparently endless supply of “top Hamas leaders” (must be more chiefs than Indians in that tribe!)…

Photograph of Dhafeer Fort near the Liwa oasis by Michael Wing, Feb 24, 2011. or or

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Fertile shores of the 700 Club

Dear editor,

A couple of nights ago, channel-surfing landed me on the fertile shores of the 700 Club. The Reverend Pat Robertson was doing a spectacular job of keeping a straight face as he “logically” connected the dots for his audience, directly linking natural disasters in these United States — fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes — to her continued diplomatic “interference” in Israel’s affairs, first with the Camp David agreement, then the Oslo accords, and now the “Road Map” to peace. The moral of Rev. Robertson’s story (he spelled it out in case you weren’t clever enough to follow along) was that Israel gets everything it wants or God will get you.

Such brilliant logic would be funny if the consequences of letting Israel run amok weren’t so tragic. America’s 50-year hands-off sponsorship of theocratic apartheid, now steeped in a folklore-as-religion of fables and prophetic fantasies, has brought untold misery to the Middle East and irreparable damage to nearly two centuries of charitable engagement by Western missionaries. It is hard to remember, given the current state of affairs, that Jews and Christians and Muslims lived together in relative tranquility for most of these last thousand years. (“Relative” is the important disclaimer here — for the last 500 years at least, us civilized Westerners are off the scale in terms of being really, really good at killing ourselves and everyone around us.)

Maybe one of the reasons Americans support Israel so uncritically is that we view them as a righteous extension, an “embed” of our Western, “Judeo-Christian” ideals in a godless heathen land. Maybe we’re vicariously reliving the thrill of exterminating our own indigenous populations, of herding them like animals onto reservations. Maybe the true mark of a civilization’s superiority is its ability to covet what it hasn’t been naturally blessed with. We noble Europeans and Americans have meddled in every corner of the globe in our rabid pursuit of land, water, cotton, opium, rubber, bananas, and now oil. But hey, as long as we’re wearing our WWJD trinkets, and as long as we leave Israel alone to misbehave just like we did… And as long as we’re praying our Jabez prayer (that the stock market recovers and we continue to be richly blessed with low-cost imported sneakers and blue jeans made with child and near-slave labor), then God is surely on our side. For ever and ever, Amen.

Jacques d’Nalgar

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