By now, everyone is familiar with how it was discovered that US military personnel at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan had been sending copies of the koran to the incinerator. Afghanis continue to riot in protest; four US soldiers have been killed, and eight wounded, to date in retaliation. In response to the rioting, obama issued a lengthy, written apology addressed to Hamid Karzai,
mayor of Kabul president of Afghanistan. Karzai nevertheless insists that those responsible for the burnt korans be handed over to stand trial.
Around the world, moslems are protesting in solidarity. In America, the Right attacks obama for apologizing, while the Left defends him. In Afghanistan, tempers continue to flare. A young Afghani who worked at Bagram Air base said of his American employers: “The people who do this are our enemies. How could I ever work for them again?”
The general consensus in Afghanistan is that us Americans should go home, leaving them in peace to practice their medieval religion. We should take a hint and start packing our bags.
Apology Not Accepted
Immediately following the revelation of the koran burnings, obama sent a three-page, written apology to Karzai. In it, he offered his “sincere apologies” and expressed “deep regret” for the torching of the sacred Muslim texts. “The error was inadvertent,” obama insisted , “I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”
Similar prostrations were offered by the US military, NATO, and the State Department:
“We apologize to the Afghan people and disapprove of such conduct in the strongest possible terms. This deeply unfortunate incident does not reflect the great respect our military has for the Afghan people. It’s regrettable.”
“The desecration of religious articles is not in keeping with the standards of American tolerance, human rights practices and freedom of religion.”
The claim that the burnings were accidental seems genuine — to a point. The korans had been removed from a library the base ran for prisoners. It seems the prisoners had scribbled marginalia next to sura, or passages, that justify the use of armed resistance against NATO forces. (These must have been heavily annotated copies, as the koran contains over a hundred sura promoting violence against infidels.)
So, although knew they were burning korans, our soldiers may well have been unaware that burning korans was such an affront to moslems. They certainly weren’t burning the korans as an intentional affront to moslems. They were just following orders:
6.1.2 Utilization of the Bagram incinerator or a properly authorized burn barrel is mandatory for burning classified/sensitive information that cannot be properly disposed of in a shredder authorized to destroy classified information. All other documents should be shredded before they are discarded.
(It’s doubtful that moslems would be any less irate had the korans been shredded.)
In fact, waste disposal at our many far-flung bases has become a problem that the military has tried to address over the past two years, primarily by building incinerators. Coincidentally, Bagram was the subject of a 2009 Air Force study on improving waste handling.
NATO has agreed to investigate the burnings, and the US military will be conducting sensitivity training sessions for all personnel in Afghanistan.
When In Bagram…
None of this will appease moslems, however, who believe that any desecration of their magical book is an inexcusable affront to Allah, punishable by death. Karzai continues to insist that those responsible be handed over to the Afghani government to stand trial. Under Afghani law — which is essentially sharia — the punishment is death by hanging.
No US president would ever comply to such a request, certainly not one seeking re-election. Nevertheless, under international law, we may be obligated to do just that. It all depends on where the burnings took place.
The grounds of an overseas military base, like a consulate or embassy, are considered sovereign soil of the nation operating it. Within these tiny enclaves, the laws of the operating nation, not those of the host, are in force. Once they step off-base, however, or out the embassy door, our military and diplomatic personnel are subject to the laws of the host country. So-called “diplomatic immunity” means embassy staff who violate local laws are simply shipped home. Soldiers get handed over to the local authorities. One news outlet described the location of the burnings as “an incinerator near the Bagram Air Base.” True Liberal Nexus, however, has located documents (link and link) that indicate that the burn piles or incinerator used to burn the korans would have been situated within the base perimeter. The nuances of international law, though, are unlikely to sooth the rage of the moslems.
Burn, Baby, Burn
It may surprise you to learn that this is not the first time religious texts were burned at Bagram Air Base. In 2009, thousands of holy books were sent to the incinerator. Christian bibles.
