This month, displaying characteristic American ingenuity, a U.S. soldier finally found a way out of Iraq. He was sent home after it was discovered that he apparently used a Koran for target practice.
This could expose an Achilles' Heel for the U.S. deployment. Clearly, many of the U.S. soldiers deployed in Iraq do not believe in the deployment and do not want to be there. One U.S. soldier was recently released from eight months in jail for arranging to have himself shot in a staged robbery so he would not have to go back to Iraq. (As the New York Times wryly noted, that soldier "appears to be one of the very few people in America - if not the only one - to go to jail for lying about the Iraq war.")
Certainly there are other ways out. Under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, a soldier might be able to demonstrate his or her propensity to have sex with adults of the same gender for a free ride home. But that would represent a psychological barrier to many that they might not be able to cross.
It's hard to imagine that for a lot of U.S. soldiers shooting the Koran would represent that much of a psychological barrier, given the other things that we know the U.S. military has done in Iraq since March 2003.
Of course I do not condone using the Koran or any other holy book for target practice.
But in every legal system or moral code that I am aware of, one is permitted to commit a crime if it is necessary to prevent a larger crime.
In Judaism, for example, you could eat bacon on Yom Kippur if it were necessary to save a human life. (I admit, it's hard to imagine the circumstances in which that would be necessary - but technically the claim is correct. Ask any Rabbi.)
While using the Koran for target practice is wrong, it's not nearly as wrong as killing Iraqi civilians, which the U.S. military is doing in Iraq on a continuous basis.
Perhaps some Muslim scholars could issue a fatwa indicating that it is permitted for U.S. soldiers in Iraq to use the Koran for target practice if it results in those soldiers immediately leaving Iraq. Because it is absolutely certain that the longer the U.S. military stays in Iraq, the more Iraqi civilians the U.S. military will kill. And from the point of view of an individual U.S. soldier, every day they remain in Iraq is another day on which they might, as a result of following orders, kill an Iraqi civilian.
Estimates of Iraqi deaths due to the war and occupation since March 2003 now exceed one million. But currently there is almost no Congressional discussion going on about killings of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military, and little prospect of any to come.
Here's an example of what's missing from the Congressional debate.
The Washington Post reports:
On Wednesday, eight people, including two children, were killed when a U.S. helicopter opened fire on a group of Iraqis traveling to a U.S. detention center to greet a man who was being released from custody, Iraqi officials said.
Needless to say, no Americans will be sent home from Iraq as a result of this crime.
Consider the views of Zahara Fadhil. She is a 10-year-old who was wounded by a U.S. missile on April 20 in Sadr City.
The Washington Post reports:
Her face drained of color and her legs scarred by shrapnel, Zahara spoke haltingly when asked what she thought of U.S. troops.
"They kill people," she said. Lying in bed, she gasped for air before continuing. "They should leave Iraq now."