US Military Apologizes for Offending Afghan Muslims. Again.

The US military apparently conducted a leaflet drop in Afghanistan recently that offended just about everyone:

The leaflets dropped Monday night, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province.

The problem, such that it is, is the Islamic verses of the Quran are venerated in Islam — and there are Islamic verses on the Taliban flag. Dogs are viewed as filthy.

So, despite the evil the Taliban represents, seeing a Taliban flag in the mouth of a dog is worse.

The Taliban subsequently claimed an explosion outside the US Air Base at Bagram was “retaliation” for the pamphlet.

MajGen James Linder — commander of US Special Operations in Afghanistan — apologized profusely and promised to go after the “responsible party.”

Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”

“I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide,” Lindor said in the statement. “There is no excuse for this mistake. I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable.”

On one hand, there’s no excuse — not because the US should be going out of its way not to “offend” anyone, but because the US has been down this road multiple times before. Somewhere on a SIPR computer on Bagram is a lesson learned file that says to watch out for the Islamic verses — probably including the Taliban’s flag.

In fact, that file is probably dated 2012 or even earlier, given that’s just one of the times the US military went through this and made a point of highlighting the “highly decorative script” that can sometimes make such verses unrecognizable to non-Arabic speakers — like that on the Taliban flag.

On the other hand, some might find it a bit disconcerting for the US military to so quickly apologize — and to seemingly sacrifice a (presumably) US troop in the process. In fact, apologies in that culture are seen as weak, and kowtowing to cultural sensitivities about Islamic verses could actually make the perceived problem worse.

The great irony, of course, is the US military hasn’t seemed bothered by treating Christians in similar “offensive” ways (burning Bibles in the trash, anyone?), nor has it been bothered by doing other things Muslims find offensive — say, flying an LGBT flag or having “gay pride” events in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, which is more important: local sensitivities, or the virtues, faith and trust of your own troops?