Religion is a touchy subject, and it doesn’t get more controversial than when the burning of sacred texts is concerned. Such is today’s situation in Afghanistan, with thousands of locals outraged after U.S. soldiers at a U.S. and NATO base destroyed a number of Qurans.
Officials have said the Qurans were being used by prisoners to pass secret messages. Once word spread to locals outside the base that these Qurans had been destroyed, chaos ensued.
After six days of protests in Afghanistan, 30 protesters and two American soldiers have been killed, and seven U.S. soldiers have been wounded. Protests remain strong despite the Afghan government calling for peace, and it’s likely this situation could have been avoided if the U.S. soldiers involved had used a less controversial way of disposing of the prisoners’ crafty tools of communication.
However, should President Obama have apologized for our soldiers’ actions? Should he have tacitly admitted to guilt present on the hands of our troops?
No. By doing so, not only does he make a misjudgment look like an intentional, preplanned act, but he also gives the protesters more reason to target our men. He offered Afghan protesters “proof” that the U.S. purposely did something wrong.
Burning sacred texts in a religious part of the world isn’t a good decision. But our troops are humans, and humans make mistakes. In fact, I feel confident that our soldiers have more important things to worry about than whether they’re offending their prisoners.
Perhaps destroying the specific copies of the books seemed like the most time-efficient way to prevent the prisoners from communicating further. However, the consequences of the troops’ actions should have been considered more thoroughly. I would have no problem with the president declaring the actions as mistakes.
What I do have a problem with is President Obama apologizing to President Karzai, and thereby apologizing indirectly to the protesters being infiltrated by the Taliban – especially on the same day two U.S. soldiers were killed.
Apologies like the president’s carry with them admittance of guilt, and the soldiers involved should in no way have to feel the reprimand from their commander in chief over what could be regarded as an honest mistake that physically harmed no one.
What is not a mistake, however, is throwing a grenade into a U.S. base, wounding seven. The blatant shooting of two U.S. soldiers is not a mistake either. If President Obama feels compelled to apologize for the U.S. soldiers’ mistakes, he should also feel compelled to demand an apology from the Afghan government for the murders and injuries of our own men.
Furthermore, the media’s criticism of these U.S. soldiers needs to stop. One CNN blogger was quick to judge the men involved, saying the Qurans were intentionally destroyed out of “growing frustration” and a “loss of faith” in the war. She compared this situation to the soldiers who urinated on Taliban bodies only a month ago.
U.S. troops make mistakes. They are soldiers – not lawyers, and not psychologists. Expecting them to be more than the brave people they already are places ridiculous burdens on them, and ultimately, will cost some their lives. Regardless of whether military wrongs are unintentional or intentional, they are infrequent. And the fact that the media gives so much attention to the mistakes when they do happen, seemingly without regard to the fact that our men and women are fighting and being killed for our freedom, is disgraceful.
Rep. Allen West from Florida understands these tricky situations and expressed his opinion brilliantly.
He said of the troops criticized for urinating on Taliban bodies: “All these over-emotional pundits … need to chill. Does anyone remember the two soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq? The Marines were wrong. Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 … and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full U.S. Marine Corp Hymn without a teleprompter. As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth. War is hell.”
Booey Mittelstadt is a freshman film-television-digital media and political science double major from Chattanooga, Tenn.