I have visited many bizarre places; yet, few of them compare to the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon is the First Quarter of this large metropolis). Narrow tunnels that served the North Vietnamese Army in its efforts to unify the country are now a chilling reminder of the Cold War. Yet, that war is still not over. On March 7, 2012, two disturbing news items were published by Haaretz, the unofficial Voice of the Shin Beth. One of them was regarding new strategies and technologies in tunnel fighting being implemented by the IDF. The second was another denial by the Shin Beth that it applies torture. Not for the first time, one is practically forced to make an analogy between the State of Israel and South Vietnam.
Vietnam Cu Chi Tunnels Open Trap
Netanyahu and Barak Military Geniuses?
Haaretz published today an article named “WATCH: IDF prepares for tunnel warfare in future Lebanon, Gaza conflicts—IDF special forces train at new underground training facility; training based on lessons from Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead.” There was nothing new there, except for the YouTube video linked at the top of this page. The video shows combat techniques designed to conquer tunnels. The soldiers use small caterpillar robots equipped with cameras and a mechanical arm to take over underground shelters. If the equipment shown were available during the Vietnam War, one could imagine a very similar training video produced by the American Army. Eventually, this is another recognition of Israel’s defeat in the 2006 war against Hezbollah. Until 2006, IDF avoided entering tunnels and underground command centers. In 2006, the IDF was led by an air force officer, Dan Halutz (see relevant section in Honoring Evil). He tried an odd strategy, which could be summarized as “hold back the ground forces, bomb the enemy from the air,” and failed miserably. Changes were inevitable.
From then, the IDF has been working under the assumption that ground forces are vital in order to achieve victory in a conflict. “Occupation is the only narrative that can provide an image of victory,” said a high-ranking officer in the IDF’s Ground Forces Command to Haaretz. “In wars, the IDF target bank is depleted within a few hours or days; at that point the army loses its effectiveness in fighting the enemy,” the officer explained. “A state in which both sides continue firing at each other is bad. Best case scenario, it’s a tie, and a tie is a loss, which will not do. We need to occupy the territory.” This officer is not a military genius; ten thousand generations of commanders before him could have told him and his peers that a war ends when you stick your flag atop the enemy’s headquarters. He could even have asked his American peers who fought in Vietnam.
The issue of torture systematically inflicted by Israel is not new. Defined as an act of inflicting severe pain (whether physical or psychological) as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply an act of cruelty, torture is prohibited under international law. It is considered to be a violation of human rights, and is declared to be unacceptable by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Third Geneva Convention and Fourth Geneva Convention officially agree not to torture prisoners in armed conflicts. Torture is also prohibited by the United Nations Convention against Torture. Oddly, Israel is a signatory country.
In The Cross of Bethlehem, I describe acts of torture by the Shin Beth and the IDF that I have personally witnessed in Nablus and the nearby Far’aa Prison (which has been dismantled since then). I reported (see What Israel Won’t Get: On Burger King and Vanunu) on Mordechai Vanunu’s claims of psychological torture applied against him by Israeli authorities. I often report on such events applied by Israel against Israeli refugees (not only me); the description of these torture techniques is expanded in the soon to be published The Cross of Bethlehem II – Back in Bethlehem. An atrocious characteristic of the topic is that it is brutally ignored by those who have not experienced such state violence. Today, Haaretz published an article named “NGO asks Israel's AG [Attorney General] to probe alleged Shin Bet abuse of Palestinian women,” which contains harsh descriptions of Israeli torture.
The article expands on the complaint submitted by Isra Salhab, an East Jerusalem journalist who says the Shin Bet called her last November, and asked her to meet with her husband, who was being interrogated in the Shin Bet facility at Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. “After they took me they strip-searched me. They handcuffed me and then strip-searched me again. They questioned me from 7:45 in the morning to 12 midnight. They asked me personal things, about my marriage and my previous relationships.... They told me they know many things about me, but they would not tell my husband. They had nothing to ask me. They used me to put pressure on my husband. They asked me questions about the past. They told me that they would tell stories about me in Jerusalem. At a certain point they brought me to see my husband and told him I had children and he should think hard about what he was doing. During the questioning, the interrogator sat close to me and shouted at me not to move,” Salhab told Haaretz. She is telling a story of both physical and psychological torture. Again, for the second time in the same day, we witness a scene that seems taken from the Vietnam War. In the summer of 1955, South Vietnam launched the “Denounce the Communists” campaign, during which communists and other anti-government elements were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed. This lead to an horrendous culture of torture and human rights violations by both sides during the rest of this unnecessary war.
Isra Salhab Tortured by the Shin Beth
South Vietnam, Israel and the Cold War
Reagan and Gorbachev “Let’s have a High Tea while the People Die”
Following WWII, the British and French empires disintegrated. French Indochina (modern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) reverted after the war to France, but the latter was unable to rule and the conflict expanded into part of the Cold War. The First Indochina War led to the 1954 Geneva Conference, in which an accord to the independence of Vietnam was achieved. Viet Minh units retreated from the far south awaiting the unification of Vietnam on the basis of internationally supervised free elections to be held in July 1956. In July 1955, French ruled South Vietnam announced that it would not participate in the elections specified in the Geneva accords. Eventually, the situation deteriorated into the Second Indochina War, which after the USA became part of it became better known as the Vietnam War. “There is no question of your transferring power. Your power has crumbled. You cannot give up what you do not have.” These were the righteous words said by Colonel Bui Tin from the Vietnamese army to Duong Van Minh, the last president of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975, in what became known as the Fall of Saigon.
Most history books claim the Cold War ended. There are two false statements in their odd claim. First, the Cold War was far from being cold; The Vietnam War was part of this long conflict. During the latter, humanity witnessed some of the worst war crimes ever. Then, it is a clearly unfinished war. In general terms, the Cold War (1945–1991) was a continuing state of tension between the Western world, led by the United States, and the Communist world, led by the USSR. The USSR was dismantled, but the USA is still running amok around the world, vandalizing any profitable target. Israel was founded after the beginning of the Cold War; over time it became an ally of the USA, to the extent that the USSR helped the Arab world during both the 1967 and 1973 wars against pro-Western Israel. Like South Vietnam, Israel did not comply to its founding conditions; the first did not allow free elections, the second violates human rights and blocks the foundation of Palestine. Moreover, like South Vietnam, Israel served as an American Cold War pawn. The ongoing Israeli violence—against its neighbors, citizens, and anybody perceived as an enemy by this paranoiac American satellite—is the final hiccups of the Cold War. As long as this violent South Vietnam clone exists, the Cold War is on, and we, the people, are its victims.