Thursday, May 27, 2010

J. W. von Brunn, Accused Museum Gunman, Dies at 89

"Two security guards fired back, wounding Mr. von Brunn in the right ear."

January 7, 2010

New York Times

James W. von Brunn, who was accused of fatally shooting a security guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington in June, died on Wednesday at a hospital in North Carolina, near the federal prison where he was being held. He was 89.

His court-appointed lawyer, A. J. Kramer, said Mr. von Brunn had died of natural causes after having a history of chronic diseases. “He had been bedridden,” Mr. Kramer said. “He had never really recovered the use of his legs, and it was a continual deterioration of his health.”

Mr. von Brunn, who had been known to the authorities for anti-Semitic and white supremacist views before the museum shooting, was indicted in July on charges including first-degree murder in the death of a museum guard, Stephen T. Johns.

On June 10, after double-parking his car outside the museum, Mr. von Brunn walked up to the building carrying a rifle and shot Mr. Johns in the upper chest at close range as the guard was opening the door for him, the authorities said. Two security guards fired back, wounding Mr. von Brunn in the right ear.

Law enforcement officers said they found in Mr. von Brunn’s car a notebook in which he had written anti-Semitic statements. The F.B.I. said it had known that he had an “established Web site that expressed hatred of African-Americans and Jews.”

A federal court hearing in the case had been delayed while Mr. von Brunn was hospitalized. He was transferred to the medical center at the Butner Federal Correction complex, 30 miles from Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 25.

At the time of the shooting, officials said, Mr. von Brunn had been living in an apartment in Annapolis, Md., with his son, Erik, and his son’s fiancée.

The Holocaust Museum did not comment directly on Mr. von Brunn’s death, but used the occasion to invoke the memory of Mr. Johns.

“The museum’s thoughts and prayers continue to be with Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns’s family at this time,” the museum said in a statement. “Officer Johns died heroically defending the museum, visitors and staff.”

Von Brunn, white supremacist Holocaust museum shooter, dies


By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010; B01

The elderly white supremacist charged with killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in June died Wednesday afternoon at a North Carolina hospital, authorities said.

James W. von Brunn, 89, who was wounded in the head during the assault, had been undergoing mental health evaluations at a federal prison in Butner, N.C., in recent months. He died at a hospital near the prison shortly before 1 p.m., a federal prison spokeswoman said.

Von Brunn's quiet death contrasts sharply with the brazen violence he unleashed June 10 in what prosecutors have described as a suicide mission, an attack that shocked the nation and sent tourists scattering for cover on a busy downtown street.

Prosecutors said that von Brunn, an admitted white supremacist who lived most recently in Annapolis, had been planning the assault for months and that he hoped "to send a message to the Jewish community" that the Holocaust was a hoax. "He wanted to be a martyr for his cause," a prosecutor said in court.

Before the shooting, von Brunn had finalized his funeral plans and gotten his finances in order for relatives. Then, shortly before 12:45 p.m., he double-parked his red Hyundai on 14th Street NW in front of the museum and walked toward the front doors, a rifle at his side, authorities have said.

As von Brunn neared the entrance, security guard Stephen T. Johns, 39, opened the door for him. The white supremacist fatally shot Johns at point-blank range, authorities have said.

Other guards quickly returned fire, wounding von Brunn in the head. He was treated at District hospitals but needed a wheelchair and had difficulty speaking during a court hearing several months ago.

Von Brunn was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of first-degree murder, committing a hate crime and gun violations. If convicted, he would have been eligible for the death penalty.

His guilt was never in serious doubt -- the shooting was witnessed by dozens of people, it was captured on surveillance video and the assailant was carted away in an ambulance -- but some had hoped to glean some insights into von Brunn's psyche during the court process. Many, including Johns's relatives, remain shocked that anyone could be filled with so much hatred that he would shoot a helpful security guard at a museum that serves as a memorial to the slaughter of millions of people.

Johns left behind a young son.

"I just hope he was ready to meet his God," said Nola Gorham, Johns's grandmother, of von Brunn. She said that she didn't wish him bad luck, even though he did "a terrible thing," but that "nothing can bring closure."

The museum issued a brief statement on its Web site Wednesday that didn't mention von Brunn by name and continued to hail Johns's heroism. "This tragedy is a powerful reminder that our cause of fighting hatred remains more urgent than ever," the statement said.

Von Brunn's son, Erik, told a reporter that he was aware of his father's death but declined to comment further. The son has said that he wished his father had died in the attack, not Johns.

During a September court hearing, von Brunn told U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton that he wanted a quick public trial, but the judge delayed the defendant's day in court pending mental health tests.

He had been held at the prison in North Carolina since Sept. 25. In addition to his wounds from the attack, he also suffered from congestive heart failure and sepsis, prison officials said.

It is not clear when he was taken to the hospital or how he died.

Von Brunn was known for decades as a loner and white supremacist who spun elaborate conspiracy theories about Jews and black people in leaflets, in books and on his Web site.

In December 1981, he walked into the Federal Reserve with a handgun and threatened to take the members of the Board of Governors hostage. He had hoped his actions would lead to the deportation of all Jews and black people from "the white nations" of the world.

He was convicted and served a little more than six years in federal prison.

Staff writer Michael E. Ruane and researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

9/11 Dad FD Chief Jim Riches- featured in IAFF video-Responds to Rudy Giuliani

For immediate distribution: July 18, 2007

From: Deputy Chief Jim Riches FDNY 917-692-1199

Father of fallen fire fighter Jimmy Riches Jr., FDNY 9/11:-a true American hero

The Giuliani campaign’s website has issued a response to the IAFF video. In my opinion, the press should hold the Giuliani campaign accountable for its slipshod spin of the facts in the video. In the following response below, I will detail how Giuliani has tried to manipulate these facts. Giuliani is running his campaign on 9/11 as a hero, yet he ran like a coward on 9/11 even before the first tower fell.

The true facts of Rudy Giuliani and his response to the IAFF video: - In his press release he calls NYC "The Cadillac of Preparedness." How bad was the rest of the country? We had firefighters with radios that didn't work properly in 1993 and in 2001. He placed the city’s Emergency Command Center next to a terrorist target, the World Trade Center. On 9/11, his 7 years of inaction resulted in a non-unified command structure with separate command posts for FD (West St) and the Police Department (Church St). There was no NYPD representative at the FDNY command post to relay urgent messages (of potential collapse) - their police Commissioner, Bernie Kerik, was running north away from the WTC with Giuliani.

- Rudy states that he created Office of Emergency Management: Yet, he placed an incompetent person in charge on 9/11: Richard Shierer, a former FDNY dispatcher and longtime political crony. Shierer lacked the qualifications to run OEM and oversee emergency operations. Mr. Jerry Hauer, Shierer’s predecessor, had the qualities needed. Hauer had a strong personality and a take charge attitude at emergency scenes. He was highly regarded by both the NYPD and the FDNY, but got little assistance from Giuliani to make the Fire and Police Departments cooperate fully with each other. There were many skirmishes at emergency scenes (arrests of FDNY personnel, fights, angry words and feelings). Hauer pleaded with Giuliani to help him bridge the gap in the battle of the badges. Rudy did not assist and on 9/11 we had terrible losses due to the communication disconnect between the NYPD and FDNY.

- Months after 9/11, Fire Commissioner Tom Von Essen and other FDNY officials tried to blame the communications breakdown on malfunctioning repeaters. The 9/11 Commission confirmed that the repeaters worked that day. Giuliani tried another version of the argument later saying FDNY chiefs in the lobby decided repeaters weren't operable and couldn't be used. Every investigation that has examined 9/11 failings (the 9/11 Commission, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) WTC Investigation, and the McKinsey Report) did not agree with Giuliani's statements and said the repeaters were indeed working on 9/11. NIST said the hi-rise repeater was working properly, contradicting claims by the Giuliani

- Giuliani says Jerry Hauer insisted on placing the Emergency Command Center at 7 WTC. That is a blatant lie, according to Jerry Hauer (who has documentation to prove it.) It was Giuliani's personal insistence that it be located at 7 WTC - Jerry Hauer suggested Brooklyn. Rudy wanted it within walking distance of City Hall, complete with a cigar room for Rudy!

- Giuliani’s people have stated that NYC had terrorism exercises during his administration. While regular drills were held by Commissioner Hauer, the number of emergency drills plummeted under Sheirer's watch. Still, the FDNY and NYPD had trouble cooperating at these drills. Who was in charge? No interagency communications, including incompatible radios, is Rudy’s legacy of 9/11. Today, radios are now interoperable between the FDNY and NYPD under the Bloomberg administration.

- Giuliani was forced to secure bunker gear after 3 firefighters were killed as a result of fighting a fire on Watts Street – he did not do it out of the goodness of his heart. Ironically, a pilot program was put in place before the Watts St, fire to see which bunker gear was best for the FDNY, unlike the defective radios Giuliani and his FDNY Commissioner Tom Von Essen bought in 2001. Although Giuliani claims to have purchased “PASS” alarms for firefighters, it was the Dinkins Administration that first purchased the device. Radios, bunker gear, and PASS alarms are basic equipment that all firefighters in America need and are not innovative – Giuliani’s claims of buying such firefighting equipment is the equivalent of telling police officers that the bullets he purchased for their guns are truly innovative! The mayor's job is to protect the citizens of NY and the firefighters and other city workers. It is his obligation to get us the tools we need to do the job safely and correctly. He was only doing his job and nothing more. He wants to be praised for this??
- Tom Von Essen (a firefighter who never passed a promotional exam) was Giuliani’s top selection for Fire Commissioner who decimated the “staff chief” positions from 23 to 13, losing some of the most knowledgeable and most experienced men on the job. Von Essen refused to listen to input from his Chiefs because “he knew better.” He replaced the most brilliant man in the Department - Frank Cruthers - as Chief of Department because he didn't like him (a result of Von Essen's previous history as Union President).

