City Journal Spring 2014

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Spring 2014
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Sol Stern
Missing a Chance at Greatness « Back to Story

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I thought a key moment in "The Gatekeepers" was the statement by one of the former security chiefs that “when you leave Shin Bet, you become a bit of a leftist.

It is a credit to these hardened men, and the society that produced them, that after retirement they feel moral qualms about the things they have been forced to do to protect Israeli civilians from the remorseless terrorists who would murder them. But when the responsibility rested on them to thwart the murder of innocents in the streets, buses and cafes of Israel, they did what was necessary, and none resigned in protest.

An equally revealing moment in the film comes when Ami Ayalon, another former Shin Bet chief, quotes a Palestinian acquaintance as saying, when Ayalon asks him what a vicious terrorist attack has accomplished, “our victory is to see you suffer.”

We will not soon see a film consisting of former Hamas and Fatah leaders expressing regrets about the innocent men, women and children they have murdered. Perhaps that is why the Israeli security chiefs featured in “The Gatekeepers,” for all their angst about Israeli policy in the occupied territories, have no practical alternative to offer.
Thank you, Sol Stern, for putting the balance in this discussion. The world is continually ignoring the threat posed to Israel's existence from her neighbors.
Zero Dark Thirty is as difficult a film to follow and to understand as anything distributed to theaters, ever. No review so far, not one, has identified the mechanical structure of the plot or transferred to printed word what is going on in the main events in 2010 that led to finding bin Laden. The screenplay moves in 5 acts.

Act 1: Torture. The team has been selected to comply with Dick Cheney and the "Vulcan"/Neocon requirements that CIA match up to Shin Bet techniques. The team believes in these techniques and pursues torture with enthusiasm. They get their chicken nuggets, but nom de guerre aliases do not lead to "the Disappeared" including couriers.
Act 2: Blowback. Al Qaeda counterattacks the CIA team with bombs, machine guns, and the Camp Chapman suicide bombing. Torture has led to a brick wall, plus explicitly ramping up Al Q recruiting with the Abu Ghraib clusterfuck. Obama bans torture, then Camp Chapman forces personnel changes inside the team.
Act 3: Fresh blood. Early 2010 brings in non-torture management and crew members. Orders are given to re-evaluate hundreds of banker's boxes of foeign intelligence materials. he torture-based crew had ignored these banker's boxes for 7 years. Directly, if not quickly, this search through tens of thousands of pages of copy page yields the family identity of "Abu Ahmed," UBL's prime courier routine investigation leads to this ocurier and then to UBL's location in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Act 4. Salesmanship. Get approval and resources.
Act 5. Kill. Seal Team 6 in simulation.

The CIA team members were selected for enthusiastic support for copying the worst of Shin Bet. They believed in it then. They believe in it now despite all evidence to the contrary. They got a few names. Crumbs. Overall they made things better, not worse for the Al Qaeda jihad.

ZDT could not be clearer that they failed while using torture. They also lost the 7 CIA people at Camp Chapman and more elsewhere. They had lost, prior to the torture policy changing in 2009 and then new people arriving in 2010.

Computerizing the banker's box materials in 2002/2003 would have led to immediate discovery of the family name for "Abu Ahmed" -- same day the nom de guerre surfaced. Oracle Text would have executed that query in under 15 seconds at Langley. The team would have had the results and images and pointers to the original documents in under an hour -- 24/7/365, no exceptions. Torture led the team to cut themselves off from ordinary CIA people, including support services.

Dick Cheney's torture fanaticism prevented coordination of the torture team with routine CIA for 7 years. The banker's boxes went "lost" for 7 years -- a blind spot. ZDT nails it, excepting that Act 3 is too short and the film has no way to address what was possible in 2002/2003.

ZDT was produced by Megan Ellison. Daughter of Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation. Megan, Katherine and Mark gave the torturers every freedom to display their methods and their successes, such as they were. And to display that the torture team caused more terrorism than they prevented, by way of recruitment motivation. Plainly, Megan is no one's fool.
@C H Ingoldby
not that strange if you consider what must be
the uppermost goal of Israeli policy: to ensure
that the state, which has designs on the entire
region, stays demographically Jewish. Also, I'm
sure that human and material costs of airborne
assaults from Gaza–both microscopic by the
local standards–have been factored in as LESSER
ones than such attributable to continued constant
on-the-ground occupation of same.
Odd how so many Shin Bet leaders end up liberal pussies who advocate policies such as the withdrawal from Gaza, which clearly and objectively have made Israel less safe.

