In Afghanistan, all civilians are equal, but some are more equal than others.
An American soldier has committed a heinous crime in Afghanistan, entering the homes of Afghan civilians, murdering at least 16 people, and wounding five. Barack Obama immediately called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to offer his condolences, said that he was “deeply saddened,” and announced that he was launching an investigation “to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.”
Obama also said in a statement: “I offer my condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and to the people of Afghanistan, who have endured too much violence and suffering. This incident is tragic and shocking and does not represent the exceptional character of our military.”
Indeed it does not, and the soldier, reportedly a staff sergeant, should be prosecuted and punished as severely as military justice allows: he has brought shame and discredit upon the U.S. military at a particularly delicate time in Afghanistan, when tempers are running high after the Qur’an-burning incident. And Karzai was in no mood to accept American assurances that the crime would be investigated and the perpetrator punished, saying in a statement of his own: “This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven.”
It is noteworthy, however, that in the riots and rage that followed the discovery of the burned Qur’ans at Bagram Airfield, Afghan Muslims have murdered numerous civilians. Just last Monday, a jihad-martyrdom suicide bomber murdered at least two civilians at the gates of the airfield. Thirty people have now been killed in protests over the burning of the Qur’ans, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Obama and other American officials have apologized repeatedly, profusely, and abjectly for the burning of the Muslim holy book.
Yet no apology has been forthcoming from Karzai or any other Afghan official. Instead, Qazi Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, the Afghan government official heading up a panel investigating the Qur’an-burning incident, has demanded that those responsible for the Qur’an burning face Afghan justice: “The military leaders who ordered the burning and the offenders should both be tried and punished...This evil crime has been done inside Afghanistan so the punishment must be according to the country’s law.” He didn’t say anything about the civilians killed in the riots over the Qur’an burning, or take any notice of the fact that none of the people killed in those riots had actually burned any Qur’ans at Bagram Airfield or anywhere else.
Karzai’s office, meanwhile, issued a statement from a council of Muslim clerics who met with the Afghan president: “The council strongly condemns this crime and inhumane, savage act by American troops by desecrating holy Korans. The council emphasized that the apology for this evil act can never be accepted. Those who committed this crime must be publicly tried and punished.”
This council of clerics issued no statement calling for the arrest and prosecution of those who murdered Americans, including civilians, in rage over the Qur’an burning. Barack Obama did not demand an apology or call these killings “unforgivable,” and Hamid Karzai did not call him either to apologize or offer condolences.
The U.S. soldier’s mass murder of Afghan civilians Sunday was an enormous crime. But so was the murder of American civilians by Qur’an-Rage rioters. So also is the ongoing phenomenon of Afghan military trainees turning on the U.S. and NATO military personnel who are training them and murdering them – which in recent months has been happening with increasing frequency in Afghanistan, with no murmur of apology from Karzai or anyone else.
The double standard is glaringly obvious, and yet no one in official Washington or the mainstream media ever seems to notice it. In their refusal or inability to hold the Afghans to the same standard to which they hold Americans, they betray an unconscious racism and paternalism that belies their multiculturalist pieties. They assume that Americans will abide by the conventions of civilized warfare, and not succumb to irrational rage and murder civilians; at the same time, however, they are sanguine about Afghans calling for blood and murdering civilians over a few burned copies of the Qur’an, because they apparently think that that’s just the way those people are going to act.
Obama, the media, and the Washington establishment should show more genuine respect for Muslims than that, and hold them to the same standards of human rights and warfare to which they rightly hold the U.S. military. If they did so, however, they would quickly come into conflict with the provisions of Islamic law that justify hatred and violence; and if there is one lesson that we can take away from his reaction to the Qur’an-Rage riots in Afghanistan, it is that Barack Obama is not disposed to challenge any aspect of the Sharia, no matter how many Americans are victimized because of it.
The double standard should end. We may hope that the next American president will have enough spine to announce to the Afghan government that the United States is not a Sharia state, and therefore does not consider itself bound by Sharia rules regarding the disposal of Qur’ans. May he also have the guts to call up Hamid Karzai or his successor and tell him that certainly American soldiers who kill civilians will be prosecuted, and that he expects Karzai to hold Afghan troops and Afghan citizens to exactly the same standard.
But he probably won’t.
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