- Giuliani was so “loving and caring” at firefighter funerals – baloney! These were photo ops for him. He insisted human remains be treated carefully and respectfully, but only if the remains were found before Nov .1, 2001. After Nov. 1, remains were more likely to recovered at the Staten Island Fresh Kills dump because the paltry 25 firefighters were not even close to the amount of personnel needed to search for remains at Ground Zero. I was at the site almost every day from 9/11 until May 30 2002. We were cut to 120 firefighters a day in November but there were 50 to a hundred firefighters who came on their own time to assist in the recovery effort every day and night (retired and active firefighters). 25 fireman and limited number of NYPD and PAPD personnel were not enough to do a proper search of the debris. Rudy wanted the firefighters out of there because we slowed up the operation. Rudy
essentially said: let’s scoop and dump quickly and open up lower Manhattan and make money. There are still human remains of our heroes at Ground Zero & Fresh Kills garbage dump. This is a disgrace.

- Was Giuliani was concerned about safety of firefighters? If so, why did Giuliani lie about the air quality at Ground Zero in late Sept 2001 when he was told by the Department of Environmental Protection that 27 of 38 tests of air quality showed high levels of asbestos? (NY Times). Firefighters were not given face-fitted respirators until November, 2001. The Department of Design and Construction (DDC) was Rudy's choice to run the operation (the first time they ever handled a disaster site) and did not enforce the respirator requirement as was done by the Federal Government at the Pentagon. This is another Giuliani mistake which will lead to his legacy of dying and sick first responders - 70% now have various ailments related to 9/11.

- Giuliani worried that the rubble pile would collapse on Nov 1,2001 after gold was removed the day before. Why wasn't Rudy worried about the collapse potential in September and October. Try another excuse, Rudy!

- I was at the Sheraton NY hotel when Rudy said he was closing the site. Medical Examiner Charles Hirsh told us all at a family meeting that the bodies had been pulverized ( "vaporized" was another term used) and there were no more remains. The family members and FDNY personnel called him a liar that night since we had recovered bodies one day prior to this meeting. They lied to the families as was evident in the following months during which hundreds of bodies were recovered.

- Giuliani people have disingenuously linked the victims’ families with conspiracy theorists. No family member or firefighter organization ever mentioned or condoned any conspiracy theory or government implication in the attacks. These are not in the video and to attach us to the conspiracy theorists is a total distortion. Rudy's people will stoop to anything. It is totally out of line, but Rudy's people don't mind telling blatant lies.

All the people in the media trashing the IAFF video are in the Giuliani campaign. Howard
Safir, a former NYPD Commissioner and FDNY Commissioner, took illegal trips to the Oscars while the city was in turmoil. Safir claims all firefighters are “Rudy's friends.” Well, Commissioner Safir, NYC firefighters despise Rudy. I am an active Deputy Chief in the FDNY and I know it for a FACT.

Lee Ielpi, a former firefighter, is a traitor to the union and every one of the fallen 343
heroes who were sent into the Towers without functioning radios. After the attacks, Lee
Ielpi went to Washington to hear the King Abdullah of Jordan (where they danced on the streets on 9/11 and blasted Israel for being the problem in the Middle East) and went to dinner with him. That is a disgrace. Mr. Ielpi then says the union is “Democratic.” The UFA backed Mr. Bush in 2004 as well as Mr. Pataki. The video is not Democratic or Republican - it only tells the TRUE story of one candidate, Rudy Giuliani. He is not presidential material however you spin it.

My wife tells me all the time: "Show me your company and I'll tell you what you are."
Let’s look at Rudy's company and friends. Judith Nathan, married two times - no, three times. Ex-Monsignor Placa, Giuliani Partners employee/best friend/accused child molester, covered up and protected child molesting priests in Rockville Center. Bernie Kerik -a lying and cheating thief with mob ties - Giuliani knew his troubled past before he appointed him NYPD Commissioner (and who shacked up with his girlfriend - while still married - at a Ground Zero apartment put aside for first responders at WTC). Giuliani had the gall to recommend him for head of our federal Department of Homeland Security. What arrogance!!!

Rudy was prancing his girlfriend around the neighborhood while his wife and children were in Gracie Mansion nearby. Rudy married his second cousin for 14 years. Let’s not forget Christine Lategano, named in his messy divorce from Donna Hanover.

Rudy, you have no morals or ethics or integrity. Your leadership stunk before, during and
after 9/11 and you refuse to take accountability. Watch out - if Rudy doesn't agree with you, you are his enemy. Ask former Manhattan. Borough President Virginia Fields and Comptroller Carl McCall whom he refused to speak to. Rudy released sealed records of the slain Haitian- American Patrick Dorismond. They are called sealed for a reason. God forbid Rudy gets the Patriot Act! Museum funding will be cut if he doesn't like the exhibit (DID THAT). He will do whatever he wants.

Hopefully, the truth will prevail and people will educate themselves about the candidates. Read the 9/11 Commission, National Institute and Technology's NIST report, and McKinsey reports concerning 9/11. You will see the shortcomings and errors of the Giuliani administration. His capacity to put people in his inner circle who lack the ability and qualifications to perform their tasks is a severe liability. Can we expect Judy sitting in on cabinet meetings? or Bernard Kerik being brought back from the netherworld to be appointed as Director of Homeland Security?

The IAFF video was made by the union after many requests by the 9/11 families who
were seeking to tell the truth about Rudy Giuliani & 9/11. We wanted to get our message out
that Rudy should not be running on his horrible 9/11 record. He talks for BLOOD MONEY about leadership despite the fact that he abandoned ship and ran north like a coward. He exemplified an egregious lack of true leadership before, during, and after 9/11. The video is the proof that will haunt Giuliani. His legacy will be numerous sick and dying first responders who did not get proper face-fitted respirators until November, 2001. I don't know how he can look at himself in the mirror.

The spirits of 9/11 will haunt him in the end. I know that terrorists initiated the actions that killed my son, but Rudy Giuliani gave him a radio that didn't work on 9/11 .Terrorists did not provide him with faulty equipment; terrorists did not tell us that the air quality was fine when it was gravely contaminated. America needs to know the real truth about Rudy Giuliani and not what he tells us: lies, distorted truth, and more lies. These are not qualifications for the next president of our beloved country. Doesn't America deserve better than Rudy Giuliani?

Deputy Chief Jim Riches FDNY 917-692-1199
Father of fallen firefighter Jimmy Riches FDNY 9/11-a true American hero

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chronology of the Scud Attacks in Israel and Saudi Arabia

From: Appendix, CASUALTIES AND DAMAGE FROM SCUD ATTACKS IN THE 1991 GULF WAR, by George N. Lewis, Steve Fetter, and Lisbeth Gronlund, March 1993

Chronology of the Scud Attacks

Many details about the attacks on both Israel and Saudi Arabia remain classified or otherwise unavailable. This chronology represents our best current assessment of events, and is constructed from a variety of often-contradictory public sources including U.S. and Israeli government announcements, newspaper and television news reports, and published articles as well as private communications from Israelis.108 All times given are local time in either Israel or Saudi Arabia.109

It appears that about 81 Scuds fell in or near Israel and Saudi Arabia and that somewhat less than 47 of these were engaged by Patriot.110 It has also been reported that an additional small number of Scuds (roughly 5 to 8) failed shortly after launch and thus did not reach either Israel or Saudi Arabia.111

108 The most important sources used in constructing this chronology were: U.S. military press conferences (a very useful compilation of these is contained in Hildreth, "Evaluation of U.S. Army Assessment"; Official Israeli and Saudi Arabian statements (contained in FBIS); the compilation of attack damage in Ma'ariv (March 29, 1991) and the Jerusalem Post (March 1, 1991, p. 2); Joseph S. Bermudez, "Iraqi Missile Operations During Desert Storm -
Update," Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, May 1991, p. 225; Bleich et. al., "Psychiatric Implications"; daily reporting in the New York Times, Washington Post, London Times, and Jerusalem Post; and television reports from the ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, and NBC networks. Much of the information on the Scud attacks in Israel (in particular, on impact locations) is based on interviews conducted by Reuven Pedatzur in Israel).

A generally similar chronology (based in large part on reporting by the Los Angeles Times) appears in Gregory S. Jones, The Iraqi Ballistic Missile Program: The Gulf War and the Future of the Missile Threat (Marina del Rey, Calif.: American Institute for Strategic Cooperation, 1992).

109 During the war, the time in Israel and Saudi Arabia was respectively 7 and 8 hours ahead of the time in the eastern United States.
110 The figure of 47 engagements was released by the U.S. Army after the war, but the Army's current figures are somewhat lower. Conyers, "The Patriot Myth," note 3.
111 The U.S. Army reported that 88 Scuds were launched. Another source says 86 Scuds were launched, but that five of them broke up immediately after launch (Bermudez, "Iraqi Missile Operations - Update"). The Iraqis claim that they launched 93 Scuds during the Gulf War (5 of which were a longer-range Scud variant called the al-Hijara). "Iraqi Scud Missile Declarations," Arms Control Today, November, 1992, p. 28. 43


It appears that about 39 Scuds fell into Israel or the adjoining Mediterranean Sea. Twelve
Scuds fell before Patriot was operational, and 27 afterwards, of which 17 were engaged. The
Scud attacks directly killed two people, seriously injured 11, and slightly injured another 220.

January 18, about 2 am - 8 Scuds towards Tel Aviv and Haifa (probably five or six to Tel Aviv). Patriot was not yet operational. One Scud hit in a poor and crowded neighborhood in the Ezra district of Tel Aviv, but hit "at the edge of the only empty lot for blocks." A second Scud exploded at or near a leather factory in the Tel Aviv suburb of Azor. Another Scud exploded at a shopping center under construction in Haifa. Twenty-two injuries were reported (apparently all due to the Scud in the Ezra district), but most or all were light injuries.

January 19, about 7:15 am - 4 Scuds towards Tel Aviv. Patriot was not yet operational. Three Scuds fell in Tel Aviv. One directly struck a multi-story building in downtown Tel Aviv but did not explode, and its warhead was recovered intact from a ground-floor jewelry store. One Scud hit directly next to a municipal center in Tel Aviv's Hatkiva district, blowing open a basement bomb shelter (it was unoccupied). The impact point was only about three hundred meters from the one in the Ezra district the previous day, and most of the injuries on January 19 occurred here. The third Scud fell in Yarkon Park, near the Tel Aviv exhibition center. The fourth Scud reportedly fell along the coast somewhere south of Tel Aviv. Thirty people were injured, apparently all lightly.