The Air Force had received an unsolicited shipment of bibles, translated into local languages, from a Christian group. They’d first been put in the base library, but were recalled to avoid any appearance that part of our mission in Afghanistan was to convert. At first, the Air Force was going to mark the bibles “Return to Sender.” Then it reconsidered, fearing that, were the bibles to be later redistributed, it might be misconstrued by Afghanis that the US military was the source. So they were burned. No one protested; no one complained; no one was killed.
In 2011, religious freak Terry Jones held a koran burning, condemning a single copy of the words of the prophet/misogynist/rapist/pederast, Mohammed, to the flames. Worldwide, moslems rioted for two days. In afghanistan, a mob attacked a UN office, killing 24 inside. In the West, Jones was widely blamed for causing the violence, implying that the moslems who actually did the rioting and committed the murders are either 1) mindless beasts incapable of checking their emotions; 2) justified in their actions.
“It was intolerant and it was extremely disrespectful and again, we condemn it in the strongest manner possible.” — Gen. David Petraeus
“I wish we could find some way to hold people accountable. During WWII, you had limits on what you could say if it would inspire the enemy. Free speech is a great idea, but we are in a war. Any time in America we can push back against actions like this that put our troops at risk, we ought to do that.” – Sen. Lindsay Graham
“I am disgusted and saddened at the outcome of Mr. Jones’ narrow vision of the world. While we respect freedom of speech, this is tantamount to crying fire in a crowded theater.” — Rep. Maxine Waters
“Mr. Jones did this, even though he was warned of the consequences.. It is illegal to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater because doing so presents a clear and present danger, and it should be illegal to set fire to the Koran for the same reason. Authorities should immediately begin considering the prosecution of Mr. Jones for inciting a riot.” — Letter to the editor of the Washington Post
“If the stakes were not so high, if his threatened action did not portend international riots, increase the danger to American troops, and jeopardize the nation’s global standing, the whole thing would be downright laughable” — Seattle Times
“The planned burning of Korans this weekend would not just be a national disgrace or dangerous for our troops abroad. It could set fire to the very fabric that makes America strong and righteous.” — Christian Science Monitor
Like Jones’ pyromania, all this threw much heat but little light. One of the few voices defending our tradition of Free Speech was Glenn Greenwald:
“The whole point of the First Amendment is that one is free to express the most marginalized, repellent, provocative and offensive ideas. Those are the views that are always targeted for suppression…. If you’re someone who wants to vest the state with the power to punish the expression of certain views on the grounds that the view is so wrong and/or hurtful that its expression should not be permitted … then you’re someone who does not believe in free speech, by definition; what you believe is that one is free to express only those viewpoints which the majority of citizens (and the State) allow to be expressed.”
What Greenwald understands, contra the State Department, is that the desecration of religious articles is in keeping with the standards of American tolerance, human rights practices and freedom of religion.
Apologizing for the Apology
Yet, for the proglydites of the Left, this double standard is perfectly acceptable. If a pack of intolerant, illiterate goat-herders think a collection of pulp, ink, glue, and cardboard can be desecrated, then who are we to question that?
Mika Brzezinski, perhaps the dimmest of all the dimwits at
Pravda MSNBC, vociferously defended obama’s mewling apology: “What am I missing? Let’s say the American flag was inadvertently burned, would that not require an apology from another leader?”
Um, they do burn the American flag all the time, Mika, and on purpose. I guess you missed how they just did it again in Yemen. Go ahead, Mika, demand an apology. Now, people also burn the American flag (or step on it in an alleyway) in America. The difference is, while some Americans do get all touchy about flag etiquette, burning a flag in America won’t get you executed.
Mika, perhaps you also missed how they burned your obama-messiah in effigy the other day. Aren’t you offended, Mika? Or is that sort of thing “understandable” when it’s done by foreigners?
