Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Way It Used To Be

The Jerusalem Post recalls the rescue of Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Uganda thirty years ago. It's a story packed with derring-do. Israeli commandos, impersonating Idi Amin, retake the airport, rescue the hostages being held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, kill the enemy, refuel their aircraft from enemy stocks (their escape C-130 only had fuel to get there) and destroy the Ugandan airforce to prevent pursuit. What we moderns overlook is that practically all of it would be ruled illegal today.

They violated the airspace of neutral nations:

The plan to rescue the more than 100 hostages held at Uganda's Entebbe airport was certainly unprecedented. The elite team was used to covert operations on Israeli or nearby soil, where the terrain was familiar. But passing over Ethiopia and then Kenya, their final mission in Uganda would be an unparalleled 3,800 km. from Israel; the round-trip distance too far for the Hercules to handle without refueling.

They impersonated the head of state of a sovereign nation in his own country.

Later, soldiers would joke that the plan sounded like a script from Mission Impossible: The Israelis would land without arousing suspicion, pretend to be Ugandan guards traveling in an entourage of Land Rovers behind President Idi Amin in his famous black Mercedes, and overtake the terrorists with the element of surprise, despite hundreds of enemy soldiers in every direction.

They attacked the sovereign nation of Uganda without a declaration of war.

The Israelis were engaging the Ugandan soldiers and the periphery troops were ordered to destroy the Ugandan army's fighter planes, so they couldn't follow them out. At least 20 Ugandan soldiers were killed trying to stop the Israelis.

They stole fuel which rightfully belonged to someone else.

Meanwhile, Maj.-Gen. Matan Vilnai, who was in charge of the periphery operations and overseeing the Paratroops' soldiers, was stealing fuel for the Hercules from the Entebbe terminal fuel tanks at the time.

They engaged in the unsafe operation of an aircraft, grievously endangering civilians who had been hauled aboard the raiding aircraft without due process.

After some time, a female hostage shouted to Sneh, "Major! Major! I'm afraid I'm sitting on some military thing," he remembers. "She takes from under her [bottom] a mini-hand grenade," says Sneh. "This was the sort of grenade notorious for its low safety, used only by special forces units for special operations. I think it fell from Yoni's gear when he was rushed aboard. The wounded were loaded before the hostages - so I believe that 100 or so hostages trod on this grenade. You can imagine what could have happened if that grenade had exploded in the Hercules holding all those hostages."

They killed enemy militants with scant effort at giving them a chance to surrender,  attempting to take them prisoner or attempting a peaceful resolution of the issue.

After he shot the first hijacker, two more hijackers in a second room were lying on the floor, their weapons pointed at the line of soldiers approaching along the wall. But in a flash, they suddenly heard Ofer on their other side, and rotated their guns towards him. "In exactly that moment, my commanding officer had reached the door, and saw the hijackers rotate. He shot them before they could shoot me in the back," he says. "A fourth hijacker was hiding behind a pillar and pointed his gun to shoot at Amos [Goren]. And a fraction of a second before him, Amos shot him. We checked his [the hijacker's] gun and he had already pulled the trigger - the piston had moved forward through the cylinder, but Amos's bullet hit the cylinder and the bullet didn't lock and fire. Even the best director could not have planned it better," says Ofer.

And they did it without the authorization of the United Nations. That was then. We know better now.


Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Speaking of illegal, Iraqi PM Maliki wants a review of the immunity" of US troops, saying it "emboldens" them. This was in a CNN article about the recent murder / rape. The idea is that US troops would get "justice" from Islamic courts, something the Sunnis want in this trial.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, speaking at a press conference in Kuwait, also called for a review of coalition forces' immunity from Iraqi prosecution, saying such an exemption emboldens those troops.

7/05/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I don't understand why our politicians don't say "There are 50 murders and 5 rapes every day in Iraq -- they're all terrible, and we're working together to prevent them and jail the criminals. Instead they let the Sunnis make it sound like these are the first murders and rape in Iraqi history. (This from the sect that supported Saddam's rape rooms.)

I thought we had learned that if we lose the propaganda war we will probably lose the fighting war.

7/05/2006 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger betsybounds said...

