[Marxism] Afghan protests at Guantanamo desecration spread -- issue of US bgases also posed

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat May 14 04:09:43 MDT 2005

Afghan Protests Spread
Eight More Killed In Anti-U.S. Riots

By N.C. Aizenman and Robin Wright
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, May 14, 2005; A01

QALAT, Afghanistan, May 13 -- Angry mobs ransacked government offices
and relief agencies and clashed with police in several provinces Friday
in a fourth day of growing anti-American demonstrations. The violence
left at least eight people dead and raised the death toll since
Wednesday to about 15, officials said.

The demonstrations represent the most widespread expression of
anti-American sentiment since U.S.-led troops ousted the Islamic Taliban
militia in late 2001. They have caused growing worry for the
Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, who is due to visit
Washington later this month.

The protests erupted Wednesday in the eastern city of Jalalabad and have
now spread to the capital, Kabul, and four other areas. Demonstrations
also took place in other Muslim countries Friday, although no serious
violence was reported. Protesters gathered in several cities in
Pakistan, as well as in Indonesia and the Palestinian territories.

The protests were sparked by a May 9 report in Newsweek magazine that
interrogators at the U. S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had
placed copies of the Koran in bathrooms and flushed one text down a

Many of the detainees at Guantanamo are Afghans, and stories of American
interrogators desecrating the Koran to extract confessions have
circulated at least since early 2003, when some released prisoners
returned to Afghanistan. But the Newsweek report has gained currency
here since being fueled by broadcasts on Taliban radio and stoked by
clerics who used Friday prayer sessions to call the demonstrations

Some U.S. officials and analysts said the report, which appeared as a
small item in Newsweek, was being manipulated as a way to inflame
passions and undercut Karzai's authority ahead of his U.S. trip.

At the Pentagon, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the rioting in Afghanistan could be
related to domestic Afghan politics. A State Department official, who
requested anonymity, said the demonstrations in Pakistan were being
manipulated by al Qaeda supporters in retaliation for the arrest last
week of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, identified as a senior al Qaeda leader,
along with 10 other suspected terrorists.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday that U.S. officials
"share and understand" Muslim concerns. "Disrespect for the holy Koran
is something that the United States will never tolerate," he told

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that the
military was investigating the allegations that American interrogators
desecrated the Koran. She said that if they "are proven true, we will
take appropriate action."

In Afghanistan, security experts warned that the violence could severely
hamper international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan after decades of
war. Offices of relief agencies in several cities have been attacked and
evacuated this week.

"National and international security forces do not seem to be able to
contain this," said Nick Downie, an official of the Afghanistan
Non-Governmental Organization Security Office, speaking from Kabul. He
said aid workers were "feeling a risk to their life" and have now pulled
out of some high-risk areas.

Although Islamic clerics urged protesters to refrain from violence in
their Friday sermons, protests broke out in scattered regions. In
northeastern Badakhshan province, officials said hundreds of men
attempted to pillage and torch three international relief agencies after
Friday prayers.

The provincial governor, Abdul Majid, said by telephone that police shot
at the protesters, killing three and injuring 13. A staff member at one
aid group, Afghan Aid, said equipment was smashed but workers fled to

In the city of Ghazni, 75 miles south of Kabul, shooting broke out after
protesters stoned a police station and the governor's residence, crying,
"Death to America," according to the Associated Press. Two civilians and
a police officer were fatally shot and 21 people were wounded, the news
agency reported.

One protester was killed in a clash with police and government soldiers
in the town of Gardez, also south of the capital, and another man was
killed in Qala-e Nau , the capital of far northwestern Badghis province,
when police opened fire on a demonstration.

Lt. Cindy Moore, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan,
said in Kabul that U.S. officials were still trying to determine whether
the demonstrations were spontaneous or coordinated. Afghan officials
asserted that deeper forces were at work.

"This is organized by particular groups who are the enemies of
Afghanistan," Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told the
Associated Press. "They are trying to show that the situation, that
security is not good."

American officials have hastened to declare the U.S. government's
respect for Islam and the rights of Muslims to worship, even within U.S.
military prisons.

U.S. officials offered various interpretations of the protests. The
State Department official said anti-American groups in Pakistan were
exploiting the Newsweek report to "swat back" at Washington and
Islamabad, but that the incident had "lit a flame under what a lot of
Muslims believe -- that Americans do not respect Islam."

Myers said U.S. military officials in Afghanistan believed the protests
might be linked to political reconciliation issues. Karzai has been
attempting to woo some ex-Taliban leaders back to public life, but
Afghan and U.S. forces have faced a new series of attacks by Taliban

The governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia appealed for
calm, but Muslim governments also expressed concern about the Koran
desecration reports. A Saudi official called for measures to prevent a
recurrence and to "protect the sentiments of Muslims all over the

The protests have come at a delicate time for U.S. relations with the
Islamic world, where the Bush administration is trying to promote
democracy and combat terrorism. Muslim allies such as the Afghan and
Pakistani governments must balance between support for U.S. goals and
domestic criticism that they are slavish to American demands.

Radwan Masmoudi, president of the Center for the Study of Islam and
Democracy in Washington, said a "serious investigation" of the
Guantanamo allegations is needed because the incident "strengthens the
voice" of extremists who say the United States is "not serious in
promoting freedom and democracy in the Muslim world."

Wright reported from Washington.

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