Why, of course it is! Mika, and the rest of the proglydites at MSNBC set an higher bar for Western civilization than the rest of the world. Just last April, the Hardball gang twisted themselves into contortions to explain how burning a koran is far worse than burning a bible:
“The thing to keep in mind that`s very important here is that the Koran to Muslims … is not the same as the Bible to Christians…. [I]f you`re a Muslim, the Koran is directly the word of God, not written by man…. That makes it sacred in a way that it`s hard to understand if you`re not Muslim. So the act of burning a Koran is … much, much more inflammatory … than if you were to burn a Bible.”
The pathology that afflicts the Left, causing it to always belittle Western values while ever making excuses for the abominable behavior of other cultures, is a subject better left for another day. But here’s the sort of apology a real president, who
- Treasured and respected our Constitution and our Western values;
- Had a pair;
might have issued:
Gosh, I am so terribly sorry this little peccadillo upset y’all so much! It’s not like we went out of our way to upset you. I’m sure our boys didn’t even realize that burning a little book was such a big deal to y’all. See, in our country, we burn things all the time that are sacred to others — like posters of the Pope, rival versions of the bible, and Dixie Chicks CDs. That’s because, in our country, we value free speech and the separation of church and state. We came to your country ten years ago to rescue you from the oppressive clutches of the Taliban — that and to build a pipeline. But if you insist on remaining stuck in the Middle Ages, then we best be on our way.
In all seriousness, this was an opportunity for the American president to reaffirm the best of American values — not coca cola or consumerism, or drones, but rather freedom of speech, secularism, and tolerance. Yes, tolerance, because unlike Western society, Islam (and I intentionally paint here with a broad brush; prove me wrong) is utterly intolerant of the beliefs of others.
We initially invaded Afghanistan to rout out the Taliban, which allegedly had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. We stayed to reform Afghan society, to bring it into a state of democratic grace, to eliminate corruption in its government, to kill the opium trade, to modernize its infrastructure. Some say we are there to exploit the country’s natural resources, or to have a springboard for a future attack on Iran. According to General David Petraeus, the primary objective is to create an Afghanistan that is “never again a sanctuary to al-Qaida or other transnational extremists that it was prior to 9/11.”
In December, 2010, when his surge was in full swing, obama paid a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan, telling them:
“We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offense, tired of playing defense. Today we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have the chance to build a more hopeful future. You will succeed in your mission.”
US policy, bent on preventing the return of the taliban at all costs, has coddled and propped up the perfidious Karzai, while placating the brutal local warlords. The 2010 parliamentary elections saw a new generation of warlords “that has risen since 2001 and attained wealth and power through NATO security contracts and lucrative reconstruction deals,” gain office.
As a sop to a populace increasingly squeezed by Kabul and the warlords, half-hearted attempts were made to implement public works projects — which ended up rife with further graft. Our statesmen are puzzled how this policy could fail in Afghanistan, when it was such a smashing success in Vietnam.
Whatever our motivations, noble or base, we have failed across the board. The Taliban still controls much of the countryside, and we now are begging them to come to the table and accept a power-sharing agreement. The heroin trade is like a weed — we hack at the head, but the roots remain, ready to spring up anew. A decade after we installed him in power, Karzai’s regime is ranked as one of the top three most corrupt governments in the world. The country is as impoverished and undeveloped as when we arrived.
As implemented by Bush and now by obama, our agenda in Afghanistan is the spawn of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, which, among other things, assumes that forcibly grafting democracy onto a country leads to economic prosperity and an open society. The fatal flaw of the Wolfowitz doctrine is that it got the causal relationship backwards: only prosperous, open societies have the wherewithal to sustain a democracy. In destitute, reactionary Afghanistan, democracy is a farce.
Malalai Joya, one of the few woman elected to the Jirga (parliament), has spoken out against both US policy and the corrupt Karzai regime. Joya laments that “there are no human rights or democracy in Afghanistan because [the government] is infected with fundamentalism.”
