There’s No Two Ways About It: Terry Jones Has Blood on his Hands

Though the reaction is somewhat delayed, a mob in Afghanistan finally heard of Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ Koran-burning stunt… and marched on a United Nations compound to avenge the incident, killing twelve.

Jones, in response, insists on two things: first, that this isn’t his fault. And second, that it proves, conclusively, that Muslims can’t be trusted. Now, am I missing something, or does Jones’ second point prove too much?

Make no mistake, Jones was angling for precisely this response. As he even admits, he was counting on bloodshed, to prove something we already knew — that fundamentalist Muslims are crazy — and extend it to bolster the thesis of his little show trial, that the Koran is itself a violent document. Regardless of the fact that the little scheme depended on an intervening actor — an admittedly crazy, violent actor — death and bloodshed were precisely what Jones wanted, and precisely what he got.

I’m not saying this is enough to support a criminal indictment (Sen. Reid is wrong), or even a wrongful death action… though I think it probably could. This isn’t about the law, whether civil or criminal. It’s about the civilian duty of responsibility, to make the world a better, not a worse place. If you tell an acquaintance, known to be murderously jealous, that his wife cheated on him, you cannot wash your hands of it after she’s murdered.

It’s not a novel conclusion that fundamentalist Muslims — carefully limited by the adjective — are a violent, unpredictable, and dangerous sort. What will be novel is if we let one of our own fundamentalists use them as a puppet in the planned murder of innocent bystanders.

Update: I can represent that Dad approves.



  1. The really interesting thing about these protests is that they’re happening only in Afghanistan, and only two weeks after the actual event, after President Karzai went to a
    considerable deal of trouble to make people aware that it happened.

    So I don’t think this is even so much about fundamentalist Muslims at all as it’s about Karzai stirring crap up, probably as part of some power struggle either with other Afghan factions or with the Americans – not sure.

  2. I wonder if you would have said the same thing if a Bible had been burned in Jordan and Americans stormed their embassy and killed 12?

  3. Don’t wonder; the answer is yes. Also, the hypothetical doesn’t make sense. Who burns a Bible?

    And Akj, that’s… disturbing!

    1. Are you saying no one ever burns Bibles in the Middle East? I doubt that is true but let’s take another example, an American flag. What if Americans used that as justification to kill people at an Arab embasy? Would the burners be responsible for those deaths?

    2. If the burners reasonably expected it to cause murders at the Arab embassy, yes.

      1. And that’s the key, isn’t it? There’s a difference between pointing at a random woman and crying “She’s a witch!” and doing it when there’s a torch-carrying mob wandering about.

      2. Precisely so, Narci. Thank you :)

      3. So if someone says, “Ames, post one more thing on your blog and we shoot the mayor – and you do – then you’ve got blood on your hands, right?”

      4. This is getting weird. And isn’t the answer obvious?

        1. To me it’s obvious – no, it’s not your fault. Crazy people do crazy things and we can’t hold other people responsible. The people in Afghanistan who did this are murderous savages. The incitement was thoughtless and crude, but to try and hold that person responsible is incorrect.

          This feels to me more like a stereotypicaly liberal abdication of personal responsibility.

          1. That’s somewhat ironic because it seems to me you’re trying to argue Terry Jones should be allowed to abdicate his share of personal responsibility for the event.

            1. That’s just it…I don’t think he has any responsibility in this event. He did something in very bad taste. What people make of it is their own.

            2. I think Lanfranc really nails you on this one. We’re not saying the ultimate murderers are blameless; just that the blame extends broader than them. How is this not like playing Russian Roulette?

            3. This is a complicated situation, and you got to look at both the proximate and the ultimate causes. “Well, they’re murderous savages” just doesn’t seem like a very compelling argument.

              I agree with Marius that Jones must have counted on exactly something like this happening, and I just don’t see how he could possibly have been in good faith (so to speak) considering the commotion over the last time he talked about burning Qurans, and that he himself came to admit that, yeah, that probably wouldn’t be such a good idea.

              In short, I think Jones has acted as anything but a responsible citizen in this case. Obviously he’s not obligated to do so, but that freedom should not shield him from the criticism he deserves.

              1. Apparently I just put more stock in free will than you guys.

                1. Really? Trying to simplify a complex political issue to a twee one-liner about free will? Gee, that’s not stereotypically conservative at all.

                  Oh, wait. Yes, it is.

                  1. That’s just it – it’s not a ‘complex political issue at all’. A private citizen in the US did an incredibly offensive thing. Private citizens in Afghanistan used it as an excuse to kill a bunch of people. There were no government forces at work and no one forcing anyone to behave they did.

                    Maybe it’s stero-typically liberal to over-complicate a simple question of right or wrong?

                    1. As I noted way up in the first comment, this is happening only in Afghanistan, while nobody else apparently seems to care much, and President Karzai seems to be pretty deeply involved. That’s already two major complicating elements beyond “some people went out to shoot some stuff up.”

                      Aside from that, the fact remains that Jones knew perfectly well what was likely to happen, because it was explained to him by pretty much the entire US government the last time he was about to do a stunt like this. It’s that state of knowing that changes his action from merely “offensive” to “partially responsible”.

                      Isn’t “actions have consequences” supposed to be a conservative tenet, by the way?

                    2. I don’t think a private US citizen, even an offensive one, should have to plan their actions around the free will of private citizens on the other side of the world. It sounds like Karzai made sure Afghanistan was the ONLY country that reacted this way. The variable doesn’t seem to be Jones – but Karzai.

                    3. Normally I’d agree, but the difference in this case is that Jones clearly actively did plan his actions around those “private citizens”, expecting something like this to happen. I’d also say there’s plenty enough blame to go around to share between Jones, Karzai and probably lots of other people.

    3. I’ve burned a Bible.

  4. AKjeldsen

    I’ve noticed that too. I seems that as vulgar an incident as this is it seems to be limited to afghanistan. Of cource given that afghanistan is one of the most socially arcane parts of the muslim world, and the rest of the middle east is busy trying to free themselves from their autocratic governments, no one else has time to worry about what a gang of nitwits in florida are up to.

  5. This is basically the right to free “speech” versus prohibition of incitement. The former would tend to win, hands-down, in the US.

  6. A couple of observations.

    First, once again we see that there’s next to nobody with the ability, desire, and will to disperse rioters in a properly Napoleonic (or Justinianic, for you classicists) fashion. Obviously, the Afghan government had no desire to stop the riot – as AK pointed out, the Afghan president helped instigate them. I doubt that the Afghan authorities had the firepower to do it, either. I’m not sure what US military forces were in position to intervene, but I can guarantee you if there were any their rules of engagement would have prohibited an effective response because the US doesn’t have the will to handle riots properly. And the UN guards clearly lacked either the firepower to kill enough of their attackers that the rest fled or the willingness to use their firepower.

    Second, a group of American Christian religious fundamentalists outed themselves and in response a group of Afghan Islamic religious fundamentalists outed themselves. Seeing as the extirpation of religious fundamentalists is a worthy goal, and you can’t do that unless you know who to target… you know, that’s helpful of them to have done. And if the information we now have gets acted upon and used, those seven deaths will not have been in vain. I doubt that information will be used, though – see above about desire, will, and ability.

    1. It is not a given thing that the Afghans involved in those riots are in fact motivated by religious fundamentalism. Some of them may or may not be, but God knows there are reasons enough why a couple of thousand Afghans might be sufficiently pissed of about their situation in general without fundamentalism even having to enter into it in the first place.

      In short, I’m not sure it’s a relevant data point at all in the first place.

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