Qur’an-burning Protests Spread, Santorum calls Obama Weak for Apologizing

The protests in Afghanistan over the burning of old copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, by the US military at Bagram Base in Afghanistan, continued this weekend, with new violence.

This volatile situation, in which US troops are being wounded or killed, explains Presidnt Obama’s apology for the mishandling of the Qur’an. In contrast, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum have slammed Obama for apologizing. Santorum called the gesture weak. (This stance is sheer hypocrisy from someone who has complained that Obama is ‘waging war on religion’ !)

On Sunday, Afghans threw grenades onto a US forward operating base in Kunduz Province in the north of the country, at Imam Sahib, wounding 7 special operations troops. Others attacked the police station in the town.

On Sunday in Jalalabad, protesters attacked the airport, leaving several people dead and many wounded.

The Taliban have announced that the attacks are retaliation for the mishandling of the Qur’an.

Some 30 Afghans have died in demonstrations in recent days.

Two US military advisers to the Ministry of the Interior were shot dead on Saturday by an Afghan security man.

It turns out, according to recovered security tapes, that they were watching footage of the protests and cursing out the protesters, then speaking badly of the Qur’an. The Afghan argued with them that they should be more respectful, and when the argument escalated, he drew on them and shot them both dead.

If this story is true, it distills the arrogance and bigotry of some US personnel in Afghanistan (they are in someone else’s country). They didn’t deserve to meet that end, but cursing the Qur’an in a Muslim country in front of a local Muslim is about the most foolhardy act I can imagine. The strong evangelical element in some parts of the US military makes it particularly unsuited to more or less running a largely illiterate Muslim nation that is deeply religious. Evangelicals are the American group that has the highest disapproval of Islam.. (Doubt has been cast on this report. I was sent the informed comment below:

You mentioned on your facebook page that you had heard rumors that the two officers who were shot by someone in the Afghan HQ in Kabul had been trash-talking the muslims and their religion before being shot.  Although reports are far from complete, from what I have seen from various sources, this seems to be a rubbish rumor.  One of the reports that I have seen notes that one of the officers was a Pasto speaker and was very familiar with the Afghan culture and had been selected for assignment to this HQ on that basis.  The other guy was a teacher in civilian life in Baltimore County Maryland and it seems highly unlikely that a guy with a racist outlook could be employed in the local schools.  Further, the reports all appear to be suggesting that they were shot by someone who can into their secure area because the killer had an access code to their room and the suggestion is that he was not in the room prior to opening the door and shooting them…. There will be more information to come out, but I thought that you might want to update your facebook page since the negative rumors about the two officers are highly unlikely to prove true…..

Not only has the controversy roiled US and NATO relations with Afghanistan, it has implications farther afield.

Iranian preachers and Revolutionary Guards have been condemning the US vehemently over the burning. The US and Iran are competing for the affection of countries in the Muslim world, and the US military just lost much of its credibility there.

In Pakistan, small anti-US demonstrations have been held. But Urdu newspapers throughout the region are largely negative toward the US. resenting drone strikes.

Newpaper editorials from Indonesia to Suadi Arabia are condemning the US.

Even in Iraq, from which US troops just withdrew in December, the major religious parties, even ones that had been friendly to Washington during the US presence there, took potshots at the US. (see below).

The USG Open Source Center also translated these passages from Iraqi religious parties, both Sunni and Shiite, slamming the US:

Iraqi Scholars, Leaders Condemn Koran Burning in Afghanistan, Reject US Apology
Iraq — OSC Summary
Friday, February 24, 2012 …

Iraqi websites between 22 February and 24 February were observed to post the following reports in response to 21 February reports of burning the Koran in the Bagram military base in Afghanistan.

On 24 February, Al-Sumariyah News cited a statement by the Kurdistan Region Presidency as saying: “We at the Kurdistan Region Presidency strongly condemn the burning of the holy Koran by US soldiers.” The statement added that “we hope that the officials at the Bagram military base will hold thorough investigations with those who carried out this disgraceful act and will not allow their irresponsible act to become a reason for sabotaging and threatening the situation in the Islamic world.” (Beirut Al-Sumariyah News in Arabic – Iraqi news website affiliated with Al-Sumariyah Television, a privately owned, primarily entertainment Iraqi satellite television, providing balanced coverage political issues in Iraq…)

On 24 February, the [Sunni, radical] Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) issued a statement that condemned the burning of the Koran by US soldiers, while noting “this was not surprising since they did the same in Iraq and they burned copies of the Koran more than once and intentionally abused it.” AMS refused to accept the apology by the US President that was delivered by the White House spokesman and the apology by US defense secretary, viewing them as “unacceptable” and “as one of their usual ways to calm rebels,” adding that they “do not reflect a real regret for abusing Islamic sanctities.”

