Lest you think that Iraq is our only burning foreign policy crisis, news from Afghanistan is not too encouraging:

Shouting “Death to America!” more than 1,000 demonstrators rioted and threw stones at a U.S. military convoy Wednesday, as protests spread to four Afghan provinces over a report that interrogators desecrated Islam’s holy book at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Now, it’s not very original to shout, “Death to America”, and apparently the sentiment can be easily misunderstood:

President Hamid Karzai, who travels to Washington this month for talks with President Bush, played down the violence.

“It is not the anti-American sentiment, it is a protest over news of the desecration of the holy Quran,” Karzai told reporters after talks with NATO officials in Brussels, Belgium.

Right. When they call for our deaths they are not anti-American. They are merely lodging a complaint about using the Quran as a toilet accessory.

The source of anger was a brief report in the May 9 edition of Newsweek that interrogators at Guantanamo placed Qurans on toilets to rattle suspects, and in at least one case “flushed a holy book down the toilet.”

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico said the U.S. military was investigating.

First of all, I love the name ‘Flex Plexico’. With a name like that, Flex could be a movie star. But I am supremely confident that someday, maybe two years from now, Flex, or his successor, will announce that a thorough investigation has turned up no evidence of the Quran being desecrated at Guantanamo. Nor will they admit they smear fake menstrual blood on detainees, nor hang them on hooks, nor expose them to extreme heat and cold, nor make them listen to Nancy Sinatra records at extreme volume. (This last, may be the most cruel and unusual). But despite the clean bill of health that the Pentagon will give to itself, it won’t do one thing to stop scenes like this:


Police fired on the protesters, many of them students, trying to stifle the biggest display of anti-American anger since the ouster of the ruling Taliban militia 3 1/2 years ago. There were no reports of American casualties, but the violence left four dead and 71 injured in Jalalabad, a city 80 miles east of the capital, Kabul.

Mobs smashed car and shop windows and attacked government offices, the Pakistani consulate and the offices of two U.N. agencies in Jalalabad. Smoke billowed from the consulate and a U.N. building. More than 50 foreign aid workers were reportedly evacuated.

The protests may expand into neighboring Pakistan, where a coalition of hard-line Islamic parties said it would hold nationwide demonstrations Friday over the alleged desecration of the Quran.

This is the same Pakistan we are currently arming to the teeth. Home of the original talib. Speaking of which:

Growing urban unrest could pose another security challenge for the U.S.-backed Afghan government, which is already battling a reinvigorated Taliban insurgency. About 18,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, fighting rebels and searching for Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

But perhaps the clearest sign that unprovoked war, routine torture, and religious desecration are winning hearts and minds is this:

The unrest in Jalalabad began Tuesday, when protesters burned an effigy of Bush. It flared again Wednesday, when more than 1,000 university and high school students marched through the city and stoned a convoy of U.S. military vehicles.
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