Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quran Shot by American Soldier: American, Iraqi Leaders Respond

Some American soldier, probably a staff sergeant, shot a Quran near Baghdad on May 9, 2008. He's been re-assigned out of Iraq, disciplined, and will face charges for what he did.

The good news in this is that, according to the Calgary Herald today, there hasn't been a violent reaction in Iraq.

Here's what we've learned in the news, about this exercise in world-class cluelessness:
  • May 9, 2008:
    American soldier uses a Quran for target practice
  • May 11, 2008:
    Iraqi police find the holy book of Islam "on a firing range in Radwaniyah, west of Baghdad, with 14 bullet holes in it and graffiti written on its pages
  • May 11-18, 2008:
    The soldier claims he didn't know it was a Quran.
    "U.S. officials rejected the claim."
    American military officers respond to the incident:
    • Colonel Bill Buckner: "both serious and deeply troubling" - and that the shooting was the action of one soldier
    • Major General Jeffery Hammond (top American officer in Baghdad) (May 17, 2008): "I come before you here seeking your forgiveness," speaking to tribal leaders and others in a ceremony of apology - "In the most humble manner I look in your eyes today and I say please forgive me and my soldiers." (CNN video (2:45))
    • Lieutenant General Lloyd J. Austin III, second in command for American forces in Iraq, made individual visits Monday to Iraqi
      • President al-Maliki (Shiite)
      • Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi (Sunni)
      • Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani (Sunni)
    • General David Petraeus, Commander of American forces in Iraq, made an official apology in a meeting between Lieutenant General Austin and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi
  • May 20, 2008:
    • President of the United States George Bush apologizes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, promises prosecution of the American soldier who started this mess
    • An American embassy spokeswoman said that in the call Bush expressed his deep concern over the incident and the "completely unacceptable conduct of an American soldier."
Meanwhile, while this avalanche of apologies was starting down the slope, Loyal and devout Muslims in Iraq were responding:
  • Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, speaking on behalf of all tribal sheiks of Radhwaniya, called the incident "aggression against the entire Islamic world."
  • "The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq also condemned the shooter's actions and the U.S. military's belated [!] acknowledgment of the incident."
    " 'As the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns this heinous crime against God's holy book, the Constitution of this nation, a source of pride and dignity,' the groups statement said, 'they condemned the silence by all those who are part of the occupation's agenda and holds the occupation and the current government fully responsible for this violation and reminds everyone that God preserves his book and he [God] is a great avenger.' "
    CNN (May 18, 2008)
Belated? Well, it was a week after the Quran's discovery, before the command structure of the American military started kissing Qurans (literally, in at least one case) in an effort to make nice.

I'm not terribly surprised at the "belated" response. There are quite a few levels of command between a staff sergeant and a major general. And, despite what people in other countries seem to think, Americans are not Kryptonians, with powers and abilities beyond those of mortal man. There's no big "S" on any of our chests, and we have to get facts through normal channels, just like anyone else.

The Calgary Herald reports that "Iraq's government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Bush's apology was not enough.

" 'We need to try this soldier since he committed a grievous crime. This is what the Iraqi government wants. It is not satisfied with just an apology,' he said.

"The Iraqi cabinet said the U.S. military should also educate its soldiers to respect Islam and Muslim holy sites."

Odd. I thought there was already a training program about what to say, what to wear, what not to say, what not to wear, and all the other points necessary to keep Muslims from getting offended.

I'm not sure what would satisfy the Iraqi cry for justice. Perhaps stoning the American soldier, after burning his immediate family alive, followed by the beheading of his extended family, would be enough.

I recognize that shooting the holy book of Islam - with insulting graffiti in it - is absolutely reprehensible behavior. And, I hope that there is an appropriate punishment for the soldier responsible for starting this international incident.

But, the key word there is appropriate.

I am deeply disappointed in two things, in relation to this incident:
  1. That one American soldier, of the thousands in Iraq, was so abysmally foolish as to shoot a book that many people hold sacred
  2. That so many Iraqi leaders appear to have such little understanding of how the outside world works, that they demand dire retribution for some nitwit shooting a book

News about this mess, over the last few days:

"Iraq party: Punish U.S. soldier who shot at Quran"
CNN (May 19, 2008)

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the 'severest of punishments,' not just an apology and a military reassignment.

"The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a 'blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world.' "

(The word "sanctities" makes sense in this context: "2 a: the quality or state of being holy or sacred : inviolability b plural: sacred objects, obligations, or rights." (Miriam-Webster))

"Bush apologizes to Iraqi PM over Koran shooting
Calgary Herald (May 20, 2008)

"BAGHDAD (Reuters) - President George W. Bush has apologized to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and promised prosecution of a U.S. soldier accused of using a copy of the Koran for target practice, Iraq said on Tuesday.

"Bush apologized in a telephone call on Monday with Maliki, who told him the incident had humiliated and angered Iraq's largely Muslim population, the cabinet said in a statement.

"A U.S. embassy spokeswoman said that in the call Bush expressed his deep concern over the 'completely unacceptable conduct of an American soldier.' "

More, at:
"Bush Calls Iraqi PM, Apologizes for Koran Shooting Incident"
FoxNEWS (May 20, 2008)
" US sniper shot at Koran in Iraq"
BBC (May 18, 2008)
"Iraqi VP Urge Action Against US Soldier Over Koran"
Limun.Hr (May 18, 2008)

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