For the sobriquet of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, the coastal Lebanese town of Byblos rivals it’s more illustrious neighbor down south – the ancient city of Jericho on the west bank of the river Jordan. Before Byblos, we were nomadic hunter-gatherer tribesmen, constantly looking for greener pastures and better game. At Byblos, we finally learnt to ‘get a life’ and settle down.
Legend has it that Byblos (also known as Jubayl in Arabic) was built by the legendary Titan, Cronus, father of Zeus and it is in Byblos that the Phoenicians first learned to build large sea-going vessels that would eventually take them to the farthest reaches of the Mediterranean and even beyond. The prefix chrono which we add to form words that have something to do with time, has in fact been derived from this dude, Cronus. As to why, don’t ask me. Maybe he liked to time his orgasms.
Byblos/Jubayl started off as a fishing port, sometime around 8800BC and has remained so even after the passage of ten millenia. In between, the town changed hands multiple times, first being annexed by the Egyptians around 3000BC and then by the Assyrians in 800BC and several centuries later in 330BC, Alexander the Great took a liking to it and made it an R&R stop for his troops as they marched through to Tyre, Sidon, Babylon and finally over the Khyber Pass into India.
I am saying Alexander liked it because he married two of the ruling monarch of Cronus’s six daughters. Yeah in those days, offering your daughters to an invading king not only ensured that you still had an ass you could sit on but also let you remain a ruler, if only a satrap.
The rise of Christianity brought a bishop to Byblos. Pederasty got refined to pedophilia. That was true progress and the town grew rapidly. Byblos turned into a wayside stop for the Christian crusaders through till the 12th century AD, when Saladin began a thousand-year war with the crusaders.
History tells us that Christians have never had the stomach for long protracted wars (except when they fought among themselves). True to form, the crusaders soon came to realize the futility of their crusades and gave up fighting the ‘barbarians’. To the Christians, everyone else was a barbarian. And still is – watch the block-buster American Sniper and you’ll know why I’m saying this.
The crusaders simply got sick of it all, turned around and went home. Those among them who had misplaced the keys to the locks on their wives’ chastity belts in the hustle-bustle of hand-to-hand combat, had to immediately go looking for their locksmith. There is a legend about a weary but horny crusader who came home with a single agenda in mind – to shtup.
Unable to locate his keys, our knight was about to rush off to get the locksmith when he noticed that his wife was lying already naked in bed and there was no chastity belt on her. A quick search found the locksmith cowering under the bed. No wonder most locksmiths and chastity belt on-site technical service personnel were compulsorily neutered in those days.
Amazing how my writing always turns to sex at a point. This, when I’m such a straight-laced guy.
In the 15th century, Byblos fell under the Ottoman Empire and remained so right up until the Ottomans found themselves on the losing side of the First World War and got chucked out. Today, Byblos still remains a sleepy fishing port but also gets a smattering of thrill-seeking tourists with an archaeological ruin fetish. Thrill-seeking because you have to be mad to consider a vacation in Lebanon, or anywhere else in the Middle-East.
Sometime during the late 7th century AD, a sect consisting of the followers of the Prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law, Ali, who called themselves Shiites, landed in Byblos and made it their home. They had escaped by the skin of their teeth, persecution under the followers of Abu Bakr, the Sunnis. For the Sunnis, the Shiites were infidels who did not deserve to live, a sentiment most extremist Sunnis still share today. Remember how the ISIS, having captured an Iraqi village, let all the Christians go but murdered all the Shiites? Muslim hardliners take special pleasure in killing their own.
Over the centuries, the Shiite settlers of Byblos prospered and flourished and even the later Sunni invasions, of first Saladin and then the Ottomans, could not dislodge them from that scenic seaside town which they had made their home.
Today this Shiite sect has grown and swollen into a powerful and murderous extremist segment of the Lebanese social fabric, bent upon the complete destruction of neighboring Israel. It has earned a bloody name in the world of Islamist insurgency and asymmetric warfare.
We know this group by the name of the Hezbollah, literally – the Party of Allah. As if God ever required to throw a party. I was always under the impression He was having himself a ball anyway.
Kleine Brogel Air Force Base
USAF 701st Munitions Support Squadron
January 10, 2010
There were six of them and under their heavy jackets, they had T-shirts on that said Vredesactie on the front. If challenged, they would pretend to be members of the peace activist group by the same name, there to paint some graffiti on the walls of the hangars. With luck, they would be let off with a reprimand and nothing more. Belgium was one of those liberal, bleeding heart nations of Europe, whose citizens hated having American squadrons stationed on their territory. To this end, they were constantly protesting, holding anti-war rallies and walkathons.
