US Soldiers who Burned Korans Receive Punishment
The investigation into the burning of Islamic religious material confiscated from an Afghan prison was reportedly completed, with no one criminally charged or court-martialed. (Recall that “religious freedom” advocate Michael Weinstein had demanded the court-martial of these Christians — without explaining how he knew what, if any, faith they held.) Administrative “non-judicial punishments” were meted out for the error, which was determined not to be malicious:
A series of miscommunications, poor guidance and soldiers’ decisions to take “the easy way instead of the right way” resulted in the burning of Korans and other religious books at a U.S. base in Afghanistan early this year, a military investigation released Monday concluded.
The U.S. military said six Army soldiers escaped criminal charges but received administrative punishments for their involvement in the Koran burning that roiled relations with Afghans.
A Sailor was apparently investigated as well but determined to be innocent, a rare publication of an acquittal following such an investigation.
As summarized in the news reports, it seems the Soldiers were placed in an unenviable position [emphasis added]:
- The service members mistakenly interpreted a commander’s order to get rid of the books as permission to take them to the burn pit
- The service members relied too heavily on one linguist’s conclusion that the Korans…were rewritten versions that were extremist and would not be considered real Korans.
- The troops knew they were handling religious texts…but they couldn’t read them because they were written in other languages
The investigation found the soldiers did not act with “malicious intent.”
“At no time was the path chosen by the involved U.S. service members motivated by hatred or intolerance of a particular faith,” the report from U.S. Central Command said.
Based on the information released, it was, and remains, unclear for what act the Soldiers were actually punished. However, NJP can be as minor as counseling, which certainly occurred. The ambiguity leaves room for the Afghans to be placated that someone was punished, while those involved were not necessarily hung up by their thumbs over what appears to be conduct in good faith execution of an order.
On the other hand, the Stars and Stripes specifically said the group received “potentially career-ending general officer letters of reprimand,” and that the group was largely made up of the ranks of military leaders:
The Army did not release the identity of the six soldiers…but said that three are officers, two are noncommissioned officers and one is a warrant officer.