Monday, February 4, 2008

"They are thinking, 'How's that gonna play on al-Jazeera?'"

UPI reports U.S. forces in Iraq are operating under rules of engagement that forbid troops from entering mosque without permission.

These rules are from 2005 and may have changed. I don't know what's more outrageous. The rules themselves or the fact they have been leaked?

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. military's rules of engagement in Iraq in the fall of 2005 forbade troops from entering mosques, even during a firefight, without the permission of senior commanders who would consult Iraqi authorities.

. . .

A copy of the rules, which are classified, was posted on the Web at the weekend by the organization Wikileaks, which says it aims to provide a secure way whistleblowers can "reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations" and favors government transparency.

In a special section on mosques and religious structures, the rules specify that -- though commanders on the ground may return fire, or even call in airstrikes, against a mosque that is being used by enemy forces -- U.S. troops will not enter such buildings, even during fighting, "without the approval of the (senior regional commander) in coordination with (the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior)."

If approval is granted, the rules say, Iraqi security forces will enter the building, "with cordon support from U.S. forces."

Similar restrictions govern the detention of clerics or imams.

. . .

Exum said that the Geneva Conventions allowed military action against so-called dual-use structures.

"Anything you are using (to fire from) … even a hospital, becomes a dual-use structure" and can be targeted, he said.

The U.S. rules went "above and beyond the requirements of international law," he said. "They are thinking, 'How's that gonna play on al-Jazeera?'"

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