Canadian documentary film director/producer Simcha Jacobovici got sick of hearing the anonymous victim counts on reports of terror attacks in Israel.
"A lot of the times when terror attacks happen in Israel, the Israeli victims become mere statistics. You see the numbers, but no one spends any time on the victims themselves," says the 51-year-old producer of Emmy award-winning documentaries such as The Plague Fighters (Ebola: Inside an Outbreak) and A Child's Grief, about the sex trafficking of children in India.
"We thought it was important to put a human face on terrorism."
That's why Jacobovici, along with co-producer Ric Bienstock and filmmaker Tim Wolochatiuk, decided to create Impact of Terror, a 40-minute documentary that goes behind the headlines with an in-depth look at the August 9, 2001, Sbarro restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, to explore how the effects radiate beyond the immediate act.
For almost a year, film crews followed survivors โ including Miriam Shushan, 18, who lost her 10-year-old sister Yocheved in the attack โ to discover just how deeply their lives were altered.
"[We discovered that] the event continues to send a ripple through people's lives," says Jacobovici, listing psychological, emotional, and physical trauma among the lasting impacts of terrorism. But those are not the only long-term effects.
"I think the amazing thing is how strong and resilient these people are."
He explains that not one of the victims they interviewed spoke from a place of anger or vengeance.
"What comes across most strongly to me is the nobility of these people and their families," he says. "To me, that's what made the film a human journey. One thing this age of terrorism has done is to highlight how noble the people in democratic societies can be."
Although he maintains that the film can serve as a therapeutic device for Israelis, Jacobovici is confident that it will have its most significant impact on audiences abroad.
"On one level, the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so politicized, with Israel often being portrayed as the aggressor, that people can even look at something like the murder of an Israeli child through political glasses," he says.
"Our hope is that the film will force people to deal with tragedy on a human level. Personally, I think you would have to have a heart of stone not to connect with the people in this film.
"We didn't set out to change the world," he concludes, "but hopefully, by connecting people abroad to the stories of people in Israel, perhaps for a short moment โ even a nanosecond โ people abroad will feel the same thing Israelis feel. Terror is not just something that Israel endures; this story is an international one, and I hope the film will give that story a human face."
Three explosions shook popular resorts on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where Israelis were vacationing Thursday night at the close of a Jewish holiday, Egyptian officials and witnesses said.
The first blast, about 10 p.m., shook the Hilton hotel in the Taba resort, only yards from the Israeli border. Ehud Yaari, a reporter for Israel's Channel One TV, quoting Egyptian officials, said 23 people were killed.
Israeli medics said they had transferred 22 wounded people to hospitals, but there were believed to be many more. Witnesses said there were people trapped under the ruins of the western side of the hotel.
Two smaller blasts occurred about two hours later in the area of Ras al Shitan, a camping area full of Israeli tourists south of Taba, witnesses said.
Bush Defends Iraq Invasion Despite Report
Faced with a harshly critical new report, President Bush conceded Thursday that Iraq did not have the stockpiles of banned weapons he had warned of before the invasion last year, but insisted that "we were right to take action" against Saddam Hussein.
The Associated Press article you reprinted about the Duelfer report was headlined "Reason for war refuted." This headline, and the first couple of paragraphs of the article, completely distort the main findings of the report. They highlight the sentence under the heading Nuclear, Duelfer Report, page 11 of 19:
"Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to the 1991 war, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years."
However, they completely ignore the sentence immediately following that one:
"Nevertheless, after 1991, Saddam did express his intent to retain the intellectual capital developed during the Iraqi Nuclear Program. Senior Iraqis, several of them from the Regime's inner circle, told ISG they assumed Saddam would restart a nuclear program once U.N. sanctions ended."
Furthermore, the article - and, indeed, almost all media coverage - has downplayed the stunning conclusions on the first page of the report:
"He [Saddam] wanted to end [U.N.] sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) when sanctions were lifted."
By 2000-2001, Saddam had managed to mitigate many of the effects of sanctions and undermine their international support. Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq's WMD capability โ?which was essentially destroyed in 1991โ? after sanctions were removed and Iraq's economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability "in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities."
