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November 15, 2004


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David Weman

That's great!!!

Gareth Wilson

"But, equally of course, one does not enter a mosque with shod feet."

One does not shoot automatic weapons out of a mosque either, but the insurgents seem to have been given some leeway there. And I wouldn't put it past them to plant caltrops in the mosque either.

David Weman

Um, I meant that you grew up in Turkey. That's too cool.


Dearest Claudia:

The reality of war often does not allow for nice distinctions. I comletely undertand your point...but war is a terrible business.

You kill people, that's what you do, you cause living, breathing people, human beings that once had hopes and dreams to die, to be dead, not like in a movie, but with a tongue turned purple and bloated, flies crawling across still open but vacant eyes dead, that kind of dead is what you do.

Being in a Mosque that you probably had to fight your way into, killing people on the way, with your boots on...just doesn't rank up there in the hierarchy or things not to do.

Just he way it is.

Best Wishes,


Bernard Guerrero

"I comletely undertand your point...but war is a terrible business."

'I am Siva, Destroyer of Worlds.'

Bernard Guerrero

"It's just basic respect for another culture and another religion. Is it really too much to ask for?"

In a war-zone? Yes.


A la guerre comme a la guerre...
I wish this was the worst side of a war in general, disregard of cultural symbols; but looking at the last century’s history, this is really nothing.
Besides, for a soldier, boots are one of the most important "weapons" :)


I served and saw action in desert storm. I saw my comrades get fired on and die. My 22-year-old friend from the farmlands of Nebraska got his head blown off approx 4' to my left.

We entered a prison compound and saw horrors beyond belief - tubs of acid, electrical torture devices and all kinds of nasty things to elevate man's in-humanity towards its highest potential.

Days in 110F, Nights in 20F, separation, isolation, anxiety, fear.

"Snipers at your 1 o'clock" steadyyyyyyy FIRE!

"Where did he go man? that store? that house? that MOSQUE?"

Push the feelings DEEP into your soul and never let them surface. Thats how you make it out of there with some semblance of sanity.

Why we are in war then/now/future is IRRELEVANT to to the soldier in the heat of battle. Although we may not believe in the premise by which we were placed in hell, we CERTAINLY believe in our will to survive once we are there.

Trust me, this is no slight on your views or values. I myself have come a long way from those times and share many of your same values. I am the last one who would want to start a fight. All I ask is:

Walk a mile in my combat boots.


Very nice writing, Larry, you caught it exactly!

Civilians don't really understand and never can, not really. And I'm not bagging on anyone for this...their concern is theoretical, for a soldier any place of safety is real, and necessary.

No way you can take off your boots.

Yet, and yet, Claudia is as right as rain...this is a bad image, a damaging picture and may well be played up in the Arab World.

For many things in life there is no answer except learning to live with the terrible contradictions.

Best Wishes,



Hm. I did not mean to denigrate soldiers or play the naive civilian.

However, the picture didn't convey anything but soldiers at leisure. Still, I would not take my boots off, either. Who knows when the fighting begins again and then you'd have to be ready within seconds.

I have friends in Iraq. Good friends. I fear for them every day and I have nothing but the utmost respect for their work. I don't agree with the war per se, but these guys are doing their jobs and that calls out for support. I am able to compartmentalize that.

But while morally it doesn't make much of a difference, how about NOT HAVING A PICTURE TAKEN of soldiers in a mosque in combat boots? In these days, everything makes it on the web. A commanding officer should have that much, hm, presence of mind.

Just that. Respect to other cultures in war times sometimes means not to let them know what you're doing. (I mean, it's not as if we're out there to commit genocide -- we do want the Iraqis as our allies? Goes for the rest of the Muslim world, too. So showing some respect is more of a strategy then.)

I don't think that's naive.

And Gareth -- enemies are always worse than oneself. The same act is hideous when an enemy commits it while it's perfectly permissible when I'm doing it. That's also one of the truths of war.

Randy McDonald

Images are detached from their origins, and vice versa. The only thing that unites the two are their consequences.

David Kohlhoff

May I ask a question?

When Muslims have gone to war with each other in the past have they entered enemy-held mosques wearing boots?

I suspect this may have occurred during the Iraq-Iran War or the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait. Please correct me if I am wrong though.

I understand that American soldiers may have higher standards to uphold because they are Westerners but it would show hyper-sensitivity if Muslim soldiers have done this themselves in the past.


I'm still trying to get my head around Randy's statement...it seems very profound...but, and yet...I'm working on it.

As to Muslim boots in Mosques, I'm not sure it matters. Muslims have recently taken great delight in burning down historic churches in Kosovo...the barbarity seems mutual and entirely inevitable.

When men are killing each other, this is what they do.

But I did want to send a further note to Claudia that all these seemingly pro-war posts really aren't that at all. We are not debating the wisdom of, "Making the rubble bounce," in Fallujah, but rather these are simple comments of understanding of the Soldier's perspective.

That a soldier's actions may have wider consequences is not in doubt or dispute. But that still is a focus on something out there, that something may be important as Claudia notes, but this doesn't address the ground level view of the absolute terror and exhaustion of combat and what a soldier is experiencing on a second to second basis, which is what most of these posts are responding to.

Apples and Oranges...though Claudia remains entirely correct in her assessment also.

Best Wishes,


Mitch H.

Aziz P. asks where is the outrage?


It seems as if Claudia is echoing mutual e-friend Brad DeLong -- "Why can't we have a better press corps?" It is one thing for a soldier on duty in a warzone to be oblivious to matters of mannerly behavior ("manners" of a culture foreign to him) and so give offense to the few locals around him. It seems to be quite another for a presumably well-educated and well- paid professional journalist in the leisure of his paste-up shop to decide from the hundreds of photographs available illustrating a day's news to choose to make public to millions of viewers around the world an image certain to offer offense. Might as well show a photo of a celebrity picking her nose with the back of her left middle finger extended above an otherwise closed fist. Who is more guilty of the insult: the one taking action, the photographer who captured the action on film, or the editor who choose to feature the photo before the world at large?

It seems to me it is the editor who has committed the greatest offense and who owes apologies not only to those who hold mosques holy, but to the soldiers who suffered that momentary lapse of behavior befitting their uniform.

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