In its statement, AMS also recalled the “crime of a US pastor who called on global media outlets to watch him while burning the holy Koran.” AMS expressed its appreciation for the reactions of Muslims who did not abuse the Bible in a similar way, stressing that their behavior reflects “the huge difference between them and the Americans in terms of respecting religions and accepting others.” (Baghdad The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq in Arabic — Official website of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq…)

On 24 February, Diya al-Shawki, imam and preacher of [the Shiite, radical Sadrist] Al-Kufah Mosque, condemned “the blatant attack on the holy Koran and burning it by the unbelievers who are represented by the US occupation forces in one of their ill-omened bases in Afghanistan,” calling on “all religious authorities, Islamic institutes, and all Muslims to take a firm stance against those who attack Islamic sanctities.” ( Al-Najaf Higher Media Commission of Martyr Sayyid Al-Sadr’s Office in Arabic — Website associated with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr…)

On 23 February, the Independent Press Agency cited a statement by Iraq’s Scholars Group that denounce]s the burning of the Koran by US soldiers, saying that “this act is a disregard to Muslims’ emotions in the world and it is a plot that aims to attack Muslim sanctities.” The statement also called for holding a “Friday of rage” in support of the Koran, while calling on all “Muslim scholars to take a firm and united stance” against this incident. (London Independent Press Agency in Arabic – Independent news agency, providing extensive coverage of political, security, and economic issues in Iraq…)

On 22 February, Ammar al-Hakim, chairman of the [moderate Shiite] Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, condemned the burning of the Koran in the weekly cultural forum, describing this behavior as “wrong and disgraceful,” and noting that targeting the Koran in such a way is “disrespectful to others’ faith.” He also called for “putting an end to such practices,” emphasizing that “this step requests so much work on the cultural level so that hatred would disappear among nations.” (Al-Najaf Presidency of the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council in Arabic — Website of the Shiite group, the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council …)

40 Responses

  1. Santorum’s comment about the Koran and to think of it, his entire campaign brings to mind a word seldom used…supercilious

    adjective

    Definition: 1. showing haughty superiority over someone else; 2. characterized by or expressive of contempt

    Synonyms: disdainful, contemptuous, arrogant, bossy, cocky, egotistical, haughty, patronizing, uppity, snotty.

    Santorum thinks God and has ordained him as the angel of his wrath. Rick’s wife said as much when she announced the Santorum campaign is “God’s will.”

    Interesting thing about Santorum, he would outlaw abortions to protect a fetus, while he calls for the murder of innocent Iranians. How does that work?

    • Liberals (like myself) typically find fault with those who oppose abortion while calling for killings of adults. We assume that logical consistency requires that a fetus (or embryo) is considered the same as a fully-born individual.

      But that’s obviously nonsense. Liberals make a distinction between the “pre-born” and those of us who are live and walking around; why shouldn’t the anti-choicers?

      The Christian rightwing orthodoxy is that the unborn is innocent of any sin. Thus, they require special protection, since they have done no wrong. Once born, “original sin” flies in, and for most Christian sects, baptism is done as soon as possible to clear the baby’s “sin slate.” After that, good behavior and salvation are up to the individual.

      More specifically, once a baby is born, it’s the moral and financial responsibility of its parents – that is, the mother. At birth, they basically wash their hands of any further concern.

      And in this case, fully grown adults like Iranians who may have a different faith, may be in opposition to the US, or whatever, are thought of as having intelligently chosen their adversarial path and are thus fair game.

  2. What is unbelievable to me is that American commanders and high officers did not ram home to their troops the absolute necessity of treating Korans with respect. How much imagination would have been required to donate them to a madrassa? There was a leadership failure here.

    • Watch the documentary Restrepo. It seemed that many Americans who watched it thought that it portrayed GIs positively. But the elite Special Forces guys who are supposedly reknowned for communicating with the natives are really of two minds; the officers try hard to sling the propaganda to the tribal elders, but they don’t really understand their own scripts. The enlisted men just don’t regard Afghans as particularly human. And I’m sure those tribal elders could see that.

