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Thursday, June 03, 2004

NOT A WAR I'D LIKE TO FIGHT, PART 2 In the post that is effectively part 1 to this one I had mentioned some issues facing our troops in southern Iraq. Of course the main fighting is being done by their American colleagues who share those troubles. In this piece by Robert Kaplan which I recommend you read in full anyway, there are more awful choices being made for the US Marines fighting in Fallujah:

Whenever the Marines with whom I was attached crossed the path of a mosque, we were fired upon. Mosques in Fallujah were used by snipers and other gunmen, and to store weapons and explosives. Time and again the insurgents forfeited the protective status granted these religious structures as stipulated by Geneva Conventions. Snipers were a particular concern. In early April in nearby Ramadi, an enemy sniper wiped out a squad of Marines using a Soviet-designed Draganov rifle: "12 shots, 12 kills," a Marine officer told me. The marksmanship indicated either imported jihadist talent or a member of the old regime's military elite.
By the standards of most wars, some mosques in Fallujah deserved to be leveled. But only after repeated aggressions was any mosque targeted, and then sometimes for hits so small in scope that they often had little effect. The news photos of holes in mosque domes did not indicate the callousness of the American military; rather the reverse.
The dilemma of being shot at and possibly killed or alternatively break the Geneva convention while also handing the enemy a propaganda tool that may prove invaluable to him in the long-run is depressing. This is certainly something that the coalition needs to be more public about. Whether or not the Arab/Islamic world will care much I doubt. But it's important that Iraqis see how the insurgents are abusing places of worship to win their trust. Equally, if not more important is to get this message out to our own publics. Ultimately their support is essential for the war effort and that support will wane if they feel our troops are acting unreasonably.

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