January 22, about 8:40 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. This was the first Scud to be engaged by Patriot in Israel. The Scud warhead detonated in an alleyway between two apartment buildings on Abba Hillel street in the northwestern part of the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. One building apparently collapsed, and many other buildings were damaged. A woman was killed and 84 other people were injured. 44

January 23, about 10:20 pm - 1 Scud towards Haifa. It was engaged by Patriot. No casualties occurred, but falling debris caused some damage. News media videos suggest that the Scud exploded in the Mediterranean.

January 25, about 6 pm - 7 Scuds (some sources say only six) towards Tel Aviv and Haifa. Most of these were towards Tel Aviv, and most or all were engaged by Patriot.112 No casualties or damage were reported in Haifa. At least two Scuds exploded in residential areas in the Tel Aviv area. In addition, at least three Patriots struck the ground in Tel Aviv on this night (as well as at least one in Haifa). One Scud impact site was in Ramat Hatayasim in southeastern Tel Aviv; the Scud other fell only several hundred meters away across the border in neighboring Ramat Gan. It is known that a missile struck a two-story house destroying it and damaging many nearby buildings, and another fell next to a school (for crippled children, according to one report) in a residential neighborhood, seriously damaging it; however we have not yet been able to correlate these explosions with specific impact points. One Patriot struck in or near Hamaccabia Stadium, just north of downtown Tel Aviv.113 The impact points of the other Patriots are not known to us at present. Falling debris also caused damage. One man was killed (in Ramat Gan), and 67 were injured.

January 26, about 10 pm - 5 Scuds (some sources say only three or four) towards Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Scuds were reportedly fired in two salvos separated by a short period of time. Most or all reportedly were engaged by Patriot. One Scud apparently fell on a deserted stretch of beach north of downtown Tel Aviv. No serious damage was caused, although two injuries occurred.
112 Most of the engagements in Israel took place in the two attacks on January 25 and 26. It appears that there were at least seven engagements on other days in Israel. If the figure of 17 total engagements in Israel is correct, then it appears that about 10 of the 12 Scuds on January 25 and 26 were engaged.
113 The photograph on page 296 of the short version of this paper published in Nature (Fetter, Lewis, and Gronlund, "Why Were Scud Casualties So Low?"), captioned "Scud launched from Iraq hits Tel Aviv at Night in January 1991," actually shows a smoke cloud rising from the impact point of this Patriot.45

January 28, about 9 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. The Scud fell short and landed near the village of Dir Balut in the West Bank (about 25 km east of Tel Aviv). No casualties or serious damage were reported.

January 31, about 7 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. Landed in the Samaria region, reportedly near an Arab village. The U.S. reported that it landed 15 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. No damage or casualties were reported.

February 2, about 8:30 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It fell short and came down in an
unsettled region of the West Bank. No damage or casualties.

February 3, about 1:40 am - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It fell short and landed in the West Bank. No casualties, but it may have caused some minor damage.

February 9, about 2:40 am - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It was engaged by Patriot. The warhead exploded in the middle of a street in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, pulling down walls on a number of buildings on both sides of the street. Thirteen people were injured.

February 11, about 7 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It was engaged by Patriot. It was reported to have hit in an uninhabited area, and it probably fell in the Mediterranean north of Tel Aviv. No casualties or damage.

February 12, about 1:30 am - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It was engaged by Patriot. The warhead detonated between two houses in a neighborhood of mostly private homes in or near the town of Savyon, about 10 km east of Tel Aviv. Both houses were demolished and a number of other houses were seriously damaged. One of the demolished houses was empty, and a man was dug out from the debris of the other (he was not seriously injured). Nine people were injured.

February 16, about 8:10 pm - 2 Scuds, 1 towards Haifa, 1 towards southern Israel (although an 46 IDF spokesperson has said there were four, 2 to Haifa and 2 to the Negev Desert). The one towards Haifa was probably engaged by Patriot and may have fallen into the Mediterranean. The one to southern Israel fell in an open area in the Negev desert and reportedly carried a concrete warhead. No casualties or serious damage were reported.114

February 19, about 7:50 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It was engaged by Patriot. The Scud landed in an uninhabited area about 7 to 11 km east of the municipal airport. The Scud's warhead did not explode and no damage or casualties resulted.

February 23, about 6:50 pm - 1 Scud towards Tel Aviv. It landed in an unpopulated area and there were no casualties or damage.

February 25, about 3:40 am and 5:40 am - 2 Scuds towards southern Israel. Both fell in unpopulated areas of the Negev region. No significant damage was done, although two injuries were reported.

114 In all, Iraq fired three Scuds into the Negev desert in the southern part of Israel, probably aimed at the Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona. The Iraqis claimed that they fired four Scuds at Israel on February 16, with three of them aimed at Dimona. Bradley Burston, "Iraq: We Fired New Missile at Dimona," Jerusalem Post, February 18, 1991,

234 and 231 respectively).
Many reports cite only one, rather than two, direct deaths. This discrepancy arises from the third attack on Israel, when a single Scud hit the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan on the evening of 22 January and three people died. Initial reports attributed all three deaths to heart attacks (and this is what was widely reported afterwards), but one of these
deaths was a direct result of the Scud attack: "It should be noted that heart attack was not the cause of death in all three cases, as reported earlier. The dead woman who was taken to Ichilov Hospital died of crushing wounds as a result of the explosion. The two other dead women suffered heart attacks as a result of the missile impact." Jerusalem Voice of Israel and IDF Radio Network, 4:20 am [Israel Time], 23 January 1991, in FBIS, Daily Report:
Near East and South Asia, 23 January 1991, p. 28.
The other death was a man killed (also in Ramat Gan) in the fifth attack, on the evening of Friday, 25 January, apparently from a head wound. "Brig. Gen. Yehuda Danon, chief medical officer of the Israeli Defense Forces, said one death resulted from a direct hit on a house Friday night and the other was a woman who was crushed by debris and cut by shattered glass." The latter is the death described in the preceding paragraph. William Claiborne and
Jackson Diehl, "Patriots Launched to Meet New Scud Attack Over Israel," Washington Post, 27 January 1991, p. A22

Sunday, May 9, 2010

1991: Missiles & Miracles

1991: Missiles & Miracles

From The failed attempts of the SCUD missiles to destroy Jewish life was nothing less than miraculous. As the missiles—each loaded with 600 pounds of explosives—rained down upon Tel Aviv, the terrified citizens, huddled in shelters and sealed rooms, listened in disbelief to the newsflashes. Buildings crowded with people were hit, yet virtually not a soul was harmed. “G-d threw down mattresses to cushion our falls, pushed walls out of our way,” declared one survivor. On the day of Purim, traditionally a day of merry-making for the Jewish people, the war was officially declared over. “Adequate attention is not being paid to these miracles,” said the Rebbe in public addresses in the weeks to follow. “The popular media throughout the world took note of the miraculous occurrences, yet there is a tendency to offer rationales and explanations. We must publicize that these are miracles that were performed by G-d!”

Ezekiel 36:22
I do not do this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations, to which you came And similarly Isaiah 59 testifies that the generation that will gain redemption, transgresses and denies Hashem and departs from our Lord, speaks oppression and revolt, conceives and utters from the heart words of falsehood [verse 13]. And similarly of that generation it was said, that truth is absent and he that departs from evil gains the social status of a crazy man [verse 15].

Peretz: Show me a miracle.

Ephraim: In the magazine , Seedlink , issue number 21, some of the miracles of the Gulf War are listed. First let us take a look at the statistics:

  • 39 Scud missiles were launched against Israel
  • Altogether over ten tons of explosives fell on Israel
  • In all 15,000 properties were damaged
    • 10,992 apartments
    • 235 houses
    • 3773 other buildings
  • 13 people died. Two directly from a missile
  • Eleven indirectly from heart attack or misuse of a gasmask

After the noise quieted down and the dust settled, the people who were frozen in shock began to look around. They were completely astonished when they realized that not even one of the 200 people were injured. The entire building had collapsed around them, even three walls of the shelter were gone and only the eastern wall remained standing [the shelter was also used as a shul (synagogue) so that even the racks which held siddurim (prayer books) and chumashim (the first five books of the Bible) were not damaged]. When the Prime Minister and the Mayor toured the site, the Prime Minister asked if there were people here? “Definitely, ” said the Mayor, “there were 200 people and they were all saved by a miracle!
[Mishpacha monthly magazine Feb. 2, 1991]

Shalom and Jaquelyn H., although non-observant, respected Torah scholars, and had recently been advised to have their mezuzot (parchments containing biblical verses that are placed on the doorpost) examined. Despite the expense involved, the young couple replaced the old mezuzot with kosher ones. When the Scud exploded in their neighborhood, the entire apartment was uprooted by the blast. Cupboards, windows, and furniture were utterly destroyed. doors flew, and door posts were jolted from their places. From the contents of the apartment, all that remained intact were the mezuzot. Despite the destruction all around H. family was physically unharmed.
[Yated Ne’eman Feb. 2,1991]

In a second a portion of Lai Street was turned into desolation. I was in a number of places which were hit by missiles , and each time I can't understand how people came out alive from such destruction. Someone up there is watching over them otherwise there is no explanation as to what took place here tonight.
[A Civil Defense officer-news magazine]

In one instance, an elderly woman was led from her apartment by her neighbor who had awakened her, just moments before the flat was hit by a missile...... A baker, preparing challot for Shabbat, left his bakery on Thursday night, after being unable to locate any flour, just moments before the bakery was crushed by a missile... In another case a bomb shelter which would have been filled with 50 people, had the population been preparing for the resultant conventional attack ( but was, empty as people were in sealed rooms, expecting the non-existent chemical attack) was completely destroyed by a missile.... And a missile which landed on a major Tel Aviv thoroughfare on Shabbat morning failed to detonate
[Yated Ne'eman Jan. 25, 1991]

SCUD 33 The missile landed in the middle of a residential street. The house on one side of the street crumbled entirely, but its elderly occupant was pulled from the debris unscathed. The house on the opposite side of the street was also destroyed completely , but no-one was home at the time of the blast. Another man was trapped beneath the rubble of his 4-room ranch house. As rescue crews sifted through the ruins of his home, they heard him pleading for help. only his head protruded from the rubble, yet he was virtually unharmed. His two dogs, standing on either side of him at the time of the attack, were killed instantly.
[Yated Ne’eman Feb. 22, 1991]

Miracles During the First Gulf War

From :Israel came to within a hair of entering the war directly, but at the last second was pressured by the US to stay out of the conflict – no easy task for a country being shot at! (The reason was that several Arab allies with the US vowed they would never fight on the same side as Israel, and it was feared that Israel’s involvement would break up the coalition.)

