David Rovics on tunnels, past and present
Over 1,100 Palestinians killed, overwhelmingly women, children and the elderly. Several dozen Israelis killed, almost all of them soldiers. Killed by people coming out of tunnels. Tunnels that the soldiers are bombing and blowing up…
In my mind I keep coming back to the tunnels. Tunnels are such a powerful image, with so much history. The Vietnamese won the war against the US invaders partially through the widespread use of tunnels. Of course Kissinger would complain incessantly of Soviet aid to the Vietnamese guerrillas being the problem. That sounds much better than admitting that you're facing a very poorly-armed enemy that's beating you through sheer determination, ingenuity and courage, despite all your weapons of mass destruction.
The public line was the Vietminh was a small part of the population that needed to be dealt with. That if they could just destroy their infrastructure, the invaders would win. Secretly the American leadership knew this wasn't true. They knew their enemy was the people of Vietnam, and they prosecuted their war with this in mind, targeting broadly all of the civilians of that poor country, and their neighbors as well.
But destroy the infrastructure – they did that, too. And what was that infrastructure? Planes, helicopters, tanks? No. Rocket launchers? A few. Antiquated rifles? A few more.
Tunnels. Mostly tunnels. And courageous, desperate refugees. Refugees living in a walled-off ghetto, subject to an almost complete embargo, with no electricity, overflowing sewers, very little food, who are being incessantly bombed.
When facing a determined opponent, “infrastructure” or the “infrastructure of terror” has a very different meaning than how the term is usually understood.
The infrastructure, the Israelis now admit, is not the ineffective, home-made rockets. Not the paltry collection of guns. The infrastructure are the homes that people live in. Especially the ones around Gaza's inland perimeter, which the IDF is now annexing with tanks and bulldozers. The infrastructure is the homes, and the tunnels beneath them.
The thing about fighting a determined enemy in an urban setting is you can only make the best use of your superior firepower if there aren't any buildings in the way. People can hide behind buildings. So you have to destroy them all, which is what the Israelis are doing. Which is what the US did in Fallujah, and in Hue, and is what the Nazis did in Warsaw.
I'm no military expert or anything, but I am a history buff, and I believe the main difference between Fallujah, Hue and the Warsaw Ghetto is in Fallujah the resistance didn't build tunnels prior to the battle. In all those cases, though, the only way to win the battle was to completely demolish the cities, one building at a time.
In Warsaw, after the buildings were all burned to the ground and the ghetto was nothing but rubble, the resistance continued, albeit on a small scale due in part to a complete lack of food or firearms. The reason any resistance was able to continue was down to the tunnels.
Tunnels are a bit like buildings that way. You can hide behind a building, and if you're really lucky, you can ambush soldiers when they come around the corner. If you're really, really lucky as well as very skillful, you might get close enough for hand-to-hand combat. Which is necessary when the other side has all the firepower.
You can also hide in tunnels, before you come out and engage in your mission to attack the enemy before the enemy inevitably kills you in return. It's almost always a suicide mission. You show yourself, you die, but maybe you kill first, if you're ready to die, and very lucky and very skilled.
In Warsaw, the tunnels were how some of the ancestors of some of those IDF soldiers survived the Nazi Holocaust. The tunnels were how they managed to get some food into the ghetto from outside the ghetto walls. And even a few guns, and very home-made bombs. Beneath any well-stocked kitchen sink are the explosives necessary to have your own little “infrastructure of terror,” after all. Even in Warsaw, 1943. If you went outside the ghetto, where such chemicals could be purchased.
So, destroy the buildings, destroy the tunnels, and face the conundrum that as long as people are able to buy food, fertilizer, gasoline, and Draino, they'll be able to make explosives. As long as there are people there will be terrorists.
So “gas the Arabs” becomes the natural conclusion. It's the only way to have security. If you don't want to give them sovereignty, you have to kill them all. How close to “kill them all” are the Israelis willing to go?