Strange.
dionissis mitropoulos February 01, 2013 at 6:22 PM
Carl Oren said:

"Stern's last sentence gives away his true agenda, when he identifies the various rebellions in the occupied territories as "Islamic terrorism", as though rock-throwing kids are no different than the Al Quada operatives in Afghanistan".

What that true agenda of Stern, which you are alluding to, might be? The perpetuation of the existence of Israel? Hardly an illegitimate agenda.

Unless you mean that he is a member of that Jewish cabal that secretly controls the US with an eye to world domination. If that's your view, i suggest you reinforce it with allegations of organ-removal from Gaza kids - it adds to both the suspense and the melodrama.

Meanwhile, and considering that you haven't really heard much about the Israel-Palestine conflict, let me enlighten you as to whether Israel is facing merely rock-throwing kids or, to the contrary, Islamic terrorists.

Since 2001, 15,000 rockets and mortars have targeted Israelis. The ones firing them were not rock-throwing kids, but terrorists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel#Casualties.2C_Fatalities_and_rockets_fired

The bulk of this rocket fire stems from Gaza after the year 2005, the year that Israel UNILATERALLY surrendered Gaza to the Palestinians (so Hamas does not even have the excuse of Gaza being occupied). Funny way for the Palestinian terrorists to say "thanks" for the Israeli generosity.

The rockets i mentioned terrorize 1 million Israelis in Southern Israel, but they have a particularly deleterious effect on Israeli kids: "Between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot [a representative town of Southern Israel] children aged 4-18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress":

http://www.haaretz.com/news/study-most-sderot-kids-exhibit-post-traumatic-stress-symptoms-1.237438

There's more:

"Children are afraid to sleep on their own, to be on their own, even to go to the toilet alone. They feel that their parents cannot protect them. Bed wetting is a common manifestation of their anxiety and insecurity. Their parents are similarly anxious and frustrated":

http://www.primapaper.fi/referenssit/amnesty-1/gaza-raportti/primapaper/78

So, you see, Israelis don't face a threat from rock-throwing kids, but from hardcore Islamic terrorists.

But you downplay Hamas et al, by insinuating that it is not like Al Quaeda. Well, it's not like Al Quaeda, it's worse. Just have a look how treat their own people:

"After the war ended, Hamas announced on television the “end of secularism and heresy in the Gaza Strip.”[8] Hamas then began openly to mistreat the minority Christian community, mostly Greek Orthodox, which had co-existed with Gaza’s predominantly Sunni population for centuries".

"Human Rights Watch documented numerous Hamas abuses against Gaza civilians during Operation Cast Lead, including the execution of 32 political rivals, shooting of 49 persons in the legs, and breaking the limbs of a 73 others.[30] Fatah confirmed much of this by releasing a list of 181 persons “killed, shot or maimed by the de facto government".

http://www.currenttrends.org/research/detail/the-talibanization-of-gaza-a-liability-for-the-muslim-brotherhood

I guess you don't want me to go into how Hamas treats women and gays, you must be having an inkling by now as to what happens to them - certainly nothing less than what you would expect from an Islamic terrorist organization like Al Quaeda.

I am at your disposal if you need more information.





Stern's last sentence gives away his true agenda, when he identifies the various rebellions in the occupied territories as "Islamic terrorism", as though rock-throwing kids are no different than the Al Quada operatives in Afghanistan.
rtylerster@gmail.com February 01, 2013 at 2:18 PM
Rod,, I'd like to see this movies if they come to Regina. V
Liberal values? I am tempted to use that for illustration when forced to explain what oxymoron means.

Impossible to comment on the rest since I promptly stopped reading.
We live in the agoe of advocacy journalism and filmmaking, the the wall between news and opinion is blurred, if not invisbile.

Documentaries no long "document," they present the political views of the creator of the film. No longer does the film maker unearth some sinful violation of human or envirnmental rights - the film tries to pursuade ... to sway the public.

Unfortunately too many of the ill-education public believe if it's on the Internet, or, on the movie screen, it must be right!
"how democracies can strike back at terrorism without abandoning their own liberal values"

The concept is ridiculous - governments when dealing with foreign powers should be doing what's best for their own people - that is and should be the basis of any foreign policy. Anyone thinking that any nation's foreign policy can be any different is dreaming.

