No quick fix for Qur'an burning uproar

2012-02-24 11:02

Washington - After a third day of bloody protests over the burning of the Qur'an, there is a sense that America is lurching from one image crisis to the next in Afghanistan, with no clear path for US officials to defuse the latest uproar.

President Barack Obama apologised on Thursday for the burning of copies of the Qur'an on a US base in Afghanistan, an incident that has triggered far more outcry than another shocking incident: The emergence of a video last month showing Marines urinating on the corpses of what appear to be dead Taliban fighters.

Obama's apology over the Qur'an burning has been accompanied by other steps by the US military meant to show remorse over what it sees as a tragic blunder.

The Pentagon detailed new outreach to Muslim leaders, and the top US commander in Afghanistan has promised training on the proper handling of religious materials as well as a swift investigation.

But analysts are doubtful more can be done to calm Afghans incensed by the destruction of Islam's holy book.

Instead, outrage in Afghanistan may have to simply run its course, leaving America to grapple with any fallout on its delicate campaign to foster reconciliation and forge a long-term security agreement with Afghanistan.

Friday prayers an indicator

"The US has pretty much done all it can do," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation think-tank. "To a certain degree, all [the US] can do now is wait for tempers to cool."

Whether more violence follows Friday prayers in Afghanistan could be an indicator whether the protests are still building, or beginning to peter out.

The Taliban has urged Afghans to target foreign military bases and kill Westerners in retaliation and, on Thursday, a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on two American service members. Nato has declined to say if the shooting was connected to the protests.

President Hamid Karzai's office said on Thursday it wanted Nato to put on public trial those responsible.

But US service members are usually shielded from local prosecution and a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was highly unlikely a US soldier would be disciplined outside the US military justice system.

The Qur'an burning incident is only the latest image nightmare for the Pentagon in Afghanistan. Earlier in February, the Pentagon grappled with fallout from a photo showing Marines with what looked like a Nazi SS flag.

Most damaging incident

In January, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta quickly condemned the video showing US forces urinating on Taliban corpses.

Just a week ago, Nato-led forces killed eight young Afghans in an air strike that enraged the Afghan government and came on the heels of a United Nations report showing civilian casualties in the decade-long war rose again in 2011.

But perhaps the most damaging incident, at least regionally, took place just across the border in Pakistan last November, when Afghan-based American forces killed 24 Pakistani troops.

That prompted Islamabad to cut off ground-supply routes used to truck in essential materials for the war effort in Afghanistan.

How the Qur'an burning incident adds to the headaches of American military commanders remains to be seen, but there is palpable frustration in Washington.

Indeed, the scandal is hardly the first involving burning of the Koran. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's predecessor, Robert Gates, was so worried about the fallout from a Florida pastor's plans to burn the Qur'an that, in 2010, he took the extraordinary step of calling him personally to try to talk him out of it.

Security pact

That only bought time. In April of last year, the pastor went ahead and supervised the burning of the book in Florida, triggering days of protests in Afghanistan in which some two dozen people were killed, including seven UN staff.

The unrest appears to add to the US military's challenges in Afghanistan, which commanders are trying to stabilise ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of most American combat forces by the end of 2014.

Washington is also trying to negotiate a security pact with Afghanistan to govern the presence of US troops beyond that date and foster long-shot Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.

After the Marine urination video surfaced, the Taliban said it would not harm nascent efforts to broker peace talks. It was unclear whether the latest incident would be any more of a deal-breaker.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and White House official who chaired Obama's 2009 review of Afghan policy, said he doubted the Taliban would forgo reconciliation efforts because of the Qur'an burning.

  • Ian - 2012-02-24 11:11

    What about a 'quick fix' for the Christian lady in Nigeria that had her throat slit by Muslim extremists?

      Ebrahim - 2012-02-24 11:29

      So Ian, one wrong makes another wrong right?

      Schmee - 2012-02-24 13:38

      Enrico, it's not a misdemeanor in the eyes of religious fanatics - no matter what religion.

      jowza1 - 2012-02-24 14:48

      enrico.what about all the civilians killed by so called smart bombs by the americans

      Fred - 2012-02-27 16:12

      jowza, the one is intentional, the other accidental.

