Remember the story from a few weeks back about how United States military in Afghanistan burned a bunch of Korans?
How could you not? The story was plastered all over the place, with incessant stories about 1) how negligent the military was to let this happen; 2) the apology issued by President Obama; and 3) the violence that resulted from the blunder, including the death of six U.S. military personnel and 30 Afghans. That's right: At least 36 people were killed because some books were accidentally burned. As is typical of the media, little mention was made that the Korans at issue were taken from prisoners because they were being used to communicate extremist messages.
Apparently, using the book to fuel hate isn't sacrilegious or cause for protest, but accidentally disposing of a few of them is. At least that's the view of senior Afghan clerics who issued a statement after a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, saying: "This evil action cannot be forgiven by apologizing. The perpetrators of the mentioned crime should be put on a public trial as soon as possible."
Yes, you read that right: a public trial for accidentally burning books. Never mind that an inquiry into the matter proved that the disposal was clearly an accident. Or that one of the ways prescribed by Muslims to dispose of the Koran includes burning those that have been corrupted in order to prevent the message from being defiled. None of that seemed to matter. The only message out of Afghanistan seemed to be "Americans must pay."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't a large number of Americans already paid -- with their lives -- to bring freedom from zealous theocracy to the oppressed people of Afghanistan? Allow me to introduce just one.
Last week, as a U.S. military convoy was making its way through Laghman Province in Afghanistan when a 29 year old National Guardsman from Providence, R.I., noticed a young girl trying to retrieve an item from under an armored vehicle that was about to take off. Sgt. Dennis Weichel Jr. leapt into action and moved the girl to safety, saving her life. Sgt. Weichel, however, wasn't able to do so without sacrificing his own, and was struck and killed by the armored vehicle. It's hard to imagine a more heroic act than giving your life to save a child. And so it's hard to imagine someone more heroic than Sgt. Weichel. That he died saving a young girl in a land where girls are so notoriously undervalued and mistreated, should be emblematic of what we have spent ten years trying to accomplish.
Sgt. Weichel's sacrifice is typical of the work so many Americans have put into the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. What is also typical, though, is how little attention such heroism and sacrifice receives in the media. Sure, there's the usual 100-word story culled from the military's press release buried on the websites of the local news, and maybe Sgt. Weichel will receive mention on the 11 o'clock news sometime after the second commercial break. But accidentally burn a few books? Somehow that warrants an apology from the Oval Office and all the attention that the media has to offer. And that's incredibly disheartening.