Mark asked me to respond to  today’s attack on UN staff in Mazar-i-Sharif. This post is my initial reaction.

Kabul, Afghanistan – Foreigners have been killed in Afghanistan before, and today’s attack was not the first fatal attack on UN staff.  But it was different than previous fatal attacks. Very different. The killers were ordinary residents of a city deemed peaceful enough to be one of the first places transferred to the control of Afghan security forces. The men who broke into the UN compound, set fires and killed eight people weren’t Taliban, or henchmen of a brutal warlord, or members of a criminal gang. They weren’t even armed when the protests began –they took weapons from the UN guards who were their first victims.

Foreigners committed to assisting in the rebuilding of Afghanistan have long accepted the possibility that they might die at the hands of warring parties, but this degree of violence from ordinary citizens is not something most of us factored into our decision to work here.

Tonight, the governor of Balkh province (of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital) is telling the international media that the men who sacked the UN compound were Taliban infiltrators. That’s rubbish. Local clerics drove around the city with megaphones yesterday, calling residents to protest the actions of a small group of attention-seeking, bigoted Americans. Then, during today’s protest, someone announced that not just one, but hundreds of Korans had been burned in America. A throng of enraged men rushed the gates of the UN compound, determined to draw blood.  Had the attackers been gunmen, they would likely have been killed before they could breach the compound.

I was sharing a meal with aid worker friends when I heard the news. Phones began buzzing. Security officers were demanding that my friends return to their compounds immediately. Cars had already been sent to retrieve them. Lockdown was in effect.

This is not the beginning of the end for the international community in Afghanistan. This is the end. Terry Jones and others will continue to pull anti-Islam stunts and opportunistic extremists here will use those actions to incite attacks against foreigners. Unless we, the internationals, want our guards to fire on unarmed protesters from now on, the day has come for us to leave Afghanistan.

  • Ali

    its sad.

  • Rlange1

    Maybe the multiculturalists pushing this nonsensical ideological trap will be a little less naive and self-righteous about American combat troops pulling the triggers to keep these savages beaten back and away from the civilized world.

  • sweasel

    If there were no Terry Jones, they would invent him.

  • Anonymous

    There’s a reason those people have been banished to live in such a hellish place like Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan has been historically a lost cause since the 1970s.

    Sad but you have to protect your life first.

  • gc from the oc

    Who is the biggest animal here; the small-minded Evangelicals in America or the small-minded Muslims in Afghanistan? I don’t see a whole lot of difference. If there is any crime for which Jones can be charged with I hope that it is applied to him. As far as Afghanistan, let’s get the hell out and let them live with the consequences.

    • Constance

      Why should someone in this country be charged for burning a book? That is outrageous. We don’t roll that way here in America. You should know better.

    • adepta

      ooh, tough question. But I’m going out on a limb and saying that the murderers are worse.

      in fact, I’d say the this reaction proves that burning the koran is 100% justified

    • FlaGuy

      You really , honestly can’t see any difference, however slight between beheading innocent people and burning a book? Really?

  • Lewismag

    Pastor Terry Jones and any other American has the right to burn as many Korans as they want. Americans don’t have to give up their right to freedom of speech or expression in order to appease Islamist barbarians in Afghanistan. Besides, the barbarians don’t need any excuse to riot and murder. If Mr. Jones didn’t give them an excuse, the barbarians would create or react to a lie such as Korans being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo a few years ago that set off riots in the Muslim world. Rioting, terrorism and murder is what radical Muslims do for a living and the don’t need any prompting from Terry Jones.

    Lewis Forro
    Virginia Beach, VA

    • Constance

      I agree. The fault here lies with the psychopaths living in Afghanistan. In America, we will burn any religious book we choose, even if it offends people.

    • Newly Convinced Atheist

      Who are you hateful people? Where did you come from with your I’m an American so you can shove it attitude? What the hell is this country coming to? This is what I’m supposed to be proud of? You are the enemy you hate, You are just as much a barbarian as those you condemn. I’d feel sorry for you, but you’re not even worth that.

