Obama apologizes for Koran burning incident in Afghanistan

posted at 9:50 am on February 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

After several days of unrest in Afghanistan over the burning of Korans removed from detention facilities, President Obama has sent a note of apology to Hamid Karzai.  Obama stresses that the destruction was inadvertent, and that those who made the “error” would be held accountable:

President Obama sent Afghan President Hamid Karzai a letter on Thursday apologizing for the alleged burning of Korans at a U.S. military base, Karzai’s office confirmed on its website.

“I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident,” Obama wrote. “I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”

The president concludes the letter: “The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”

Was it really “inadvertent,” though? According to CNN’s report on the destruction of the materials, they had good reason to seize and destroy the books:

The Qurans were among religious materials removed from a detainee facility at Bagram Airfield. The materials were gathered for disposal and were inadvertently given to troops for burning, Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said Tuesday.

“This was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials,” he said. “It was not a decision that was made with respect to the faith of Islam. It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it, we immediately stopped and we intervened.”

A military official said the materials were removed from the detainee center’s library because they had “extremist inscriptions” on them and there was “an appearance that these documents were being used to facilitate extremist communications.”

Well, if detainees were marking up the Korans for “extremist communications,” didn’t that deface the Korans anyway?  Either way, the US couldn’t return the books to the detention center after having discovered the secret communications added to them, and we couldn’t just store them forever, either.  I’m not conversant on the proper destruction of Korans in the Muslim faith, but burning them sounds better than throwing them into a landfill.  The responsibility for the need to destroy them rests with the terrorists who defaced them in the first place.

That brings us to the issue of the apology.  Although I’m likely to be in the minority here, it’s probably a smart and cost-free move for Obama to apologize to Karzai. Regardless of how difficult it is to work with Karzai, he’s the best option we’re going to have in Afghanistan for quite a while.  If an apology can bolster his standing in the face of the riots, or at least minimize the political damage he takes in this tempest in a tea cup, then it’s a minor trifle to offer it.

In the future, though, the US can avoid the problem by removing all of the Korans from detention centers.  Let them read Hayek or de Tocqueville instead, and when they deface those books for their communications, no one will riot if we burn them.  We are under no obligation to provide detainees with Korans, and that will avoid all of the problems associated with their handling and disposal.

Update: Allahpundit e-mailed me this new development:

“An individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in eastern Afghanistan today, killing two service members,” ISAF said.

ISAF did not identify the nationalities of the dead soldiers and gave no further details of the incident, which came on the third day of fierce protests against the burning of the Koran at a US-run military base.

Asked whether the events were connected, an ISAF spokesman would only say: “There was a demonstration in the province.”

Afghan troops defending a foreign base in eastern Nangarhar province had “joined demonstrators and opened fire on foreign troops”, a protester told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency.

Thousands of furious Afghans besieged a US base for the third day in a row on Thursday, throwing rocks and climbing up the outer walls.

If an apology can defuse that situation, then as I wrote above, it’s a cost-free sop to Karzai and Obama was correct to offer it.  We’ll see how effective it is.


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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Appeasment doesn’t work.

Bevan on February 23, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Interventionism doesn’t work.

Dante on February 23, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Obliteration does work.

MouthyMainah on February 23, 2012 at 1:56 PM

Would to Heaven we had a navy able to reform those enemies to mankind – or crush them into non-existence.

- George Washington, Writings, Vol. 28, p. 521, to Marquis de Lafayette, August 15, 1786.

ITguy on February 23, 2012 at 2:21 PM

“If an apology can defuse that situation, then as I wrote above, it’s a cost-free sop to Karzai and Obama was correct to offer it…”

Except that it won’t…

… An apology means nothing to a civilization that is forced to live in the 7th century by it’s religious leaders.

