AFGHANISTAN COMMENT: The photos published by the Los Angeles Times have been covered extensively by the US press, except for a few minor issues not mentioned by any news services.
First of all, an Islamic suicide bomber is not someone who has abused his body, as some pundits opined today. On the contrary, he is a martyr, in fundamentalist theology. The American soldiers were not just defacing a dead human being; they were insulting an Islamic warrior.
But that is not a big deal for Muslims. They do the same and understand fighting and death. Fighters die. Winners gloat.
Even suicide bombers ought to be respected as warriors, but that means little, even to Afghans. Above all, they understand that death is an occupational hazard for a warrior. Plus they believe he gets his reward in heaven.
No American leader should apologize. An apology betrays a complete ignorance of the culture because the Afghans understand war: national and regional; tribal and clan; and village and family. Afghans consider an apology by a stronger power to be a sign of weakness.
For example, the bombers were most likely kids taken from a madrasah in Pakistan, given rudimentary training, doped up and sent to die by their religious teachers and elders. In which case, no Afghans will lament the deaths. The US does not even know the nationality of the bombers. To whom should the US apologize?
The cultural and religious differences are valid. Fundamentalist Islamic values that encourage children to sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers do not represent the mainstream of Muslim theology. Suicide bombings are denounced regularly in every meeting of Pakistani and Afghan Islamic scholars. However, they have never denounced the killing of Americans, Jews and Christians. A US apologiy to people whom even Muslims consider extremists serves no point.
It might be some kind of epiphany for some news reporters that American soldiers are soldiers, who are not so different from Roman legionnaires. But in most of the world, including in the US outside of San Francisco or Los Angeles, everybody in every culture understands that gloating is part of winning after a battle, along with mourning the dead. So in a war, a US apology for the death of an enemy fighter by his own hand also serves no point.
The Taliban have shown no special reverence for their suicide bombers in the past 11 years, unless they kill lots of Americans or unless an incident could be turned to some propaganda advantage.
US soldiers in Afghanistan are not placed in increased risk because of this incident. Most Afghans most likely will consider taking pictures of the lower half of a dissected body bewildering, if not sick. Any protests will be perfunctory. Protests over the dead never last more than a day or two, if they occur at all.
Defacing the Koran is a vastly more incendiary offense. These protests last for weeks.
After 11 years of US troops in a country and culture, Readers and citizens have a right to expect a deeper official understanding and better handling of these incidents. It did not happen in Vietnam and it is no better in Afghanistan.
Thanks to Brilliant and extremely well-informed Readers for Feedback about Afghan attitudes towards death and towards defacing the Koran.
Phi Beta Iota: Too many flag officers. Too many political appointees. Very limited intelligence and zero integrity.