Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Q. When is a church not a church?

A. When it is used to store arms, ammunition, quarter troops, and/or as an observation platform or command post. Then it is a fort and a legitimate military target in time of war.

The same answer applies where the building in question was originally used as a hospital, school, or mosque.

Israel is being castigated, as always, because its attacks in Gaza have damaged or destroyed buildings that had been mosques or schools. In at least one case the building was apparently still being used as a school. Perhaps that school was never used as a fort; the truth may never be known until the 'fog of war' clears. Who knows when, if ever, that might happen?

Talking about anything in the Mideast triggers strong emotions. It may be better, then, to consider this question in light of an historical example.

The famous Abbey of Monte Cassino comes to mind. Founded by St. Benedict, the monastery occupied a commanding position on a mountain ridge that invading Allied troops had to obtain in order to secure the route to Rome along the Liri valley.

According to the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Monte Cassino, German Field Marshal Albert Kesserling ordered his troops not to include the monastery in their defensive lines. The Germans exempted Monte Cassino from their plans because of the historical significance of the site. It was Holy Ground. This information was passed along to the Allies.

But the Allies didn't believe it. Some -- but by no means all -- reconnaissance flights reported seeing Germans in the abbey. Even now, 64 years later, there is still debate over the extent to which the reports of German presence were erroneous, or even fabricated. The consensus, though, is that the abbey was not occupied by the Germans. Nevertheless, eventually, the Allies bombed the place into rubble -- and, whether there had been Germans there or not before, the Germans poured into the ruins immediately after the bombing and defended them to great, if temporary, advantage.

It is well established, now, that hospitals and mosques in Iraq were used as cover for weapons or ammo dumps. It is a particularly cruel tactic for a defender to install his defenses in such locations -- it dares the attackers to risk opprobrium for reducing the targets (that's the perceived advantage) -- but, of course, it also needlessly sacrifices the defender's own civilians. When some schools or mosques or churches or hospitals are used for military purposes (with or without a 'covering' and continuing non-military use) it creates the too-reasonable suspicion that all such buildings have hidden military uses, regardless of appearances.

What I don't understand is why the news organizations in the West do not 'call out' Hamas for hiding behind their civilians in mosques and schools, but instead say things like 'Israeli airplanes destroyed a school today and Palestinian authorities claim there were x casualties, including [of course] y children.'


Jean-Luc Picard said...

The media do seem to be one-sided, not presenting it from both sides.

Patti said...

One-sided? Absolutely agree.

Israel should be able to defend herself, no?

Shelby said...

"What I don't understand is why the news organizations in the West do not 'call out' Hamas for hiding behind their civilians in mosques and schools"

You got it. Why don't they ask that question.

It is infuriating.

I don't understand it either.

Anonymous said...

It's about time someone else noticed this.
You can fight for whatever reason you choose, but only a coward hides behind the innocent.