Tuesday, May 27, 2014

War Story: Everybody vs. Bear

As you might expect from a 1300-year-old Bear, he has many tales. The Pope's trip to Israel recalls one of the more bizarre episodes from his human career, and quite recent.

The Bear -- again, in his human form -- served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps: JAG. He was stationed in Sigonella, Sicily, and was one of a handful of lawyers providing various legal services throughout the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf during and after Operation Desert Storm. 

One memorable trip took him to the Holy Land. It is hard to speak of such things without coming across as "yes, see how cool I am," but it was indeed a wonderful trip.

Lieutenant Bear had a lot of free time on his hands, so he promptly motored into the West Bank in a rental car. It was in Nablus that the natives demonstrated their welcome by the curious custom of throwing large rocks at the Bear's rental while he spent ten minutes making a 27-point turn, back and forth, to extricate himself from a cul de sac in a market. How curious, yet oddly frightening. (You must remember, the Bear was only a puny human, not a Bear at that time.)

After visiting the border with Syria (Israel is very, very small, if you're used to the expanse of the U.S., and it is easy to wind up in places better avoided) the Bear set up shop aboard USS Wasp in Haifa. Wasp is a smaller kind of aircraft carrier built to deliver Marines when Uncle Sam cares enough to send his very best. It's still a very big ship.

Haifa is also at the foot of Mt. Carmel. It has a great USO facility.

The case involved a senseless "wilding" attack on an elderly Jewish woman in Haifa. The Bear was remarkably successful with such an unpromising set of facts, which did not go unnoticed in the Israeli government. The C130 that was sent to retrieve Lieutenant Bear was refused landing in Israel. He finally flew out on Alitalia, which was much nicer than a C130 anyway.

Later, when Lieutenant Bear wanted to return to Israel, the U.S. State Department said poor old JAG Bear was persona non grata, er, ursus non gratus in that country.

The legal joke was that the preliminary hearing was held not in Israel, but Valencia Spain. Yes, I know, tough duty, huh? The Bear traveled to the following countries on this one case:
  • Israel (Haifa)
  • Greece (Hania, Crete)
  • Italy (Naples)
  • France (Marseilles)
  • Spain (Valencia)
And he got a nice Mediterranean cruise until the Captain got tried of him and put him on a helicopter as soon as we were within range of Sigonella, sending his bags later. 

Yes, he got kicked out of Israel, then thrown off USS Wasp. That's a Bear for you.

Anyway, when they held the preliminary hearing (called an Article 32) in Valencia, the Bear kept requesting witnesses. The requests, of course, were denied due to the distance involved, as he knew they would be. Fast-forward months later, on the eve of trial, the military judge was hearing a number of motions, including the Bear's motion to reopen the Article 32 because the government denied all his witness requests.

The prosecutor argued he didn't have to bring my witnesses to testify because Valencia, Spain was way too far from Haifa, Israel. The judge asked him who decided to have the Article 32 in Valencia, instead of Haifa?

And so ended the Bear's famous Five Country Case, because the prosecutor had the choice of going back to square one and reopening the Article 32 in Haifa -- from which the defense counsel was barred, remember -- or agreeing to a ridiculously favorable deal in return for a guilty plea.

The Holy Land is a wonderful place, though. Surprisingly, there are places that are easy to imagine as they were in Our Savior's time.


  1. No comments = no more war stories ;-) -- and the Bear was just putting the finishing touches on The Corpse That Wouldn't Go Away.

  2. Hey, not so fast - I'm still recovering from the news that Pope Francis recently concelebrated Mass with, and photo-opportunistically kissed the hand of, a priest who has publicly [and apparently unrepentantly] declared sodomy to be a gift from God. It's difficult to move on rapidly from something like that.

    Now: I want to know which places that you saw in the Holy Land are easy to imagine as they were in Our Savior's time. I've seen photos of the Garden of Gethsemane looking hauntingly as though no one has messed with it - and photographs of the reputed birthplace of Jesus looking very messed-with. I have wondered if Golgotha is intact, and whether it looks like a skull. I don't think I'll ever be going to the Holy Land to see for myself.

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  3. Well, I'm sure Pope Francis didn't know. I've learned my lesson. I'm not commenting on anything without a signed confession from the Pope. Let's just say he was kissing the hands of Christ the priest or we'll be accused of Donatism. Ummm... donut.

    I remember best the hill of the Sermon on the Mount. The area around the Sea of Galilee was relatively unspoiled, as I recall. That was my fondest memory.

    Jerusalem was kind of touristy, but still worthwhile. I think all the Israeli tour guides are government agents, though, because it was really funny the ridiculous lengths they went to in making the Arabs look bad, e.g. making a drama about whether the bus would be allowed into the city due to possible terrorism, pointing out Arab slums vs. well-ordered kibbutzim.

    Just stay out of the West Bank. Oh, Masada was pretty cool, too, and Caesaria. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was chaotic and awe-inspiring.

  4. A Marine enlisted man, a young kid. I don't remember his name now. Marines make the best clients, though.


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