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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Report: U.S. choppers attack targets inside Syria?

Our Deepest appreciation to Hot Air Blog and AllahPundit for this excellent reporting:

Report: U.S. choppers attack targets inside Syria?

So say local witnesses and, er, Syrian state media.

Bush surely realizes how much mileage Democrats will get from painting this as a contrived October surprise and an example of Republican “warmongering,” so if — if — it’s true, something mighty interesting must have been going on in that village to make him pull the trigger.
Local residents in a Syrian border town said that American forces killed seven men in a helicopter-borne commando attack inside Syrian territory. State-run TV later raised the number of dead to nine.
Doctors in the town of Al-Sukkariya, some eight kilometres from the Iraqi border, said seven corpses and four wounded had been delivered to a nearby clinic after the attack.
The eyewitness accounts said that four helicopters were involved in the operation, with two of the helicopters landing in the town and eight American soldiers disembarking. The eyewitnesses said that the seven killed men were supposedly construction workers.
Afterwards, the US helicopters then left Syrian airspace with all the soldiers again on board.
A U.S. spokesman in Baghdad says the military’s investigating. JPost notes that the site of the attack is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which jihadis used as a way station for years to enter the country, so there’s your potential motive. Why we felt obliged to cross the border now, though, when we were content to respect Syrian sovereignty even during the worst days of the insurgency isn’t clear to me. I sent an e-mail to Bill Roggio asking him if he thinks it’s plausible; stand by for updates when he responds. For what it’s worth, an Israeli security correspondent tells Sky News he thinks it probably was Americans and that they were likely after Al Qaeda. The immediate question will be why Bush felt he had to act now as opposed to, say, a week from Wednesday.
Worth noting: U.S. soldiers in Iraq have been impersonated by enemy fighters before, to devastating effect. Although if they’re impersonators, it leaves open the not so minor matter of where they got the choppers and where, precisely, the attack was staged from.
Exit question: If they were targeting an AQI safehouse, why put men on the ground to “storm a building,” as the BBC report puts it? Why not just send a missile down the chimney, Waziristan style? Clearly they were looking for someone.
Update: The only two people I can think of who might justify an operation in Syria are al-Masri, the leader of AQI, and Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who’s long been rumored to be hiding out there. Roggio will have other guesses, certainly. A snatch and grab operation of some high-ranking insurgent would explain why boots were on the ground and why they felt they had to act now, even with the election so near. Short of that, the only explanation I can come up with is that there was some sort of cargo in transit that simply had to be seized and secured, even at the risk of casualties.
Update: Roggio to the rescue. He thinks it’s plausible and that al-Masri was the likely target.
The raid occurred close to the main border crossing point between Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda declared an Islamic Emirate in Al Qaim right along the Iraqi border during the spring of 2005. Al Qaeda terrorized the local tribes and attempted to institute a Taliban-like rule. Al Qaim was the main infiltration route into Iraq until US Marines and Iraqi troops launched a campaign to dislodge al Qaeda from the region.
The US has neither confirmed nor denied the operation took place. If the attack occurred, it would have been carried out by Task Force 88, the special operations hunt-killer teams assigned to target al Qaeda operatives as well as Shia terrorists in Iraq…
The US military may be closing in on al Qaeda’s senior leadership. US forces killed Abu Qaswarah, al Qaeda in Iraq’s second in command, during a raid in Mosul in northern Iraq on Oct. 15. The military has also killed and captured numerous al Qaeda leader and couriers over the past several weeks. The information obtained during these raids help to paint a picture of al Qaeda’s command structure inside of of Iraq as well as in neighboring countries.
Update: More plausible by the minute: “The Syrian report comes just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq told reporters that American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he said was an ‘uncontrolled’ gateway for fighters entering Iraq.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rev Leslie Hardman , OBM