As reward for her efforts to battle corruption and defend women’s rights, Jaya has been kicked out of the Jirga and threatened with rape. “In our country, to express your point of view is to risk violence and death.”
Welcome to Beautiful Koranistan!
Not sure what we expected, because the Afghan constitution, written in 2004 with our blessing, establishes the country as an islamic republic. While it includes lip service to equal rights for woman, free speech, and freedom of religion, the Afghan constitution also clearly states that “In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” In practice, the law of the land is sharia: the 1976 penal code is still in effect, and the constitution gives jurisprudence to Hanafi law (a sharia variant) on matters religious.
Some human rights highlights since the Constitution was ratified:
- 2005 — Journalist Ali Mohaqiq Nasab receives a two year blasphemy sentence for questioning harsh punishments imposed on women and the punishment of apostasy;
- 2006 — Abdul Rahman is arrested for converting to christianity — “an attack on Islam”, punishable by death– but is later released following international pressure;
- 2007 — The Afghan Supreme Court rules that membership in the Bahai Faith is blasphemy and that Muslims who convert to the Bahai Faith are apostates;
- 2008 — Following a four-minute trial, journalism student Parwiz Kambakhsh is convicted of blasphemy for allowing an article critical of Islam’s treatment of women to be published in the school paper. His death sentence is later commuted to 20 years imprisonment;
- 2009 — Ghows Zalmai is sentenced to twenty years in prison for publishing an unauthorized translation of the koran;
- 2009 — Karzai signs The Shiite Personal Status Law, which allows police to enforce a woman’s role as “obedience, readiness for intercourse, and not leaving the house without the permission of the husband,” and affirms that a shiite wife is “bound to preen for her husband, as and when he desires.” Under the law, a husband may deny his wife food and shelter if she does not meet his sexual needs, including anal intercourse;
- 2010 — Red Cross worker Said Musa is convicted of conversion to christianity and sentenced to death. After suffering torture in prison, Musa is released following intervention by NGOs;
- 2011 — Shoaib Assadullah is arrested for converting to christianity, but later released due to international pressure;
- 2011 — After reporting her rape by her husband’s cousin, a 19 year-old woman is sentenced to 12 years in prison for adultery;
- 2011 — A case involving an 8 year-old bride, (which technically violated the country’s legal marriage age of 16) is turned over by the government to local tribal leaders for adjudication. The elders rule that, as the groom had violated the marriage agreement by already having sex with the girl, he must pay a larger dowry. A human rights report notes that 57% of brides in Afghanistan are under the age of 16.
What do our Western leaders have to say to all this?
“We are not in Afghanistan … to see to it that we make everything right in Afghanistan. We’re there to defeat al Qaeda.” — Vice President Joe Biden
“We believe that if we help them secure themselves, by training the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, then we enable that government structure to become much more experienced than it has been. It’s a young structure and they’re still going through some growing pains.” — Captain Elizabeth Mathia, spokesperson for IFOR
“There is no point in imposing some external model that bears no relation to Afghan realities or traditions.” — Dominic Grieve, UK Attorney General
Infidel, Go Home!
We must face the fact that the people of Afghanistan are stuck in the 9th century, and they like it there. They have no intention of abandoning the oppression of islamic law, and Western leaders turn a blind eye to all but the most notorious cases.
The Afghanis find our continued presence in their country incompatible with their religion and their culture. They don’t want our promises of roads and schools and prosperity. They just want us to leave.
We live in a world where the inadvertent burning of someone’s holy book may be inconsiderate, but can be smoothed over with an apology. They live (not unlike certain christians in this country) in a pre-modern, shamanistic world, where inanimate objects like books — almost 3/4 of the population are illiterate — are imbued with spirits that can be offended and “defiled”, and where such defilement can only be atoned with blood.