Seven Percent Solution on February 23, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Obama . . . stop your infernal apologizing to these idiots. Americans have died for these fools and if they don’t like what we’ve done then screw them.

rplat on February 23, 2012 at 2:24 PM

The generals aren’t much better than Obama. That general apologizing yesterday was disgusting. Can anyone imagine Patton doing such a thing.

kenny on February 23, 2012 at 2:28 PM

The generals aren’t much better than Obama. That general apologizing yesterday was disgusting. Can anyone imagine Patton doing such a thing.

kenny on February 23, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Generals follow orders. And Patton did apologize, under orders, to the yellow belly he slapped.

NotCoach on February 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Is The One upset because we burned the Korans or is he upset that we generated carbon dioxide?

How would the Afghanies feel if we shredded them instead and then . . . .?

EconomicNeocon on February 23, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Of all the alternate-reality tropes in the epistemically-closed world of the right-wing blogosphere, the “Obama as apologizer for America” myth has always been one of the most persistent. For me, it’s one of the most fascinating examples of how something so demonstrably untrue can live on as perceived fact in the minds of some.

Drew Lowell on February 23, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Perhaps not so much apologizer as constant criticizer, even when speaking out of both sides of his mouth:

Guantanamo prison “likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained. So the record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.”

So if that’s the case, why does he keep it open?

The guy blathers. He’s like the kid who talks big to look cool even though he has no clue what he’s talking about. He’s been almost universally wrong on nearly every policy, criticizing the Bush administration while taking credit for its policies.

So, I guess maybe his anti-American diatribes aren’t abject apologies, they’re just babbling from the kid who desperately wants to be part of the in crowd.

AJsDaddie on February 23, 2012 at 2:36 PM

Generals follow orders. And Patton did apologize, under orders, to the yellow belly he slapped.

NotCoach on February 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

You are correct, but many of them seem a little too eager to please. Patton went against the grain of politicians more than once. The brass at high levels are pushed up the ranks by their political leanings. Example, under Clinton, General Wesley whats-his face, the liberal that ran for prez last time in the Republicans. He probably would not moved up in the Clinton era had he been a staunch conservative.

kenny on February 23, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Generals follow orders. And Patton did apologize, under orders, to the yellow belly he slapped.

NotCoach on February 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

You are correct, but many of them seem a little too eager to please. Patton went against the grain of politicians more than once. The brass at high levels are pushed up the ranks by their political leanings. Example, under Clinton, General Wesley whats-his face, the liberal that ran for prez last time in the Republicans. He probably would not moved up in the Clinton era had he been a staunch conservative.

kenny on February 23, 2012 at 2:38 PM

Moreover, Patton apologized to our side in the slapping incident, not to the enemy.

kenny on February 23, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Interventionism doesn’t work.

Dante on February 23, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Could have worked for Whitney Houston

Bevan on February 23, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Now, will Obama or Karzai apologize for the deaths of the two American soldiers and the 4 injured? I highly or “severely” doubt it.

noneoftheabove on February 23, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Apologies to Muslim fanatics will be interpreted as weakness by them.

jeanie on February 23, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Take a good look at yourselves, Muslims. Do you feel more outrage at the murderer of two Americans or against the burning the Koran? If you feel more against the later, it speaks volumes of your character.

Am I wrong? Let’s see some riots against murder, Muslims.

ZGMF_Freedom on February 23, 2012 at 5:32 PM

Dante,
What is your definition of “bigotry”?

And what is your definition of “troll”?

ITguy on February 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Still waiting for a reply, Dante.

ITguy on February 23, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Silly person. Buh-bye.

Trafalgar on February 23, 2012 at 12:53 PM

See? It wasn’t so hard to admit that you’re chest thumping comments are wrong or at the very least inadequate.

Good luck with your new troll act, it seems to suit you. : >

DevilsPrinciple on February 23, 2012 at 9:07 PM

See? It wasn’t so hard to admit that you’re chest thumping comments are wrong or at the very least inadequate.

DevilsPrinciple on February 23, 2012 at 9:07 PM

Don’t go ballistic or anything, but the correct word is your. It’s possessive. You’re is a contraction of You are, as in “You’re so easy to tweak!” Just trying to help :>

Trafalgar on February 24, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Comment pages: 1 2 3