More than half of Americans support President Barack Obama’s apology for the burning of the Holy Quran in Afghanistan, an incident that triggered a spate of bloody protests and attacks on US soldiers.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Monday, 56 per cent of those polled backed Obama’s move. 23 per cent disagreed. Besides that, 66 per cent of those polled said that US troops should return home immediately.
Obama’s formal apology and the debate that his decision created in the USA has underscored the delicate course the president must tread in his campaign for re-election in November.
However, Republic presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum joined Newt Gingrish on Sunday in criticising the apology saying the incident was just a mistake. Gingrish actually said that it should have been Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologising for the death of US soldiers and not otherwise.
“If Hamid Karzai doesn’t feel like apologizing, then I feel like we should say goodbye and good luck,” Gingrich said. “We don’t need to be here wasting our lives and wasting our money for somebody who doesn’t care.”
President Barack Obama has been forced to apologise over the burning of Korans at a US airbase, where continuous protests have killed over 14 people, including American soldiers. The protests have also spread to the neighbouring Pakistan.
Violent anti-US protests have seen furious Afghans attack French, Norwegian and US bases, shouting ‘death to America’ after the Taliban exhorted their countrymen to kill foreign troops to avenge the incident at a US-run base.
In a letter of apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama expressed ‘deep regret’ over the incident that he said was unintentional, and pledged that those responsible would be held accountable, Kabul said.
‘I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies,’ Obama wrote in the letter presented to Karzai by US ambassador Ryan Crocker.
‘The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.’
Sky News earlier reported that the Taliban, leading a 10-year insurgency against Karzai’s government, on Thursday sought to exploit the rising anti-American sentiment in their country.
‘You should bring the invading forces’ military bases under your brave attack, their military convoys, kill them, capture them, beat them and teach them a lesson that they will never again dare to insult the Holy Quran,’ it said in a statement.
However, it is unlikely that the five US soldiers who committed the crime will face any public trial. The Washington Post reported on Friday, citing US military officials that an investigation had established that the soldiers removed the Qurans from a prison at Bagram airbase because inmates were suspected of using the holy book to pass messages to each other. The Qurans were said to have been placed in an office for safekeeping, only to be mistaken for garbage and taken to a landfill where Afghan employees identified them as Qurans just as the pages caught fire.
“For the soldiers, it will be serious – they could lose rank. But you are not going to see the kind of public trial that some here seem to want,” one military official was quoted as saying.