      I expect among the garrison troops in Kabul it’s far worse.

      • Restrepo was about common “troopies”. How many of those jokers finished high school, much less had a working knowledge of the language, history, or culture. Such is at least was the conception of SF, although I’m sure they’re recruiting has been biased more toward knuckle-draggin’ in the last few years.

  3. Juan, Evangelical’s have a high disapproval rating among some of us non-muslims right here in the USA.

  4. Doesn’t the US military know how wrong it is to go around burning the Koran? The worldwide condemnation of that Florida minister who did so wasn’t enough?

    Obviously our military is not up to the ABC’s of their job. If there’s one thing the military has to do it’s keeping good ties with the host country. This is military conduct going back to before Alexander the Great.

    As much as I cannot stand Obama I think he did the right thing apologizing. I only wish he could provide some leadership as well as following behind sweeping up the mess his staff makes.

  5. “It turns out, according to recovered security tapes, that they were watching footage of the protests and cursing out the protesters, then speaking badly of the Qur’an.”

    Where was that reported? According to the NYT, there was no security camera in the small room inside the Interior building, near the National Police Coordination Center.

    They were shot in the back of the head, with a weapon using a silencer, so the notion of an altercation sounds like propaganda. At the very least, some skepticism should be applied before circulating it.

    • It’s definitely not clear what actually happened. I could see either version happening but the idea of the Afghan just shooting them for no reason whatsoever seems to me implausible. Considering the usual military macho mindset I could easily see Prof Cole’s assertion as the fact.

      If it walks like a duck and it quacks ……..

      • the idea of the Afghan just shooting them for no reason whatsoever seems to me implausible

        Well, of course he did it for some reason. The question is, what reason?

        There have been any number of cases of Afghan military or police personnel suddenly turning their weapons on Americans.

      • So you have made up your mind that the “usual military macho mindset” applied to the U.S. Lt. Colonel. and the Major who were each shot in the back of the head, Mr. McCarthy? I would say two things in response: A. You display a breathtaking ability to categorize two men based on their profession; and B. You apparently think that if they did fit your preconceived category, they deserved to be shot. “If it walks like a duck and it quacks……” You seem to be very quick about sizing people up, according to your lights, and for determining whether or not they deserve to live or die, according to your lights, of course.

        By the way, I am not the “Bill” to whose post you responded, but I have been posting here for some time, so I guess you will have to get used to two “Bills.” on this forum.

        • Mr. Bill, was that supposed to be ad hominem impeachment of Mr. McCarthy, based on a sample and set of presumptions and readings-in at least as skinny as the ones you attribute to him?

          This Vietvet would venture to state that there is a huge amount of proud evidence in the public record, let alone the stuff “we” don’t get to see, about the “military mindset.” Look into YouTube — search for “hellfire missile strikes video,” or do it on Google for a wider assortment. Follow a few of the threads into sniper-land and “our” automatic-weapons fixation and nearly-nude babes shooting miniguns, enjoy the comments especially.

          And if you haven’t already, enlist at military.com for a fascinating daily assortment of fresh new evidence of how “our” military-mindset works. Guess what? There really are a lot of officers, and EMs, who are more than capable, and very culpable, of some pretty nasty stuff, committed nominally “in our names.” And “fog of war” is no excuse, though whitewashes are very effective escape&evasion tactics…

          For fun: link to gyral.blackshell.com Missing there is one common deprecation: “hajji.” The other ones are pretty well covered.

          Of course, “in this particular case,” the accessible evidence is currently skinny, and in the nature of things (barring a Wikileak) unlikely to gain any clarity or substance.

        • First of all, let me dispel your assetion that I intended that they “deserved to be shot”. I neither said, nor implied any such thing. However, you don’t insult someone’s beliefs in a manner which could lead them to extreme actions. It’s just not smart.
          Now as to the “usual military macho mindset” I stand by that comment based on personal knowledge of many friends from the Marines, Army, etc. The Vietnam era Marines marched to the tune of “Kill Cong, Stomp, ‘em down, Watch ‘em bleed”. If you think that isn’t engendering a macho mindset which could have conceivably led to the shooting then I don’t know which planet you’re from.

