Maybe, as this terrible business in Lebanon unfolds, we'll finally get it:
Guerrillas like to hide behind civilians.
Muslim guerrillas take it a step further: "Civilians" are a weapon to them -- as much a part of the fight as the AK-47 or RPG they carry.
Those who have visited any Hezbollah installation in Lebanon over the years always remark on the fact that there are families, women and children, in and around the place. "Secret" bases are usually hidden in plain site. Houses or apartment buildings become weapons storage or even operations centers. An innocent shed or garage may contain a Toyota or a missile launcher.
Seldom, if ever, has a guerrilla movement been able to so openly and exquisitely weave itself into the fabric of a society as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon.
If the civilians in and around what are in effect operational bases happen to be of Hezbollah's own brand of Islam they automatically become a part of the "sacrificial," suicidal equation. Often without choice or foreknowledge, they die an "honorable" death in the battle against infidels or apostates.
If the civilians happen to be of some other persuasion, Islamic or otherwise, their deaths are not even worth a shrug. However, these mangled bodies and wailing women with arms outstretched do provide an immense propaganda payoff, especially in the Western "crusader" media -- which still places a quaint value on human life.
As Israel continues to "shape the battlefield" in Lebanon with its air strikes, the toll of civilian casualties mounts. How many of these are really hapless civilians and how many are Hezbollah fighters and their sometimes willing and sometimes fearfully compliant or resigned human shields will take a long time to sort out.
Suffice it to say the Israeli bombing operations are not indiscriminate. The targets, even those in downtown Beirut, are from painstakingly prepared lists compiled over years of watching the Hezbollah military buildup. The IDF is making often sacrificial efforts to pinpoint known Hezbollah installations and use precision guided weapons. They are making mistakes, yes, and they are probably victims from time to time of Hezbollah efforts to purposely mislead them into bombing completely innocent buildings.
But progress is being made, and Hezbollah will find it increasingly difficult to operate offensively with its Iran-Syrian missile inventory, especially the larger weapons. The Katyusha rockets are inaccurate short-range artillery shells, often more annoying than deadly. In any case, the Hezbollah rocketeers are being pushed back beyond the twelve-to-sixteen-mile range of many of these rockets and individual high ground launching sites, many within villages, are being knocked out. Although the effort has proven much more difficult than the IDF at first believed, the number of rockets landing in Israel has been dropping in recent days.
Hezbollah's greatest asset right now lies in the fact that it has been all but impenetrable to spies. However, the Israeli pounding is forcing the Hezzies into movement without real freedom of movement, and that should play into the hands of the IDF in the air and on the ground.
Meanwhile, the headlines are filled with the shedding of blood, some innocent, some not so obviously innocent. But all the blood of this terrible struggle is on the hands of Hezbollah. As they have grown tactically and operationally wise in their hatred, they have shown more fully their utter disregard for human life. They have calculated the bloody effect of what they and their mentors in Tehran and Damascus have started.
So what if a beautiful city, Beirut, is destroyed? So what if thousands of the hapless, the ignorant, the innocent die? The Islamofanatic "vision" of submission or extermination is worth any cost. To the Hezbollah leaders, high on the furious anti-Semitic hatred of centuries, this is total war with implications and opportunities for them far beyond any geographical boundaries, and the very term "civilian" -- except for its temporary value in gulling the West -- does not apply.
The author is a TCS Daily Contributing Editor.