As many as five U.S. troops may be reprimanded for Koran-burning in Afghanistan

No, the riots aren’t over. They’re just resting until the next phase, when the military gently informs Afghan parliamentarians and clerics that accidental Koran-burning doesn’t warrant beheading by scimitar under the UCMJ.

“What they did was careless, but there was no ill will,” said one U.S. military official…

But U.S. military officials expressed concern Friday that the investigation’s finding — which stops short of pinning blame on malevolent soldiers — might not satisfy Afghan leaders who have demanded harsh retribution…

“For the soldiers, it will be serious — they could lose rank. But you’re not going to see the kind of public trial that some here seem to want,” said another U.S. military official…

“There’s a real concern there. We don’t know what the investigation will say, or how the public will react,” the U.S. military official said. “But we know that there’s a real interest in trying guilty parties in an Afghan court, and that’s not something we’re prepared to do.”

But … what about all the apologies? Over to you, CNN:

The burning of the Muslim holy book by U.S. forces at an Afghan prison is unforgivable, a powerful council of Muslim scholars said Friday. It demanded that foreign forces turn over control of prisoners to Afghanistan’s government.

In a statement released through President Hamid Karzai’s office, the Ulema Council said the incident occurred because of “illegal management” of the prison.

“The representatives of the Ulema Council also said that the unforgivable and inhuman action of American forces in Bagram is something that could not be forgiven and an apology is not enough. The criminals of this action should be openly prosecuted and punished as soon as possible,” according to the statement.

Maybe that’s their way of bargaining, i.e. “we can never, ever forgive this insult, although handing over control of Bagram’s prison might help us forget.” The prison’s been a sore spot between NATO and Karzai for months, with NATO continually backsliding on timetables to hand it over, partly due to fears that the Afghans will be too rough with some prisoners and no doubt partly due to fears that they won’t be able, or willing, to secure others. The latest deadline issued by Karzai to hand it over is March 9. If things go haywire again next week, maybe O will decide it’s worth paying the danegeld and granting his wish — once any high-level detainees have been moved to another NATO facility. Hopefully.

Question for any military lawyers out there: Which provisions of the UCMJ are likely to come into play here? Under normal circumstances I assume this would warrant nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 but the Pentagon will be under pressure to put on a show for the locals, so we might see a full court-martial. Under which provisions? I assume it’ll be either dereliction of duty under Article 92 or the catch-all “don’t do anything embarrassing” provision under Article 134. Anything else? Exit quotation from retired Col. Peter Mansoor, former executive officer to David Petraeus: “If it’s not a true partnership, then why should we sacrifice American blood and treasure?… Americans have cultural sensitivities, too. Maybe we’re so sensitive to Afghan culture that we’re forgetting our own.”

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