If anyone addressed Leslie Hardman as "rabbi" they were sure to hear about it — from Hardman himself. He always styled himself "the Rev". He was an Orthodox Jewish minister of what is now a very old school, learned, cultured and tolerant.
He did have a rabbinical ordination, but the title of "Rev", which has now gone completely out of fashion, somehow suited him better. And he had one qualification to use it that was unique: he was the British Army chaplain who went in with the troops who liberated the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
Hardman was 32 at the time, and it was an experience that moulded his life for ever after. For 60 years after driving into the camp reeking of the thousands of emaciated dead bodies — and the barely alive — around him, he suffered nightmares which he never learnt to shake off.
He was minister (another title now gone into abeyance) for 35 years of one of London’s leading Jewish congregations, one of the most popular men to occupy a pulpit in the capital. But it was his own experience of the Holocaust that made him a public figure, both within his community and outside it.
When BBC television produced a special, The Relief of Belsen, in 2007, his part was played by an actor. Hardman never saw the programme but he was glad that there was emphasis on the suffering of the inmates. "One member of my congregation complained that I was seen in it without a kippar \. Can you imagine that? There I was, burying thousands of bodies, and all this man cared about was that I wasn’t wearing a hat."
That statement alone indicated how different he was from the Orthodox colleagues who followed him.
Leslie Hardman was born in Glynneath, South Wales, in 1913 into one of the dozens of immigrant families who went to live in the valleys and worked as small traders. He was a small boy when the family moved to Liverpool, where he attended — he always spoke about it proudly as though he were recalling days at Eton or Harrow — the Hope Street Jewish School. It was round the corner, he liked to say, to Hardman Street. "No connection to my family," he would insist.
He attended a yeshivah or religious seminary and then Leeds University, where he took his BA and then MA. He married in 1936, two years after becoming minister of the Jewish community at St Anne’s, where he was also the ritual slaughterer. From there he took a ministerial appointment in Leeds.
In 1942 he joined the Army as a chaplain. It was on April 15, 1945, that the formative event of his life occurred. He later described how he was told to report to the colonel. He said: "We have uncovered a concentration camp. It is horrible, ghastly, sickening. Most of the inmates are your people. You should go there now. They need you."
As Hardman said, he had never felt more needed in his life. He immediately set about trying to bring comfort to the survivors and then saying the memorial prayer, the Kaddish, over the dead as he tried to persuade the bulldozer drivers who were thrusting the bodies into a pit to bury them with some kind of dignity.
The amazing thing, he recalled, was the effect his uniform had on the inmates. "They saw the Star of David on my cap and my tunic and they at first couldn’t understand it. Then, they regarded me as a kind of messiah."
One woman who was so emaciated that he at first found it difficult to be with her, begged him not to leave her. He recalled that he spent an hour talking to her in Yiddish before conducting prayers, the first they had heard for years.
He was featured in the radio report of the Belsen liberation by Richard Dimbleby. In it he was heard singing a hymn with two women. One of them died almost immediately after the recording was made.
The whole of life experience was there before his eyes. He initiated Jewish babies born in the camp as well as burying those who died. He even conducted the marriage of an inmate and the British sergeant who had liberated her.
Hardman spent the next half century or more speaking about his experiences at Belsen.
"Far too many people have got away," he would say. "They have hardly scratched the surface of the enormity of this evil."
At one time he went on record saying that he had lost his faith at Belsen, an astonishing confession from a rabbi. He later amended that: "I didn’t lose my faith, but some of the words of the prayers I said at Belsen stuck in my throat. I couldn’t understand how the God I worshipped could permit this."
When the 50th anniversary of the liberation was marked with a service at the Ravensbrück camp, it was Hardman, then in his mid-eighties, who was invited to conduct the service. He was called on by American organisations to speak at numerous conferences. At one, rabbis there presented him with an American rabbinical certificate, a presentation which had been denied him by Jews College, the principal Jewish theological college in London, "for political reasons," he would say.
The lack of that certificate did not prevent his being appointed minister of the Hendon Synagogue in 1947, where he stayed until his retirement in 1982. He then was made emeritus minister — at about the same time that he was appointed MBE.
From the time of his appointment at Hendon, he wore a small beard — but at first even a dog collar — and was recognised throughout the religious establishment as being a man learned in Jewish law. But he had his own ideas about what Orthodoxy should stand for.
He supported the case of Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who, after a dispute with the then Chief Rabbi, Sir Israel Brodie, was the subject of what was almost a schism in the Orthodox community in 1964. Jacobs had been refused the post of Principal of Jews College and then of minister to the prestigious New West End Synagogue in London and as a result set up his own synagogue in St John’s Wood.
Hardman, however, stayed within the umbrella United Synagogue movement. But he did not agree with much that the United Synagogue regarded as paramount in the Jewish faith. He believed that anyone converted to Judaism by a competent rabbi should be regarded as Jewish, even though the Beth Din, the Chief Rabbi’s court, demanded that converts keep to the minutiae of Jewish law.
He also said there needed to be greater tolerance of Jews who marry out of the faith. "I will not accept the term, ‘marrying out’," he declared. "So many people who marry non-Jews still regard themselves as Jewish, and that should be respected. It is why I think that the Reform and Conservative movements, who do respect that, should be praised."
Hardman’s wife of 71 years, Josi, died in 2007. One daughter predeceased them both and another daughter survives him.
Leslie Hardman, MBE, rabbi, was born on February 18, 1913. He died on October 7, 2008, aged 95

Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel