Burned Koran Story Highlights Uncomfortable Realities of Rules of Engagement

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it was “deeply unfortunate” that the U.S. military had burned several copies of the Koran with a batch of garbage in Afghanistan. The military burned the Korans unintentionally; they’d been taken out of military library after the military found that the terrorists were using the books to write “extremist messages.”

No doubt this story will prompt riots across the Muslim world, as all Koran burning/flushing/disintegration stories do. But the real question is this: if Muslims are using their holy book to transmit extremist messages, does the military have a responsibility to preserve those books? This is essentially the same question as the question over attacking mosques being used as terror zones. If terrorists are willing to turn their mosques into military targets, should we treat them as holy sites?

This is a question with very real consequences for our troops. Our rules of engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq currently prevent attacks on mosques. And even that isn’t enough for some left-wing commentators, who don’t want our war games for our troops to include mosques at all, even so our troops can practice avoiding them.

This is ignoring realities on the ground. Our terrorist enemies are more than happy to use the trappings of their religion to harm us. They don’t break off their attacks during Ramadan. They don’t shy away from storing weapons in Islamic holy sites. And they don’t shy away from passing extremist messages in Korans. Should we be sensitive to religious sensibilities? Of course, but not at the expense of security. And we should never apologize for that.