That being said, Why the left's fascination with Israel, and its utter disregard of atrocities committed by muslim states against women, gays? The attraction is that they both share the same hatred of western democracies. that shared hatred allows the left to forgive and/or ignore the human rights abuses of those governments and groups that hate the West. I recall during the worst days of the Iraq war one leftist leader lamenting that the left wasn't forging coalitions with muslim groups opposed to the United States, even with Al-Queda. Useful idiots indeed.

"The Gatekeepers is filled with many such gratuitous, clichéd, or outright false statements"

If so, the entire film is not worth bothering with, since nothing presented can be trusted. These people simply can't help themeselves.
I would like to see a film maker interview Hamas or al queda about their interrogation tactics. Chances are they risk the same fate as Daniel Pearl. The liberal mindset is squeamish about our interrogation tactics but will rail against silly films like the one that supposedly inspired the attack of Bengazi embassy.
Great filmmakers know, if you have a message, send a telegram.
I think that quote from Leibowitz is quite ingenuous. If I recall correctly, Leibowitz made his statement soon after the Six Day War, when he was contemplating the possibility of a quick annexation of the West Bank and Gaza in which the Arabs living there would be granted citizenship. In that case, security services would become deeply involved in internal surveillance of Israeli society itself
dionissis mitropoulos February 01, 2013 at 1:23 AM
Bill said:

"Disgusting article"

Nobody forces you to read. If you feel nauseated you may always stop the reading, you know.

Just so that you don't get bored for lack of reading material, you can read Hamas' charter.

That's what healthily constituted stomachs would deem nauseating.


Bill said:

"...how can somebody praise terrorists like shem beit agents"?


The terrorists are the ones on the other side of the conflict, the Palestinians.

Even Europe has certified Hamas as a terrorist organization. Hamas, you know, the terror group that attacks school-buses and schools?



Bill said:

"only a Zionist partisan like Stern can do".

Ok, now i got it. It's the existence of Israel that makes you feel queasy - because that's what Zionism is all about, i.e. the establishment of a state for Israel, with whatever borders.

If you cannot bring yourself to acquiesce to the obvious moral truth that the Jews deserve a country of their own (given the persecution they have endured throughout history), then at least you could refrain from commenting on the subject.

Anti-Semitism shows, and it's a really ugly spectacle, why would you want to degrade yourself that much by becoming part of it?

dionissis mitropoulos February 01, 2013 at 1:07 AM
BRL said:

"Neither the US nor Israel is a democracy, and neither nation should despire (opposite of aspire) to become one."

You are right.

The true democracies are China and Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt.

Why should those countries aspire to become like the US or Israel?

BRL said:


"Please try thinking, instead of using empty figures of speech".

If thinking is the process that led you to conclude that Israel and the US are not democracies, i don't want to engage in this process the way you did.

BRL said:

"please try thinking"

Spouting inanities is one thing.

But doing so in such a condescending style?
It is frequently asserted, without proof, "that torture does not work". This is patently untrue, torture does work. Given sufficient time, and the appropriate techniques, anything that the interogee knows can be extracted. It may be morally repugnant, it may have undesirable side effects, but work it does.

Secondly to suggest that democracy and immoral measures are incompatible merely shows a lack of understanding of what democracy means, which is that the government is ultimately elected and controlled by the popular will. Just as in theory a dictatorship can be benign, so a democracy can be vicious. It just so happens that in most cases, democracies are more benign than dictatorships.

In his book, "Why terrorism works", Dershowitz explains that as most democracies appease terrorist, terrorism works very well. He also devotes a chapter to the use of torture to extract critical information and argues logically for torture to be legalized. Partly because, as previously stated, it works, but even more forcefully to prevent its abuse. When there is no legal framework, as both the documentaries under discussion show, torture in one form or another will be used even if nominally illegal. Dershowitz claims that if torture were legal under limited circumstances, hence required approval by a magistrate before it could be used, the actual incidence of torture in democracies that operate under the rule of law, would be reduced.

A country like Israel, faced with implacable foes who will use any methods to achieve the destruction of the Jewish state, is hard pressed to defend itself effectively without using harsh measures that others living in more benign circumstances find repugnant. Arm chair critics should walk a mile in Israeli moccasins before criticising the country that struggles to survive in viciously hostile circumstances.
Disgusting article, how can somebody praise terrorists like shem beit agents? only a Zionist partisan like Stern can do.
Neither the US nor Israel is a democracy, and neither nation should despire (opposite of aspire) to become one.

And "liberal values" is a self-canceling phrase.

Please try thinking, instead of using empty figures of speech.