  • No missiles landed in the city of Jerusalem. Any hits in that area (besides threatening life) would have destroyed ancient archeological sites which could never be replaced. (It was reported afterward that the Iraqis had argued about this, and finally decided not to target Jerusalem for fear of hitting the Dome of the Rock.)
  • The first night of the missile strikes against Israel, 27 missiles were fired at once. Patriot missiles knocked out all of them except two.
  • During missile strikes in the West Bank, only injuries were suffered; no lives were lost.
  • A missile landed in a garbage dump but didn’t explode. Another missile landed a few feet away from a gas station, but didn’t explode.
  • One missile landed between two buildings, completely destroying them but not killing any people.
  • Several missiles aimed at Israel fell into tile sea to the west.
  • Another missile was blown off course by a strong wind.
  • Two missiles aimed at the IDF base in the Negev desert landed without causing damage.
  • One missile that fell was discovered to have concrete in place of an explosive warhead.
  • Two missiles fired from Iraq suddenly disappeared.
  • A missile hit a bank, but only one person was in the building at the time.
  • A missile went down an airshaft of a 9-story apartment building with 20-30 apartments; it did not explode.
  • Palestinians stood on their rooftops cheering for Iraq as a barrage of missiles hit Israel. (They were following the lead of Yassar Arafat, who openly supported Saddam’s war.) The next day, some missiles landed in their own villages. Israeli media filmed their panicked race to the nearest security station to demand gas masks for themselves. There were no more rooftop celebrations…
  • A Tel Aviv man was in his house when a missile hit his garden. He walked out of the house with only minor injuries.
  • An 84-year-old lady was in her house as it was hit by a missile. Not only was she unhurt, but as she looked at the devastation she only said, "Who’s going to help me clean this up?"
  • A man walked into his bathroom just as a missile strike began. When he came out, the rest of his house had been destroyed.
  • A lady was in bed during a missile attack. Her ceiling collapsed from a hit, causing the steel door frame to fall over her bed and lean on the wall. Because the frame kept the ceiling off her, she survived.
  • A lady slept so soundly she didn’t hear the air raid siren. The exploding missile woke her up, whereupon she rushed to her sealed room. It was gone, blown away by the missile along with the whole side of her house.
  • A man in his sealed room was leaning back against a closet when the force of an explosion knocked him into the closet. The room was heavily damaged, but he was unhurt. He reported, "The closet saved my life."
  • A man was buried in rubble standing up. When he was finally dug out after an hour, he was found to need only a band-aid on his forehead.
  • A mother with three small children spontaneously decided to go to the bomb shelter (contrary to government instructions) instead of their sealed room. During that attack, the door to that sealed room was blown open.
  • A family with their 18 month old baby were in a sealed room when the wall collapsed on the baby, who had no protection over it except the plastic infant tent (issued for gas protection). The woman was filmed later in a hospital room holding the baby, who didn’t have a scratch on it.
  • A 3-year-old child was seriously injured in the first attack. Although he needed 2 hours of surgery to remove all the glass and shrapnel from his body, he survived.
  • A couple driving in the Negev (southern Israel) saw two missiles in the sky. Their explosions were close enough to make their car shake, but they were unhurt.
  • A Tel Aviv man was driving his car when the air raid sirens sounded. He ran into a nearby home to take shelter. He came out to find that missile fragments had totally destroyed his car.
  • One family had their entire flat sealed rather than one room (against civil defense instructions, as it cuts off ventilation). During the night, the mother collapsed and the children came close to asphyxiation. The cry of one child woke the father who got them all out just in time.
  • Two families whose pets ran away in fright at the sounds of the sirens worried that they might be injured in the attacks. Both families saw their pets return a few hours later unharmed.
  • A family had decided to run for their bomb shelter instead of the sealed room in time of attack (there was public debate as to which was safer). When the attack came, they couldn’t find the key to the shelter and were forced to take refuge in their sealed room after all. Their bomb shelter was hit and destroyed.
  • Two families running for the community bomb shelters couldn’t find the key to the first one, so they ran to a second one. The first one was destroyed.
  • Ramat Gan (just north of Tel Aviv) suffered the most in the war – 3 or 4 attacks – due. to the location of strategic military buildings there. None of the missiles hit a building directly, but always fell in the open. The only damage was to property.
  • A couple in Ramat Gan were preparing for the Shabbat, when the wife suddenly got the urge to spend Shabbat elsewhere. The husband resisted at first but finally gave in. When they returned they found their house completely demolished by a missile. The husband (a religious Jew) recited the prayer of thanks for deliverance on the spot, and his neighbors came and danced around the rubble.
  • The seasonal rains, which usually arrive in Israel in November, were nowhere to be seen. Suddenly they began in torrents, on January 17, the first day of the war. They continued almost without letup for the next 4-6 weeks, together with high winds. This weather was credited by US military sources as helping to convince the Iraqis that chemical weapons would not be smart (the prevailing winds were blowing from Israel directly toward Iraq…). The same phenomenon was observed in Kuwait (900 km to the east), where wind patterns had shifted from their normal direction for that season and were also blowing toward Iraq. (Jerusalem Post, 2/91)
  • When believers in Yeshua were finally able to meet together alter the war, they discovered that no believers anywhere in Israel had been touched by the attacks.
  • A national day of prayer was called for February 27. The main meeting, held at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, was attended by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, President Haim Herzog, Religious Affairs Minister Avner Shaki, and both Chief Rabbis. On February 28, Iraq agreed to a UN cease-fire plan. This was also the eve of Purim, the holiday which commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies through Esther.
  • Neighboring Jordan was a de-facto ally of Iraq during the Gulf War, since their economy is heavily dependent on Iraq. But since relations with Israel had been unofficially warm for many years, they were unwilling to offend either side. Risking Iraqi anger, they went so far as to forbid Iraq to bring missile launchers onto Jordanian soil (using as an excuse Israel’s declaration that if Iraq did so, Israel would respond by "invading" Jordan to get them). This severely limited Iraq’s ability to strike at Israel, forcing them to shoot from the southwestern edge of Iraq behind Jordan, hundreds of kilometers away. (Jordanians went on record after the war as saying that the only winner in this war was Israel; and that the Arabs "would not live down the humiliation for a hundred years.")

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tracking smuggled Scud missiles not so simple: experts

WASHINGTON — As Syria faces charges it may have supplied Hezbollah with Scud missiles, experts say spotting the weapons is no easy task -- which US and British forces learned in the first Gulf war.

Smuggling missiles and mobile launchers into Lebanon without US or Israeli intelligence agencies noticing would be "possible, but difficult," one US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Missiles and mobile launchers could be taken apart to avoid detection, analysts said.

"All you have to do is separate the tail from the missile, which is something you can do easily. And then move it to some other vehicle," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Israel has accused Syria of arming Hezbollah with the ballistic missiles, a charge Damascus vehemently denies. US officials meanwhile say they cannot confirm if the weapons have been delivered to the Lebanese Shiite militia.

In the 1990-91 Gulf war, allied aircraft -- along with US and British special forces on the ground -- struggled to track and take out Saddam Hussein's mobile Scuds, which were hidden in gullies and culverts and quickly shifted out of sight after any launch.

"We flew thousands of missions to try to destroy Saddam?s Scuds which he was firing at Israel and Saudi Arabia. After the war we discovered we had missed every single time," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Sensors and other military technology have improved since then, and Lebanon offers a smaller area to monitor than Iraq.

Moreover, Israel has "very good intelligence there," Riedel said, "so they would probably do better."

Once inside Lebanon, the missiles and launchers could be reassembled and hidden until Hezbollah was ready to use them.

"The missiles are most vulnerable when they are preparing to launch. Still it would be difficult to destroy every launcher before they fired," he said.

Scud-type missiles, originally designed and produced by the Soviets, are usually about 11 meters (yards) long and have a range of roughly 300 kilometers (186 miles), though some versions can strike beyond 500 kilometers.

Adding Scuds to Hezbollah's arsenal of rockets would strengthen the militia's position even though Israel would retain its military edge, analysts said.

"It does not dramatically change the equation but it means Hezbollah can fire at any target in Israel," Cordesman said.

A much bigger concern for Israel would be if the Scuds came with chemical warheads, experts said, but no one has made that allegation so far.

Whether or not Scuds have been delivered, the Obama administration is convinced that Syria is stepping up military support to Hezbollah, US officials said.

"There's a narrow question of Scuds but there is a much broader concern about advanced weaponry," a US official, who asked not to be named, told reporters.

"The cooperation between Syria and Hezbollah is escalating and we think that is potentially destabilizing and adds risks in a region that already has more risks than it knows what to do with."

It remained unclear why the accusation against Syria was leveled by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and not by military or intelligence officials who usually present such charges along with more details, analysts said.

Some lawmakers in the US Congress have seized on the allegations to argue against Washington's efforts to promote dialogue with Syria.

President Barack Obama in February appointed Robert Ford as the first US ambassador to Damascus in five years, although the Senate has yet to confirm him.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday in Estonia that "as of today" the United States sought to pursue deeper ties with Syria, suggesting Obama's policy could change if Damascus was found to be sending missiles.

Opting to supply Hezbollah with more powerful weaponry would fit in with a recent pattern in which Syria appears to have adopted a "triumphalist mindset," wrote Steven Heydemann at the US Institute of Peace.

US and European diplomacy has failed so far to persuade Syria to move away from Iran's orbit and forge stronger ties to the West, he wrote on the Foreign Policy website.

"Instead, Syria's leaders have pocketed their gains and raised the stakes, strengthening Hezbollah's arsenal and deepening its strategic ties with Iran," Heydemann wrote.

British diplomat shot dead in Athens Car

BBC, Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK

The shooting took place close to the diplomatic quarter
A senior British diplomat has been shot dead in his car in the Greek capital, Athens.

Military attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders was rushed to a local hospital in a serious condition, but died later of his injuries.

Greek police are now virtually certain the killing, by two gunmen on a motorcycle, was carried out by left-wing guerilla group November 17.

Ballistic tests revealed that the gun used had been used by the group in past attacks.