The entire Duelfer Report is over 1,000 pages long, but the key findings are summarized in 19 pages. I encourage everyone to go to the link I have provided and decide for themselves whether Saddam, left to his own devices, would have resumed his WMD program. I, for one, think the Duelfer Report is very strong evidence that the risks of allowing Saddam to remain in place far outweighed the risks of removing him.
zombie's Hall of Shame
We've long agreed with those who think some intelligence shakeup is needed, especially at the CIA. But this means reviving a risk-taking ethos within Langley, especially in recruiting more agents overseas. The lack of an "intelligence czar" in Washington wasn't the reason the CIA didn't have a single agent inside Saddam Hussein's circle.Intelligence Stampede
Yet Congress is falling instead for that lowest common Beltway denominator -- bureaucratic musical chairs. The details seem to be changing every day inside the legislative maw. But the basic proposal is to create a new layer of bureaucracy to police the old layers. A new National Intelligence Director with a staff of several hundred will ride herd over the CIA, the DIA, the NSA, the FBI and the Pentagon, and somehow present policy makers with all of the proper information and advice. Does anyone really believe this?
Leave aside the wisdom of disrupting our war-fighting institutions in the middle of a not-so-cold terror war. As Henry Kissinger told the Senate Appropriations Committee on September 21, the danger of an all-powerful intelligence czar is that you will get more intelligence conformity, not less. One reason policy makers can get different intelligence perspectives now is because the services are divided into different bureaucracies. If everyone suddenly reports to one master, the bureaucratic incentives are for everyone to want to please him.
Over time, in fact, the CIA might come back to dominate the supposedly independent director. Bureaucratic blobs tend to absorb invading bodies, after all, especially policy "czars." Except that if this "reform" passes, a President might no longer get the competing views from the Pentagon because its intelligence arms will have been wrested away from the Defense Secretary to report to the same new national director.
Such a move violates the first rule of management, which is to align accountability with responsibility -- in this case the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence with the Defense Secretary. Worse, it runs the risk of separating intelligence from the war fighters who need it. One genuine success of recent years has been the integration of real-time intelligence with commanders on the battlefield, as Congressman Duncan Hunter notes nearby. So why attempt to fix what isn't broken?
The concept animating the current proposals, if there is one, seems to be the Goldwater-Nichols Pentagon reform of 1986. But that was a bureaucratic shakeup within a single department, and even that took many years to think through properly. The intelligence changes now whipping through the House and Senate would apply across the entire government, and in any case are being imposed by politicians who have given the subject at most a few hours of thought.
If nothing else, a change of this magnitude deserves more deliberation. That's the view of such national security pros as Dr. Kissinger, as well as George Shultz, David Boren, Bill Bradley, Sam Nunn, Gary Hart, Robert Gates and William Cohen, among many others. Late last month they issued a joint warning that "rushing in with solutions before we understand all the problems is a recipe for failure."
The list of elected officials who are embarrassing themselves in this episode is longer even than usual. It includes Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain, who know better but late in their careers seem to be latching onto anything that will win them media huzzahs. John Kerry grabbed the issue as a political club against President Bush, who has responded by playing me-too, much as he did on campaign-finance reform. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans have added their own parochial anti-immigration provisions -- which, if we're lucky, will offend enough people to kill the whole thing.
Worst of all are the 9/11 Commissioners, who settled on this furniture reshuffle as their own internal compromise to save themselves from partisan dysfunction, and have since exploited the fear of another attack to ram this through a frightened Congress. What a tragic irony it would be if the body that was supposed to help us avoid another 9/11 ended up making another one more likely.
The mini-series ["Another Woman"] that aired in March tells the story of a middle-class, married woman secretly suffering from terminal cancer and unable to bear children. She suggests her husband take her friend as his second wife. The second wife promptly becomes pregnant, but shortly after, so does the first wife.
Several hundred female activists last month staged a protest near the Tehran headquarters of the state television the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting condemning "Another Woman" and other programming that they say conveys a false, denigrating picture of Iranian women.
