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eXile Classic / The War Nerd / May 1, 2002
By Gary Brecher

Ever seen a Monster Truck show? They’re big in Fresno. The thrill is watching civilian cars get crushed by giant 4×4’s. But it’s nothing compared to the monster truck show the Israelis have put on in the last few weeks. I can’t get enough of those car-crushing shots. You know, this 61-ton Merkava 3 MBT grinds down Arafat Avenue in Ramallah or Jenin, “accidentally” scronching a whole row of cars.

There’s something sweet about seeing a tank grind over little peace-type cars. Maybe it’s a parking thing. Today I get home from work — and it’s already hot as Hell in Fresno — so I get through the fucking traffic out to my ugly duplex on the edge of the desert and I can’t get a damn parking space! It’s fucking scrubland, it’s the middle of nowhere, the coyotes howl out there on the golf course — and I still can’t get a parking space! I’d understand if it was Manhattan — but Fresno? Israelian "Merkava" tank crushing palestinian car

I’d like to crush every damn Subaru Legacy on the block. So I was watching the mass car massacres on the West Bank real, real pleased. I noticed something, too. Some cars go easy, like they’re made of Diet Coke cans. But if you watch carefully you see that the Mercedes stands up for about a half-second longer, before the Merkava mounts it and crushes it. That’s what I call sexy video. “No parking within 48 hours of suicide bombing. Violators will be flattened.” You had to wonder if Palestinians go in for car sex — cause if they do, just imagine one of those Merkavas — 61 tons of ethnic hate, turbo-drive — grinding down a row of Pals hard at work producing the next generation of human firecrackers. Itchy & Scratchy with Ethnic headgear. Pretty damn cool.

About those Merkava tanks. The Israelis build some real pretty weapons, but the Merkava is their best. It was built by people who were actually in a war. The engine’s in front so it’ll take most of the shock of a MBT round. The whole tank, front to back, is immune to RPG’s. And it has room inside for a whole squad of infantry. That’s important, because it means the Israelis are the only army in the world that actually plans to keep its troops alive till they get to the battlefield. See most armies imitated the Russians, who sent their troops out in “battle taxis” like the BMP — and those things blow apart if you hit them with anything more lethal than a rock. The “light” (meaning cheap) aluminum armor turns into instant shrapnel when an RPG round hits it. Once you’ve seen the results, you’d rather go into battle in a Yugo than an APC.

The Americans tried to copy the Russians and came up with the Bradley IFV, which is like a BMP only about a thousand times more expensive. And it still can’t take a hit from an RPG. All it’s good for is turning a squad of soldiers into beef stroganoff in about one millisecond. But the Israelis thought for themselves, and they came up with the Merkava, a tank that can fight AND transport infantry under real protection. They were the only army to admit: hey, this isn’t WW II. You can’t take casualties like those any more, not with everybody glued to their TV moaning every time a few dozen soldiers get splattered. Survivability, that’s the biggest thing now. And the Merkava was untouchable. You used to see those Merkavas idling on a hilltop or car-crunching down the streets of Ramallah like Panzers in 1940. They’d just sit up on a dry hilltop, real cocky, just looking around for camera crews to target. It was beautiful.

But the Israelis lost two Merkava 3’s in a month to foot soldiers. That’s just not supposed to happen. The Pals set up mines big enough to kill a Merkava, then waited patiently for the right moment. The point is that the Pals are getting tough — and smart. They’ve killed two unkillable tanks, and then there was that one Pal sniper who picked off 7 IDF soldiers and 3 settlers — then got away. That wouldn’t’ve happened ten years ago.


Breaking News!

by Gary Brecher, Special War Nerd Correspondent

Twelve middle-aged British war nerds, my comrades in piggery, were ruthlessly jailed by the Greeks for “espionage” for photographing the Greek Air Force late last year. Early this week, a Greek court found them guilty, sentenced them to prison, then suspended their sentences.

These people, known as the “Athens Twelve”, are guilty of no crime other than being ugly and without a sexual life. All they wanted to do was go “planespotting,” which is like trainspotting- the real thing, not the heroin movie–only with planes. Military planes. Where is the harm in slobbering a little while you watch sharp-nosed fighter-bombers come in for a landing? The Greeks, these snotty Mediterranean types who have mistresses and suntans, just can’t grasp the higher cultural world of the war nerd! Sexual inadequacy is not a crime, it’s a disease! Or rather it’s not a disease, it’s a victim! Or rather it’s a virtue! Yeah, a virtue!

Thanks to War Nerd pressure groups in England, where their lobby is strong, the Athens Twelve were freed. But we’re not going to stop here.

Protest with us against this savage oppression of those of us who never got to do puberty right! BOYCOTT GREECE! WAR NERDING IS A HUMAN RIGHT! END THE OPPRESSION OF THE SEXUALLY MATURE! TAKE BACK THE FIGHT!

The Pals used to be a total joke. The PLO, people said it meant “Perfect Losers Organization.” Worst guerrillas in the world.

Then the Pals got tough thanks to Sharon. It’s funny in a way, how he trained ’em up to take him on. He sent the IDF into Lebanon in ’82. The Israelis were at the top of their game then. They were amazing! Their air force sliced and diced the Syrians without losing a single plane. They made it look so damn easy even the Americans tried to join in — and wham!, the US Navy lost two A-6s in a few hours. Of course, only the fucking Navy would be dumb enough to send A-6’s into a SAM-rich environment. That’s sorta like taking a VW Campervan on a windows-down tour of Compton on a Saturday night.