  • Fatima - 2012-02-24 12:33

    why dont we all just pray for BOB..he sure as hell need our prayers

  • Fatima - 2012-02-24 12:39

    BOB u really one of those people that lets us wonder " were u really the fastest sperm that swam...what a waste to mankind really !!!

      Bob - 2012-02-24 13:09

      Thats mean :'(

  • Felix - 2012-02-24 12:55

    I can't help thinking of a few deities sitting around playing multiplayer 'earth'craft. Zergling rush!

  • Nickolas - 2012-02-24 13:12

    There is so much hatred in this world I sometimes wonder if God is testing the resolve and the will of those who REALLY believe...!Is it not the right time for the wise and courageous to step up and be counted,lead the way..? Burning a Holly book does not make you a better person..Urinating on a dead person surely speaks volumes about you as a human being... Which brings me to the real profiteers of war...those are the real instigators of this intolerance....without this war and others still to come,some countries will not be able to function and prosper...

      Fidel - 2012-02-26 11:05

      Well said!

      Fred - 2012-02-27 16:14

      "The profiteers of this war are the real instigators of this intolerance". Everyone's a puppet of someone else (meaning the big bad West). No-one's making choices for themselves. This is an ignorant and immature view.

  • Tony - 2012-02-24 13:17

    Nigeria: Killers slit Christian woman's throat

      Andries - 2012-02-24 13:56

      And how many people have been murdered throughout the ages when they didn't want to convert to Christianity? What you reap you shall sow, right? Don't have selective memory...two wrongs don't make a right.

      Aretard - 2012-02-26 05:36

      @Andries Really, can you name any? If you are speaking of the crusades, they were not to force religious conversions. Just because someone does an act and claims it to be in the name of something, that doesn't make it so. Should I pin the water boarding and tortures on you since they were done by your government? Don't let your misconceptions of the facts keep you from God. You are either going to heaven or hell. No one is immune from death or judgement.

  • Brenton - 2012-02-24 14:04

    Its actually sad when people do cowardly things like this we all human at the end of the day.One do not though fuel to a fire when trying to put it out.I think at the end of the day we all pray to one god

  • Jameel - 2012-02-24 14:45

    Huh what happened to the comments Bob must have said something very offensive once again...

  • baldersnatch - 2012-02-24 14:48

    Most religions promote violence, intolerance and misogyny. If you want references, used this pre-compiled list of what it says in the holy books of three big religions about those topics: You can then go to your imam or pastor or whatever and ask them what those verses mean. When they tell you those don't need to be interpreted literally, ask them how they know what must be interpreted literally and what is a metaphor. Here's a few on a site that criticizes Islam in particular: I'm all for religious freedom though, as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of other human beings or grant special treatment under law to oppress or discriminate against other human beings.

      Aretard - 2012-02-26 05:59

      You will find whatever you are looking for. If you approach the bible looking to point out bad things or the church looking for hypocrites, you will find both in abundance. If however you approach it seeking truth and to find God, you will find him, too. If you are honest and read the bible while first dropping prejudices, you will see that what God created was without violence. It was sin that brought that about. Sin is not tolerated because God says it will not be. When Jesus was on the cross and had the sins of the world put on him, God separated himself from him. This is why Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It was the first time in forever that God the father forsook the Son because his righteous character demands it. Otherwise he would not be qualified to be the judge of all creation. Ask yourself this, if God didn't spare his own son, do you think he will spare you? I am not here to bring you into judgement nor to condemn you. I am simply warning you that it is coming. Think about it.. you know you are going to die. What you believe now will affect your eternity. You are not a body with a soul.. you are a soul with a body created in the image of God and your soul will not die. Heaven or hell. I pray it's heaven for you. PS God's dealings with the *ites in the bible is him taking the land and possessions from the unbelievers and giving it to those whom he has chosen and made a covenant with.

      Fred - 2012-02-26 07:59

      Sorry Aretard, the whole son thing is nonsense, and original sin is a travesty cloaked on humanity by the church wanting to control people with guilt and fear for power and money.

      Fred - 2012-02-26 08:00

      And the hell thing is part of that attempt to control. And this is a good thing, because it's just not true.

  • John - 2012-02-24 17:31

    Americans reap what they sow around the world.

      Fred - 2012-02-27 16:15

      Exactly what does this mean? Funny.

  • RemoteMedic - 2012-02-25 21:44

    Been in Afghan. No easy fix politically. Nuke 'em!

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