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I appreciate the insight and knowledge this blog has to offer. However, I am in strong disagreement of this post. It is no doubt the terroists and their acts of killing represent nothing but evil. However, the US is not entitled to violate the rules of battlefield engagement which bars attacks on cemeteries. I understand the opportunity was there, as does the military. However, rules and laws must be followed by the US, especially when we are currently disfavored by many throughout the entire world. The media around the world would have had a field day with the story.

Matthew Cunningham

Great post. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

During the Italian campaign in WWII, we bombed Monte Cassino – the very first Benedictine monastery and a priceless historical treasure – into a rubble because it was occupied by German troops (a blunder, as it turned out, because the rubble made for better defensive cover).

60 years later, we refrain from sending Taliban terrorists into the next life because they’re in a boneyard in a mountainous wasteland.

Is it any coincidence it took us 3 and a half years to win the war in Europe, and that nearly 5 years later we're fighting but not exactly winning in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Matthew Cunningham

One more thing: in this country, we relocate entire cemeteries simply in order to build something else on the cemetery land.

No one makes a peep about that, yet some are rending their garments at the prospect of exploiting the good fortune of zapping our enemies when they are helpful enough to gather in a single location.

Thomas More


I appreciate your comments. That's what I was looking for, a different perspective on this issue.

I agree we would have lost the world P.R. battle if we did it. I also think that if any of those 190 terrorists we let go kill anyone, we'll lose that P.R. battle too. Either "US bombs cemetery" or "US losing control to Taliban" are going to be the headlines. The question I still have is: what would have ended the conflict, and ensured peace, the fastest? (Meaning, what action would save the most lives--killing the terrorists in a cemetery or taking a P.R. hit.) By the way, I still don't see the morality issue of bombing the enemy in a cemetary--it seems strange that it's ok to bomb bad guys with the hope of killing them, and sending them to a cemetery, but not bombing them to kill them in a cemetery.

I appreciate M Cunningham's historical note on Monte Cassino. That was a historical/religious/cultural loss and a tactical mistake. I think things have changed on our battle-field rules a lot--too much in fact--since WWII. The quickest way to change world opinion--which we will never have during the war on terror--is to end the war as quickly as possible. This might mean using more aggressive tactics and revisiting our rules. I think our rules should be followed per GoPre's comment. My question is: is this rule right, moral, or wise?

Thomas More

Also, does anyone know if there is a treaty or law that bars us from bombing such sites, or is it just part of the Army's regulations, or some other regulation? I'm not sure where this rule exists, and would be curious who has the power to review such things.



i thought that t. more should have expanded his thought about killing two birds with one stone. just think, we could have been spared the trouble of digging the ditches, carrying bodies and simply pushed the dirt back over them and marched on through. too bad...


I suppose the unseemliness of killing people while they bury their dead is that doing so invades upon or desecrates one of society's most sacred and solemn acts.

But abstaining from attacking our enemies while they mourn the losses that we intentionally inflicted upon them does not reflect a decision to take the high ground. It reflects an implicit if not conscious ambivalence about the morality of war. The nature of war is that we kill people. War consists of violently ending the lives of your enemies. Once we have made the decision to invade upon the sacredness of human life, I do not see any moral high ground in saying we will terminate your sacred life but we won't interfere with your sacraments. As I see it, the debate and the waffling is borne of a sense of uncertainty about the propriety of the war itself.

If we are not prepared as a country to go to war, then we should stay home (while accepting the consequence of having our wives, husbands, children and neighbors slaughtered instead). But once we have decided to go to war, we must have the fortitude to win it.

Thomas More


I agree. I think your point about our uncertainty and waffling is right on. It is a far cry from the days of Monte Cassino, mentioned above. I must assume this began with the TV wars (Vietnam and ever after), in that we are worried more about the "look" of the war than the result.

There are moral boundaries even in war, but I think it has been pushed too far in this instance. Plus, the uncertainty is countered by the certainty you raise in your first paragraph. Namely, burying the dead is one of "society's" most sacred acts. We are assuming these murderous thugs are part of, and entitled to the benefits of, SOCIETY. I'd like to have that debate before we opt to not bomb them.

The point of opposition political parties--for example--is to disagree within society's boundaries. Terrorists choose to go outside those boundaries to make their point. Once they do so, I am not inclined to let them enjoy society's benefits when it suits them. Leave the farm, loose the farmer's protection.

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