The Occupation Comes to This

By Alan Gilbert, from his blog Democratic Individuality

In his thought about putting oneself in an original position, John Rawls mirrored ordinary and sound moral judgment – “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” It was the judgment routinely of Christians against American slavery: “imagine that your daughter went to fetch some water from the stream and she was kidnapped and sold into slavery all the days of her life,” said three Western Massachusetts farmers in 1787, participants in the Shays rebellion and opposing this central aspect of the new Constitution. One had the pseudonym: Consider Arms.

Let us imagine that a declined US was occupied at the end of the 21st century by a new great power: Saudi China. See here. In Georgia and South Carolina, the ignorant and arrogant troops of the invaders, having been occupying the country for 10 years, dumped and burned Bibles in the trash heap of a large base. Some American workers, sympathetic to Christianity or just knowing that it was a holy book for others, leaped into the flames and retrieved 8 of them. Some Christians were burned doing it…

It would not be too much for the President of Saudi China to apologize for this crime against freedom of religion, even though fanatics running for the “Republicans” (Party of the Islamic Republic) demanded that he not. Have mobs in other countries not trashed the Koran, the “Republicans” said, and what officials there have condemned it? Yet in the then United States, some whiff of freedom of conscience survived the early 21st century authoritarianism (led by President Santorum or Romney) and no Korans had been damaged or scorned in Occupied America.

It is not too hard to imagine a great revolt in America from below. Nor to imagine some subaltern American officer at a Saudi Chinese base – that occupation features many, including a grand structure in Washington exceeding the previous largest embassy compound in the world (the onetime American Embassy in Baghdad), getting into a screaming match with bigoted Saudi Chinese officers who had scorned their infidel Christianity, and in a fit of mutual rage, shooting two of them.

I was driving my 16 year old to the bus yesterday listening to this report from John Wendell from Kabul on DemocracyNow here. Wendell works for a private “subcontractor” for USAID and reports from there. Some American aid workers and soldiers call for bombing Afghanistan into the dust…

In 30 years of occupation and depredations in Afghanistan, from supporting the Mujahadeen against the Soviets and funding and training Osama Bin Laden to launching an invasion after September 11th, the United States of America has pretty well done that…

No racism…

We were talking of what would happen here in the event of a comparable attack. “I wouldn’t join it [the resistance],” my son said drily, “but someone might…”

Qur’an-burning Protests Spread, Santorum calls Obama Weak for Apologizing
Posted on 02/27/2012 by Juan Cole
Informed Consent

The protests in Afghanistan over the burning of old copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, by the US military at Bagram Base in Afghanistan, continued this weekend, with new violence.

This volatile situation, in which US troops are being wounded or killed, explains Presidnt Obama’s apology for the mishandling of the Qur’an. In contrast, Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum have slammed Obama for apologizing. Santorum called the gesture weak. (This stance is sheer hypocrisy from someone who has complained that Obama is ‘waging war on religion’ !)

On Sunday, Afghans threw grenades onto a US forward operating base in Kunduz Province in the north of the country, at Imam Sahib, wounding 7 special operations troops. Others attacked the police station in the town.

On Sunday in Jalalabad, protesters attacked the airport, leaving several people dead and many wounded.

The Taliban have announced that the attacks are retaliation for the mishandling of the Qur’an.

Some 30 Afghans have died in demonstrations in recent days.

Two US military advisers to the Ministry of the Interior were shot dead on Saturday by an Afghan security man. It turns out, according to recovered security tapes, that they were watching footage of the protests and cursing out the protesters, then speaking badly of the Qur’an. The Afghan argued with them that they should be more respectful, and when the argument escalated, he drew on them and shot them both dead.

If this story is true, it distills the arrogance and bigotry of some US personnel in Afghanistan (they are in someone else’s country). They didn’t deserve to meet that end, but cursing the Qur’an in a Muslim country in front of a local Muslim is about the most foolhardy act I can imagine. The strong evangelical element in some parts of the US military makes it particularly unsuited to more or less running a largely illiterate Muslim nation that is deeply religious. Evangelicals are the American group that has the highest disapproval of Islam.