As the men raced up toward the nearest protective aircraft shelter, gale-force blowing snow bent them over. There was one consolation – tonight, in this soup, patrols would be less frequent. Even so, they had 15 minutes to do the job and get back to the tractor-trailer that had backed up to the cut in the perimeter fence. The hulking behemoth was emblazoned with the logo of the grocery chain, Aldi, on both sides.
Mathis, their glowering, self-assured leader, stepped into the shaft of light that fell from the mercury vapor lamp over the door, to punch in the code for the hangar doors. He knew the whole shebang. He had been a loading supervisor there, until that afternoon.
Once inside, the six strode over to the F16B standing facing them under a battery of roof lights. It’s elliptical engine inlet duct on the underbelly of the fuselage made the fighter-bomber seem as if it had been startled by the intrusion and was gaping at them. Under the wing closest to them was loaded a six-foot long gravity bomb with the inscription B61-3-Mod10-SER21064A05-780lb. Another hung under the other wing.
The man called Mathis stared at the 170-Kiloton thermonuclear device with something akin to reverence. He would have to be awed. If a 10-Kiloton device could take out Nagasaki, this one would erase half of Israel, of that there was very little doubt. The reverence came from the fact that five years back, Mathis had been Sadi Al-Bakhri from Alleppo in Syria, working as an aircraft maintenance mechanic with the Syrian Air Force. Today, as a Belgian master sergeant named Mathis, he was unstoppable.
F16 munitions are designed for quick load and unload operations in time of war. The B61 is slung to the wing by two clasps that are simple to the point of being childlike, but sturdy enough to be able to carry a weight of 780lbs between them. The bomb is brought up by the hydraulically operated cradle of the battery-powered buggy, it’s hooks positioned just below the wing clasps of the fighter-bomber. Once in position, the B61 is just pushed in with a snap. Unloading is push-button and easy.
Between the time that the perimeter fence was cut and the two buggies were trundling toward the gaping doors of the 18-wheeler, 12 minutes had passed. The raging snow storm couched the noise of the doors slamming and the massive vehicle surging forward over a narrow patch of earth onto the Vliegveldlaan N747. Once on the flat surface of the two-lane country road, the heavy vehicle turned west and picked up speed.
The trip to Antwerp was a short one – just two hours – but it would be at least two weeks before that happened. Meanwhile, three other things would go on simultaneously…..
First, within the next hour, the 18-wheeler would be pulling up in front of a farm house near Vorselaar, a small village off the 747, approximately half way to the port. There, the two B61s would be unloaded and wheeled into what appeared like a grain silo from the outside , but was in fact a 20 by 10 room that had 6-foot thick concrete walls and ceiling and a concrete floor two feet thick, meant to stop the high-penetration gamma radiation that any nuclear device constantly emits.
The concrete walls may not have been necessary since the B61 is designed with adequate sheathing of it’s own, but the thieves were not taking any chances. For the nation of Islam – of which the Hezbollah considered itself the sole purveyor and custodian – this was it, a one-time opportunity to level the playing field. Even the most sensitive gamma ray scintillator wouldn’t be able to detect the presence of the two 170-Kiloton devices.
Second, at that very moment, the Aida, a middle-aged and non-descript 18000-ton bulk carrier, was steaming through the Strait of Gibraltar. Once in the Atlantic it would hug the Spanish coast and the Bay of Biscay, looping around the European mainland, till it sailed through the English Channel. Shortly thereafter, it would reduce speed to 10 knots while it picked up a pilot and inched toward the estuary of the river Scheldt, where the Port of Antwerp lay sprawled over 18000 hectares of locks, quays and channels that saw close to a million tons of cargo pass through them every day.
Third, around the time that the Aida entered the Scheldt, a fast zodiac would leave the Israeli coast, 5kms north of the town of Nahariya, within walking distance of the Lebanese border. It would skirt carefully around the underwater maze of Israeli mines and make landfall at Naquora and thence it’s two passengers would be spirited north by covered van, to Byblos. One of the Israelis, a man named Mordecai Vanunu, would be doing this to seek revenge on a state that had persecuted him mercilessly for years.
The other passenger in the zodiac, a heavy-jowled man in his 60s who resembled the late Hollywood toughie Edward G Robinson, knew thermonuclear devices like the back of his hand. He would cannibalize the B61s and rebuild them into simpler devices that would follow his arming instructions and detonate when he told them to.
Edward G’s reasons for selling out to Israel were purely economic. Ultimately even the zeal of Zion would not be able to withstand the weight of the dollar.
(to be continued…)