November 17 has killed 23 people, including Brigadier Saunders, since it first appeared in 1975. None of its members have been caught.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the killing as an act of terrorism which was contemptible as well as senseless.

The act is not only condemned by the Greek Government but by all the Greek people

Greek FM George Papandreou:
"[Brigadier Saunders] was a consummate professional who had served his country with distinction both at home and overseas.

"His murder is a reminder of the risks that British military personnel face in many places around the world," he added.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he was "shocked" by the shooting.

Greek Police
Police gather evidence close to the scene of the shooting
"I am in touch with the Greek authorities and am offering them our full co-operation in making sure that whoever perpetrated this brutal attack is brought to justice," he said.

The two gunmen opened fire on Brigadier Saunders around 0800 (0500 GMT) as the British official drove a white Rover belonging to the embassy along Kifissias avenue in a northern suburb.

It appears that the car the Brigadier was driving was not bullet proofed.

Brigadier Saunders, 53, who was married with two children, suffered four gunshot wounds to the abdomen, the hospital said.

Guerrillas suspected

The gunmen fled and there has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

November 17 group
Founded in 1975
Roots in resistance to former junta
Opposes Greek links with West
Has admitted to 21 killings
"The method used, the weapon used, lead us to believe that the assailants belong to November 17, that is the direction we are looking in," said Dimitris Efsthathiadis, a senior official in the Ministry for Public Order.

Police said they found four spent cartridges at the scene from a .45-calibre pistol, the weapon used by the November 17 group in about 20 assassinations attributed to the group since 1975.

Shadowy group
Brigadier Stephen Saunders
Born: Farnborough, Hants in 1947
Married to Heather
Daughters: Nicola, 15 and Catherine, 14
1965: Joined army
1967: Commissioned into Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment
1968-71: Read geography and economics at Bristol University
1986: Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, serving in N.Ireland, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Kuwait
1999: Promoted to Brigadier and appointed defence attache to the British Embassy in Athens

The November 17 group targets western officials and economic targets. Its first victim, in 1975, was the CIA station chief in Athens.

None of its members has ever been arrested and convicted.

The US State Department has recently criticised the Greek authorities for failing to stop terrorist attacks.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has condemned the attack and pledged that his government would combat terrorism relentlessly.

"I want to condemn this terrorist act. The act is not only condemned by the Greek government but by all the Greek people," he said.

08 Jun 00 | Europe
November 17 group: Small but deadly
08 Jun 00 | UK
Diplomatic life behind bullet proof glass
Internet links:

British Foreign Office
Greek Government

Hezbollah says it's ready for fresh war with Israel – and stronger now

Christian Science Monitor, by Nicholas Blanford, Correspondent, posted May 7, 2010 at 1:06 pm EDT, Mashghara, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon —

Driving through Hezbollah's stronghold in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a veteran fighter says the militant group has made significant military advances since their last war with Israel in 2006: 'We have many other surprises for the Israelis.'

A magazine vendor in Damascus displays a picture of Syrian President Bashar Assad (at left in framed photo) and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Recent allegations that Syria has supplied the militant group with Scud missiles has enraged Israel and renewed talk of war. (Bassem Tellawi/AP)

Nearly four years after Hezbollah fought invading Israeli troops to a standstill in south Lebanon, the militant Shiite group says it's prepared for a fresh conflict and confident of victory.

"We are ready for another war and we eagerly await it," says veteran Hezbollah fighter Abu Hadi on a drive through the Bekaa Valley. "We expect the next war to be short. The Israelis will not be able to endure what we will do to them."

Hezbollah's leadership insists it does not seek a war and that its military preparations are a defense against potential Israeli aggression. Yet, the inconclusive outcome of the 2006 war has stoked a feeling here that another war is inevitable.

War drums have been beating faster in recent weeks amid allegations that Syria has supplied Hezbollah with Scud ballistic missiles – a development that has enraged Israel, forced Lebanese leaders to seek international support, and complicated a gradual US-Syria rapprochement. On May 3, President Obama renewed sanctions on Syria for a year because of its "continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs."

Hezbollah's strongholds in the Bekaa Valley are likely to be one of several front lines during another war with Israel – a war that threatens to be far more destructive than the one in July 2006. Hezbollah says lessons learned from that conflict have been implemented, including new battlefield tactics and the acquisition of improved weapons systems, surface-to-surface rockets, and possibly advanced antiaircraft missiles.
'Too much at stake'

Many analysts believe that the next war will not be confined to Hezbollah and Israel but will also draw in Syria and possibly Iran in a regional conflagration. Hezbollah's leaders say that it would be of sufficient scale and intensity to change the geopolitical balance in the region. "That kind of war would change every parameter in the Middle East," Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said recently.

The stakes for both sides are so great that the military preparations of Israel and Hezbollah to some extent serve as a mutual deterrent against rash action.

"I don't believe there will be [war]. I think there is too much at stake to lose for all the parties," says Michael Williams, the top United Nations official in Lebanon, after an April 28 meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri. "I think tensions have been high the past few days. But I hope these will lower now."

Tensions flared when Israel accused Hezbollah of having Scuds and US officials voiced alarm at the increasingly sophisticated weaponry allegedly crossing the border from Syria to Lebanon. In late April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Hezbollah had "far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world.... This is obviously destabilizing for the whole region," he said following talks with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak.
Who needs Scuds when you have M-600s?

Syria's Scud-D rockets have a range of 435 miles, which would bring all of Israel within range of Hezbollah's strongholds in the northern Bekaa Valley.

The US has condemned Syria's "provocative behavior" in sending Hezbollah arms, but says it cannot confirm that Scuds have been smuggled into Lebanon. Lebanese, Syrian, and Egyptian officials have all dismissed the reports for lack of evidence.

Some military analysts question the claims, too, asking why Hezbollah would need Scuds, which are liquid-fueled (lengthening launch preparation time) and usually require firing from large-wheeled launchers, which would also need to be smuggled into Lebanon. Hezbollah is believed to already have Iranian-designed and Syrian-built M-600 rockets that are more concealable and quicker to fire.

"The M-600 is more accurate than the Scuds, is easier to use as it has a solid propellant motor, and is smaller and lighter," says Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems in Britain.

Hezbollah officials refuse to confirm or deny the reports, but Abu Hadi says the group has no need for Scuds. "We have many other surprises for the Israelis," he says, exhibiting the determination of Hezbollah's cadres in preparing for war.

"Take a good look around you," he says, pointing to the concrete apartment blocks of Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut. "Next time, all this will be gone." He's not worried about his neighborhood's potential destruction. "We can always rebuild," he says. "Our dignity is more important than roofs over our heads."
'Jihad places us in a pleasant state of mind'

Most Lebanese dread another devastating war with Israel, especially as Lebanon's economy improves amid a boom in construction and tourism. Such concerns garner little sympathy from Hezbollah combatants, who say they are fulfilling a religious obligation in confronting Israel. "The atmosphere [among Hezbollah cadres] is very spiritual," says Hassan, a burly university student. "In our belief, we are waging jihad and that places us in a very pleasant state of mind."

Hezbollah's leadership refuses to discuss details of its armaments but acknowledges its military advances since 2006.

"We have ... plugged some of the loopholes, and improved the good things," deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem told a Saudi paper recently. "Now, we certainly are more impregnable, and more at ease in ... preparing to confront the possibilities of an Israeli aggression than at any previous time."

•Hear more from Hassan and Abu Hadi about Hezbollah's weapons and tactics at

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Syria is shipping Scud missiles to Hezbollah
Posted by Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel on April 13, 2010

Two reports from recent days in a Kuwaiti daily shed new light on the recent tension between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. According to the newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam, Syria has recently shipped ballistic missiles of the Scud type to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

The newspaper further reported that the United States administration has postponed "until further notice" the appointment of a new ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. has not posted an ambassador in Syria since 2005, and the appointment of Ambassador Robert Ford was supposed to get Senate approval on Monday, but did not.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, the decision to postpone the appointment was made following the transfer of truckloads of scud missiles from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, in a shipment sanctioned by the Syrian government. The report is based on quotes from American sources who spoke with Al-Rai Al-Aam's Washington reporter.

The report added that Syria trained Hezbollah fighters in the use of Scud missiles and advanced anti-aircraft missiles last summer, on its soil. The exact type of Scud missile was not specified.

Scud B missiles have a range of up to 300 kilometers, which means they can reach most of Israel. Scud C and D missiles can reach as far south as Eilat.

The report says that Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, passed the Syrian leadership a message from the U.S. administration when he visited Damascus earlier this month. Kerry asked for explanations about the relationship between Syria and Hezbollah, and voiced reservations over Syrian support for the Shi'ite organization.

The American source told the reporter the kind of weapons transported to Hezbollah could start a new war with Israel.

Tensions between Syria, Israel and Lebanon came to the fore most recently in late January, when Israel and Syria traded verbal blows and American and Israeli officials voiced concerns about Hezbollah rearming with the help of Syria and Iran. At the peak of the tension, the Israel Defense Forces held a prescheduled military drill.

However, Israel clarified to the Assad regime that it had no intention of attacking Syria, and even went as far as excluding reserves mobilization from the drill, so as not to alarm the Syrians even further. The steps appear to have had some effect, as tensions eased the following month and comments from all parties became more restrained.

Nevertheless, one of the central issues in the northern arena remains Hezbollah's plans to avenge the 2008 assassination of its senior operative Imad Mughniyeh, which it blames on Israel.

The organization is also building up its stock of advanced Syrian and Iranian weaponry; Israel has voiced particular concern that the organization might acquire anti-aircraft weaponry that would make it difficult for the Israeli Air Force to fly over Lebanon.

Moreover, Hezbollah's arsenal is estimated to contain tens of thousands of rockets capable of reaching nearly any target in Israel. There was a dramatic improvement in the rockets' range, precision and strength despite UN Resolution 1701, which stabilized the northern front but has failed to prevent weapon smuggling.

Israel is closely following the weapon smuggling, and continues to issue warnings. However, Netanyahu's government will find it hard to justify to the international community and even to the public at home a military move to keep the enemies from rearming, which could trigger a Third Lebanon War.

Anarchists' fury fuels Greek riots

An uneasy truce between anarchists and police was shattered following a weekend shooting of a teen. A similar event in 1985 sparked months of daily clashes.