        • “you don’t insult someone’s beliefs in a manner which could lead them to extreme actions.”

          There you go again, Mr. McCarthy, assuming that the two U.S. officers were murdered because they “insulted someone’s beliefs.” There is no evidence that that was the case, but apparently to admit that would violate your ideologically preconceived frame of reference.

        • I’m going to throw this out there: the guy who shot two people is, perhaps, a better target for the accusation of “gung-ho military mindset.”

          Even if the dead people are American.

        • It was not an “ad-hominem impeachment of Mr. McCarthy” Mr. McPhee. Rather, it was an observation based entirely on his own statement. Moreover, I need no lectures from you on the “military mindset.” I was in the U.S. Air Force, probably during the same period you were in the military during the Vietnam War.

        • Enlisted (which shows how dumb I really am) mid ’66, Vietnam 1st Cav Aug ’67-Aug ’68, honorable discharge mid-’69. I have Air Force friends, also Vietnam vets, who share my views on the nature of the “military mindset.” I have no idea what you did, of course. Many gung ho people with military experience also spent their tours in air conditioned billets, eating Class A rations, playing golf, swimming, doing black market stuff, going to movie theaters. Even in “war theatres.” But since you need no lectures from me, maybe you have similar observations and experiences?

        • “I have no idea what you did, of course.”

          Intelligence (listening posts), all overseas.

          “Many gung ho people with military experience also spent their tours in air conditioned billets, eating Class A rations, playing golf, swimming, doing black market stuff, going to movie theaters.”

          In other words, much like any other profession, there are those who are gung ho about their jobs and perform accordingly, and those who attempt to skate by with a minimum of effort. My experience is that the latter do not go very far in their careers, military or civilian.

          “I have Air Force friends, also Vietnam vets, who share my views on the nature of the “military mindset.”

          As do I. The difference, at least with my friends who have such views, is that they are sophisticated enough to understand that one cannot apply that standard to every member of the military just because some may meet it. And that assumes that we can agree on what the “military mindset” is, although I think I know what you and Mr. McCarthy mean by the term. Where I disagree with Mr. McCarthy is he seems to assume that the two murdered officers were displaying the “military mindset,” and, thus, brought their deaths on themselves. There is no evidence to substantiate such a conclusion.

  6. So sad that what you get when you soak the house with $400-a-gallon gasoline, fill it full of munitions, stand in the middle of the living room and light a cigarette, is this.

    All the huge bureaucracy that “makes war,” supposedly commanded by Proud Be-Ribboned Battlespace Managerial Persons, learned in the arts of Sun Tzu and all the other masters of that Game, including the intricacies of interservice combat and stealth procurement, and what they put up, in the sacred shibboleth name of “security,” other than securing their fu##ing careers and soft-landing post-“service” gigs, is this. It’s too trite, and so incomplete, to just call it the old “all I got is a hammer, so nail them hajjis” spasm.

    • Getting a bit off-topic here, or maybe not. This incident, and your observation, buttress what seems to be the obviousness of the inconsistencies of Western (esp. sanctimonius US) moralizing.

      Equilibrium can be swayed temporarily out of kilter, but the weight of the universe is against it. I see increasingly little difference between the underlying mindset of activist Jews and Christians, and the Taliban. Largely a matter of style, PR sophistication, and clout in a given economic environment.

    • Since a Common Enemy seems to be a Common Denominator in any kind of Big Change, you may be on to something. The US “NATO” Forces here, there and everywhere are sure doing a bang-up job of that, now aren’t they?

      Of course, for anything stable and sustainable “after,” the defeat and ejection of a common enemy has to serve as the growth medium for a healthier strain of interrelationships… And maybe there are just way too many smart, slimy, subtle little SOBs who are only too happy to keep the tribal drums thumping and driving wedges of fear and hate into every already yawning or tiny potential schism and gulf…

    • Well, it debunks the line Washington tries to put out that Afghanistan is not a deeply Islamic society, that they can all be persuaded not just to be our mercenaries du jour but really to see things our way, and that the Taliban are an aberration.

      That might have been feasible in 1979 before the Soviet invasion and the Saudi-Wahhabi counterinvasion, but it looks like even Kabul (where the old Marxist regime had its only support) has gone pretty far to the right. This is not a unified nation, but if big chunks of it oppose the Taliban more for ethnic rivalries than because they disagree that apostates must be shot, I don’t see what we can accomplish there.

