Officials Defend Attack on Iraqi Minaret

American Forces Press Service: Coalition Officials Defend Attack on Iraqi Minaret

“We very reluctantly go after holy sites, but when those holy sites are used to store and fire weapons, we must take action if our Marines are pinned down,” Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, told reporters at a news conference.

The Marines confirmed that insurgents were using the minaret as a staging platform following an attack earlier in the day. After cordoning off the area, they entered the mosque and found “a significant number of ammunition shell casings,” Kimmitt said. Following the search, the Marines returned to their positions without damaging the minaret.

Kimmitt said the Marines called in the strike only after taking fire from the minaret the second time that day and realizing that their return fire was not enough to take out the enemy. This, he said, left the Marines with a choice: “Am I going to let my fellow Marines die, or am I going to recognize that that minaret has lost its protected status under international law and is being used as a firing platform and needs to go away?”

The Marines “made the right choice,” Kimmitt said, by calling in precision strikes that toppled the minaret but inflicted “a minimal amount of collateral damage … to any other part of that mosque.”

“On the few occasions when we must attack a holy site when it has lost its protected status under the Geneva Conventions, we have used the minimal amount of force necessary to protect our Marines,” he said.

I’m not sure if it’ll convince anyone who didn’t already assume this to be the case, but it’s a reasonable statement. And I love the continual use of “minaret” when the mainstream press keeps using “mosque.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.