By Nicole Itano, Correspondent, Christian Science Monitor/ December 8, 2008

Athens, Link

Greece's worst rioting in years erupted late Saturday night after an Athens policeman shot and killed a teenage boy in a central neighborhood known as the base of anarchist and other antiestablishment groups.
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Related Stories

* Backstory: In Greece, the culture of protest


Audio: Reporter Nicole Itano

By Sunday morning, with the riots continuing, a trail of devastation had been blazed across central Athens – with the stench of tear gas and smoke from charred vehicles and buildings hanging over parts of the ancient city. The violence quickly spread to other parts of the country, including Greece's second-city, Thessaloniki, and the vacation islands of Crete and Corfu.

The shooting and its violent aftermath threatens to escalate a decades-long conflict that has simmered between police and far-left groups. The conservative government, which was already struggling to stay in power in the wake of a recent land-exchange scandal, attempted to calm the rioters by arresting the two police officers connected with the shooting.

The fatal shooting took place in the Athens neighborhood of Exarchia, a dense warren of concrete apartment buildings home to a mix of students and anarchists. Clashes between police and radicals are common in the neighborhood.

Anarchist groups frequently set off small bombs throughout the city – on Wednesday alone a bomb damaged the offices of the French news service Agence France Presse and arsonists torched a Bosnian embassy car and a bank cash machine.

Brady Kiesling, a former US diplomat, who is writing a book about the Greek militant group November 17, says Greek police have limited power to use force against these groups because public sentiment will not tolerate it. This has resulted in a delicate balance in Exarchia, with neither pushing the other too far. Many Greeks cite the events of November 17, 1973 – a day that is still commemorated, when the army stormed the Athens Polytechnic University and killed a number of striking students – as a reason why the police must be restricted.

"The police stay out of certain areas, unless there's a major emergency, and the anarchists don't trash things badly unless there's a good reason," Mr. Kiesling says. But "once someone gets killed, the doctrine is massive retaliation."

Details of the shooting are disputed, but police issued a statement saying the two officers had been attacked by a group of youths. One officer threw a stun grenade while the other responded with three shots. At least one bullet hit the boy, reported to be 15 or 16. According to police, he died on the way to the hospital.

The last fatal police shooting of a minor in Greece, in 1985, sparked months of nearly daily clashes between police and anarchists. The terrorist group November 17 also bombed a bus full of riot police in retaliation, Kiesling says.

Both officers involved in Saturday's incident have been arrested. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the country's Interior minister, who is responsible for the police, promised punishment for those responsible.

Mr. Pavlopoulos, and his deputy minister, also offered their resignations, a move that was rejected by the prime minister.

"It is inconceivable for there not to be punishment when a person loses their life, particularly when it is a child," Pavlopoulos said in a press conference Sunday morning. The Interior minister also condemned the actions of the rioters. "No outrage, no matter how ideologically established it is, can lead to such incidents as we witnessed last night."

Shortly after the shooting, which took place before 10 p.m., an angry crowd – summoned by text message and the Internet – gathered in Exarchia. They clashed with police, shouting "Murderers in uniform," and burned and looted local shops.

Later that night, the rioters moved to other areas of the city center, burning or damaging at least 31 shops and breaking windows in the tourist neighborhood of Monistiraki and along one of central Athens' major shopping streets, Ermou. Just a few hundred yards from the ancient site of Hadrian's Library, a charred building still smoldered late Sunday morning. Some two dozen police officers were reportedly injured in the clashes.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 2,000 people gathered near the Athens Polytechnic to march towards Athens' central police station in protest of the killings. Greek law bars police from university buildings.

"The feeling is anger," says John Gelis, a 28-year psychologist, shortly before joining the march. "A kid was killed just like that. It's a sign of arrogance by the police. It's an act against democracy."

Mr. Gelis joined in the riots on Saturday night, saying the targets of the unrest included banks and multinational companies, not small businesses. "No one has anything against the little owners."

But some small businesses had been ransacked, including a family-run computer store in the heart of Exarchia. Business owners and residents say they are weary of the unrest. "I'm fed up with this," says Elina Dimitriou, a long-time resident of the neighborhood. "It needs to stop. But I don't know who to blame."

• Material from the Associated Press was used in this story.

Backstory: In Greece, the culture of protest

by Nicole Itano, Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / January 29, 2007 ATHENS Link

I was just a few blocks from home earlier this month when I saw the trouble, or rather smelled it: Ahead, black, acrid smoke spiraled into the air. As fire trucks raced to the scene, sirens blaring, a series of loud explosions shook surrounding buildings.

"A bomb," shrugged one young woman, who minutes before had been marching in a phalanx formation of thousands of university students and teachers. She pointed to several cars on fire a block away. The TV crews were already there, jostling for the best view of flames, while employees at a nearby sandwich stall watched, smoking cigarettes to blunt the smell of burning rubber.

"That's Greece for you," laughed the woman's friend as the march faded into the distance, and the group set off in search of a cafe.

I live in Athens, not Baghdad or Beirut, and the only casualties that day were a Volkswagen and three other cars. One had a petrol bomb thrown through the window and the others, parked nearby, exploded when gas tanks ignited.

Such pyrotechnics don't usually make international news. That is, unless some international target is hit, like the US Embassy was earlier this month. The attacks aren't conducted by Islamist terrorists, and their intent – these days – usually isn't to kill or injure. They're just an extreme form of what modern Greeks call democracy.

This ancient city, considered the birthplace of democracy, is also a hotbed of protest. On any given day, some group – doctors, students, peaceniks, garbage men, prostitutes, and even nuns – is walking off jobs or taking to the streets.

Rare, too, is the week when nothing is bombed, set alight, or otherwise destroyed. In a year here, I've accidentally wandered into more clouds of tear gas than during five years reporting on war and conflict in Africa. No wonder: Authorities report an average of two protests a day in the city – many of which turn destructive. And that's not including strikes, riots, or other forms of dissent.

The morning the cars were burned in my neighborhood, I'd made my way toward Syntagma Square – the heart of modern Athens – along normally busy streets now empty of cars. Outside the little deli where I shop nearly daily, helmeted riot police were clustered in full force, plastic shields resting at their feet, behind a blue armored car blocking the road.

Riot police are a sight I've gotten used to – and that Athenians accept with a shrug and some adjustments. They simply make shopping detours when the downtown is choked off and ship the kids off to grandmothers when schools are shuttered, as they were for months last year. I've even seen waiters scurrying along beside marchers carrying coffee on brass trays to shop owners waiting out the protestors.


"Greeks have a very skeptical view of authority," says Brady Kiesling, a former US diplomat who is researching a book on the Greek Marxist group "November 17." "They think it's in society's best interest that there are little groups out there that are constantly challenging the state."

Greece has a long history of leftist political violence; the notorious November 17 killed 23 people, including US and British diplomats, between 1975 and its capture in 2002. By the time I arrived, though, November 17 had been dismantled. At first, it seemed somehow quaint to me that there were people who still called themselves "anarchists" – after an 18th-century philosophy that imagines an ideal stateless society – who threw petrol bombs at the relatively safe midnight hour at banks and the occasional Starbucks, charring buildings but rarely causing death or injury. Most Greek radical groups have only a handful of members and serve a largely social function, Mr. Kiesling says, comparing them more to football hooligans than to Al Qaeda.

But why so much anarchy in Greece, a developed and stable member of the European Union?

"I think it's easier to be an anarchist in a good climate," Kiesling suggests.

But there's a brutal side to these groups, and living amid the constant protest tests the mildest temper. The same week as the student march in my neighborhood, for example, there were also protests by Pakistani immigrants and phone company operators. The city's doctors were on strike. A tax office and three banks were bombed. Anarchists clashed with police, exploding at least 60 Molotov cocktails. And someone sent a rocket-propelled grenade through a window at the US Embassy at 6 a.m., blowing up the ambassador's private bathroom. The group claiming responsibility said the attack was a response to US involvement in Iraq. (Greece ranks no travel warning on the US State Department website, which says "violent civil disorder is rare" here.)

Nicholas Giannetos, a silver-haired tailor who dresses Athens' elite, works out of a shop on Stadiou street, a main protest route. He's philosophical about his countrymen's penchant for taking to the streets. While his neighbors – mostly shops selling diamonds and other luxury goods – quickly shutter their windows when the first chants of a protest can be heard in the distance, he keeps his doors open. Sure, he admits, they drive away business. But so does rain.

"We think it's important for this country to remain democratic," he says, dismissing with a flick of his hand the small number of protests that turn violent. "They're just doing it to make a show."

Mr. Giannetos has been running his shop in central Athens for more than two decades. After only a year here, I'm still green. But I've learned to recognize the sound of a tear-gas canister exploding. I know that marchers wearing gas masks and carrying red flags are looking for trouble. And when the garbage men go on strike in the heat of summer, I know it's best to dump rubbish in a bin as far from your own house as possible.

One day earlier this month, I went into the belly of the beast to ask protestors what drove them to the streets.

"This is a culture of protest," explained Petros Constantinou, a man I met up with at another recent student march. In the aftermath of the country's oppressive 1967-74 military dictatorship, he said, Greeks won't accept any limits on the right to protest. "We will defend it very seriously, with our blood."

Mr. Constantinou wasn't a student; he was, in fact, something of a professional agitator. Officially, he was a spokesman for the Stop War Coalition, but he joined the protests of groups allied with his.

Over the loud speaker, which had been blasting local bands performing bad Greek rap and heavy metal, a man announced that some protestors had been arrested in a scuffle with police. Nearby, the clean white walls of a Hermès store were decorated with giant anarchy symbols, and the ground was littered with fliers pontificating about everything from the death of Saddam Hussein to animal rights.

I asked why so many protests turned violent.

"Most of the time it's not the anarchists that are the problem, it's the police," Constantinou insisted. I wasn't entirely convinced. I'd seen the marchers spoiling for a fight, masked and clutching nasty-looking clubs. In TV footage later, these militant protestors could be seen charging rows of police, who sprayed tear gas and held their ground, seeming remarkably restrained.

Most protestors, like 16-year-old Polydefkis Kyriakakis, a pony-tailed high school student who'd ditched school with friends, had no desire to tussle with the police. They were only there to show solidarity with university students. Her parents, she said, approved. In their day, they'd protested too.