These strict adherents of islam (like the strict jews they cribbed their religion off of) are obsessed with cleanliness, following edicts written long before the discovery of bacteria. Hence is Allah, the god they fabricated, so enraged over unclean foods, unclean practices, unclean persons.
So we teach our troops not to touch the locals with their left (ass-wiping) hand. Still, our very presence, coming and going as we please, sullies their land and their daily lives. The frequent contact with our infidel soldiers, especially the female ones, frustrates the good moslem in his obligation to pray several times a day:
“Muslims, draw not near unto prayer…. [If] ye have touched women…then go to high clean soil and rub your face and your hands.” — sura 4:43
“…if ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it.” sura 5:6
“When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.” Abu Dawud 2:704
To comport with Mohammed’s description of women as domestic animals, we order our female soldiers to wear scarves on their heads. Yet our very use of women– who islam considers inherently unclean, especially when menstruating — as soldiers is confrontational. Since the US military does not take female personnel off active duty once a month, a good moslem man stands a high risk of being contaminated when encountering our troops:
“… women’s courses … are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean.” Sura 2:222
Our practice of placing women officers in command of male soldiers must seem barbaric to them:
“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other…. Good women are obedient…. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them … and beat them.” sura 4:34
Any surprise, then, when a member of the Afghan parliament, in response to the koran burnings, announces at a rally that “Americans are invaders, and jihad against Americans is an obligation”? Or that a local worker feels the Americans “should leave Afghanistan rather than disrespecting our religion, our faith. They have to leave and if next time they disrespect our religion, we will defend our holy Koran, religion and faith until the last drop of blood has left in our body.”
Religious War, Culture War
The Right in America are happy to treat this as a religious war. Both Rick Santorum (in earnest) and Newt Gingrich (as demagoguery) have slammed obama’s apology. The idea of asking Santorum or Gingrich whether the burning of a bible would merit a similar apology has yet to creep into the empty skull of any journalist.
If America is not a “Christian nation”, it is nonetheless a nation of Christians, and most Americans seem to share Santorum’s, et al. — and the Afghanis’ — view of this as a struggle between Christianity and Islam. The soldier who shot a bullet through a koran a while back didn’t do so because he despised religious tracts in general; he did it because islam was heretical to his particular brand of faith.
The proglydites insist that in this case, we must chose between religious zealotry and touchy-feely, United-Colors-of-Benetton relativism, where every world culture, no matter how odious, must be “respected”, “valued” and “understood.”
That is a false dichotomy, and the Left are as wrong as the Right. The koran burning, and the reactions to it, highlight a very real culture war, a clash of values. And our modern, western culture, as exampled by the rights enshrined in the US Constitution, is better in absolute terms than the backwards, islamic culture of Afghanistan, as exemplified by their sharia. The framers of our highest law were well-read children of the Enlightenment; theirs are superstitious relics of the Dark Ages.
Time to Pack Up and Go
It’s over. Our stated mission has failed, and conditions in Afghanistan have gotten steadily worse over time, not better. The ways in which we want to improve society in Afghanistan are not ways in which Afghan society wants to improve. obama’s standard foreign policy approach is to hope a problem just goes away, and he’ll let this problem fester. Rioting will continue. The call to bring the “burners” to justice will intensify. More US personnel will be ambushed and killed. Tensions will rise. The risk that a beleaguered group of our soldiers shoot Afghanis — our Boston Massacre — will increase with each passing day. The sooner we leave, the better.
A president with intelligence and integrity would realize that the game in Afghanistan is lost; that maligning our cherished Western values is a line that should never be crossed, no matter what’s at stake. We don’t have that kind of president.
(c) 2012 by True Liberal Nexus. All rights reserved.
Too long. If you want to be read, shorten it up. Obama and Koran are capitalized. No matter how good your thoughts, you lose credibility with bad grammar and misspellings.
Thanks for the input, walt — I’ve really missed having my 3rd grade english teacher look over my shoulder all these long years, especially back when I used to get paid to write.
