When an army invades another country, it is vital to try to respect the laws, customs and culture of the invaded population. Otherwise, gaining respect and authority will be awfully difficult and that invasion will not likely be very successful. The U.S. has now experienced the consequences of failing to following this rule after members of the military burned copies of the Quran, the holiest book in Islam.
That incident has now sparked violent protests all across Afghanistan that has been ongoing for about a week. CNN reports that at least 30 people have already been confirmed dead in the protests and 200 wounded.
The military says the Qurans were burned because there was a presence of “extremist inscriptions” in the books and that prisoners were using them to communicate with each other. President Obama has apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in order to try to curb some of the protests that are now threatening the security and stability of a nation that the U.S. has supposedly just about finished rebuilding.
The U.S. has announced that all soldiers in Afghanistan are to be home by 2014, so this is a particularly embarrassing setback for the Obama administration, because no president wants to end a war without being able to call it a success. The incident represents a larger symbol of failure of the U.S., like the Soviet Union before them, to invade and control the nation of Afghanistan.
One might say it is quite irrational for people to die over the burning of a mere book, and you would be correct. Even as a Muslim, I admit that if all this violence was only over the burning of a few copies of the Quran it would be completely irrational — there are plenty of other copies lying around. But there is proof that many of those protesting are not doing so just because they are angry over the burning of a few Qurans. Many are doing so because of the many injustices that have occurred since the beginning of the War in Afghanistan, and the resulting anger is now finally rising to the top and spilling over.
One of the protesters interviewed by the New York Times said, “This is not just about
dishonoring the Quran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children.” He was referring to two recent events, one being the video of American soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Afghan insurgents and a recent air-strike in the Kapisa province that killed eight Afghan children. There may be many more copies of the Quran, but there are no extra copies of those eight children.
I am not saying that the U.S. military is more violent or disrespectful than other militaries around the world. When the military of any country occupies a foreign land, these types of things are bound to happen. Such is the nature of a military occupation. Nobody likes having foreign soldiers in their land, and when those foreign soldiers are responsible for killing their children and disrespecting their religion, that anger is bound to explode.
This incident only furthers the argument that the success of the U.S. led campaign in Afghanistan has been limited to merely displacing many terrorists from Afghanistan into other countries like Pakistan and Yemen. One would be hard-pressed to call that a success. The war in Afghanistan is the second-longest war in American history, second only to the Vietnam War, which coincidentally was another overly long military campaign that failed to accomplish its objectives.
I commend Obama for apologizing to the Afghan people for the burning of the Qurans. Admitting mistakes is not something that many politicians are usually keen on doing. Predictably he has already been criticized for the apology by Republican presidential candidates who apparently do not think desecrating religions is much to balk about, unless it is their own religion of course.
But as much as I respect Obama’s political guts for issuing the apology, he will need to do a lot more to appease the Afghan people of their grievances and be able to call the war a success. It is increasingly obvious that the only way to satisfy the citizens of Afghanistan will be to pull out of Afghanistan altogether. As for how Obama can avoid being called the second president in American history to lose a war, it is definitely possible — just blame it on Bush.