Editorial, New York Times, February 24, 2012
It is unfathomable how American military personnel in Afghanistan could decide to burn copies of the Koran. Muslims consider destruction of the holy book blasphemous. A decade after the United States intervened in Afghanistan, all American forces should know that.
Obama Sends Apology as Afghan Koran Protests Rage (February 24, 2012) Yet this week, Americans started to incinerate a truckload of Islamic religious items, including copies of the Koran, taken from detainees at Bagram Air Base. The incident triggered three days of protests and on Thursday at least nine people were killed, including two American soldiers. Some members of the Parliament, eager to capitalize on the event, have even urged Afghans to take up arms against the American military.
The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, immediately apologized. On Thursday, President Obama sent a letter to President Hamid Karzai. According to Mr. Karzai’s office, it said “the error was inadvertent,” and promised to take “the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.” Mr. Karzai and the Americans began separate investigations. They should be completed quickly and the results made public.
General Allen ordered coalition soldiers in Afghanistan to undergo training in “the proper handling of religious materials.” This is not just a lesson in respect for other religions, as important as that is. The disregard shown the Koran has given extremists another excuse to fan anti-Americanism, making the incredibly difficult effort to stabilize Afghanistan even harder.
The behavior of the American soldiers was shockingly insensitive. And while Afghans’ anger is understandable, there can be no justification for violent rampages. President Karzai is trying to quiet the outrage and reportedly told Parliament he accepted the Americans’ apology. He needs to keep pressing for calm.
Clearly, this incident in which the Koran and other religious books were burned, is a torch that has ignited a cauldron of high-test gasoline that has been lying there ready to explode if and when the torch found it.
Demonstrably a tragic development, the burning itself was neither deliberate nor malicious; however, to the Taliban, it is the kind of torch that they know will ignite all the anti-occupiers in every corner of the land.
And the Taliban are fully intent on capitalizing on that discontent.
Neither the Afghan president, (virtually a figurehead) nor the American president, with his sincere and timely apology, are likely to quiet these flames, either the ones that shoot American soldiers, or the ones that burn within the hearts and minds of the Afghanis, so angry are they that another outside power would presume to wage war where others (Russians, and even Alexander the Great) have been driven out of their country.
And all the "sensitivity training" that can be purchased and delivered to the American soldiers will neither put out this frenzy nor will it pardon the Americans who perpetrated it.
Getting out of Afghanistan, by the NATO forces, including the U.S. military, cannot come soon enough; it is a war the U.S. should not have joined, only slightly less heinous than the war the U.S. inflicted on the people of Iraq, just to topple Saddam Hussein.
If you want to see more of the American foreign screw-ups, watch the U.S. people vote for, and possibly elect Rick Santorum to the White House. Should that happen, (God forbid!) we will be subjected to at least another decade of militarism from the U.S.