Did Apologies for Burning Koran Abet U.S. Enemies?

Much ink has flowed over the recent apologies from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and General John Allen, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, following the burning of copies of the Koran and their careless disposal. An apology may have been justified. A national mea culpa was not.

When the president of the United States speaks for the nation, a national apology for the misguided acts of soldiers on the other side of the world has little meaning other than to feed the suspicions and hatreds of an enemy who hates the United States anyway. Implying that “we the people” are somehow to blame only legitimizes retribution on a potentially greater scale. Follow-on apologies by the secretaries of defense and state potentially extends that culpability to U.S. service personnel and members of the State Department. This compounds the threat to Americans posed by religious fanatics in this global war against al Qaeda and its confederates.

What is in order is an examination of the purpose and results of our strategy in the War on Terror generally and Operation Enduring Freedom more specifically. These apologies weaken the United States in the eyes of the Taliban, further jeopardizing our troops, who are already facing the daunting task of withdrawing to meet a temporal deadline driven by domestic political considerations rather than strategic reality. An army in retreat faces the twin threat of an emboldened enemy anxious to exploit perceived weaknesses and a force whose mindset is on disengaging and going home and not on fighting to win. No one wants to be killed on the day we turned out the lights at Bagram Air Base.

While controversy rages over the apologies, questions concerning this sorry mess remain unanswered. Who was responsible for disposing the Korans? When it was discovered that prisoners were communicating through messages written in the Korans made available by the prison library, who made the decision to burn the books? Did anyone think that these messages might hold intelligence value? What might have been learned had the messages been copied and analyzed? Did anyone think to slap a security classification on those Korans and then send them in secure pouches to CIA headquarters for exploitation? Had this been done under proper security, not only might we have gained valuable knowledge about the Taliban and al Qaeda, it would have been far less likely this sorry mess would have ever arisen.

On the other hand, if the decision was to dispose the Korans, why wasn’t that done in a proper manner consistent with Islamic laws and traditions? In this kind of war, it is imperative that our warfighters understand the culture within which they are operating, especially concerning religious matters. Our enemies unabashedly acknowledge the nature of this conflict as a religious struggle—a jihad. When we deny that fact, we give the enemy a strategic advantage. Additionally, the otherwise “politically-correct” and “culturally-sensitive” U.S. armed forces seem to have their quota of chaplains for every possible religious faith, even wiccans. It is hard to believe there is not a Muslim chaplain assigned to NATO headquarters in Afghanistan. If so, was he consulted on the proper way to dispose Korans? Did that occur to anyone?

These oversights and mistakes, as consequential as they have become, do not rise to the level of an apology required by the president of the United States. Due to a needless knee-jerk reaction in Washington, a level of culpability probably not exceeding a letter of reprimand in a junior-level officer’s file has escalated into a sorry mess with enormous political and military implications. Several Americans were needlessly killed. High-ranking officers may suffer career-ending consequences.

In March 1968, a handful of American GIs commanded by Lt. William Calley murdered 501 South Vietnamese women, children, and old men. Calley eventually stood trial, was convicted of several counts of murder, and sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. He served one night in the post jail before receiving a presidential pardon. No one apologized to the Viet Cong—certainly not the president nor secretary of defense, neither of whom were in office when the incident occurred.

This My Lai massacre occurred at the start of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Troop morale was plummeting. Military leadership, from the top down, was out of touch with the true nature of the war.

History should not be ignored. Apologizing to the enemy reflects a gross misunderstanding of the purpose and realities to which “we the people” commit our armed forces in our national interest. We go to war with regret, but without debasing ourselves in what are, essentially, meaningless expressions of hand wringing. The real sorry mess is in our strategic assumptions and those who are responsible for articulating them. 

— Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Dr. Earl Tilford

By

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism.

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  • DeaconDonB

    Thank You so much, Lloyd the Baptist! But please take your skewed opinions and go preach your hateful words to your liberal friends who are so intellectual  and morally bankrupt that they promote murdering innocent children in the womb, push homosexuality and all that socialism can bring. I think you and your progressive friends  may be a little disappointed come November. At least we pray that will be the case. God’s Blessings and Peace be with you Reverend Ward.
     

  • Editor

    Dear CE readers: As you can see by “Lloyd the Baptist’s” comment, a website takes a considerable risk by opening up its combox to the general public. It is normally my policy to not delete comments, even if they err on the side of hateful, rude, or weird–but I am beginning to rethink my policy lately. What would help if someone out there would make a reasoned, substantive comment in response to the actual article by Dr. Tilford, just to offset “Lloyd.” I’m asking for help here, people.

  • Pingback: U.S. response to Koran burning could fan flames, analysts warn - Christian Forums()

  • Scott Schoemann

    1968 WAS NOT the start of the  troop withdrawl in Vietnam. It was the HEIGHT of the worst fighting in the war, and Cally  was not responsible for 500 plus lives, He was convicted of the deaths of ONE village, not all brought into question. With these  ERRORS made by a socalled Military Historian, How can the rest of his commentatary be taken as valid? The fact is NO apology is or was warranted, the qurans that were disposed of were property of the US Military NOT Islam. Live with it.

  • St. Michaels Warrior

    The Lord Almighty has written that Man shall not know his acts until they come to pass, So this makes you a false prophet and a purvayor of the word of Lucifer, You take the name Of Lloyd the Baptist, yet you bear  False Witness, proclaiming it is nin the mane of God, It is you who speaks the words of Satan. May god have mercy upon your Soul…

  • Daughter and Mother

    President Obama is making a modern error in asking pardon for a crime he has not commited, on the misguided premise that as the president of the United States, he is responsible for all the actions of the indiviguals in the military.
    I am sure that it made him feel better. I am sure it was easier than confessing his own sins. That is what makes this type of contrition so satisfying. We actually feel self righteous in condemning the action of others, and marvel at out own humbleness in being willing to admit it. We can indulge in condemning others and our own innocence and virtue at the same time!
    In C. S Lewis’ essay Dangers of National Repentence, this topic is addressed so well that I am forced to quote it. He was addressing the young Englishmans desire to seek forgiveness for the sins his country commited , when he was too young to be an actual participater in those “crimes”.
      “The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign
    policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor;
    for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor…A
    group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national
    sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our
    Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him, every
    abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.”This type of contrition is easy and useless. It will not change the heart of the confessor, it will not appease the just anger of the injured. The injured now has more justification for his complaint and since the true ‘criminal’ has not apologized, no need to give forgiveness.By apologizing in this way, President Obama has added to the demonization of a misguided but not malicious act. I am sure he enjoyed a great nights sleep afterwards.

  • http://www.moviewired.com/ Final

    who cares muslims should let their God do the work for once!

    http://www.moviewired.com

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