Feelings From a Sealed Room In a Gas Mask - 1991 & 2003
Gail Winston, founder of M.E.I.R., Mid East Information Resource
Originally written: January 16, 1991
Post Script Added: March 19, 2003
DATELINE: JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
I'm mad as hell! After the feeling of helplessness engendered from jumping from sleep at 2 in the morning into a gas mask in a plastic-sealed room, that is the primary feeling.
What does it feel like? Visualize a scene from a science fiction or George Orwell movie. Mothers and fathers sit in a small room which is sealed with heavy plastic, with all their children. The babies are trapped in plastic tents, crying hysterically, the older children are in plastic hoods with battery operated breathing apparatus, cranky. The parents can't comfort them or explain why some madman has forced them into this trapped confinement.
The gas masks are uncomfortable, straps pulled too tight causing a terrific headache, sweaty, frightening to the children and moderately hard to breathe in (especially with the bad cold and cough that I have). The father and older sons had to hurriedly shave beards, violating religious beliefs with permission from their rabbis.
Of course, you forgot vital things, can't drink, and the need to go the bathroom is a primary discomfort. Even though you have a garbage an for necessities, it's hard to break your lifelong habit of privacy.
Our only link to the outside is the radio. We listened to one station in Hebrew and the other in English. The Hebrew Army network and the BBC gave excellent coverage with the radio announcers under pressure in their own sealed studios. Their ability to reach out by phone all over the world for commentary helped fight the isolation. Our phone couldn't get through to America and we worried about the anxieties of our families there.
The second feeling is pride and gratitude that Israel has done a such a superb job in preparing us all and, despite the 8 bombs, the feeling of safety and security one experiences living in Israel.
What makes me really mad?
The isolation was disgusting and painful. Israel was attacked and isolated from the world because we were forced to keep a "Low Profile" over the past 5 months by international and especially U.S. pressure. The "Low Profile" was deemed necessary for the sake of maintaining cooperation of Arab countries who certainly participated in the coalition for their own defense. They would lose much more than gain if they left the coalition because Israel added its military excellence to the world's combined defense against the madman.
That "Low Profile" may tragically cost Israel crucial support in the U.S. and Congress, because, they will reason, If Israel didn't help in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, why should they be given military aid as a valuable ally for America? Of course, this Orwellian "Double Speak" will forget what hasn't yet been revealed, but what is surely true. Israel's superb Air Force provided a vital protective umbrella over the American and Allied Forces mobilization during the early months when they were especially vulnerable to the million man Iraqi army and considerable chemical, nuclear, biological missile capability. And, no doubt, Israel supplied excellent intelligence.
Israel was forced by international and especially U.S. pressure to agree to accept a first strike. Now the world can see how short-sighted they were NOT use Israel's superbly effective Air Force to insure ALL the missile sites were totally wiped out. Saddam promised to "burn half of Israel" if attacked by the American "Satan" (his words). When will we Westerners learn to respect the Arabs' word: They say what they mean and they mean what they say. Will Israel also be forced to forego retaliation? If so, the Arabs will perceive that Israel is weakened and this will lead to future attacks and terrorism.
Now 4 hours after the attack, reports say 10 improved SCUD B 'al Husseini' missiles were launched from mobile launchers against Israel. 8 hit Tel Aviv and Haifa. This gives Saddam his "success" against the Zionist State. If he survives, he will gain tremendous acclaim from the Arab world for striking against the Jews. He succeeded in putting this entire country into sealed confinement for 4 hours. He will inflate those figures, of course.
Does the fact of (reportedly only) 12 casualties lessen his "victory"? Not at all. He hit Israel. Those Arabs who are hostile to Jews and Israel will use his "success" to bolster their hate and increase their terrorism. [Only one person was actually killed by a SCUD.]
What really made me furious? Caspar Weinberger was interviewed on the BBC as an expert. This man was accorded the prestige of his former office as U.S. Sec. of Defense. We now know that Weinberger was the one man most responsible for Iraq's chemical war capability buildup NOT being exposed and challenged. He refused to transmit this vital knowledge to Israel, violating the U.S. Memorandum of Understanding #111 of October 1983. We know this because it is the primary reason why Jonathan Pollard, a civilian analyst in the Naval Anti-Terrorist Alert unit felt morally compelled to transmit U.S. secrets to Israel. Pollard saw this, and other life and death data being withheld from Israel and asked his superiors why. Their answer: "Don't tell the Jews about gas; they're too sensitive."
Just think of the thousands of Kurds and Iranian civilians who would have been saved if Weinberger hadn't suppressed this. Just think of the lessened threat and stress to U.S. and Allied soldiers now having to face chemical warfare in the hot desert. Just think of that threat over Israel's head.
Weinberger's personal directive to Judge Robinson the day of Pollard's sentencing, abrogated the government's plea agreement and got Pollard sentenced to life without parole. He entered his sixth year in solitary confinement on Thanksgiving Day, 1990.
So what did Caspar Weinberger, the expert, have to say to us in our gas masks and sealed rooms? At 3:59 A.M. Israel time he said: "It is a particular tragedy that nerve gas was used." (We now know it wasn't nerve gas, but he clearly exposed his guilty knowledge.) Now we see the depths of the hell that Weinberger concealed by silencing Pollard. When will Weinberger be investigated for his personal complicity in escalating Iraq's war capability?
That's what really made me mad!!
March 19, 2003, Addendum: Nothing has changed. The U.S. still promises to support Israel if Israel doesn't respond if attacked by Saddam's NBC (Nuclear, Biological or Chemical) Weapons of Mass Death. Tonight we were told to prepare our gas masks and sealed rooms again - just in case. But we know that President Bush is primed to push his "Road Map" onto Israel, forcing another Arab State of Palestine into Israel's heartland, creating another Terrorist training ground in the Middle East.
Jonathan Pollard has now been in jail for more than 18 years. During the first Gulf War, Desert Storm - many people who knew what he had done for them called their gas masks "Pollies" - a badge of honor for a man whose life has been dishonored and thrown away by people in high places.
It is time we Jews stood up for our human rights, to be free of fear, to be free of Terrorism, to be secure in our own, only sovereign Jewish State with Jerusalem as its Eternal Capital - without being threatened to give up our historical homeland. It is also time we Jews stood up for Jonathan Pollard to be freed. We owe him our gas masks and the early warning about Saddam Hussein.