Juan Cole blogs today on the uproar over the burning of old copies of the Qur’an at the US military at Bagram Base in Afghanistan, which has already claimed the lives of U.S. serivice men, as well as Afghanis. The tragedy is made more horrific by demagoguery on both sides amplifying animosity in Afghanistan and the U.S.
We can’t control bigotry in other nations. But when it is practiced by Americans, it should be called out, as Cole does:
Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum have slammed Obama for apologizing. Santorum called the gesture weak. (This stance is sheer hypocrisy from someone who has complained that Obama is ‘waging war on religion’ !)
No one should be surprised by the reaction of Muslims in Afganistan and other Arab nations, nor that their protests would escalate into violent protests. It’s right to condemn those violent protests, but it’s also important to understand its causes, in this case the perception of Muslims that their sacred scriptures have been disrespected by an occupying military force from half-way around the world.
There is no question in my mind that President Obama did the right thing in apologizing for the Qur’an burnings. A cornerstone of American values must always be respect for all religions — that’s the American way of our best ideals. Not apologizing for the burnings would the equivalent of insulting millions of people who belong to one of the world’s most widely-practiced faiths. It would also exacerbate animosity towards American troops in Afghanistan and perhaps elsewhere.
The President did the right thing. But the most important lesson for the Obama administration would be that the longer we occupy Afghanistan, the greater the chances for such incidents to occur.
Meanwhile, Santorum, Gingrich and their Republican echo chamber enablers are playing a risky game for political advantage, and one which has the potential for endangering American troops. They should be held accountable by the media and the electorate.