Defense Department issues Koran hazmat guidance

Military blogger Blackfive got a copy of the new Defense Department “Quran Distribution Guidance” memo, issued by Command Chaplain Eric J. Albertson in the wake of the Koran-burning incident in Afghanistan.  Dated February 22, two days after the Korans were burned at Bagram Air Base and violent riots began, the memo treats the Koran like a hazardous material… which only Muslim soldiers will be allowed to touch.

“Qurans will only be distributed to US Service members who are Muslim, as indicated on their identification tags,” the memo directs.  However, “exceptions for non-Muslim Service Members or for other reasons will be granted if the Service Member has a memorandum signed by his Commander that states the reason for obtaining a Quran provided by the chaplain.”

Also, “Qurans will not be placed in general literature distribution racks.”  Instead, they will be “kept in a secure location” until those with the proper religious affiliation stamped on their dog tags, or an officially approved Really Damn Good Reason for wanting one, arrives at the vault to check one out.

Blackfive wonders, “Does the chaplain refuse to give the Bible to soldiers with Muslim on their dog tags?”  I doubt it.  Remember: Islam Is Different.

These new directives don’t seem terribly relevant to the problem at hand.  The Korans burned in Afghanistan were not checked out of a base library by American soldiers looking to cause some mischief.  They were left by captive insurgents, who had a habit of defacing their sacred religious texts by scrawling messages inside them.  At worst, the Korans destroyed by the military were accidentally incinerated along with defiled religious materials that had to be burned for security reasons.  If the Korans themselves were defiled by the insurgents, the U.S. military was following the correct procedure for disposing of them.

The New York Times reports today that at least three separate investigations into the Bagram incident are under way.  Afghanistan has settled down a bit while the results are awaited, but the riot-prone mobs probably aren’t going to be satisfied with the result of the U.S. Army inquiry:

The investigation, known as an AR15-6, the number in the Army regulatory code, is a first step in a process that could lead ultimately to criminal legal action or lesser administrative punishment.

The formal investigation ordered by General Allen involves initial fact finding by a senior military officer, an American Army brigadier general, who was not involved in the incident.

The inquiry will conclude with a final report, which could comprise a recommendation for further legal action, including a more formal process that could lead to court-martial. The final report is due to be handed to General Allen in the second half of March. Any legal action will be pursued under American laws and regulations, not those of Afghanistan.

Unless the investigation uncovers very clear evidence that U.S. troops acted with deliberate malice, and that seems highly unlikely, the American public will be absolutely outraged by a court-martial.  The Afghans, meanwhile, probably won’t be interested in any legal procedure that does not end with the cessation of someone’s higher brain functions.  Four American troops have already been murdered, seven more were injured in a grenade attack, and 30 Afghans have been killed in the riots so far.

A joint inquiry with the Afghan Army and security ministries is also underway, with results to be published “as early as the next three or four days.”  The Times describes the third investigative team as “a task force that includes members of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council and some Parliament members.  The Ulema is the pre-eminent religious authority in the country and is made up of scholarly mullahs.”  That sounds ominous, but these folks might have the best shot at defusing the situation, if they conclude the Korans were defiled by insurgents and correctly disposed of.  It might be wishful thinking, but there are no official regulations against that yet.