I am, even now, thrilled by the Entebbe rescue story. It is a story of courage, care for one's own when others will show none, masterful planning and willing, yea eager, assumption of risks. It is a story of doing what needs to be done and may the devil take the hindmost. It is a story of eschewing the bog of diplomatic talk in favor of the clarity of action. I don't understand, though, what it means to say the action would be "ruled illegal." From what body would such a ruling be handed down, and who would have the cods to enforce it, even now? It was a masterful checkmate, with pawns neither ventured nor surrendered--the move was made by knights. As Stalin famously said in another connection, "How many divisions has the Pope?" Andrew Jackson might have said, "The tribunal has made its ruling; now let them enforce it." Entebbe presented the world with a fait accompli. Sanctions? It would have been cheap at many times the cost. Not for nothing have blue and white been my favorite proud colors.

7/05/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

All the other perps of murder and rape, in Iraq, are tried by Iraq.
Those captured in Iraq, by US, are turned over to Iraqis, whether they are Eygptian, Syrian, Sudanese or Saudi. The UA does not put any of them on trial, all are handed over to the locals.

Why should criminals from the US be treated differently than Egyptian or Saudi pr Iranian ones?
That is a reasonable question for the Iraqis to ask and for US to answer, if we want to stay around for the "Long War".

Segregation and a two tiered legal system, one for US and another for everyone else, wins no "Hearts & Minds".
Just one more challenge that arises when the Police are seen as unaccountable to the people being policed.
Whether in US cities, like LA, or Baghdad. Human nature does not change.

7/05/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

And let us not foget that in the years immediately following that raid there were not one but TWO made for TV movies about it.

One starred Linda Blair as a hostage and looked like it was made by the people who do soap operas. The other featured Charles Bronson as the Israeli leader and appeared to be made with a pretty good emphasis on realism. But both exhaulted the rescue effort.

That was Hollywood, then.

7/05/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

I don't think it would be illegal. The captured soldier is a POW in an undeclared between two neighboring countries. Freeing him would be just one battle in the war.

With that said, according to articles the Palestinians carefully planned for this event, to prevent Israelis from finding him. The captors are under ground with already stored food and water so they don't have to go in and out of the building, which might let them be spotted. No cell phones or electronic communications in the "bunker".

7/05/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> Why should criminals from the US be treated differently than Egyptian or Saudi pr Iranian ones?

The jurors would no doubt treat them differently, and in any case I wouldn't want our troops to be treated like Iraqis are treating each other.

7/05/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

ah, but w.w. that's the point, we haded over soveriegnty to the Iraqi, it should be all encompassing.
While I understand the hesitation to turn over US citizens that have been charged with a crime to the natives, what's good enough justice for an Egyptian should be good enough for US. Or we should not hand the Egyptians over, but hold them for the duration, of at least that local conflict.

Good for the goose, and in accordence with Hamadan.

The perception of equality of justice in the process is mportant to win those "Hearts & Minds".
Not just US perception of the equality of the outcome.

7/05/2006 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

We'll give them the rapist soldier to try just as soon as they catch the people who murdered and beheaded our two soldiers and turn them over to us.

Hell, no, we won't! Iraqi's have yet to prove they have any capacity to be civilized as a society, and I'm not about to allow them to set up a kangeroo courtroom to try an American soldier when they can't even get it together to find Saddam guilty!

7/05/2006 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Those two troopers you mentioned, nahncee, were from the same Unit as the rapist / murder suspects.

Welcome to Iraqi Justice 101
It is tribal and brutal

We rape & murder, they hack to pieces, we killed five they got two. They are still have three to go, just to get even.

Anarchy sure brings out the worst in folk

Better we hold all those detainees until the "War" is over, not hand over a single one to the Iraqi, those untrustworthy & uncivilized heathen.

Which War and where, well that's for the Decider in Chief to decide.

7/05/2006 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The third GI, being killed in combat does not count on the tribes "Justice Scale".

7/05/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The murdered victims in the rape and family killing were reportedly burned, afterwards.
As I recall from an incident in Afghanistan, the troopers were brought up on charges or at least investigated, for burning a Muslim body. It is reportedly highly offensive, culturely.
'Bout the way Westerners feel about beheading and butchery.
Once you're dead, what's it really matter, but for the people left behind, sometimes they take it personal.

7/05/2006 07:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RWE - How could you forget to mention the 1977 Israeli film
Mivtsa Yonatan
(English title: Entebbe: Operation Thunderbolt) starring Yehoram Gaon as Col. Yoni Netanyahu? Produced by the indomitable Menahem Golan, who went on to produce such classics as "Breakin'" and "Revenge of the Ninja."

