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July 18, 2005
Tancredo Fouls The Water (Updated)

We have enough problems fighting the war on terror in the measured, strategic method used by the Bush and Blair administrations without Republican Congressmen recommending the bombing of sites held sacred by Muslims across the political spectrum. Yet today, Tom Tancredo (R-CO) suggested that a nuclear attack on an American city could result in a bombing run on Mecca:

A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.

Rep. Tom Tancredo made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically. ...

"Well, what if you said something like if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo responded.

The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response."

I think the "ultimate response" to Tancredo's apolcalyptic fantasy is that we don't bomb civilians in response to terrorist attacks, no matter how seductive such a response might seem. The idea that the US would retaliate in such a manner should be repulsive to any rational person, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. The war on terror targets the terrorists and the governments which fund and/or shelter them, not the civilians who happen to live there.

Besides, who is Tom Tancredo to make these threats anyway? He doesn't have anything to do with the military chain of command or the national security systems that would make those kinds of recommendations. He certainly doesn't speak for the President, who has to make the final determination in loosing those weapons on any target. Tancredo does, however, lend a false sense of credibility to such threats in international circles, thanks to his position as an elected Republican official.

The GOP needs to remind Tancredo of the wisdom of silence in some issues.

UPDATE: Yes, we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 -- but we were at war with Japan and both cities had significant military production facilities. We also gave them plenty of warning on both and an opportunity to surrender each time.

We, however, are not at war with Saudi Arabia, and Mecca has little or no military significance. Furthermore, Tancredo doesn't want to nuke it for military advantage, but simply as an extortionate threat. That's little different than what al-Qaeda does.

And Truck, we bombed Saddam's military facilities in open warfare, fully declared. We didn't aim at civilians. If you can't tell the difference between that an a nuclear attack, that's simply pathetic.

UPDATE II: Mail and comments are mixed on this topic. Michelle Malkin links to other reactions, including some suggestions on what Rep. Tancredo should have said.

One blogger takes me to task for being overly concerned for war's unpleasantness. I have no problem with unleashing the awesome power of the American military, but I don't want to be stupid about it. Destroying Mecca automatically gets us one billion overt enemies, where now we face around 20,000 active and a couple of million covert at best. Even threatening to do that puts us at a disadvantage when arguing that we are not attempting an existential war against Islam. How can any intelligent Muslim believe that while we threaten Mecca, which has no military value whatsoever and sits in the middle of a country with which we are not at war?

Let me put it this way, which Hugh mentioned earlier. The excuse used by the IRA during its terrorist campaign against the British in Northern Ireland was that the battle involved a denominational war between Catholics and Protestants. Should the British have threatened to bomb the Vatican in response? What would that have done to the world's Catholics, not to mention a big chunk of Christians in general?

Here's what we should make clear will happen if we suffer another major attack in the US, especially one that uses WMD or causes significant losses:

1. Take out the air forces of the two nations we know to support terrorists -- Syria and Iran.

2. Destroy all nuclear facilities in Iran, to the best of our intelligence.

3. Bomb all known militarily-related manufacturing facilities.

That response not only provides a significant deterrent, but actually addresses the threats arrayed against the West. Without any air defenses and with their production capabilities reduced to rubble, we will leave them in a position where we can easily pick them off at our leisure. It also will give them something to do with their money other than handing it to terrorists for the next decade or so.

Obviously we need to have a response to attacks that will deter the nations that give aid and comfort to our nomadic enemies. Let's just make sure it's the right one.

UPDATE III: I removed the references to nuclear attack, as Rep, Tancredo did not specifically and explicitly say that. He did say that he would threaten to bomb Mecca, and perhaps do so. This resulted in several changes in the text above.

The clarification really doesn't change the issue; it only takes the nuclear hysteria out of it. (h/t: Baldilocks)

UPDATE IV: Best analogy so far comes from Hard Starboard, who initially thinks that I don't contemplate any retaliatory actions ... not true, which he acknowledges in his update:

[I]t appears that Morrissey and I do agree that retaliatory action would have to be taken, and that including Mecca on the target list would be like suffering a mafia hit and then firebombing the local Godfather's Pizza emporium.

If it isn't the most apposite analogy, it certainly is one of the most original, and humorous, I've seen so far.

UPDATE FINAL: Great comments on this post, folks, and a lively debate. I'm working on my next Daily Standard column and won't update further. You all have the last word, whenever that arrives.

UPDATE "WHAT'S AFTER FINAL?": Beltway Blogroll notes the irony of Tancredo's response to the Chinese nuclear threat against the United States last week:

"For a senior government official to exhibit such tremendous stupidity by making such a brazen threat is hardly characteristic of a modern nation -- particularly one planning to host the Olympic Games," Tancredo said in a press release.

Again, Tancredo didn't specify using nukes on Mecca, but other than that, this sounds pretty applicable. Too bad he couldn't have followed his own advice.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 18, 2005 12:45 PM

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