Korans (or Qurans) were burned at a Bagram air base in Afghanistan last week which led to a series of violent protests throughout the country, resulting in the deaths of four US service personnel and at least 25 Afghani’s. The Holy books were being destroyed because Muslim prisoners were using them to write secret notes in and passing them along to each other. Two of the US service personnel died on February 23rd as protests erupted. Two more killed within Interior Ministry while working at their desks on February 25th. Both were shot in the back of the head by a person dressed as an Afghan security official. Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak issued an apology for the killings.
On February 23rd, President Obama sent a letter of apology to President Karzai over the burning of the Korans. In his letter, the President said “I convey my deep sympathies and ask you and the people to accept my deep apologies … [the] error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.” The full letter has not been released to the public.
Newt Gingrich, contender for the Republican nomination said on February 24th, “There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama’s attention in a negative way and he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States period … [and], candidly, if Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, doesn’t feel like apologizing then we should say good bye and good luck, we don’t need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn’t care.”
(Note: Karzai has issued an apology on February 26th to the families of those who were killed.)
It is the view of the U.S. Common Sense website that the President was correct in this instance. While an emotional response (similar to that as expressed by Gingrich) might be justified, it isn’t the rational response that should be coming from the White House publicly. The political and social environment within Afghanistan is unstable, and being overly critical of the response by the locals could possibly flame the protests out of control, and maybe even resulting in the fragile Karzai government collapsing. Privately, we would be pushing the Karzai government to make a stronger statement to his people to quell the protests. His most recent statement of telling the Afghani’s to “not to resort to violence” and “now that we have shown our feelings, it is time to be calm and peaceful” wasn’t strong enough.
Karzai should consider addressing the religious upheaval by using the Koran itself. In Surat Al-Anfal, Allah informs Mohammed on how to treat the enemies of Islam. But in 8:61, Allah says, “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” While the US has been in Afghanistan fighting against the Taliban and al Qaeda for the past decade, we are also currently working with the Afghan government in holding reconciliation talks (“incline to peace”) with representatives of those two organizations. Karzai needs to reinforce to the public that the vengeful acts against the US for culturally insensitive acts out of ignorance is not in line with the Koran.
Conservative Blogs Central: I really fear for the American men and women serving in today’s US military. I mean … what’s the point in going to war if you are not going to actually fight a war — and fight it to win? Why go through all the training and put your life on the line if some lily-livered politician back in Washington is going to sacrifice your life’s blood on the alter of political expediency?
Sic Semper Tyrannis: This is how Lieven depicts the US’s current situation in Afghanistan: “The United States and its allies today find themselves in a position in Afghanistan similar to that of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, after Mikhail Gorbachev decided on military withdrawal by a fixed deadline. They are in a race against the clock to build up a regime and army that will survive their withdrawal, while either seeking a peace agreement with the leaders of the insurgent forces or splitting off their more moderate, pragmatic, and mercenary elements and making an agreement with them”.
Atheist Revolution: There’s also a fairly obvious problem with this response: Christians probably wouldn’t like it being applied to them. If we are going to argue that the Quran is only a book, the same would have to be said about the Christian bible. While you or I might be fine with this (I certainly am), I don’t see it going down well among my neighbors here in the Bible Belt. Perhaps we could set up some sort of exchange where Muslims burned Christian bibles every time anybody burned a Quran.
CATO @ Liberty: The mayhem unleashed after the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base outside of Kabul—intentional or not—has likely irreparably damaged the U.S. training mission in Afghanistan. Peace talks with the Taliban—a major policy shift for the insurgent movement—could be off the table, too. This is just the latest incident in the downward spiral of U.S.-Afghan relations. Washington’s policy must now shift dramatically toward an expedited withdrawal. The “hearts and minds” campaign was never likely to succeed in a country that views the United States as guests who have overstayed their welcome.
Middle East Perspectives: After watching the Afghan people in the street protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy shouting “death to America,” after reading that an Afghan intelligence officer killed two American troops over this issue, I believe it is time to leave these ingrates to their own fate. As with many of the people in this part of the world (and I’m going to get hate mail accusing me of being anti-Muslim…), they appear incapable of rational thought when it comes to these perceived religious slights.