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Opinion

US apologies sound empty

‘I EXTEND to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.’’ President Obama sent this message to Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week, in the thick of mass protests after US personnel burned copies of the Koran. NATO commander General John R. Allen had earlier offered “sincere apologies . . . to the noble people of Afghanistan,’’ but the demonstrations raged on. Members of Afghanistan’s parliament called for jihad against Western forces, at least two coalition soldiers were shot dead, and multiple civilians were killed in the violence that accompanied the protests.

Book burning can universally spark visceral reactions, especially when holy texts are denigrated, but the reactions of Afghan mobs across the country can strike Westerner observers as over the top, especially when the disrespect shown the Koran in this case seems to have been, as President Obama said, “inadvertent.’’ But in a way, that makes the insult worse. Muslims in Afghanistan can ask: After a decade in our midst, do you really understand so little?

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