White House, Panetta & Clinton offer apologiesBy Lalit K Jha Feb 22, 2012 - 10:05
WASHINGTON (PAN): The White House and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday apologised to the people of Afghanistan on alleged desecration of the Quran by US soldiers at the Bagram Airbase in central Parwan province.
“We apologise to the Afghan people and disapprove of such conduct in the strongest possible terms,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, when asked about the incident, resulting in an outrage in the country.
“This was a deeply unfortunate incident that does not reflect the great respect our military has for the religious practices of the Afghan people,” Carney said, adding US military leaders had apologised for the unintentional actions, and ISAF was undertaking an investigation to understand what happened and to ensure that steps were taken so that incidents like that did not happen again.
Carney said it did not represent the views of the US military, and it certainly did not represent the conduct of its men and women in uniform, or America’s general respect for the religious practices and beliefs of the Afghan people.
The White House statement came hours after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered his personal apology. “This morning ISAF Commander General John Allen notified me of the deeply unfortunate incident involving the inappropriate treatment of religious materials, including the Quran, at Bagram Airbase,” he said in a statement.
“He and I apologise to the Afghan people and disapprove of such conduct in the strongest possible terms,” said the secretary, who added the action did not represent the views of the US military.
“We honour and respect the religious practices of the Afghan people, without exception.” Panetta supported Allen's swift and decisive action to investigate the matter jointly with the Afghan government. “I will carefully review the final results of the investigation to ensure that we take all steps necessary and appropriate so that this never happens again.”
The State Department termed it as a “horrific” incident. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was briefed about the incident early in the day. “The desecration of religious articles is not in keeping with the standards of American tolerance, human rights practices and freedom of religion,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
Gen. Allen, ordering an investigation into the reported sacrilege, offered his sincere apologies to the president, government and people of Afghanistan. “When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities.”