Column - Apology for Afghan Quran burning was right
Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 07:02
Once again, a U.S. military blunder has increased the turbulence in a sea of hatred.
Last week, several Qurans and other religious texts were inadvertently destroyed in a trash burning pit at U.S.-controlled Bagram Air Base in eastern Afghanistan.
The books were used by Afghan detainees being held at the base to propagate extremist messages and were considered to be sensitive material.
The burning of the Islamic holy book sparked a violent public outrage among the population of Afghanistan, prompting President Obama to issue an apology to the Afghan government.
Republican Presidential nominee Newt Gingrich was quick to condemn Obama's words, saying, "He (Obama) is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States, period."
Apparently, Newt thinks respect for religion should only apply to his own. How is burning a religious text that is held sacred by nearly a quarter of the world's population not grounds for an apology?
Although it has been maintained that the Qurans were not burned out of anger or disrespect, Obama made a sound decision by trying to make amends with those who took offense to it.
We must understand this incident didn't only offend Afghans, but many of the 1.5 billion Muslims throughout the world.
We can be remorseful for the Quran burning and still condemn the attacks that occurred because of it. Any attempt by the White House to correct this problem is a step in the right direction.
Politicians like Gingrich, and their belligerent approach to international issues, are one of the cardinal reasons the United States has experienced so much "blowback" from the Muslim population. I imagine many extremists who contort Islamic doctrines to pursue a mission of violence and radicalism love guys like Gingrich.
How else would they be able to convince their followers that the United States has waged a war against Islam?
Many people on Gingrich's side have pointed out that the U.S. soldiers who burned the Qurans, did so with no intention of disrespecting the religion and therefore owe no apology.
When did apologizing for a mistake become bad foreign policy?
If I'm backing my car out of a parking space and fail to spot a person walking behind me and accidentally run him over, then shouldn't I be held responsible?
Even though I wasn't purposely trying to hurt this person, I still hit him with my car. Accidents happen. Just because it wasn't intentional doesn't mean an apology is unnecessary.
The cavalier themes of our foreign policies have caused the United States enough problems. During a war in which winning the local populace's hearts and minds is so vital, we must be more sensitive to local religious practices.
Gingrich supported his objection to the White House's apology by pointing out the fact that Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, hasn't apologized for the killing of two U.S. military officers in response to the Quran burning.
Should Karzai apologize for these deaths? Absolutely. In fact, he should apologize for every single loss of U.S. life that has taken place on Afghan soil during his presidency, but we should not wait for Karzai to lead us to the moral high-ground.
I'm not attempting to justify the violence directed at NATO forces in response to the incident. The violent attacks carried out were a classic example of the irrationality of certain extremist groups in the region, namely the Taliban.
I'm only defending the White House's decision to try to quell the unrest and protect American troops. An apology and a thorough investigation is the responsible and honorable thing to do in this situation.
Gingrich even used Karzai's silence to support his stance on the war.
"We don't need to be here risking our lives and our money on somebody who doesn't care," Gingrich said.
John Balton, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., countered Gingrich's remarks during a Fox News interview by explaining that the United States military isn't in Afghanistan for Karzai.
"We're there to prevent the Taliban from again taking control of the country and making it a base for the kind of terrorism we saw on 9/11," Balton said.
Winning over the Afghan population is vital to accomplishing the mission, and Obama knows this. Ignoring the Quran burning would have only fueled the fire that is already raging in the country.
This being said, Karzai should act swiftly and sternly to quell these types of violent uprisings as they only propagate a negative view of Afghanistan throughout the world.
The intentions of the soldiers who burned the books were to destroy classified information.
This is standard military procedure for disposing of sensitive paperwork in a combat zone. It was not an attack on Islam.
Yes, our military must pursue a more culturally sensitive mission in Afghanistan.
However, Afghans can't just go around destroying things and killing random people because they're offended, especially after the United States has apologized and promised to take measures to avoid this from happening again.