Not only has the controversy roiled US and NATO relations with Afghanistan, it has implications farther afield.

Iranian preachers and Revolutionary Guards have been condemning the US vehemently over the burning. The US and Iran are competing for the affection of countries in the Muslim world, and the US military just lost much of its credibility there.

In Pakistan, small anti-US demonstrations have been held. But Urdu newspapers throughout the region are largely negative toward the US. resenting drone strikes.

Newpaper editorials from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia are condemning the US.

Even in Iraq, from which US troops just withdrew in December, the major religious parties, even ones that had been friendly to Washington during the US presence there, took potshots at the US. (see below).

The USG Open Source Center also translated these passages from Iraqi religious parties, both Sunni and Shiite, slamming the US:

Iraqi Scholars, Leaders Condemn Koran Burning in Afghanistan, Reject US Apology
Iraq — OSC Summary
Friday, February 24, 2012

Iraqi websites between 22 February and 24 February were observed to post the following reports in response to 21 February reports of burning the Koran in the Bagram military base in Afghanistan.

On 24 February, Al-Sumariyah News cited a statement by the Kurdistan Region Presidency as saying: “We at the Kurdistan Region Presidency strongly condemn the burning of the holy Koran by US soldiers.” The statement added that “we hope that the officials at the Bagram military base will hold thorough investigations with those who carried out this disgraceful act and will not allow their irresponsible act to become a reason for sabotaging and threatening the situation in the Islamic world.” (Beirut Al-Sumariyah News in Arabic – Iraqi news website affiliated with Al-Sumariyah Television, a privately owned, primarily entertainment Iraqi satellite television, providing balanced coverage political issues in Iraq…)

On 24 February, the [Sunni, radical] Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) issued a statement that condemned the burning of the Koran by US soldiers, while noting “this was not surprising since they did the same in Iraq and they burned copies of the Koran more than once and intentionally abused it.” AMS refused to accept the apology by the US President that was delivered by the White House spokesman and the apology by US defense secretary, viewing them as “unacceptable” and “as one of their usual ways to calm rebels,” adding that they “do not reflect a real regret for abusing Islamic sanctities.”

In its statement, AMS also recalled the “crime of a US pastor who called on global media outlets to watch him while burning the holy Koran.” AMS expressed its appreciation for the reactions of Muslims who did not abuse the Bible in a similar way, stressing that their behavior reflects “the huge difference between them and the Americans in terms of respecting religions and accepting others.” (Baghdad The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq in Arabic — Official website of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq…)

On 24 February, Diya al-Shawki, imam and preacher of [the Shiite, radical Sadrist] Al-Kufah Mosque, condemned “the blatant attack on the holy Koran and burning it by the unbelievers who are represented by the US occupation forces in one of their ill-omened bases in Afghanistan,” calling on “all religious authorities, Islamic institutes, and all Muslims to take a firm stance against those who attack Islamic sanctities.” ( Al-Najaf Higher Media Commission of Martyr Sayyid Al-Sadr’s Office in Arabic — Website associated with the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr…)

On 23 February, the Independent Press Agency cited a statement by Iraq’s Scholars Group that denounce]s the burning of the Koran by US soldiers, saying that “this act is a disregard to Muslims’ emotions in the world and it is a plot that aims to attack Muslim sanctities.” The statement also called for holding a “Friday of rage” in support of the Koran, while calling on all “Muslim scholars to take a firm and united stance” against this incident. (London Independent Press Agency in Arabic – Independent news agency, providing extensive coverage of political, security, and economic issues in Iraq…)
On 22 February, Ammar al-Hakim, chairman of the [moderate Shiite] Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, condemned the burning of the Koran in the weekly cultural forum, describing this behavior as “wrong and disgraceful,” and noting that targeting the Koran in such a way is “disrespectful to others’ faith.” He also called for “putting an end to such practices,” emphasizing that “this step requests so much work on the cultural level so that hatred would disappear among nations.” (Al-Najaf Presidency of the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council in Arabic — Website of the Shiite group, the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council …)

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