"It's our right to protest," she said, lounging with friends on banners with revolutionary slogans laid out like blankets. The march was over, but no one seemed inclined to move and unblock the street. "The fact that we can close the city center each time there is a protest like this, it makes it so that people have to listen."

Constantinou agreed. Each protest, he said, gives strength to "the movement" – a vague coalition of groups with left-wing causes.

How many protests has he gone to in the past year? He laughed.

"These days I only go to the ones that we're organizing," he said.

And how many times had he been tear gassed? He chuckled.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hope Breathes Beneath Wounds; Bodies Ravaged by Terrorism, Survivors Savor the Small Steps

Article from:

It took 64 days for Louise Kurtz to see the sun again. She had not imagined, from her bed in intensive care, how sweet the moment would be. It came unexpectedly one day when she came upon a window in a hospital hallway.

Outside, the leaves were flecks of red and yellow and brown, a brilliant patchwork on sunlit trees. It was warm, but autumn had come. "It's so beautiful," she whispered to her husband as he pressed his face next to hers.

Until then, the larger world had all but faded for Louise Kurtz -- time virtually stopping the moment that she managed to escape the burning Pentagon, but not the harm and horror of its flames. When doctors examined her wounded body that day, they found that nearly 70 percent of it had been burned.

For Kurtz, the toll of Sept. 11 was unclear for a long time.

It was much the same in the next room, and the next, and across the way, because all of those severely burned at the Pentagon ended up here at Washington Hospital Center, the region's long-established burn-treatment facility.

In all, they were just seven men and women, not the many dozens or hundreds that doctors had expected.

But for Washington, these scarred survivors became the truest living vision of the terror and torment suffered by so many on the day of the attacks.

They lost pieces of their skin, patches of their hair, parts of their ears. They lost the use of their lungs. They lost days -- many, many days -- when instead of eating dinner with friends or raking leaves in the yard, they lay in bed, attached to blinking monitors.

In this kind of netherworld, they have endured a combined 105 surgeries, with spouses sleeping in waiting rooms and children calling for missing parents and pastors clutching trembling hands to pray.

For many weeks, theirs was a fragile existence apart from the outside world -- not dead, yet not fully saved.

The good times came when a patient spoke a first sentence. Took breaths without a ventilator. Walked from a room into a hallway. But there were setbacks that followed many bursts of progress -- infections, pneumonia, even cardiac arrest.

So many chances to die, even after so much hope.

This was more real than they could bear on the late September day that one of them slipped away, right in the intensive care unit. Antoinette Sherman, 36, an Army budget analyst who had extensive smoke inhalation injuries, never made it through her second week.

The other families were heavy with grief.

For no one here forgets that so many at the Pentagon never even made it to a hospital. Close friends are dead, and bosses and co- workers, too.

The nation has, in many ways, begun to move on. Funerals have been held. War has been declared. Troops have gone to Afghanistan. Suspects are being pursued.

But in the hospital, life goes slower.

The day before Thanksgiving, Navy Lt. Kevin Shaeffer became the last of the Pentagon patients to move out of intensive care and get a room in the burn-rehabilitation wing. It was a big moment, a long- awaited sign of medical stability.

In another room, a few days earlier, Kurtz appreciated the same change. With her husband and mother at her bedside, the 49-year-old civilian accountant took note that her new room in the rehab ward was outfitted with a window, large and prominent.

"You can tell," she said, "if it's night or day."

There is a purple Mylar balloon floating in the corner of Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell's hospital room. It says "Happy Birthday" in festive letters, a leftover from the November day he turned 40 -- here, amid crisp, white sheets and sterile bandages.

That night, a buddy came to visit, and the two of them watched a college football game on television. His wife, Mel, was there; she is always there. Dinner was food he had been craving: a burrito supreme from Taco Bell.

This was not the big party his wife once imagined for him, but Birdwell had no complaints. "By the grace of God, I'm still here," he said, sitting stiffly in a chair, his bandaged arms propped on pillows and his forehead a band of scab-pocked temporary skin.

His wife does not mind saying that this skin came from a cadaver. It protects him from infection until his own skin can be grafted there. Amid the horrors Birdwell has endured, cadaver skin is nothing to wince at -- a medical necessity, a wound dressing.

This is what Birdwell remembers of Sept. 11: He was surrounded by flames. There was no way out. He was on fire. He did something, he said, that was out of character: He gave up. He knew he would die. It hurt him to think of his wife and child.

"Jesus, I'm coming to see you," he called out.

But then, "when I finally collapsed on the floor," he said, "I collapsed under a sprinkler."

It has been a dark and painful course back toward the living. Birdwell's stay in intensive care lasted 26 days. His lungs were damaged by smoke. His face was terribly burned -- as were his arms, his hands, his ears, his legs, his back.

He has gotten by, he said, with the help of his religious faith. Birdwell pointed to a quotation on an erasable bulletin board in his hospital room. He and his wife found it as they searched the Bible for help.

From 1 Peter 5:10, it says: "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."

He reflects: "First and foremost, I couldn't have gotten to where I am without Christ being in my life. And without Mel being my wife."

His wife kisses his tender head.

Birdwell knows that he still has a long way to go.

His arm is in a cast. His eye is bandaged from surgery. His hair, growing in a soft patch straight up from his head, makes him look like Ernie on Sesame Street, he jokes.

"No, Bert," Mel Birdwell says with a laugh.

There are still good days and bad days. This one is good. Birdwell finds his naturally good humor, banters with his wife -- and answers a call, on a voice-activated phone, that begins with his son's easy greeting.

"Hey, Dad."

"Hey, buddy."

"Is Mom there?"

There is, in this exchange, a hint of life as it was, when Brian Birdwell lived in a town house in Lorton with his wife and son and golden retriever -- and commuted 17 miles to a job in the Army's office of the assistant chief of staff for installation management.

Since then, so much has gone missing -- like the days and weeks when Birdwell did not see his only child because the sight of Birdwell broke the boy's heart and made him cry. And the 12-year-old insisted on not crying in front of his father.

He wanted to be strong for his father.

The Birdwells did not press the issue.

Now, Matthew comes more often; sometimes he plays video games on the television in his father's room.

On Day 66, Matthew strolls into the room with the Birdwells' senior pastor, the Rev. Michael Easley, from Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield.

"Hey, Matthew, you made it," Birdwell says happily.

His son nods and sits on the edge of the bed.

On one wall of his hospital room hangs a family portrait from two years ago. It shows Brian, with dark, neat hair, trim in his Army uniform, standing behind his smiling wife and red-haired son.

Their lives will never be the same.

But Birdwell takes comfort in the goodwill that has come his way, in the form of hundreds and hundreds of get-well cards and gifts from members of his favorite NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and daily meals from fellow members of his church.

One day, he was visited by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, Army chief of staff, who awarded him the Purple Heart as he lay in bed just before an operation to attach new skin to his arms.

Shinseki pinned the medal to Birdwell's pillow.

Just before he left, Shinseki told him: "I have to see the president in an hour. Anything you want me to tell him?"

"Keep kicking Taliban butt," Birdwell said.

Not long after Sept. 11, Birdwell himself had met the president.

He was awake for President Bush's visit, as it turned out -- and aware enough to strain to return the salute the president had offered. He lifted his badly burned hand toward his injured forehead. When he could not quite reach it, he tried to bend his body toward his hand.

The president's eyes filled with tears.

Bush held firm until the wounded soldier let go.

Two-and-a-half months later, on Thanksgiving Day, Birdwell met the larger world on its own ground for the first time. He was allowed to leave the hospital and go back to Immanuel Bible Church for just one service.

At the service, church leaders, who had not been sure that Birdwell would be able to attend, played a videotape they had taken of him at the hospital. Then, before 1,100 people, one of the pastors motioned toward a pew in the front.

"Would you do me the favor," he said, "of welcoming back Brian Birdwell, a good soldier of Christ, and his wife, Mel?"

The congregation rose and delivered its applause -- long and passionate.

John Yates can tell his story. Once he could not. For weeks, he said nothing to anyone, not even Ellen, his wife. He could not watch the news. When after almost a month he finally saw a picture of the gaping gash in the Pentagon, he was stunned.

"I said, 'Oh, my God.' I was a basket case for a little bit," he said.

More than two months have passed. His arms are still so red they look scalded. His hands are seized by shooting pains. His face is scarlet, and his head is raw and scabbed from bleeding. Nearly 32 percent of his body was burned.

But Yates has come a long way. He is the only patient in the group who was stable enough to go home to Fredericksburg. He is the only one who has set foot in the Pentagon again -- with his grafted hands and protective body suiting.

Now, he has grown more comfortable with his story.

He remembers the thunder of the crash, the acrid smoke, the darkness. He remembers hearing people say that there was no way out. Yates told them yes, there was. As a civilian security manager in the Army's office of the deputy chief of staff for personnel, he knew the office layout so well that he had dreamed about it.

His memory is fuzzy, but at some point, he said, he started to crawl toward voices.

When two Navy men found him in a corridor and led him toward a courtyard, he looked at himself numbly. "I could see the skin hanging off my hands," he recalls.

He lost the skin on the backs of both hands.

Now, on Day 65, a hospital therapist pours hot wax on the recently grafted skin that has replaced the burned layers. The therapists say that the heat helps loosen his joints so they can recover a wider range of motion, and the rich wax softens his skin.

His face tightens during a 20-minute period while tightly wrapped bandages constrain his wax-covered hands.

His foot tap-tap-taps through long minutes of pain.

"I come here every day and they hurt me," he jokes.

There is a hint of truth in his words. The severely burned learn quickly that there is no recovery without more pain.

First, doctors must remove the burned skin. Then they shave off some portion of healthy skin -- 0.012 of an inch deep -- to get the material they need for repairing the burned area. The healthy skin gets grafted to the wound.

Once the surgery is done -- and each patient has had many surgeries -- long days and weeks of therapy begin so the new skin can one day stretch like the old skin.

"You hear the phrase, 'No pain, no gain.' If you don't force it beyond what you did yesterday, you don't get anywhere," Yates said.

Recovery has many other difficulties.

"The hardest thing for me is asking, 'Why me?' -- why did this have to happen to me, and why am I still here when people standing on three feet of either side of me are not?"

He reflected, "Every morning, I wake up and say, 'Thank you,' " his voice catching. "The lady an arm's-length away," he said softly, "they still haven't found her body."

In all, Yates can count more than 20 dead colleagues and friends.

