(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans says that military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel will be a factor in Post-Saddam Iraq.
(SEAMANS) President Bush gave the elation over the capture of Saddam Hussein a cautionary perspective–he said the violence would not end—that terrorists would go on killing and, Bush said, they will be defeated. But the question now is how? Our top generals, to the surprise of many, are looking to Israel—yes., Israel—for at least part of the answer.
We already are on a parallel course with Israel in the war against terrorism. President Bush first said he launched his pre-emptive war against Iraq to protect our country from a threatened nuclear attack by Saddam. Bush echoed Menahem Begin who in 1981 launched Israel’s air force on a pre-emptive strike that destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Begin said Saddam was planning to make a nuke to wipe out Israel.
Israel has been severely criticized for assassinating terrorist leaders. Shortly after 9/11 Bush quietly signed a presidential finding authorizing the CIA to do the same thing. The Israelis have been denounced by human rights organizations for killing innocent civilians in their raids. A couple of weeks ago the Pentagon was apologizing for inadvertently and tragically killing fifteen Arab children in two attacks on terrorists.
Like the Israelis our troops are demolisning homes and buildings used by guerillas. Like the Israelis we are sealing off with razor wire villages and towns suspected of harboring guerillas. Like the Israelis we are arresting family members to persuade guerilla leaders to surrender. Like the Israelis we have been accused of, and have denied, torturing our prisoners.
The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine tell a story hardly noticed—that American officers have gone to Israel to study Israeli urban warfare tactics. Also, that Israeli veteran anti-terrorism commandos are at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, advising our Special Forces troops. The sources deny Israeli advisors are helping us on the ground in Iraq.
The Pentagon has kept cooperation between Israeli and American forces a low profile story for years because, it was said, of Arab sensitivities. Before the Gulf War when I was with ABC News in Israel, U.S. Marines regularly came ashore from the Sixth Fleet and ran live fire exercises in the Israeli army ranges in the Negev Desert. Then, too, they received Israeli briefings and demonstrations on how to attack terrorists in the narrow alleyways of a typical Arab village or town.
Now that our troops are facing the real thing in Iraq, let’s hope that the counter-terrorism lessons the Israelis learned from more than fifty years of on-the-job training help save American lives.
This is Bill Seamans.
Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke to us from our studio in Norwich.