Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I've been reading a lot about 1967 and the Israeli attack which shook the core of the entire Arab world. Nasser's resignation, the betrayal of Jordans King Hussein, the failure of the Syrian Baath party to prepare and not enough fingers to point the blame. In the midst of all this information, I craved more, and on a personal level. I asked my father what had been happening on the outbreak of war and where he was.

He had been revising at a friends for an exam later that day (subsequently cancelled) when they heard on the radio that Syria had shot down 20 Israeli planes. Egyptian news reports came in of 40 planes shot down. As my father walked to his school, people on the street were ecstatic with the news, at the school itself it was announced that those who wished to carry arms to fight could do so as they had received a shipment of weapons from the government. My father recounted how he walked off with a Kalashnikov and 800 rounds to "defend the country" though it was more an opportunity to show off and swagger with the rifle which appealed to them. News later the next day began to prove otherwise. Damascus itself was not hit, but two military airports close to it were. About a week later, the defeated Syrian army marched back through the Mazzeh highway past the University, uniforms tattered, sunburnt, wounded and limping. The war was over. That night Nasser had come on television announcing his resignation, to which everybody expressed shock and outrage. Pilots had volunteered to the Baath headquarters to fly one way missions to Israel in an attempt to stem defeat, but they were threatened with arrest.

At the time, my grandfather was the chief of the Damascus Fire Department and had received a call telling him that three MIG's were burning at the Mazzeh airport. He refused to send his engines over, "if I send all my cars there, what will I do if anybody hits Damascus?" (Damascus at the time had only eight fire engines). He was ordered to comply and again he refused. Hours later he received another call, an Israeli plane had been shot down and was burning close to Damascus. The pilot had been captured. My grandfather said "if its Israeli then let it burn" and there was no persistence from the other end this time. 1967 disillusioned my father and his generation. It was "a war which started with lies and ended in scandals", for my fathers generation, it made them believe that if you fight Israel then you have to fight America, which means it was not possible to fight Israel. 1973 lifted some peoples hopes but this time, Sadat was the one who let the Arab world down. Still the coup Egypt and Syria accomplished with their hidden SAM's took the sting out of that tarnished victory. Families in Damascus used to gather on the rooftops to watch the Israeli airforce get shot down by the SAM's as they tried to bomb Damascus and this did much to lift the nations morale.

To conclude, I don't know what to say about all this, or how I should feel. In many ways, my generation still feels apprehensive about the military strength of Israel or America, but in many ways we have also lived to see an American defeat in Iraq, a more direct Israeli defeat in Lebanon last year and two Intifada's. Defeat begins in the mind rather than in the battlefield so I guess the innate stubbornness of the Arabs we're stuck with is not so bad after all.


cynical cupid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hello Wassim

I just finished reading your posted titled "1967". I enjoyed it very much. I find it very interesting to hear first hand accounts of historical events. Your father and grandfather's stories are fascinating.

I am an American. I live in a town called Montgomery Village in the state of Maryland in the United States.

You said in your post that you are apprehensive of American military power. Well, I am just a normal guy living a normal life so take my comments for what they are worth. I am a Christian. I have a wife and five daughters age 2 to 13. I love my family very much and I try, with God's help, to raise them in the Lord.

I know that most Americans don't want to impose anything on anybody. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to fight for what you believe. Most Americans would like nothing more than to leave a safe and calm Iraq for the Iraqi people, having freed them from the tyranny and oppression of Saddam. I believe our soldiers are trying to do that.

There have been accusations that America is after Iraqi oil. I know for me personally and for many people I know, if we found our government was stealing oil from Iraq, we would be outraged and demand our leaders be held accountable, regardless of political party. We don't want to steal from anyone.

As far me, I am headed home soon from my job (I am an actuary). When I get home, I plan to kiss my wife and hug my children and sit down to dinner.

I decided to write to you because I got the impression from your post that you are just a normal person also, going through your day trying to figure things out the best you can - just like me.



Wassim said...

Thank you for your comments Pete and it is nice to hear from you your thoughts on these matters.

One thing on something you did say however, and I'm going to have to hold you on this :-)

"There have been accusations that America is after Iraqi oil. I know for me personally and for many people I know, if we found our government was stealing oil from Iraq, we would be outraged and demand our leaders be held accountable, regardless of political party. We don't want to steal from anyone."

Your government is stealing the oil of Iraq and much, much more. We are all awaiting the long overdue outrage of the average American man and woman. Thanks again for your comments and welcome to Maysaloon.