Wading back into the propaganda quagmire regarding civilian damage inflicted by allied bombing on Iraq, U.S. military officials presented an "open and shut" case of Iraqi destruction of a mosque intended to frame the allies for targeting a religious site.
The accusation follows an elaborate effort by the U.S. military, prompted by press inquiries, to gain evidence to support its claim that the Iraqis are deliberately destroying some civilian buildings and falsely blaming the damage on allied bombing raids to gain international sympathy.The U.S. military sent a warplane on a special mission to snap photographs of a mosque in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra that they say was leveled by Iraq and then displayed for reporters as proof of extensive civilian damage dealt by allied forces, said Rear Adm. Mike McConnell, director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
McConnell used the aerial photograph and three sketches of the site during a Pentagon briefing Tuesday to illustrate that the nature of the damage proves it could not have resulted from an allied bombing raid.
McConnell said aerial surveillance of the area indicated that an Iraqi demolition crew razed the mosque "very hastily" under the cover of darkness between Feb. 7 and Feb. 8, then shuttled international reporters and camera crews from Baghdad to view the damage on Feb. 11.
McConnell said there was a bomb crater located roughly the length of a football field away from the mosque that was created Jan. 30 when a bomb from an allied warplane missed its target, an Iraqi command and control facility located one-half mile away.
Of the destruction of the mosque, McConnell said: "It did not occur from a bomb strike."
"You can tell by examining the photograph how neat and tidy the damage that was inflicted is," he added. "No crater. No burn marks. And the debris has been leveled out and moved away."
McConnell pointed out that the dome of the mosque had been almost surgically removed, leaving a perfectly formed round supporting structure. A bomb would have caused damage substantially less orderly, he added.
"The intent here was to show a religious facility and to claim collateral damage when we, in fact, know for absolute certain that it was not inflicted by coalition air (attacks)," McConnell said.
McConnell said the mosque site is not the only example of Iraq's self-inflicted damage, but represented the best example.
"We suspect it in several (other) places, but this is the place where we can prove it open and shut," McConnell said. "So this is what we decided to share with you."
U.S. military officials have maintained throughout the war that they are not targeting civilian areas and have, in fact, spared some civilian sites that have doubled as military facilities for Iraq's war machine.
However, two laser-guided bombs from a U.S. warplane killed scores of civilians last week in a Baghdad building that the allies say was a fortified military command center but the Iraqis say was a civilian bomb shelter.