In praise of civilian casualties

All over the news and the blogosphere are accounts of the battle of Fallujah. And one recurring theme is the cost in the lives of innocents this battle will incur. We’re already being shown pictures of wounded and crippled children, struck down in the battle.

I’m going to risk outraging a great number of the readers here, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t give a damn how many civilians get killed in Fallujah, as long as we get the bastards.

There’s an old saying: “once you pay the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.” Once we have established that we will refrain from pursuing our enemies when they hide among civilians, we threaten all civilians in the future. Any time one side in a battle publicly imposes limits on itself, the other side will immediately exploit it.

Earlier on in Iraq, we showed respect for mosques. Shortly thereafter, mosques suddenly became the centers of the resistance, being converted into fortresses and arsenals. Had we blown up the first few they occupied, I’d be willing to bet that there would be hundreds more that would now have been left alone.

We have long shown that we respect hospitals. When we took the main hospital in Fallujah, it had been converted into a headquarters for the insurgents. And as soon as the Iraqi commandos had taken the hospital and raised the Iraqi flag, they started shelling the hospital even as we were turning it back into its original purpose.

Now we come down to the insurgents hiding behind civilians in the heart of Fallujah. If we show restraint and allow them to escape, we will have shown that taking hostages is a successful tactic and endanger God knows how many more innocents down the line. We have to stand firm and show them that there is no escape, no shelter, no sanctuary.

I don’t want there to be a single innocent death in Fallujah. And having faith in our military’s equipment, training, and scruples, I know they will be minimized as much as possible. But there will be many heart-breaking stories and images from this battle. We mustn’t let them cloud the real issue — if we let it stop us now, there will be many more Fallujahs in the future, and eventually we’ll have to disregard hostages or simply give up. And we can’t afford to surrender in this war.

J.

(Author’s note: before you excoriate me over this posting, please know I hated writing it even more than you hated reading it. But I have a moral obligation to speak the truth as I see it, no matter how much I’d like to ignore it. It’s an ugly world these days, and saying otherwise merely postpones the inevitable.)

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