10 years ago
From the AP (courtesy of Military.com):
BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. forces fired tank rounds at a mosque in the restive city of Ramadi Friday and exchanged heavy fire with militants inside, the U.S. command said, as Iraqis looted a base in the south after it was vacated by British troops.
One U.S. soldier was lightly wounded and three people were reportedly killed inside the mosque, while five people were killed elsewhere in Iraq in a relatively peaceful day in the country wracked by sectarian and Sunni insurgency violence.
Militants inside the Al Qadir Al Kilami mosque fired small arms, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at U.S. forces, a statement by the U.S. command said. They also hurled hand grenades and a bomb, it said.
American soldiers returned fire at first, and finally unleashed several rounds from M1 tanks into the mosque, said the statement. “The mosque suffered serious structural damage to the dome and minaret,” it said.
It said the attack occurred at about 12.30 p.m., a little before Friday prayers were due to start. It was not known if any worshippers were already inside.
Permit me what may seem a rather pedestrian comment (since I am not in Iraq and do not have a sense of the Iraqi population or the various exigencies of the battles now being fought). The U.S. has long shown deference to the various religious holidays (e.g., if you will recall, we have even ceased hostilities during Ramadan) and locales (we have avoided firing upon Mosques, even to the point of allowing al Sadr to hole up in a Mosque when he was initially being hunted during Paul Bremer’s watch).
I thought then, and will think in the future, that this was and is, respectively, the wrong strategy, and that it sends the wrong message. We endeavored to be liked, when we should have endeavored to be respected. Each and every time we have tried to be kind, compasionate and respectful, we have been taken advantage of and looked the weaker for it.
If from the beginning we had dropped leaflets informing the Iraqi citizens that upon receiving fire from a Mosque the U.S. forces would return fire ten-fold regardless of whether there were worshippers in the Mosque, my bet is that even if they did not believe us the first time it happened, if we had been true to our words, they would have believed us the second time. More to the point, my bet is that there wouldn’t have been a second time.
What do you think Patton would have said if the Germans had holed up in a church? God, please give us another General Patton. No, correction: Give us ten more. And hurry.