Amidst about 30 observers and a film crew from an Orlando film school, the Quran was found guilty after which it was doused with kerosene and burnt upon an ornamental outdoor firepit. Despite the modest turnout, Jones declared the event a success as well as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The bizarre mock trial and execution of Islam’s most revered book went unnoticed in the American and international media until April 1, when angry mobs in the usually peaceful northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif stormed a U.N. compound and slaughtered at least eight people. The violence quickly spread beyond the city of Mazar-i-Sharif into Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Kabul. The crowed was mobilized following Friday prayers at the shrine of Hazrat Ali, in which the event was recounted, enraging the attendees.
When Pastor Jones first raised his ugly plot, a phalanx of senior American officials and community leaders condemned him and his scheme. Anyone with a television could clearly see that the tides were firmly against Mr. Jones. More recently, General Petraeus has declared the March 20 Quran burning to be hateful and intolerant. President Obama himself called it “an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.” NATO ambassador to Afghanistan Mark Sedwill too condemned the desecration of the Quran.
How then do we get to the senseless and savage butchery of people who were utterly innocent and dedicated to helping Afghans? Here the finger must turn to politics within Afghanistan itself: Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai.
Rather than explaining to his population that Jones is a fringe crank whose actions are reviled by most Americans, Karzai has made this his most recent anti-American cause célèbre, denouncing the Americans who have paid deeply in lives and treasure to support his inexplicably corrupt and unaccountable government.
In fact, the conflagration of April 1 likely would not have happened had it not been for President Karzai himself, who drew attention to the little known event on March 24 when he issued a press release in which he called the immolation of the Quran “a crime against a religion and entire Muslim umma [community].” He further called for the U.S. and U.N. to “bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime.”
Despite the condemnation of U.S. civilian and military leadership, Karzai continues to stoke the sentiments of Afghanistan’s uninformed masses and goad entrepreneurs of death of violence into further murderous action.
With friends like this…
Karzai’s various demands for Pastor Jones be brought to justice are simply bizarre. Karzai knows full well that Mr. Jones committed no crime in the United States and Afghanistan has no jurisdiction over the dubious pastor and his firepit. Some countries such as the United Kingdom have denied Jones entry into their country, which is an entirely appropriate, sovereign response. Other countries could certainly follow suit justifiably.
It is very difficult not to conclude that Karzai chose to pursue a path of deadly controversy to demonstrate his strategic independence from the very country that continues to pay the vast majority of all of his bills while his coterie of supporters loot his country’s coffers. According to the recently downsized U.S. defense budget, American taxpayers will still pay about $300 million per day for the military effort in Afghanistan alone. For all operations in the country, the United States is expected to spend about $17 billion in Fiscal Year 2011 alone. This is in addition to the 1,461 US soldiers killed and countless more injured in Afghanistan since 2001. Needless to say, many more Afghan civilians and security forces have died in the same period, as have U.S. civilians as well as coalition military and civilian personnel. In 2010, more than 2,777 civilians were killed.
At some point, we need to ask how it is possible to justify squandering such life and treasure on Karzai when he time and time again undermines his own and our interests. How can we continue to support a man who is willing to stoke the flames of violence in his own country for his own, deeply personal political gains? This is as inexplicable as the senseless violence in Mazar-i-Sharif and the bigotry of Mr. Jones.
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