But the demons’ money sure seems to spend nicely, doesn’t it? “Gulf Widens Between U.S. and a More Volatile Karzai,” by Rod Nordland, Alissa J. Rubin, and Matthew Rosenberg for the New York Times, March 17:
KABUL, Afghanistan “” The Americans in Afghanistan are “demons.”
They claim they burned Korans by mistake, but really those were “Satanic acts that will never be forgiven by apologies.”
The massacre of 16 Afghan children, women and men by an American soldier “was not the first incident, indeed it was the 100th, the 200th and 500th incident.”
Such harsh talk may sound as if it comes from the Taliban, but those are all remarks either made personally by the United States” increasingly hostile ally here, President Hamid Karzai, or issued by his office in recent days and weeks.
The strongest such outburst came Friday. “Let’s pray for God to rescue us from these two demons,” Mr. Karzai said, apparently holding back tears at a meeting with relatives of the massacre victims, and clearly referring to the United States and the Taliban in the same breath. “There are two demons in our country now.”
Ever since the Koran-burning episode on Feb. 20 and its violent aftermath, the relationship between the two governments has lurched from one crisis to another. American officials have scrambled to run damage control, with President Obama expressing a personal apology for the Koran burning, as well as regrets about the massacre, while calling Mr. Karzai twice in the past week.
The White House went to lengths last week to depict Mr. Karzai’s call for Americans to hand over control a year earlier, by 2013, as no change in policy “” only to have Mr. Karzai pointedly insist the next day that it was. The Americans fret that Mr. Karzai is making a difficult job almost impossible, with demands they often see as unreasonable; Mr. Karzai worries that the Americans seek to undermine him, and may yet abandon his country and him, once again, to their fate.
The Koran burnings brought these differences into sharp relief, and led to a rupture in trust some view as irreparable. After an American unit at Bagram Air Base inadvertently burned Korans, embassy officials were deeply worried about an investigation conducted by the country”s Ulema Council, its highest religious body.
The council’s pronouncements, however, are closely controlled by Mr. Karzai’s office “” they are even issued by the presidential palace “” and American officials were assured by senior members on the president’s staff that the council’s report would be tough but not incendiary.
“We were ready to get knocked a bit,” said an American official who asked not to be identified to preserve his relationship with Afghan officials. “We messed up pretty badly.”
The original draft, in fact, was relatively moderate, American and Afghan officials said. But at the last minute more hard-line elements of Mr. Karzai’s staff weighed in, and the joint statement finally issued by the Ulema Council and the palace used language like “Satanic act” and “unforgivable, wild and inhuman” about the book burnings, and “justifiable emotion” in regard to the violent reaction, which claimed the lives of at least 29 Afghans and 6 Americans….