Protests – many violent – continue across Afghanistan over a Quran that was burned at Bagram Air Base after being confiscated from detainees who used it to exchange messages. (See background details here.) Two US soldiers were killed at a NATO base on February 22. Last Saturday two American officers were shot at the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul by a Afghan policeman. Monday seven Americans involved with training Afghan police were injured when a grenade was thrown into their base in Kunduz. And in Kandahar yesterday 2 more soldiers were killed and one wounded by three Afghans they were training for the Afghan Security Forces. (Two of the killers were themselves killed in return fire by US service members.)
US and NATO military leaders apologized for the initial incident immediately. President Obama issued a written apology to Afghan President Hamid Karazi on February 23. Karazi asked for calm from his people, but the protests continue, with 25-30 Afghans dying in the violence.
(I found these reports to be the most comprehensive of several I consulted:
It is now widely known that to dispose of a Quran, it should be wrapped in a clean cloth and buried where it will not be disturbed. Or it can be placed in a river to sink or float away. In some circumstances it can even be burned – by a Muslim. There was certainly ignorance/lack of research on the part of the US military in the disposal of the Quran. But I doubt there was any evil intent. After all, in the US we burn American flags that have become tattered and need disposal. Burning an item is seen as the honorable way to dispose of many things; it keeps them from being used improperly or disgraced.
I would like to ask the protesters how much revenge is enough? Killing two soldiers apparently was not enough. Neither was killing two more last Saturday, injuring seven more Sunday or killing two more yesterday. Is there an end, or is this just an excuse to continue to kill Westerners?
Many comments to news stories on foreign websites are quite outspoken about the need to leave Afghanistan to protect/govern itself. I have been a supporter of bringing stability to the Afghan government and keeping the Taliban from imposing their extremist view of life on all Afghans. Right now the only thing that makes me hesitate to join the calls to withdraw our troops is what will happen to women and children if we do. Women and young girls have no life except to be slaves to men. Young boys are taught to strap bombs to themselves and gain glory by killing “infidels”. It is a complex situation and the Western countries will not solve all the problems with military occupation. We also must remember that most of the Muslim world, including many women, do not see any problems. The Muslim and Western views of the world have little in common.
Most of the Western world accepts many things that Muslims find immoral: movies depicting drinking and sex, body-revealing clothing, modern music, etc. Some religious groups in the West disapprove of these things too. One of my sons-in-law was cut off by his family because of lifestyle choices he made after high school that are forbidden by their religion. They literally will not speak to him at family gatherings. But they are not trying to kill him, while many Muslims sanction honor killings of family members. (To learn about an Afghan immigrant husband and wife recently convicted in Canada of killing their 3 three daughters and an older woman for supposedly bringing shame on the family, see
There are also things that seem like contradictions to the Western mind that do not seem to bother Muslims:
* Islam forbids drug use, but Muslims grow opium poppies all across Afghanistan.
* Despite prohibitions on drinking alcohol, the 9-11 hijackers were reported to have enjoyed the offerings of an American bar the evening of 9-10.
* Writing in a Quran, as the detainees did, is also considered desecration, but we have not heard Muslims calling for the deaths of those men.
It is one thing for our young men and women to lose their lives trying to create a form of democracy in Afghanistan, and change a culture so girls can receive an education. But the six Americans who have died in the last two weeks lost their lives because those who are supposed to be our friends actually hate us. There does not seem to be anything more to be done diplomatically. At this point the NATO military command needs to do whatever is necessary to protect NATO personnel – at least stop joint training with Afghans until this incident blows over, if necessary withdraw everyone as quickly as possible.