WASHINGTON — On Feb. 20, a NATO-Afghan security team at the Parwan Detention Center — adjacent to the U.S.-run Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul — began destroying files, books and documents from the detention facility library. The printed material was being burned because it contained handwritten coded messages being passed among Taliban and al-Qaida detainees. Afghan security personnel retrieved charred pages from several copies of the Quran and other Islamic holy texts. The following day, angry crowds rioted outside NATO installations in Kabul and elsewhere around Afghanistan.
On Feb. 23, White House spokesman Jay Carney announced that President Barack Obama, America's apologist-in-chief, had written a penitent letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in which Obama pledged to "take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible." Karzai responded by insisting that the American soldiers responsible for this act be put on public trial and punished. It's been downhill in Afghanistan ever since.
Within hours of the presidential apology, two U.S. soldiers were dead — killed by their Afghan counterparts. In an effort to justify Obama's act of contrition, the White House claimed the apology was "wholly appropriate" given the "understandable sensitivities" regarding Islam's holy book — but never bothered to point out that writing in a Quran is forbidden by Islamic teaching. (The burned pages also had been written in.)
That night, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich condemned the Obama apology as "an outrage." In a written statement issued by his campaign, the former House speaker said: "It is Hamid Karzai who owes the American people an apology, not the other way around. This destructive double standard whereby the United States and its democratic allies refuse to hold accountable leaders who tolerate systematic violence and oppression in their borders must come to an end."
The Obama administration demurred and defended its abject appeasement. Carney said that Obama's "primary concern as commander in chief is the safety of American men and women in Afghanistan." He added that the apology "was absolutely the right thing to do." The statement did nothing to defuse the violence. Two more Americans died within 48 hours at the Interior Ministry — shot execution-style in one of the most secure facilities in Kabul.
On Feb. 27, after a suicide bomber attacked the International Security Assistance Force base at Jalalabad — killing nine and wounding more than a dozen Afghan security guards and civilians — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went even further, castigating Republicans for their criticism during an interview carried on CNN International. In an apparent effort to deflect blame for the escalating violence, Clinton said, "I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would enflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan." And just to make sure everyone rioting in Kabul got the message, she asserted that our president is "on record saying (that) this was not intentional (and that) we deeply regret it, and now we are hoping that voices inside Afghanistan will join that of President Karzai and others in speaking out and trying to calm the situation. It is deeply regrettable, but now it is out of hand, and it needs to stop." It didn't. Instead, it got worse.
Despite the escalating violence, Obama insists his apology has "calmed things down" — a claim he made in an interview aired on ABC News on Feb. 29. The following day, two more American soldiers were killed by their Afghan national security force counterparts in Kandahar.
The O-Team's appallingly apologetic approach to American diplomacy has undoubtedly exacerbated an already bad situation. And now the United Nations has joined the chorus of criticism against the U.S.-led military coalition. On March 1, after the murders in Kandahar, Jan Kubis, the U.N.'s special representative in Afghanistan, told reporters: "We were very hurt that the international military allowed the desecration of the Quran. We rejected and condemned this act. It doesn't matter that it was a mistake."
And just to make sure we all know the Obama mea culpa isn't all that's needed, Kubis said, "After the first step of a profound apology, there must be a second step, of disciplinary action. Only after this, after disciplinary action, can the international forces say, 'Yes, we're sincere in our apology.'"
This egregious affront from the U.N. has been invited by Obama's incessant apologies for who we are and the hope we offer others. America's head of state ought to be a leader who is unashamed of what we have done for the rest of the world. Let's be thankful that we have a chance to hire a new one in November.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.