[Marxism] How those Korans ended up getting destroyed

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Mar 3 07:47:54 MST 2012

(It is worth noting that the pretext for destroying the Korans was that 
they were to be used as communications for a prison revolt, a 
preposterous notion on the face of it.)

NY Times March 2, 2012
Chain of Avoidable Errors Cited in Koran Burning

KABUL, Afghanistan — American and Afghan officials investigating the 
Koran-burning episode that has brought relations between the countries 
to a new low say that the destruction could have been headed off at 
several points along a chain of mishaps, poor judgments and ignored 
procedures, according to interviews over the past week.


The account begins about a week before the burning, when officers at the 
detention center in Parwan became worried that detainees were secretly 
communicating through notes scribbled in library books, possibly to plot 
an attack.

“There was a suspicion that this was being used as a means to 
communicate, internal and external,” said the American military official 
familiar with the investigation, adding that the fear was that the 
detainees might “organize.”

Two Afghan-American interpreters were assigned to sift through the 
library’s books and set aside those that had writing that might 
constitute a security risk, said Maulavi Dad and other members of the 
Ulema Council team who visited the detention center and were briefed by 
the military.

By the time the interpreters were finished, 1,652 books were stacked on 
the floor and tables for removal, including some Korans, many other 
religious or scholarly texts, and a number of secular works, including 
novels and poetry.

Whether the inscriptions were a security risk is a matter of debate. 
Members of the Ulema Council doubted that the writings were anything 
other than personal notations, and American military officials and 
Afghan security officials were unsure because so many books were 
involved that they had not been able to review them all.

“We saw some notes on the margins of the books in which some of the 
detainees had written memories of their imprisonment, their name, their 
father’s name, location and the place where they were arrested,” said 
Qazi Nazir Ahmad Hanifi, a member of Parliament from Herat who is a 
mullah and was on the Ulema’s investigating team.

He and others said that in some of the books, including Korans, words 
were occasionally written in the margins, translations of difficult 
Arabic words into Pashto or Dari. “These had nothing to do with 
terrorism or criminal activities,” he said.

The American military official did not go into details, but said only 
that “we overly rely around here on linguists,” the military term for 
interpreters and translators. “None of the U.S. soldiers can read this.”

But the linguists were responsible only for the sorting of the books, 
not for the decision to burn them. It was in asking why the books were 
not simply stored that one of several faulty decisions became apparent, 
the official said.

“You have separated a huge number of books — it will come out 1,652,” he 
said, “and those that are in charge say, ‘We don’t have the storage 
capacity; this is sensitive material.’ ”

“So the decision is ‘We are going to burn these books,’ ” he continued. 
“It is part of their procedures to do that, but there’s a process in 
place that that is the last thing. Things should be retained for a 
while, but in this case they don’t.”

Sometime on Monday, Feb. 20, the books were transported by a work detail 
of several soldiers to the truck that would ultimately take them to the 
incinerator. That posed another missed opportunity.

As the books lay in boxes waiting to be piled in the truck, some Afghan 
Army soldiers saw them and recognized them as religious books, and they 
became worried, Maulavi Dad said. They asked where the books were being 
taken and were told by soldiers that the books were destined for 
storage. Worried that Korans might be among the books and that something 
wrong might happen to them, the Afghan soldiers reported to their 
commanding officer, Lt. Col. Safiullah, who, like many Afghans, uses 
only one name.

The American military official corroborated that account and said the 
problem was that by the time the Afghan officer relayed the concerns to 
his American counterpart, who came to check the truck, the vehicle and 
its cargo were already on the way to the incinerator.

Both Afghan and American officials believed that the three soldiers 
driving the holy books to their destination had little or no 
understanding of what they were carrying. “For those three soldiers, 
this was nothing more than a work detail,” one military official said.

Just minutes later, when the work detail began to heave the books into 
the flames, an Afghan laborer standing nearby offered to help. But when 
he drew close, he realized what was happening and began to scream.

For him and others it was a nightmare come to life. “One of my friends 
called to me, ‘The Americans are burning our holy books,’ and we rushed 
over there,” said Mohammed Zafar, 24, who has worked for five years as a 
laborer near the gate.

As the Afghan laborers tried to extinguish the flames with their water 
bottles, at least one laborer plunged into the smoldering ashes to 
retrieve the books, Mr. Zafar said.

The Americans immediately stopped, but not before at least four books 
had been badly burned, according to a notice from the presidential 
palace shortly afterward.

What should have happened was far different, Maulavi Dad said. He gently 
lifted up his Koran, a beautifully bound one with dark blue 
ornamentation, and described the religiously approved way one would 
dispose of it if it were damaged or too old to use.

“We have two suggestions: You can cover it with a clean cloth and bury 
it on holy ground, a shrine or a graveyard, a place where people don’t 
walk,” he said.

“Or you can wrap it and place it in the sea, the river, in flowing water.”

He added, “You see, we believe the earth and the water are the two 
cleanest elements on the planet, and since we give great value to holy 
books and papers, this is where we bury them.”

Graham Bowley and an employee of The New York Times contributed reporting.

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