To blame Jones and Sapp for this, rather than the people committing the violence, is to start down the slippery slope of accepting the precedent that “provocation” is an excuse, and the justification to lash out in violence is in the eye of the beholder. That would lower the standard of acceptable human behavior to that of the schoolkid who in protest of being sent to the principal’s office accuses a classmate: “But he made me do it!”
And it would excuse uncivilized conduct by implicitly denying the participants’ free will to restrain themselves. It is an awful precedent to set, only rewarding bad behavior and inviting more of the same. “Ten dead in Afghan Koran burning protests,” by Ismail Sameem for Reuters, April 2:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – At least 10 people have been killed and 83 wounded in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, officials said on Saturday, on a second day of violent protests over the burning of a Koran by a radical fundamentalist Christian in the United States.
A suicide attack also hit a NATO military base in the capital Kabul, the day after protesters over-ran a U.N. mission in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and killed seven foreign staff, in the deadliest attack on the UN in Afghanistan.
Some protesters in Kandahar carried white Taliban flags and shouted slogans including “long live the Taliban” and “death to America.” In rioting that lasted hours, they smashed shops, burned tires and vandalized a girl’s high school.
Two of the dead were Afghan policemen, an official said.
The violence is the worst in Afghanistan for months, and comes as the country gears up for the first stage of a years-long security handover to Afghan troops, and after the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, delivered an optimistic assessment of progress in the war.
The attacks were driven by anger at the actions of extremist Christian preacher Terry Jones who supervised the burning of the Koran in front of about 50 people at a church in Florida on March 20, according to his website.
The burning initially passed relatively unnoticed in Afghanistan, but after criticism from President Hamid Karzai, and calls for justice during Friday sermons, thousands poured into the streets in several cities to denounce Jones this weekend.
Afghan and U.N. officials suggested provocateurs had sabotaged peaceful protests. Marches in Kabul, western Herat city and northern Tahar province ended without violence.
But the Taliban denied any role in the Mazar attack or Kandahar protests and analysts warned against underestimating the depth of anti-Western sentiment in much of Afghanistan, after years of military presence and many civilian casualties.
“Insurgent provocation is not necessary for things like (the U.N. attack) to happen, because indeed the mood and atmosphere in a large part of the population is like this,” said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
“Anger over foreigners in general, which has probably spread from the military to NGOs and the U.N. and other actors, just needs a little spark and things can be set alight.”
It’s assumed to be so automatic, you’d think he were talking about poking a beehive with a stick. If one needs any explanation of why Afghanistan would collapse the moment Western aid and power withdrew, here it is. There can be no “self-government” without government of the self — self-control within the individual and in small groups. And Afghans will again submit to a tyrant — and a tyrannical body of laws — for the sake of stability.