"I have a lot to do in the next few months. I have letters to write. I have graves to go visit," he said.

Yates is not sure how or when life will feel normal.

He can't cook. He can't get his burn garments on. Unlocking a door with a key has become a multistep process. His therapy will go on for a year.

He and his wife once had plans to travel, to enjoy the tropical sun and faraway beaches. On Sept. 11, they had been married just 16 months -- a second for each of them, in a ceremony in the Bahamas. They envisioned good years stretching out long before them.

Yates had turned 50 on July 4.

Whatever the future brings, he said: "I look forward to each day now. I'm just grateful to still be here."

It took 63 days for Blanca Shaeffer to hear the sound of her husband's voice. When she did, Kevin sounded strangely froggy. He was speaking through a tracheotomy. The pitch was not the same. Not that it mattered to Blanca.

She listened instead to what he said: Tootsabella. She chuckled. It was his nickname for her -- and a small joy amid weeks of worry and heartache.

Kevin Shaeffer, a Navy lieutenant, was not only severely burned at the Pentagon -- on 42 percent of his body -- but he also inhaled aerosolized jet fuel, the doctors said. The nature of his lung injuries was different than the other patients'.

His recovery, his wife said, has been "up and down, up and down, up and really down."

Shaeffer, like the others, had to fend off infections, which can be deadly for burn victims. But his gallbladder also started failing, and it needed to be removed. He developed pneumonia. Twice on one terrible day -- Oct. 4 -- he completely crashed and nearly died.

Shaeffer awoke the next morning with no memory of the trouble. "What happened?" he asked.

What he had going for him was youth. At 29, he was the youngest of the Pentagon seven. His wife, his sweetheart at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and also a Navy lieutenant, said the other great resource was his natural optimism.

"He has had an incredible spirit and an incredible strength through this," she said.

Kevin said he understands how narrowly he averted death.

After the hijacked jetliner crashed, he called out to his colleagues in the Navy Command Center and got no answer. It was eerie and silent and pitch black.

He escaped through a crater in the wall.

Later, as he was being treated by doctors at another hospital, he thought he heard someone say that he had a 50 percent chance of dying. He grabbed the nurse nearest him.

"You don't understand," he insisted. "I'm alive. I'm going to live."

In one of his first lucid moments in intensive care, he asked his wife about his co-workers. "It was hard to tell him, but I couldn't lie," she said.

Everyone else in his office that day had died.

So there was grief mingled with his own struggle to survive. It was a fragile time. And when news started spreading about anthrax spores, the Shaeffers put aside their mail. But like many horrors during the past several months, they ultimately accepted that one, too. One day, Blanca looked at her husband and said, "I think we need to stop being scared."

They resumed reading the stacks of cards they have gotten from schoolchildren and strangers and military families. On down days, the mail has made a big difference, Kevin said.

"It helps me keep my focus on the bigger picture, on how fortunate I am to be here," he said.

As her husband slowly improved, Blanca started writing down the achievements. His first word. Their first hug. His first breath without a ventilator. One day, she held out his hands as he sat up in bed. Kevin swung his feet. She had the CD player on.

They swayed -- their first dance.

For so long, all that has mattered has been the effect of Sept. 11.

"Our whole world has been turned upside down," she said. "It's like we're in this time warp right now where everything is temporary and once we get home it'll be permanent again."

What the future holds for Kevin is not entirely clear. Just last week, the Shaeffers learned that Kevin may be discharged this week. He will then spend two weeks in the hospital hotel so he can be close to his daily therapy, then go home to Fredericksburg.

"We're hoping to be home for Christmas," Blanca said. And Kevin is hoping for a game of golf by summer.

Still, the recovery process is long, they know.

"The life that he used to have, it's not the same anymore," Blanca said.

Every morning before physical therapy, John Yates stops to see Brian Birdwell. They did not know each other before Sept. 11. Now they are good friends, a rare pleasure that has arisen from the heartache.

One recent morning, Yates walks into Birdwell's room, and as they talk about therapy -- and pain -- Yates notices that his friend's left arm, in a cast, is not well-supported.

Yates finds pillows and tucks them under the arm.

"Thanks, big guy," Birdwell says.

The friendship has developed in spite of the limits they faced for so long, with surgeries and woozy recovery periods and occasional setbacks.

"It's like joining the Army," Yates says. "You don't know all these people. But you're thrown together, and you form friendships."

In hallways and waiting rooms, similar bonds have developed between family members. In the first weeks and months, they were centered around the intensive care unit, on the fourth floor. Now their lives converge in the rehabilitation wing, its pastel-pink walls adorned with crayon-colored get-well wishes from classes across the country.

In the burn center, nurses and doctors have worked long hours since Sept. 11. Although they have seen others in the past who were as injured as the Pentagon seven, the center's director, Marion H. Jordan, said there have never been so many at once. Along with the seven patients who started in intensive care, two others with less severe injuries were treated solely in the rehabilitation ward for several weeks.

Here, Pentagon families have come to know each other intimately.

"We hug each other," said Ellen Yates. "We kiss each other all the time. We see each other's relatives, and we immediately do the same. . . . I feel as close to these people as I do to my close friends."

She added: "I have cried on everyone's shoulder at one time or another."

Her husband and other patients point out that the trauma has been unduly hard on their spouses -- living at a hospital for weeks on end, watching them suffer, trying to help, worrying about the future.

Most of the intensive care patients have had spouses around constantly. At first, they slept in waiting rooms; later, many got rooms at the hospital's hotel with the help of the American Red Cross. Only recently have most spouses gone back to work.

Family members understand the natural emotional overload. At times, they feel like breaking.

"Someone could give you a dirty look, or you could think they did, and you just lose it," Ellen Yates said.

Mel Birdwell remembered how even on the first horrible day -- as she anguished in a hospital waiting room -- the family of Antoinette Sherman reached out to her.

When the Sherman family's pastor arrived and ushered relatives into a side room to pray, the family "grabbed my hand and drew me in there with them," she said.

Just a week later, Mike Kurtz remembers getting off the elevator and feeling hurt as he saw the solemn faces and heard the news that Sherman had passed away.

"I died for a minute there," said Kurtz, who added he feels strongly that "seven friends met on the 11th of September."

"We all thought that God, having brought them this far, would save them all."

The families predict that their friendships will outlast their time in the hospital. Said Mel Birdwell: "We will know each other's grandchildren."

Mike Kurtz holds a photo from 1970. It shows a baby-faced couple, at 19 and 18, shortly before their marriage. The young woman is Louise. The marriage is now in its 31st year.

For weeks, Mike feared losing his wife. He was at her bedside day and night -- talking, reading cards and letters to her, comforting, watching. For weeks, she talked very little. He felt helpless. He found himself asking her four questions again and again:

Are you breathing okay?

Are you in pain?

Are you hot?

Are you cold?

"I ask those four questions because I can do something about those things. Those are the only things I could control for her," said Mike, a beefy retired Air Force master sergeant who works for the Justice Department.

His wife, he said, had just been hired at the Pentagon. Sept. 11 was just her second day on the job.

That day, Mike walked into the hospital and noticed a bed with a body wrapped in bandages.

"I wonder if that person was hurt in the Pentagon," he had said to his son.

It was Louise, he soon discovered -- petite, precise, loyal Louise. Louise, who is a size 8 and loves pink carnations and the color blue and Nora Roberts books. Louise, who crochets and once ripped out a nearly complete blanket and started over because she found a mistake in the middle of it.

The Kurtzes live in a town house and have two car payments and two grown children. When they eat out, it is at Pizza Hut or Lone Star Steakhouse. Last May, they took a cruise to Alaska, their first vacation in 30 years.

They are raising a granddaughter, Brittany, who had her 14th birthday while Louise was in the hospital. But it was not the same without Louise.

"This was my wife for 31 years, my soul mate," Mike said.

In 2 1/2 months, Louise endured surgery after surgery -- 30 in all -- as doctors worked to graft skin on her face, her arms, her legs. She not only lost most of her skin, but also all her fingers. Recently, portions of both outer ears, which had been blackened, crumbled and fell away.

"I hurt to see her hurt," her husband said in a tough moment the next day. "She was robbed."

Louise's medical setbacks, as it turned out, came not in the early going, but in Week 8. Suddenly her breathing was no longer stable. She was back on a ventilator.

During Week 10, while she was still in intensive care, her husband was still cautious: "We're getting through the woods, but we're not through the woods yet. . . . You can't let your guard down. It's not over."

Most of the time, Mike tries to think of how to make Louise's changed future come together. He bought a Nautilus exercise machine with two seats for workouts. He is thinking about changing the doorknobs so Louise will be better able to use them.

He tells her: "When we get home, baby, you're going to drop things, and I'm going to pick them up for you. It will take time."

But he worries. Will she be able to do a load of wash? Bake a cake? Care for herself? If she cannot do those things, he knows she will suffer even more.

"Louise is very independent," he said.

Jordan, the chief of the burn unit, said he believes that in three to nine months, "virtually everybody has a very good possibility" of being able to care for themselves, including Louise.

The Kurtzes are hoping for as much normalcy as possible.

For now, Mike is with his wife from 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. every weekday, and then he makes the 60-minute drive home to Stafford to be with Brittany. He stays late on surgery days and weekends.

Just before Louise goes to sleep, he phones her one last time. He was surprised last week at her answer when he said, "How are you doing, honey?"

Louise told him: "I'm watching 'The West Wing.' "

The teasing banter between the Kurtzes is picking up where it seems to have left off Sept. 11. She still has not said much about what happened that day. She has not asked about the turn of world events.

But for all the dark and pain-filled times, the small improvements can be exhilarating.

Just Friday, Louise walked, completely on her own, from her room in one part of the burn-rehabilitation wing to the physical therapy room down the hall. It was one of the first times she had walked without help.

Her legs carried her steadily, step after step. Her feet were flat on the floor. Her husband walked beside her, and Jordan and several nurses looked on, smiling. For a moment, it seemed that the hallway was brighter.

As Louise finally approached the therapy room, she looked into her husband's happy face and asked, "Wouldn't you say it's a great day to be alive?"

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Donna St. George. "Hope Breathes Beneath Wounds; Bodies Ravaged by Terrorism, Survivors Savor the Small Steps." The Washington Post. Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Co. 2001. HighBeam Research.>.