    • “Could this be the start of Afghan Spring?”

      Only if you consider the premeditated murder of two advisors attempting to assist the Afghan Government to extend its writ over a tribal society ruled by warlords as the beginning of an “Afghan Spring.”

      • Is that truly what the two officers were doing, what the “mission” of all those Troops&Contractors is, and is that what Karzai’s Byzantine seraglio is all about?

        And those assertions are based on what text, again? Or just “Everybody knows?”

      • Thank your for pointing this out, Bill.

        One of the most frequent intellectual failings of the anti-imperialist left is to assume that whoever the most violent, most anti-American faction in any given country is, by definition, the legitimate voice of the people of that society.

        It’s really just another unprincipled expression of the “Enemy of my enemy” mindset, but with the very special bonus of defining the United States as “my enemy.”

        Just because someone shoots an American doesn’t mean they’re the good guys.

        • And just because two guys are American, and wear uniforms, that does not mean they are the good guys either. The problem is in the nature of the Great Game, and the importance of money and its surrogacies, and of course “human nature.”

          “The United States” ain’t “my enemy,” but there are a whole lot of United States-ans who spend their days stealing the nation’s wealth by one scam or another while impoverishing Their Fellow Americans, kicking hornet’s nests with the idea of selling bug spray and flamethrowers, all that kind of stuff.

          “‘My country, right or wrong,’ is infamous. ‘My country is always right’ is imbecile.”

        • And just because two guys are American, and wear uniforms, that does not mean they are the good guys either.

          The different, Mr. McPhee, is that nobody has argued any such thing.

          Tu quoque is a logical fallacy under the best of circumstances. When it isn’t even true, it’s just a dodge.

          Perhaps you should hold your fire until you have a target, even if you’re really eager to squeeze a few off.

  7. 10 yrs and they still don’t know not to burn korans? Especially in front of afghans…most mIlitary ppl have said NATO is stupid to have mentioned this but then 2 troops get killed & the American media is milking it all they can. Kind of hypocritical. But who goes into war thinking it’s going to be great? Chances are you might not return..

  8. It’s easy to see a cynical side to this, after all, these military personnel are thrust into a country, where the inhabitants don’t want you to be, try to kill you, as well as look alike. As for the religious aspect of the Military members, the western sects don’t seem to respect any but their own sometimes. This is another reason for the West to stay out of the M.E. or any other country that’s not of the same religious dominance as the so called conquering army[s].

  9. One GOP candidate after another makes it clear: we’re not in Afghanistan to help Moslems, but to punish them. Why else would it be wrong to apologize?

  10. It’s time to reinforce that while the term “evangelical” sounds innocent enough, the fact is that what has become “mainstream right-wing Christianity” in the United States is apocalpytic dispensational premillenialism, otherwise known as “Christian (sic) Zionism.” Its theology is not traditional even in the loosest sense and its derivation (mid 19th Century England) hardly outdates that of Mormonism.
    I’ll leave to others just now to comment on what this says about “American Chrsitianity” in a cultural sense. Long treatises could be written on the subject, but it does not reflect well about its state.
    In matters related to Middle East politics, it,”evangelicalism,” assumes dangerous cult status, running interference for the worst impulses of Likudnik-ism and fuels an unwinnable “long war” against unnecessary “enemies.”

  11. In an era of dialogue and cooperation it is pity that still some people abuse the religion of the other and Kill and wound one another. It is sad that a number of both US service men and Afghans have died. What seems to be lacking is the in the US side is the sensitivity for religious feelings of Muslims. President Obama’s apology will be operative only when it is matched with a sensitive attitude of US service men on ground in Afghanistan.

    Victor Edwin SJ

  12. Just for the record, Juan Cole’s account of the shooting of the American advisors in the Afghan interior ministry seems to be base, at least in part, on this report by
    Agence France-Presse from Kabul. As usual, there are conflicting accounts of the incident being circulated. Whether we’ll ever get to see an (unedited) version of the CCTV footage and find out for sure what really happened remains to be seen. The Afghan government, the U.S. military and the Taliban all have reasons to fudge the facts, as do their spinmasters and the media that end up repeating what they’ve been told by various named and “unnamed” sources. There was no neutral observer present to see what actually happened, except perhaps for that CCTV camera.

Comments are closed.