Trump is now threatening to bomb Iran’s cultural and historical sites if they retaliate against our killing of General Suleimani. This shows both Trump’s ignorance and lawlessness. Doing so would be a violation of international law and would include sites of major importance to both Jews and Christians.
In a Tweet, Trump said that if Iran retaliates in any way, the American military has “targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!” Now here’s where it gets interesting. Trump obviously had no idea this was a violation of international law and a war crime. So others in the administration immediately started walking back that threat while Trump doubled down on it:
On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated that U.S. forces wouldn’t carry out Trump’s threat, saying, “We will follow the laws of armed conflict.”
On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had appeared to walk back Trump’s statements on ABC’s This Week. “We’ll behave lawfully. We’ll behave inside the system. We always have, and we always will,” he said on Sunday morning.Nonetheless, Trump doubled down on his threat. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” he told reporters on Sunday evening. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.”
The targeting of cultural properties by the U.S. is indeed not allowed. The U.S. is a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention, which requires “refraining from any act of hostility” directed against cultural property.
The convention covers “movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites; groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest; as well as scientific collections and important collections of books or archives or of reproductions of the property defined above,” as well as buildings and centers whose main purpose is to house such items.
To make matters worse, Biblical scholar Candida Moss points out that this would include many sites of great historical importance to Jews and Christians, including the burial site for King David and sacred sites related to Cyrus the Great, who freed the Jews from bondage to the Babylonians, and Darius the Great, who funded the restoration of the second Abrahamic temple in Jerusalem. Trump’s threat is so extreme that even Israel would’t do such a thing. You know who did? ISIS, which destroyed non-Muslim sites when they took over territory. Trump is, on this matter, equal to ISIS.