‘The Guns of August’ continue to sound

Robert A. Cohn

Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

The famous late Jewish historian Barbara Tuchman won a Pulitzer Prize for her history of the run-up to World War II titled “The Guns of August.” Often in recent times, August, considered the “dog day” month of “slow news” ends up grabbing the headlines. 

It was in August 1945 that the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the horrific death toll prompted the unconditional surrender of Japan to the United States and its allies.

It was in August 1939 that the infamous “Hitler-Stalin Pact” created a so-called “non-aggression treaty between the two monstrous dictators of the 20th century – paving the way for Hitler’s invasion of Poland the following month and plunging the planet into the Second World War. Hitler of course would spurn the treaty and invade the Soviet Union with harsh brutality in June 1941, bringing the USSR into the Allies against the Axis powers.

In recent days there have been grim reminders that the “Guns of August” have not fallen silent, event as the United States has quietly removed the last combat units from Iraq. Even as the troops were preparing to withdraw, there were suicide bombs in Baghdad, causing scores of deaths and many more serious injuries, events that have happened so frequently that we have become almost numb to them.

We also had the incident on the border between Israel and Lebanon, in which Lebanese troops opened fire on Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side of the border. The soldiers were trimming a tree, which obscured the view of the area, an action that was needed to prevent terrorists from crossing the border into Israel. An Israeli Army officer was killed in that exchange in the most serious violence on that border since the Israeli war against the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, which is now a key player in both the Lebanese government and army. The skirmish prompted two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to put a “hold” on planned U.S. financial support to the Lebanese military.

If all of the above were not enough, today marks the one-year anniversary of the release of Abdel Baset el-Megrahi from a Scottish prison where he was serving a life sentence with a minimum of 27 years for his conviction as the bomber of Pan Am Flight 101 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans. Megrahi was released on “humanitarian” grounds on the basis of a statement by a physician who said that he had only months to live because of his prostate cancer. A year later, Megrahi continues to live in Libya, where he was given a hero’s welcome by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who has never been called to account for his role in the most serious terrorist incident prior to 9/11.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, which is gaining ground in war-torn Afghanistan is escalating its horrific actions with no international consequences. In recent weeks Taliban terrorists stopped a medical team sponsored by a respected Christian charity who were in a remote province to provide urgently needed eye care to the villagers. The Taliban terrorists ambushed the medical team and shot 10 of them to death, one by one. If that were not enough, Time magazine on Aug. 7 published a cover story on a young Afghan woman who had her nose and ears cut off by her sadistic husband with full Taliban approval. And just days ago, the Taliban carried out the stoning to death of a young Afghan couple who had eloped.

All of the above has happened against the backdrop of the ominous developments in Iran. The country is now perhaps only weeks away from having the ability to develop nuclear weapons, which would be in the hands of a deranged and fanatical regime headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly vowed to “wipe Israel off the map,” and who hosted an international conference in Tehran of Holocaust deniers.

A chilling cover story by respected reporter and author Jeffrey Goldberg appears in the September issue of “The Atlantic” magazine under the title, “Israel is getting ready to bomb Iran,” a likelihood which Goldberg and other credible sources say has a better than 50-50 chance of happening in a matter of months if no meaningful international action is taken to stop Iran from going forward.

A short time ago, North Korea sank a South Korean ship, killing 46 sailors, a classic “causus belli” (remember “The Maine” and “The Lusitania”?), The U.N. chose to respond in a shamefully tepid statement of “concern” by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, which must have brought a smile to the face of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

While Hamas, Libya, the Taliban and North Korea are allowed to get away with murder and terrorism, the United Nations is yet again conducting two investigations against – you guessed it – ISRAEL!

Israel is being blamed for its interception of the Gaza flotilla from Turkey, in which nine of the “humanitarian activists” on the lead ship were killed when they violently attacked the Israeli soldiers.

Israel was trying to assure that the ships did not contain either weapons or materials in which weapons could be hidden. Iran has attempted to smuggle deadly weapons by ship into Israel, as evidenced by the Israeli capture of an Iranian ship loaded with rockets, missiles and rifles heading towards the Palestinian Authority., Israel is also being subjected to a “follow-up” to the infamously one-sided, anti-Israel “Goldstone Report” which said that Israel committed “war crimes” against Hamas in Gaza, which had fired 6,000 rockets into Israel over the previous four years, causing deaths and injuries to civilians.

It is high time that the United Nations and International Court of Justice turned their attention to groups like Hamas and Hezbollah who are allowed to escape prosecution because they are not “nation-states.” The actions of Hamas in recent weeks and during the years before the conflict in Gaza are the real “war crimes” and atrocities, and not the actions of the State of Israel in trying to protect the lives and safety of its own citizens.

Let us hope that the “Guns of August” 2010 will fall silent and that meaningful progress towards Israeli-Palestinian peace can be achieved through the direct talks which are expected to start next month.

This is an appropriate wish for Jews and people of good will of all faiths and backgrounds on the eve on the Jewish High Holidays.