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If I Were the Chief of Staff
Last uploaded : Monday 7th Aug 2006 at 04:02
Contributed by : Sayed Kashua


Israel -

I sat at the computer for hours. I racked my brains trying to think of something wise to say about this war. This is just the week when I need an angry warlike column, one that's full of fury but at the same time full of analysis that provides a different viewpoint. I couldn't come up with anything. Actually, I did but it only adds up to a few pleading words that have been in my head all week: enough, please, stop already.

I got up early during this past week. By six I'd turned on all the electrical appliances that broadcast news: computer, television, radio. I don't want to know what's happening on this side or that side. I don't want to know how many killed, how many rockets and how many sorties there were during the night. I wake up early in a fright and rush to the news only to know if it's still going on, this war. Don't worry, I reassure myself each morning anew, tomorrow they'll come to their senses. I'm sure it will stop tomorrow. I try to turn on the television as little as possible now. In the first days of the war, I was glued to the screen. Lots of military men and military media types appeared in doses that were too large for me to swallow. The thing I hate the most is when they interview them in the field, the commanders, with their sunglasses and that smile they have, so full of self-confidence. I swear to you that to me, they look happy, in their element. Who said that a chief of staff or brigade commander has to look like this? Who said that he has to look so full of himself? I think it's a terrible mistake and I'm not at all certain that it really bolsters the home front.

I, for example, would prefer a spineless army commander. I'd like to see a chief of staff chain-smoking nervously, ill at ease with his actions, conscious of how awful it is, this war business. I'd prefer him with a bottle of vodka in hand, right there on the screen, explaining that it helps him to cope with the horror. Or with a good supply of anti-depressants so he could swallow one every five minutes. Then I'd identify with him, even understand. You know what? I'd support him and all of his actions.

I'd like a general who obviously got the crap beaten out of him as a kid and who is still being taunted now. Let him stand before the residents and tell them with tear-filled eyes: "I am so sorry about all this mess. But we have to. You must understand. I would never have gone to war like this otherwise. It's not for the fun of it or for any kind of honour. I hate this just as much as you do but there's no choice." I'd like army commanders who would speak to the audience without the aid of a map and slides of targets in the background. I'd prefer for them to speak quietly and apologetically, with a huge picture of a crying child behind them and Zohar Argov's "Badad" ("Alone") playing over the sound system.

It's too bad I'm not a chief of staff. I don't know if it's too late to start the whole track over again. Basic training, and all that other stuff -- it must take years to become a chief of general staff. But if I were chief of staff, I promise you that life would be a lot quieter around here. I'd be the state's first defeatist chief of staff. The first paranoid hypochondriac chief of staff in the history of the IDF. "Oh, no! War!" I'd announce to all the television viewers at home. "I'm really scared to death of war. I hate it. True, we have all this power, but what for? Gosh darn it, let's just surrender this time ... Yallah."

I believe that a declaration of this kind would put Hezbollah in a terrible panic. "What's wrong with the IDF? Why isn't it sending planes? Why isn't it bombarding the hell out of us? What are these wily Zionists up to? Let's just sit tight and wait." It would totally confuse them and make them nervous for a good few years, and the Syrians and the Iranians would also bide their time for at least another 10 years while they tried to divine the meaning of this new tactic by the wiliest chief of staff of them all.

Granted, I never was in the army but I know a thing or two about waging a war -- I've been listening to military correspondent Roni Daniel on television for 10 years now. I know that the element of surprise is the most important of all. Would anything be more surprising than for the chief of staff to react by saying: "Oh, no -- not war. I don't want it, I'm not up for any blood right now." Such a declaration would definitely bring about Hezbollah's instant surrender, the handover of its arms to the Lebanese government, an immediate request for forgiveness, a signed surrender and a long-term peace agreement.

But until I become chief of staff, I can only plead: enough, please, stop already. You can stop now. It's enough. You don't have to keep the war going. I know that a lot of people say, "But what else can we do?" I know that it's possible. I'm certain that it's possible. But the problem is that the simple ways have never been tried. They only understand force -- that's always been the slogan here.

I don't care who's right this time and who was right the time before. I even still believe in human beings, and think that it's possible to talk with almost everyone. I also know that everyone is afraid of everyone and that everyone is certain they are in the right. That they believe wholeheartedly that they are the victims and are facing a merciless and cruel enemy.

I don't know much about war, or lost honour or the power of deterrence. I'm one of those people who would give up at the first slap. And run away to cry. I'm one of those people who's ready to pardon everything, to surrender, to ask forgiveness. I'm one of those people who's ready to do anything so as not to see one mother cry, so as not to see one baby wiping away a tear.


Sayed Kashua is an internationally best-selling author known for his commentaries and perspectives touching upon the complexities of mixed cultural identities, namely Israeli-Arab. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at

Source: Ha'aretz, July 23, 2006

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Distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

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