"Stop broadcasting series with anti-women content and make a serious attempt to reflect the real picture of women's activities in different fields and in the rest of the world," the protesters said in a statement.
Marzieh Mortazi-Langhroudi, a political activist who writes about women's issues, said the programs such as "Another Woman" send a dangerous message that polygamy is an acceptable practice and that women are second-class citizens.
In a commentary published in an Iranian newspaper, Mortazi-Langhroudi described stock female characters that appear repeatedly on state television. The most common is the "traditional woman," a plump, subservient wife with a sad face wearing the chador, the black garment that covers a woman from head to toe. She cooks, cleans and sleeps in the same chador and is always insisting that the father be obeyed.
At meal time, the father sits in a special place as the traditional wife serves out the food with a big spoon. She has an ugly name, such as Zaif, which means "weak." Her husband has a strong, manly name, is well-respected in the community and has wise things to say.
According to Mortazi-Langhroudi, another stock character is a less traditional woman who works as a nurse, seamstress or secretary. She wears make-up and more colorful clothes. Her husband is unhappy with her and she has arguments with her children. Then there are female artists and writers who are usually the object of ridicule, always portrayed as emotionally unstable, depressed and irritating.
In current affairs programs, female anchors are often relegated to hosting shows on cooking, handicrafts and sewing, she wrote. "Is this all that Iranian women are? Is this the reality of Iranian families?"
If a majority of university students were women, Mortazi-Langhroudi asked: "Have they picked a minority to represent the majority?"
The preamble to Iran's constitution promises to uphold the rights of women and acknowledges women's suffering under the rule of the former monarchy. But Mortazi-Langhroudi said IRIB has failed to live up to this ideal.
"They should apologize to the honorable, hard-working women of Iran."
More than 10 million Afghans will have the opportunity to cast ballots to choose their president on Saturday, in the first direct election for head of state in the nation's 5,000-year history.
Three years ago, few predicted that Afghans could reach this historic milestone. Yet with the world's assistance, they have seized the moment and are now poised to take another major stride toward joining the ranks of the world's democratic nations.
After the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan faced enormous challenges, the lack of a legitimate political system, the existence of warlords with private militias, the absence of effective national institutions -- and desperate poverty. Though none of these problems has been fully overcome, significant progress is now being made against all.
Step by step, the Afghans are rebuilding an effective state and political system. At last year's Constitutional Loya Jirga (or political assembly), they approved the most progressive constitution not only in Afghan history, but also in the Islamic world. At the loya jirga, all political groups accepted a set of rules for deciding who governs, as well as on the limits of state power. And all ethnic groups -- Pushtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and others -- are fully vested in the constitutional process to elect the president, the parliament, and provincial and local councils.
Afghans, with the support of the international community, are breaking the back of warlordism. Customs revenues increasingly flow to the national government, rather than to the pockets of regional strongmen. President Hamid Karzai has appointed new governors and police chiefs in most of the country's provinces. He has removed leaders with private militias from positions of military command or transferred them away from the regions in which their personal networks and bases of power were entrenched.
Most of the heavy weapons in the country -- and all of those in the capital of Kabul -- have been cantoned under the control of the Afghan National Army (ANA). A national agreement on the demobilization of militias has resulted in about 15,000 fighters -- about one-third of the total -- returning to civilian life and will see all militias disbanded by the middle of next year.
The job is not done, but the days of those who have conducted themselves as warlords are numbered. The warlords know it. The sun is setting on their way of life. Some seek to reform their ways, cutting their ties with the dying institution of private militias and looking to find their place in emerging national institutions. Those who do not reform ultimately will have no place of power or prestige in the new Afghanistan.
At the same time, Afghanistan's national institutions are taking shape. The Afghan National Army now numbers more than 15,000 troops, with deployments underway and regional commands being established in every region.
Progress is accelerating toward the goal of a 70,000-troop force. Average Afghans often say, "Where the ANA goes, stability follows." More than 28,000 members of the national police have undergone initial training and equipping. The Afghan government has launched a program to rebuild its administrative capacity in the more than 350 district centers.
Year-on-year progress in state building has been significant. Though much remains to be done, momentum is clearly gathering.