The Israelis cut right through Lebanon and only lost about 400 guys, which was less than Israel lost in car crashes that year. They shelled the Hell out of Beirut and booted the PLO all the way to Tunisia. Reagan just drooled and smiled at ’em. They could do anything they wanted.

And then this weird thing happened: a 16-year-old Shiite girl got in a car packed with TNT and drove it into an Israeli patrol. And everything changed. One of the Israeli generals said on TV, “We’re going to regret coming here. No Palestinian drove a car full of explosives at us, not in 30 years of war.”

Back then the only suicide bombers were those crazy Tamil Tigers in Ceylon. They invented the whole suicide-bomber look, with the vest of C4 and string fuse. But everybody figured it was just Hindu weirdness, like if you believe in reincarnation what’s one life? You just have to stand in line till you get a new one.

Then this crazy girl in Lebanon showed that it wasn’t just Hindus who could die well. The game was on for real. Amal and Hizbollah had all the martyrs they needed. Boom! goes the Marine barracks in Beirut, the French barracks, Bashir Gemayel’s HQ. Suddenly everybody wants to be a martyr.

It was those Shiites who taught the slack Pals what fighting was about. And it didn’t happen quickly. The Pals were slow learners. For ten years they watched the Shiites drive trucks and bikes and cars into Israeli checkpoints without getting the idea. They started their Intifada in ’87 but all they did was throw rocks and get shot in the face. There’s nothing wrong with getting killed. I know that. It’s a big part of getting a rebellion going. Starts things off big, gets people excited and all that. But sooner or later you can’t just settle for dying. You got to kill also. Throwing rocks at tanks looks good on TV, but it doesn’t make a big impression on people as tough as Sharon.

The Pals…they’re a little slow, like I said. So it took them till 2000 to copy the Shiites’ suicide bombers.

Which reminds me of this great segment I saw on the news: a camp for “training suicide bombers.” I mean, how hard can it be? “You see, Ahmad, here is the string. Now, when you get to the bagel stand, you pull the string like so. And the next thing you know, you will be in Paradise attended by 62 Virgins.” You don’t have to be a Prussian General Staff aide to master the subtle military skill of pulling a string.

But eventually the technique got through to the Pals. Like Bela Lugosi in that Ed Wood movie: “Pull ze string! Pull ze string!” The explosive vest came into fashion among stylin’ Pals from Gaza to Nablus, with roofing nails for rhinestones. 454 dead Israelis later, Sharon’s visit to the ol’ Dome of the Rock isn’t looking so clever any more. Of course the Israelis have been killing Palestinians at a rate of four or five Pals for every Israeli. But that’s a really bad ratio for guerrilla war. You want a ratio of 9 or 10 natives for every settler in that kind of war. Even then, it’s a bad risk. The British killed 20 Kikuyu for every settler and still lost.

So back to the Merkava. A great design, yes. But the whole greatness of the design advertises the weakness of the Israelis: they don’t like taking casualties. You’re thinking, “Nobody likes it you jerk!” Except that’s totally untrue. Lots of places like taking casualties. The Shiites — they never felt prouder or happier. The Russians under Stalin — they died crying for joy. All you fucking happy people — you think everybody’s like you? Lots of people want to die. I want to die! There’s more like me than like you, you smug bastards.

So for now there’s the Pals laying the bodies out and howling proudly, and there’s the IDF hunkered down in their Merkavas crunching up cars but not really with the guts to crunch whole populations, whole towns. And if they don’t do that, they lose. Killing two or three a day won’t do it. That’s less than a thousand a year — pathetic! The Merkava is a way to protect Israeli soldiers more than it’s a way to kill Palestinians. See, in that way it’s a defensive weapon. Whereas an AK-47, with a Pal standing in the street firing at the Merkava — the AK is an offensive weapon. Not that it can hurt the Merkava, because it can’t. But it says, on camera, “I want to die and to kill.” And the Merkava says, “Yikes, you people are crazy, get away from me!”

A tank vs. a rifle is an unequal battle — but not necessarily in favor of the tank.

Issue #140

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Add your own

  • 1. Will  |  September 29th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I’ve been greatly enjoying the War Nerd book, but have been somewhat troubled by inaccuracies I’ve noticed in sections on subjects I know reasonably well. For example, contra Brecher, Palestinian suicide bombing started in the early 90s; it just didn’t really amp up until 2001.

    Also, Tamil Tiger suicide bombing didn’t begin until 1987. In fact, the Tamil Tigers credited the 1983 suicide attacks in Lebanon as the inspiration for their implementation of this tactic. See, (p. 8)

    All that having been said, I’m surprised that, given the entertaining style coupled as it is with impressive erudition, these columns didn’t find a more prominent outlet. No disrespect to The Exile, but I could easily see this material somewhere like Rolling Stone; it’s not so dissimilar from Hunter Thompson’s political coverage that used to grace those glossy pages.

    Cheers from one nerd to another,


  • 2. Will  |  September 29th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    That should say “p. 8”, not “p. [smiley face]”.

  • 3. pat b  |  March 15th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Lebanon saw the first bombing, but it was the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who perfected the tactic and inspired its use elsewhere.[77] Their Black Tiger unit has committed between 76 and 168 (estimates vary) suicide bombings since 1987, the higher estimates putting them behind more than half of the world’s suicide bombare ings between 1980 and 2000.[78]

    The Lebanese shiites are credited with the
    invention but the Tamils went ape with it

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