I'm not posing these questions in a frivolous manner. They're real questions, it seems to me, and if they're not at the heart of the present war, they're certainly not that far from it.
Prof. Robert Chesney, of the University of Texas (Austin) is troubled by a different part of the story. Did the American drone attack which killed these guys get to them when them while they were in a mosque? On the one hand, he's not convinced it happened that way and he's perturbed by the ease with which slanderous stories can take wing. On the other hand, he's not certain it didn't, and that would be worse:
The mosque claim may be significant from an IHL [International Humanitarian Law] perspective, of course, and it certainly is significant in terms of hearts-and-minds. I have no idea whether the claim is accurate, though I suspect it is not (or at least that the building was not known to be a mosque by decisionmakers at the time). If it is not accurate, then the episode is an illustration of the ease with which media accounts can be seeded with damaging characterizations of this kind. If it is accurate, on the other hand, it certainly raises some difficult legal and strategic questions–ones that will be hard if not impossible to evaluate from an outside perspective. At any rate, we’re not likely to get a clearer picture going forward.IHL stems from Just War Theory, which is not a new branch of thought. Its central concept is that wagers of war must make plausible efforts not to harm non-combatants. I'm not sure how mosques (or for that matter, churches, synagogues or any other houses of worship) came to acquire the status of non-combatants. It's certainly not obviously so, especially when the men in the houses of worship are plotters of mayhem and murder, perhaps even plotters purposefully placing themselves in the houses of worship.
Nor do I know how prof. Chesney knows that killing potential murderers in mosques is necessarily more objectionable to other Pakistanis than killing them in a home, a home which has been converted to a plotter's den, or an open field. The matter of hearts and minds is fiendishly complex, and includes topics such as which hearts and minds, why they are where they are and can they be swayed to move elsewhere, what means of persuasion might be effective and which not, what the locals think about Westerners coming to their mosques so as to plot murder of other Westerners, thereby attracting American drones.... In other words, it seems to me the professor is talking about his own opinions, with no direct relation to the real facts of the matter.
The reason I mention it is that this seems to me one small, rather banal example of the serious disconnect between the prophets of International Humanitarian Law in their comfortable and mostly unthreatened ivory towers, and the real world.
Not to mention that for all we know at the moment, killing German Pakistanis in mosques, if done right, may save the lives of Korean tourists passing through Frankfurt International Airport on their way to a vacation in Montreal. Or something of the sort.