“Merchant of Death” and “Flash Back” by Steven Barbar

Below are two extraordinary stories. One is an excerpt from an inside look at how and why extremists still filter into Iraq from Syria. It is hardly the tale that neoconservatives gunning for war with Syria want to hear, but it is far closer to the harsh reality and complexity of the situation. The only answer seems to me to be a strengthening of Western-Middle Eastern relations, everyone’s acknowledgment of shared responsibility for Iraq’s situation, better communications, and more cooperation on state strengthening and the rule of law.

The second story is an astonishing tale of reunion between a Syrian soldier and an Israeli soldier who had been on the same battlefield. But where they reunite is shocking, and is s a testimony to our common humanity.

An excerpt from “Merchant of Death”:

suicide bomb

It is common sense and supply and demand. When the decision was made that Saddam Hussein had to be removed to keep the world safe, Mr. Bush opened a can of worms.

While the Americans advanced on Baghdad, Saddam’s armies were running in the other direction with loads of arms and weapons. They all crossed the borders towards Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

They are now finding their way back to Iraq, igniting all kinds of ethnic strife. It provides a booming business for Abu Shaker and his ilk, who can fulfill the dreams of some and nightmares of others. There is money to be made from misfortune. The death of six marines paid for a new life for Mohammed’s family. Perhaps President Bush was correct when he insisted that the US military could drain the swamp of Middle Eastern misery?

Read more here.

An excerpt from “Flash Back”:

golan heights

As suddenly as it started, I came back to reality. Everything came to a sudden stop. I was wet, trembling, and terrified. They pulled me out and comforted me. “Are you Ok? They asked. “I am OK,” I reassured them. I just had a flash back of something from my past. I told them about how I had served in the Six Day War and that it sometimes had a psycho effect on me when I would have flashbacks. They listened in amazement.

They were all like clay statues. Then one of them stepped forward and said: “I am Dr. Bernstein, chief oncologist. Can you tell me exactly where you were during the war? I told him that I was on foot hills of Mount Harmon near a town called Banias.

He smiled and said:” Do you mean that you were on “Tal 63″. To my surprise, it was the secret military code name of my location. I asked what his unit was since he knew mine. I assumed that he was one of us.

“I was not there. But I was there.” He answered pointing his finger upward to the sky.

Suddenly it dawned on me that he was an Israeli.

I stood up hot, wet and naked in front of everyone and rammed my hand toward him,”you son of bitch. You were shooting at me,” I exclaimed.

“Obviously, I wasn’t aiming too well.” he answered.

In a state of shock, I opened my arms; we hugged for a long time.

Read the rest of the article at Joshua Landis’s blog, Syria Comment.

© Marc Gopin