Minarets should be for muezzins
U.S. forces in Iraq used direct fire from an Abrams to take out a building insurgents were using to launch a fierce attack. How is this noteworthy? Well, usually you don't fire a tank's main gun in an urban environment, but that's not why Reuters cares. They care because the building U.S. soldiers took out was a mosque (ht:JD)
U.S. tanks shelled a mosque in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi on Friday after coming under rocket-propelled grenade and machinegun fire from the building, the U.S. military said.
A doctor at Ramadi hospital told Reuters three people had been killed and 22 wounded by the U.S. fire, which the U.S. military said was provoked by a "complex attack" that also included hand grenades and improvised explosives.
"Coalition forces returned fire in self defense, using escalation of force procedures, and finally fired several main gun rounds from M1 tanks into the mosque in order to defeat the attackers," the military said in a statement.
The mosque suffered serious structural damage to the dome and minaret, it said, adding that one soldier had been slightly hurt in the attack.
U.S. forces generally refrain from damaging religious buildings but say they will attack them if fired upon. They accuse militants from both Sunni and Shi'ite factions of using mosques for military purposes.
A couple of years back, I commented - roughly, to be sure - on how much that sort of tactic drives me nuts. To launch an attack from a religious building, a spiritual centre is absolutely indefensible.
Now I know that it may be counterproductive from a 'hearts & minds' perspective to return fire into a holy site. I know that that's one of the reasons the fanatics do it - to turn general opinion against their opponents.
But there's something that resonates for me about a policy that boils down to this: "We will accord religious sites precisely the same respect as our opponents do."
Do not hide behind innocents, do not attack from sacred ground, do not use Western decency against us. Because one day, the West - whether it be Canada, Israel, Britain, France, or, God forbid, the U.S. - might well feel the time for Western decency has passed. And at that point, it really will be about killing them all and letting God sort them out, as the old slogan goes.
The capability exists, it's the will to use it that doesn't...yet.
Poking an elephant with a sharp stick when it's tied up presumes the leash will hold. That's a dangerous presumption to make. Hopefully this escalation will forestall further provocation. But given the jihadis' historical pattern, I'm not holding my breath.