Israelis, Gas Masks and Looming War in Syria

Ron Cantor —  August 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

Ron in his Gas Mask

Ron in his Gas Mask

For the first time since we moved to Israel, 10 years ago, I felt the need to dust off the gasmask and see how it worked. It was the first time I actually felt that this information would be useful. Having seen the gruesome pictures of the results of chemical warfare coming out of Syria, I pulled the gasmask out of its box and strapped it on. A family friend gave me a quick lesson, but still I could sense that air was seeping through.

After wearing the mask a few minutes, I tried to imagine breathing in this thing for several hours. Knowing the impatience of Israelis, I am sure there are many who will never don such a contraption. Despite that thousands of Israelis stood in line last week in near 100-degree weather to get a gasmask. The mad rush revealed a shortage in inventory which enraged Israelis. My cohost of the Maoz PODCAST went to get one for his new wife, and came home empty-handed.

In the picture above, the vital component is missing—the filter. I guess they don’t want you to unseal that until you use it for real. It screws onto the hole where my mouth is. You can see that there is small device on the left side of my mask. Through a tube, I should be about to sip water.

Presently President Obama has backed away from his threat to bomb Syria without Congress (or the rest of the world). A wise decision considering the Constitution declares that the President needs congressional backing before going to war. And why now? Is this not the same president who criticized George Bush for going to war in Iraq because of the WMD threat? It would appear that his reasoning (in private) for striking Syira would be to save face, as he threatened over a year ago that using WMD would be crossing a Red Line. Now the world is mocking the President and he nearly caved into that pressure to use military action. Who’s the cowboy now Mr. President? Fortunately, he had a change of heart Friday night.

The US doesn’t go to war because our president is offended. That would be Syria, Iran, and many of their neighbors. When Obama saw that the world was viewing him as weak, losing the support of Great Britain—and now France—and having Putin call him out—he nearly made an unconstitutional blunder. Sometimes it takes more courage to step back. His big mistake was setting up ‘red lines’ for Syria in the first place. If he intended to retaliate against Syria, he should have already had a Congress-approved plan in place. But going it alone, without even the support of your own country would have been foolish.

While we here in Israel would love see the people of Syria set free from the dictator Bashar Assad and a democracy rise up in its place, there are many questions to be asked before bombing Syria—simply because you want to save face.

  • Who will replace him?
  • Who are the rebels? There is evidence to suggest that the original freedom seeking rebels have been overrun by Al Qaeda type radicals.
  • Is it worth sending a few missiles into Syria, if then Assad is provoked to bomb Israel in retaliation? And if we retaliate, could that not unite Arab nations against us? Does he want to risk creating a regional conflict just so he won’t be mocked?
  • While it seems clear that chemical weapons were used, it is possible that they were used by rebels to make it appear that Assad used them. If indeed the rebels are being led by Hamas types radicals, their brand of Islam would have no qualms with killing 1,500 Syrians for the ‘greater good’.
  • There is another theory; I am not sure how credible it is. But it is backed up by AP correspondent, Dale Gavlak. The Saudis provided the rebels with Chemical weapons. “They … used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material…We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions.” If this is true, then the Saudi’s have pulled off a real coup—although ruthless. Their goal would be for Assad to fall and be replaced with a Saudi-friendly Islamic government. (While this seems plausible, I think there needs to be more verification than just one reporter on the ground. And with France and NATO now claiming that “proof Assad was behind chemical weapons attack” this theory seems more unlikely.)

My daughter whose serves the IDF on the Syrian border asked me yesterday, why would Assad use chemical weapons, risking retaliation from the west? … especially since he is winning the civil war? I told her there are two reasons that I can think of.

  1. He knows (or thinks) that Obama won’t retaliate and there is nothing that makes an Arab leader look like a hero more than thumbing your nose at and standing up to America or Israel. Just yesterday the Syrians, after hearing that Obama will take his time in responding, mocked the US President in the Syrian Press, giving credence to this theory. “The state-run newspaper Al-Thawra, expressing official thinking, said Obama’s turn-about on military action was ‘the start of the historic American retreat.’”
  2. He is seeking to turn this into a regional conflict between Israel and the Muslim nations to take pressure off of the fact that his country is in a civil war that has claimed over 100,000 lives—mostly civilians.

Of course, when dealing with demon-possessed murdering dictators it is hard to know what they are thinking, or not thinking. Demon-possessed folks don’t reason like we do. The good news for us here in Tel Aviv is that we have the promises of God, the best trained army in the world (and one of the best soldiers, Danielle Cantor), and my trusty gasmask!

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