7/05/2006 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

It is ironic that in June 1967 in six days the Israeli military beat the combined armies of five hostile Arab states and was prepared to drive their tanks to Damascus and Cairo while today in ten days they can't retrieve one soldier being held by their enemies.

Obviously, in part, the reason is that any attempt to free the soldier may bring his death but also in part it seems Israel has a fear of being beat about the head and neck with International law.

7/05/2006 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger Syl said...

What we moderns overlook is that practically all of it would be ruled illegal today.

And what we refuse to call the Left (so far anyway) is busybodies. That's all they are. Bitchy, bossy, busybodies who make all the rules for everyone else.

7/06/2006 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7/06/2006 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

D.R., we are an army fighting a war. No other army in that situation has "turned sovereignty" over to the locals and we won't either.

I don't agree with any attempts to equate us to the Iraqis or to say that we brought the violence on ourselves. That's the old liberal pacifist cliche about a cycle of violence. The murders and rapes our soliders are accused of are just a daily event in Iraq, something the Iraqis do to themselves every day and that Saddam regime did to his enemies before we liberated the country. There are constant reports of Iraqis not only desecrating bodies after death but torturing them before they die. So the so-called outrage about what the US soldiers did is mostly phony, a political trick.

Extradition of prisoners is something decided by treaty between two countries. In other words it is for Iraq and Egypt to decide. As for the US, we and the UK are the only countries which the rebels are at war with, and we are the only occupying armies, so therefore we have different extradition rules. Those are the standard ones for wars fighting armies.

7/06/2006 04:18:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

But, w.w., that is again the point.
You say we are fighting a "War", really we are policing Iraq, now.

You say that the level of Iraqi on Iraqi is their responsibility, then say the US is an occupying force.
If we are, as you say, in the legal position of "Occupier" we are responsible for the violence, or at least stopping it. We are failing at fulfilling the responsibilites of an Occupier.
Do not have the cajones required, it seems, to be Iraq's's policeman. Or to deliver equality of justice to the Occupied.

We are now just another "Tribe" in Iraq, part of the tribal system of communal responsibility and guilt. Hand in hand with nonjudical justice, revenge killings and the like.

If the Insurgents are at war with US, we should not hand them over to the Iraqi's government.
But the US Government has already turned over sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqis, legally.
We should, must, establish a Treaty with Iraq regarding Status of Forces, Mr Bush refuses to. Saying the responsibility is on the next US President.

Seperate but equal, it never is.
Not in the US or Iraq.

Inequality does not win "Hearts & Minds"

7/06/2006 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

It is an apples to oranges comparison to say that our soliders are in the same situation as an Egyptian civilian accused of rape or murder. The Egyptian is a civilian and is not from a country at war in Iraq.

Our soldiers are authorized to be in Iraq by the UN. The purpose is to stand up the Iraqi government, and they are doing a good job of it. Iraq now has a constitution, has had elections under it, and has a unity government, all things which people said could never happen.

7/06/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

The UN fancies itself as the official body of international law. Laws that are designed to preserve the supremacy of the state – in all forms – over the will of the people everywhere.

Whether the state is evil or oppressive is not of import to the kleptocrats at the UN. What matters is that there is someone in charge who can skim money from national treasuries into pockets and Swiss bank accounts of the beloved benevolent bureaucrats running the blue-helmet brigade.

The current conference on small arms is a great illustration. According to the UN, only governments have a right to keep and bear arms.

Therefore, anyone who resisted the Khmer Rouge, Castro, Idi Amin, Saddam or Bob Mugabe with arms did so illegally in the eyes of the UN, since these resistors may have had great ideas, but no access to government cash flow.

In the same light, any country that violates the boundaries of terrorist-collusive countries like Amin’s Uganda, Arafat’s “Palestine” or Kim’s North Korea to protect and defend its people from a criminal regime is viewed as “illegitimate” by the UN.

The UN despises national sovereignty, unless of course the sovereign “leaders” of the country are providing cash to the right people in the secretariat. Then, national sovereignty becomes the UN’s Cause célèbre.

Basically, if anything you do is frowned upon by European and American government elites and their buddies in the UN, then it is confirmed that what you are doing is right and good.

7/06/2006 07:58:00 PM  

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