I only capitalize the president’s name when he’s actually sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, doing work. OK, Ob… no, wait — he just grabbed his clubs again.
Who says “koran” has to be capitalized? Members of the PC Police, like you? Fuck the koran/qur’an.
I have a feeling that your estimation of my credibility has nothing to do with bad grammar (I committed no grammatical errors, btw).
Anyway, did you actually have anything to say about the content of this article?
first thinGs firSt: Walthe310 is a perfect example of Prog denial. He remarks about cApitalization while not responding to the article. A Classic ObamaBot Brain Fart. No moral core. No principles.
Second: This is a superb post.
Great article Tamer. I didn’t know how bad things really are there for our troops. What a waste of lives, money, and time. Agree with you that the sooner we get out, the better.
My students coming back with missing legs, diagnosed with PTSD, and economic and personal struggles after they joined–often to get money to enroll in colleg–tell me about the vanity and emptiness of it all. They may not use those words, and they may misspell the Muslim Holy Book and capitalize less than I’d wish, but they have had to stand aside as the locals do their damage on those defying the Book, due to a hands-off “policy” of our P.C.- presence. For all the moral b.s. used to justify our imperialism, we cringe when it comes to actually changing barbaric practices. All in the name of relativism, sensitivity, and multicult “understanding.”
P.S. Great article on the origins of the Book in question, or not in…
Terrific post Tamer, Thank you for your righteous anger, we need more of you.
Being somewhat of a practical bent, I watch these morons riot, and think ‘don’t they have anything better to do ? Families to support ?
Jobs ? ‘ The answer is always’ er..no they don’t have anything better to do.’
In the last several centuries, their ‘culture’ has produced nothing of lasting value. I think they have intermarried so much they have become witless fools.
Our leadership must decide to give no quarter to these morons, and no dollars either, and certainly no more soldiers’ lives.
“Afghanistan; where empires go to die” don’t know who said it, but they were spot on.
For many centuries, the brightest centers of learning were to be found in moslem lands. As the stewards of the scientific, astronomical, & mathematical heritage of the the Greeks, islamic culture fostered true philosophy — “love of knowledge.”
Ultimately, though, scientific curiosity cannot coexist with koranic literalism or any similar form of religious fundamentalism. Ergo, while the West continued to develop, islamic culture stagnated.
Afghanistan has always been (and probably always will be) a rustic backwater. Many peaceful, harmonious & egalitarian cultures have arisen in such environments. But, when islam was introduced in Afg., there was no enlightened reasoning to mollify the fundamentalism.
72% of the present-day population can’t read. To them, the koran is not a ‘book’ per se — an information storage & retrieval device — it’s a magical talisman. (It doesn’t help that islam insists that the only “real” koran is a koran written in arabic, so that most practicing moslems recite their arabic prayers by rote, with no comprehension of the words.)
It was sheer hubris for the US to barge into a land, with the intent of transforming both the infrastructure of the countryside, and the mindset of the inhabitants, where at least three prior empires had “gone to die.”
Thanks Tamer- my daughter in law is prepping to return home form that hell hole. What a nightmare. So much back story on the whole mess over there.
MSNBC- what a bunch of fools. If they had taken even ONE basic Western Civ class in college, they would know that all three of the Abrahamic religions consider their “Book” to be the direct Word of God. Idiots.
Duh! They taught me that in Sunday School when I was ten! (Doubt MSNBC would consider me as a guest commentator.)
I could have written so much more about the pathetic failures and half-baked initiatives in Afg. Don’t get me started about the cantaloupe fiasco.
It’s always a pity when good troopers are sent on an ill-fated charge.
Shades of the RC and the centuries of Latin.
This is a remarkably good article. Everyone should read it; in fact, you should seek to publish it in some mainstream rag. I’m appalled to see how few have bothered to comment on it. The thought and hard work you obviously put into it deserves more, much more.