It was astonishing to learn that according to reports the protests in Afghanistan against the burning of Korans by US troops were more extensive and violent than the protests against the murder of 16 Afghans by an American soldier.
The destruction of a religious object is, of course, reprehensible. Equally obvious in this case is that the destruction of these Korans was an accident. That did not salve the wound for many Afghans, who went on rampages over the destroyed Korans. Some Afghans actually killed innocent people in protest.
Worthy of protest, certainly, was the murder of 16 Afghans by an American soldier. This was one of the worst episodes of American violence and a blatant violation of American values, perhaps recalling only the My Lai massacre in Vietnam as comparable.
For Americans, it is an unarguable presupposition that the life of the human being is worth infinitely more than the printed word on paper, however holy.
The apparent disagreement with this presupposition in parts of Afghanistan highlights the impassable gulf between the West and, at a minimum, certain sects of Islam.
It has been disappointing to witness the extent and depth of the American recoil over My Lai as opposed to the American reocil over the American soldiers mass murder in Afghanistan.
There is probably no objective way to gauge the relative American responses in 1969 and 2012. Impressionistically, however, it seems that the American revulsion over My Lai was monochromatic. Today, although we hear much shock and outrage over the murders in Afghanistan, we also hear a layered attempt, not to justify the massacre, but to explain it and even to explain it away. Multiple deployments. Mental stress. Previous injuries.
These explanations may be true, and may be legitimate data for military recruiters to consider before sending an armed soldier into a war zone, but they do not derogate from the horror of the deed and its unqualified immorality.
We must be careful not to evolve into a society whose instinct is to search for ways to soften, or understand, or feel sympathy for, the unprovoked murder of innocents.
Leave it to NPR to broadcast a rationalization for the murders commited by Afghans after the destruction of the Korans. According to one of NPRs authorities, the Afghan people have been subjected to war for decades and have become desensitized to death, while religion is a constant. Thats why some Afghans commit murder for a ruined holy book but respond less virulently to murder. So broadcasts NPR.
It seems impossible for NPR to consider a differentiated cultural analysis and a qualitatively different set of religious values and priorities to explain the murder of innocent people out of pain for a desecrated religious object.
NPR seems tone-deaf to the reality of deep-structure, cultural differences; either that, or NPR sees the US and others as responsible for the behavior of Afghan murderers. Were responsible for our own; thats bad enough.
Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News