Foreign Policy Blogs

12 People, 7 Foreign Staff at UN Office Killed in Mob Violence

There’s little to do but  quote Rod Nordland’s Times piece on this horrendous bit of breaking news:

“Protesters angered by the burning of a Koran by a fringe American pastor in Florida mobbed offices of the United Nations in northern  Afghanistan on Friday, killing ten foreign staff members and beheading two of the victims, according to an Afghan police spokesman. Five Afghans were also killed.”

“The attack began when hundreds of demonstrators, some of them armed, poured out of mosques after Friday Prayer and headed to the headquarters of the United Nations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. They disarmed the guards and overran the compound, according to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for Gen. Daoud Daoud, the Afghan National Police commander for northern Afghanistan.”  (Read the rest of the piece here)

All I can say, all that makes sense to say, is that if Afghanistan is to move beyond the vicious cycle of procedures and outcomes in which it is roiling, calmer heads must prevail–on everything, every construction project, every investment project,  every political move, every policy decision, everything.  Death during war and conflict is acceptable-it is, after all, part of the contingent, incomplete contract that death and murder loom behind a gun, especially in a codified and armed struggle. But the same cannot be true for civilian protests which by dint of definition and function must remain unarmed and overall peaceful.

That mobs, perhaps ginned on by overly vitriolic speech, motivated by a deep sense of indignation at the repugnant acts of an equally repugnant public individual, Pastor Terry Jones, should take to arms and to murder cannot be an acceptable tactic for political and social protest.

Imams in Afghanistan must hold the line and advocate peaceful strategies against what they surely view as hostile political moves across distant seas and oceans.  This, whatever those moves might be.  To be more precise, it is incontrovertibly the case that Pastor Jones’ horrendous acts cannot and do not justify murder as a retaliatory tactic. Otherwise, if constant conflict is the path chosen-whatever the apparent casus belli- there can be no peace, no stability and finally no development of and in Afghanistan.

Abraham Lincoln, during his first inaugural pleaded with an audience, a bit farther south, troubled and waiting for war to “think calmly and well, upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it”.

This advice cannot console the dead nor strip of guilt and culpability the imams and the marauders responsible for the gruesome crimes of murder by gunshot and beheading. But for the rest of the Afghan people, the rest of Afghanistan, indeed the coalition now responsible for Afghanistan, especially as a near artificial deadline looms ahead, patience and a calm mien is now necessary more than has been the case in the past nearly ten years of the current fight in Afghanistan.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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