      • Anonymous

        You must be kidding! If you see anything approaching moral equivalence between burning a single copy of a widely available book as an act of protest and the murder of human beings, then you are so fundamentally lacking in moral clarity that you ought to be living among the savages who committed this murderous atrocity today.

        No doubt you would have condemned those who mocked Hitler during WWII because it might have offended the Germans and made their troops fight harder.

    • Anonymous

      Burning sacred texts is freedom of speech?? Perhaps in the Weimar Republic. Lewis, try and control your fear, try and set your mind free. You might think that burning the holy book of another’s religion an act of speech; I suppose flying planes into skyscrapers also fits that description as well.

      • Anonymous

        Burning a single copy of a widely available book that one has purchased is certainly free speech — just like burning a flag you have purchased is. Murder is not. That you fail to see the difference is a telling sign of your lack of moral clarity.

  • Fahim Khairy

    There is a motivation between The US Kill Team and UN Massacre in Mazar. The western media made the evidence of a savage crime public. The images of US soldiers posing with dead bodies of Afghan civilians were spread across Afghanistan through mobile phones which angered people. People were angry for many reasons not only Terry Jones. This is how the protest was nurtured in Mazar streets. And Moore misunderstood about the governor point or her translator did a wrong job for her. Governor Atta said ”the arrested people are from Kandahar, Baghlan, Herat and Mazar. They came here to carry suicide attack in Naworz festival. They failed to attack Nawroz gathering due to tight security, but succeeded in turning a peaceful public protest to violence”.

    Local clerics were talking about this protest for a week and provoked young boys as much as they could. And our European favorite Guy (Mr. Governor) didn’t even bother to gather up a group of educated people to go out and tell the youngsters about who Terry Jones is and what he wants. A picture showed in local media where an UN officer is laying down in a pool of blood in sidewalk and a 14 year old boy is beating him with a stick. Where were the police to stop him? The Afghan News paper says the police force was aware of the protest but they arrived one hour later. This is what happens when Western backed officials are busy with their personal businesses and not paying attention to what is going on in local communities.

  • Guest0

    If Terry Jones didn’t carry out his publicity stunt, there would have been no excuse or premise for the UN workers to be attacked. They weren’t attacked two weeks ago…even when Terry Jones first made the threat. Burning Korans, to the people (call them barbarians or extremists) there is an ‘act of war’ on their beliefs. And whether you like it or not, the Afghan Muslims especially don’t care if the supposedly enlightened, educated and civilized West see fighting for their beliefs as barbaric, they would fight anyways. Perhaps i reason, if the West do not want war, they should not incite same. Simple!!!

  • Sara

    How dare you equate “small-minded” evangelicals to “small-minded” muslims. Yes, what happened today was a tragic and horrible and the people who killed the U.N. workers are responsible for their actions. But they’re not the same. Terry Jones grew up in the United States where he was privy to the best education system in the world and he had been warned of the consequences of his actions and indeed he was begged to act differently. The “small-minded” muslims are likely illiterate and are taught to respect the religious authority at all costs. They don’t have the access to information like we do in the United States. Our armed forces have worked so hard to win their trust and respect, and Terry Jones has done irreparable damage to our image there. And without respect in that region, our security will continue to be compromised.

  • Bandgwolf

    The bigoted idiot pastor in So. FLorida ought to be really proud of his accomplishments.
    This attack on the UN’s offices and the resulting tragic deaths are just the beginning.
    The Koran-burning will be used by every rabble-rouser across the Muslim world, much more so than even the Danish newspaper cartoons of Mohammed. The Muslim “street” (for lackof a better world) is a world of fanaticism, ignorance, frustration and violence, to be insulted only at great peril to those innocents who happen to be there, attempting to be of help. The victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time through no fault of their own, and paid with their lives for the fanaticism and stupidity of this so-called pastor.

  • Undispatch

    Comments are getting a bit too heated. Cool down time. Comments off for now.