Obama’s rules of engagement: Calling lawyers for permission to kill terrorists

posted at 10:43 am on February 23, 2010 by Patterico

When we have the terrorists in our crosshairs, we are still calling the lawyers to ask permission to fire.

Quite literally.

An excellent Wall Street Journal article highlights the infuriating rules of engagement that we are operating under in Afghanistan:

When Capt. Zinni spotted the four men planting the booby trap on the afternoon of Feb. 17, the first thing he did was call his lawyer.

“Judge!” he yelled.

Capt. Matthew Andrew, judge advocate for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, advises the battalion about when it is legal to order the airstrikes. He examined the figures on the video feed closely. “I think you got it,” Capt. Andrew said, giving the OK for the strike.

But, the story reports, Zinni (son of Anthony Zinni) ended up spotting kids nearby — so the strike was called off. The terrorists ended up getting away.

Is it just an accident that some kids were wandering near insurgents planting a booby trap? Almost certainly not:

Capt. Zinni had seen this scenario before in Marjah. Insurgents using women and children for cover as they moved weapons or crossed open spaces into fighting positions in buildings. In this case, the captain was certain that the children were acting—either by their own volition or under coercion—as shields for the men planting the bomb.

The way the Taliban see it, he thought, they’d win either way: The Americans might hold their fire and allow them to plant a bomb unmolested. Or the Americans might kill a few civilians, a propaganda victory for an insurgent force increasingly adept at using the media to spread its message.

Leftist critics will point to another Journal article that shows what might happen when the rules of engagement are not followed. In an airstrike far from Marjah, 27 civilians were killed. The attack appears to have been a mistake — an attack on a purely civilian target.

My view is that, like friendly fire casualties (which are shockingly commonplace, far more than most people realize), casualties like this are a tragic but unavoidable result of war. War is not clean and it is not perfect. But that doesn’t mean that we should hold our fire when children are being used as human shields, as apparently occurred in the initial example above. Those insurgents may have successfully set another bomb that might kill our soldiers elsewhere. We shouldn’t be putting soldiers’ lives at stake for the sake of a propaganda victory.

There are no easy answers. But I fear that our enemy’s lack of morality, coupled with Obama’s hyper-concern for the good opinion of Afghanis, may be costing us the blood of our young men in uniform.

If so, that is not acceptable.

We should change the rules of engagement, so that the next time we have some killers in our crosshairs, we kill them before they kill us.

Pull the trigger . . . and leave the lawyers out of it.


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