Afghanistan Horror. UPDATE: Jones' Koran Burning Sparks Violent Protest At U.N. Compound, Death Toll Could Rise To 20
The controversial Florida pastor who halted plans to burn a Quran on the 9/11 anniversary last year oversaw the burning of the Islamic holy book on Sunday after it was found "guilty" during a "trial" at his church. "We had a court process," said Pastor Terry Jones, who acted as judge, in a phone interview. "We tried to set it up as fair as possible, which you can imagine, of course, is very difficult."
Jones originally gave up the idea of a Koran burning, but I guess life got boring without some media attention following Rep. Peter King's fearmongering hearings. Jones's ignorant book burning took place a little over a week ago, though it was largely ignored in the American media.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
Jones decided to go through with the burning on March 20 after serving as judge in a “trial” of the Muslim holy book. He found it “guilty” of “training and promoting terrorist activities ... death, rape, torture of people worldwide” and crimes against women and minorities.
Gross -- and grossly irresponsible -- provocations like that always have consequences:
Afghans Angry Over Florida Koran Burning Kill U.N. Staff
Stirred up by a trio of angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said. The dead included at least seven United Nations workers — five Nepalese guards and two Europeans, one of them a woman. None were Americans. Early reports, later denied by Afghan officials, said that at least two of the dead had been beheaded. Five Afghans were also killed.
The attack was the deadliest for the United Nations in Afghanistan since 11 people were killed in 2009, when Taliban suicide bombers invaded a guesthouse in Kabul. It also underscored the latent hostility toward the nine-year foreign presence here, even in a city long considered to be among the safest in Afghanistan — so safe that American troops no longer patrol here in any numbers.
Unable to find Americans on whom to vent their anger, the mob turned instead on the next-best symbol of Western intrusion — the nearby United Nations headquarters. “Some of our colleagues were just hunted down,” said a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, confirming that the attack.
In Washington, President Obama issued a statement strongly condemning the violence against United Nations workers. “Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens,” he said. “We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence.” The statement made no reference to the Florida church or the burning of the Koran.
Afghanistan, deeply religious and reflexively volatile, has long been one of the most reactive flashpoints to perceived insults against Islam. When a Danish cartoonist lampooned the Prophet Muhammad, four people were killed in riots in Afghanistan within days in 2006. The year before, a one-paragraph item in Newsweek alleging that guards at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had flushed a Koran down the toilet set off three days of riots that left 14 dead in Afghanistan.
Friday’s episode began when three mullahs, addressing worshipers at Friday Prayer inside the Blue Mosque here, one of Afghanistan’s holiest places, urged people to take to the streets to agitate for the arrest of Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who oversaw the burning of a Koran on March 20.
I'm not justifying the murder spree that just happened in Afghanistan. It's truly unconscionable to see this type of violence carried out against innocent people and it's unforgivable, but it didn't happen in a vacuum. I just don't understand why people who say they are religious of any kind in America need to engage in this type of thing. I know many of them who act out like this aren't very stable -- and in the case of Pastor Jones, a case could be made that he's just sociopathic -- but the GOP as a political party was very silent when Jones started his Koran burning 9/11 tribute, while Fox News, by Jones' own account, was "sympathetic." Maybe it's time for some of their party leaders to tell them to calm down. If you've forgotten about the original Terry Jones story, here's a video post by Heather giving you some context.
Salon's Justin Elliott writes: How (and why) the media made Terry Jones a star:
When Gen. David Petraeus first spoke out against Pastor Terry Jones' planned Quran burning in a Wall Street Journal article published Monday, the story exploded in the U.S. media, going from a sideshow to the dominant national media controversy of the week. As Yahoo News reported, it was on the front page of more than 50 newspapers Thursday -- more than the total number of members of Jones' fringe Florida church.
Critics of the American media's coverage of the Quran-burning saga are loud and plentiful, and they have a strong case. In short, the U.S. media has given a global platform to a fringe pastor with a tiny flock, elevating him to a level of significance that would make most members of Congress jealous (whether or not he actually executes his plan). But those media critics are also missing the point.
To grasp the real story here, one has to understand the context in which Petraeus decided to weigh in: At that time, the Quran burning had already been treated as a major story in the media in the Muslim world for several weeks. In other words, since at least late July, when it started to get attention in some Muslim-majority countries, the story has been doing untold damage to America's reputation.
"It was a big issue over in the Arab media before U.S. media picked it up," Marc Lynch, director of Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, told Salon in an e-mail.
Digby links a piece by the UN Dispatch that shares the feelings of Una Moore, a UN aid worker in Kabul:
I don't know what to say about the horror in Afghanistan. This post at UN Dispatch from Una Moore, a UN aid worker in Kabul, says it all:
Foreigners have been killed in Afghanistan before, and today’s attack was not the first fatal attack on UN staff. But it was different than previous fatal attacks. Very different. The killers were ordinary residents of a city deemed peaceful enough to be one of the first places transferred to the control of Afghan security forces. The men who broke into the UN compound, set fires and killed 8 people weren’t Taliban, or henchmen of a brutal warlord, or members of a criminal gang. They weren’t even armed when the protests began –they took weapons from the UN guards who were their first victims.
Foreigners committed to assisting in the rebuilding of Afghanistan have long accepted the possibility that they might die at the hands of warring parties, but this degree of violence from ordinary citizens is not something most of us factored into our decision to work here.
Tonight, the governor of Balkh province, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital, is telling the international media that the men who sacked the UN compound were Taliban infiltrators. That’s rubbish. Local clerics drove around the city with megaphones yesterday, calling residents to protest the actions of a small group of attention-seeking, bigoted Americans. Then, during today’s protest, someone announced that not just one, but hundreds of Korans had been burned in America. A throng of enraged men rushed the gates of the UN compound, determined to draw blood. Had the attackers been gunmen, they would likely have been killed before they could breach the compound.
I was sharing a meal with aid worker friends when I heard the news. Phones began buzzing. Security officers were demanding that my friends return to their compounds immediately. Cars had already been sent to retrieve them. Lockdown was in force.
This is not the beginning of the end for the international community in Afghanistan. This is the end. Terry Jones and others will continue to pull anti-Islam stunts and opportunistic extremists here will use those actions to incite attacks against foreigners. Unless we, the internationals, want our guards to fire on unarmed protestors from now on, the day has come for us to leave Afghanistan.
There is no excuse for Afghan religious extremists to kill UN aid workers because some other religious extremist in Florida decided to burn a book. On the other hand, there is no excuse for a major faction of one of the political parties in America to fan the flames of religious extremist in Florida for cheap political gain --- they bear some share of the blame for this too. They created the public space for this bigotry with their stupid mosque protests and congressional hearings and there's a price to be paid when that kind of ignorance and intolerance is given credibility by major players in our political system. Those UN workers paid that price today.
Updates are still coming in, but the death toll is rising:
The death toll in an attack on a U.N. compound Friday could be as high as 20 after a protest turned violent in response to a reported Quran-burning in the United States, officials said.
At least two of those killed were beheaded, Reuters said. The United Nations confirmed that seven of its international employees had been killed when protesters overran the compound in northern Afghanistan...read on
Did Pastor Terry Jones get the outcome he was really looking for?