Economically, Afghanistan has experienced a peace dividend of growth rates in the legal economy exceeding 15% for three years. Inflation is low, and the new currency is maintaining a stable exchange rate. Several banks have started doing business in Kabul and other cities. Agricultural production is increasing steadily. Thousands of new small businesses have opened.
The rebuilding of the country's primary roads -- led by the U.S.-Japanese-Saudi work on the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway -- is well under way. The ring road and the links to regional networks, all of which are scheduled for completion in the next three years, will recreate the Afghan land bridge between Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia, and re-establish a historic market that now accounts for more than $4 trillion.
The best market test to understand how Afghans view the future is the fact that 3.3 million refugees have returned from Pakistan and Iran since 2002 -- the largest voluntary repatriation in history. These refugees would not return unless they believed the quality of life for their families was better in Afghanistan.
While a positive trajectory exists in all of these areas, Afghans and their friends know that challenges remain.
The remnants of the Taliban and other terrorist organizations continue to conduct a low-grade insurgency from sanctuaries in neighboring countries. The explosion of opium production will need to be reversed in coming years, through concerted action to suppress production and provide alternative livelihoods.
In speaking with Afghans, they say that life is immeasurably better than under the Taliban, and that they are profoundly grateful for the help received from the United States and the rest of the world. However, we all know that, to succeed fully in Afghanistan, we must sustain the positive momentum developed to date for at least five years.
If we do so, Afghanistan will realize its enormous upside potential, both by improving the lives of a people who have suffered immense tragedy for a quarter-century, and by consolidating a landmark victory in the war against extremists and terrorists. This will be a major step toward the necessary political transformation of the wider region.
To admit oneโs flaws and mistakes, to correct and repent, challenges a person of any nationality. In Muslim culture, however, it is inconceivable. To acknowledge one's shortcomings before first blaming others would bring deep shame and dishonor not only to the individual but to his or her entire family. Those who admit fault, even unintentional guilt, are regarded as foolish. If the mistake is a cultural taboo, one's reputation may be scarred for life and the perpetrator might end up brutally punished.
In Arab society, I was discouraged from sinning out of fear of a wrathful God โ and fear of society's cruel punishment, which awaited sinners right here on earth. There was no reward for loving humanity as whole, striving to improve oneself, and bringing out the best in the human spirit. Many aimed only to please brutal dictators, currying favor and wealth at the expense of their fellow Arabs. Such widespread corruption in a religious society may seem paradoxical. But in Friday prayers at the mosque, no one mentioned the common sin of wronging oneโs neighbor, of stepping on him in a rush to self-promotion. Evil was always out there, never in here. Arabs talked eagerly of old glory and the Middle Eastโs contributions to the world, but they refused to tolerate discussion of what their communities can do to end terrorism. Those who had the courage to be self-critical were harshly punished. Many others feared shame โ and having to face uncomfortable truths โ surrounding the negative aspects in Arab and Muslim culture. No one can deny the current sad state of Middle Eastern society. Terrorism flourishes in every Muslim country, poisoning the world. War and genocide have ravaged communities of Muslims and non-Muslims in the Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and Kuwait, and the list goes on. Terrorists burn churches, take refuge in Muslim holy shrines, behead Jews, destroy Buddha temples, and weaken economies โ and the Arab media react with deafening silence.
Despite its wealth from oil, the Arab world is among the poorest societies on Earth. The once-great Nile Valley lies amid pollution and garbage. With rampant unemployment and low average incomes, poor citizens must bribe government officials to survive. And yet, Arab media correspondents ignore these difficult problems, focusing instead on the destruction of Israel. In this manner, they shift the blame for societal problems to an outside force.
At a time when most religions struggle to explain evil in the world, radical Islam has found the answer: without hesitation, they say it is the Jews. In Friday sermons in mosques around the globe, this theme repeats itself every week. In the wake of the Beslan tragedy, when Muslim terrorists attacked Russian schoolchildren, some Arabs speculated about a Jewish conspiracy. After writing in support of Israel, I personally have been accusing of participating in such a conspiracy. Israel has become the useful enemy that Arabs blame for everything.