An American soldier has committed a heinous crime in Afghanistan, entering the homes of Afghan civilians, murdering at least 16 people, and wounding five. Barack Obama immediately called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to offer his condolences, said that he was “deeply saddened,” and announced that he was launching an investigation “to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.”
Obama also said in a statement: “I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident is tragic and shocking and does not represent the exceptional character of our military.”
Indeed it does not, and the soldier, reportedly a staff sergeant, should be prosecuted and punished as severely as military justice allows: he has brought shame and discredit upon the U.S. military at a particularly delicate time in Afghanistan, when tempers are running high after the Qur’an-burning incident. And Karzai was in no mood to accept American assurances that the crime would be investigated and the perpetrator punished, saying in a statement of his own: “This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven.”
It is noteworthy, however, that in the riots and rage that followed the discovery of the burned Qur’ans at Bagram Airfield, Afghan Muslims have murdered numerous civilians. Just last Monday, a jihad-martyrdom suicide bomber murdered at least two civilians at the gates of the airfield. Thirty people have now been killed in protests over the burning of the Qur’ans, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Obama and other American officials have apologized repeatedly, profusely, and abjectly for the burning of the Muslim holy book.
Yet no apology has been forthcoming from Karzai or any other Afghan official. Instead, Qazi Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, the Afghan government official heading up a panel investigating the Qur’an-burning incident, has demanded that those responsible for the Qur’an burning face Afghan justice: “The military leaders who ordered the burning and the offenders should both be tried and punished…This evil crime has been done inside Afghanistan so the punishment must be according to the country’s law.” He didn’t say anything about the civilians killed in the riots over the Qur’an burning, or take any notice of the fact that none of the people killed in those riots had actually burned any Qur’ans at Bagram Airfield or anywhere else.
Karzai’s office, meanwhile, issued a statement from a council of Muslim clerics who met with the Afghan president: “The council strongly condemns this crime and inhumane, savage act by American troops by desecrating holy Korans. The council emphasized that the apology for this evil act can never be accepted. Those who committed this crime must be publicly tried and punished.”
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