Ring a bell? In 2001, a 32-year-old Marine captain and CIA officer named John Michael Spann was killed there in a prison riot, thus becoming the first American combat death in Afghanistan. Not incidentally, Spann, before violence broke out, had interrogated an uncooperative John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. This all took place before the U.S. military completely toppled Afghanistan's Taliban oppressors.
Nearly seven years later, American-liberated Mazar-i-Sharif has again made headlines -- well, one or two -- as the site of the prison where a 23-year-old Afghan journalist has been detained for three months (and counting) on blasphemy charges. These charges derive, Reuters reports, from Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh "distributing an article which said Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women." As President Bush might say ... well, what might President Bush say: Let freedom reign?
Then there's Halabja.
Remember Halabja? The name is notorious for being the town where in 1988, 15 years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurdish civilians to death. This month, American-liberated Halabja made headlines as the site of the court that sentenced a Kurdish author in absentia to six months in prison for blasphemy: namely, for writing in a book that Mohammed had 19 wives, married a 9-year-old when he was 54, and took part in murder and rape. (These points, Robert Spencer notes at jihadwatch.com, "can be readily established from early texts written by pious Muslims.") The author, Mariwan Halabjaee, who has asylum in Norway, says there's also a fatwa calling for his death unless he asks forgiveness.
Think about it. Where Americans have died, not just to de-fang jihadist threats but to "democratize" Islamic populations, freedom of speech is against the law. And not the law according to "militants" or "extremists," but the law as enforced by democratically elected governments that we, as a nation, support with everything we've got. What would Bush say to that?
I doubt he'd know what to say. Neither, for that matter, would anyone in his Cabinet, starting with Condoleezza Rice. Nor, I doubt, would the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen. Nor -- to open things up -- would the presidential candidates, the Fox News All-Stars or Simon Cowell. The fact is, to discuss blasphemy laws in Afghanistan and Iraq (Kurdistan, even) is to discuss Islam -- specifically, its laws and doctrines. And we, as a politically correct people, don't know how to do that. Instead, we act as though they don't exist.
And not just blasphemy laws. Jihad doctrine; Sharia (Islamic law); designs for a global caliphate through jihad (terrorism) and the spread of Sharia (Islamization): We pretend they are not factors in the Free World's experience with Islam. We certainly don't discuss their implications for the freeness of the world. Look at what passes for "debate" among our presidential candidates: Republicans argue over who supported "the surge" first; Democrats argue over who will withdraw troops first.
Such resolute blindness on Islam probably explains the institutional apathy -- including (with few exceptions) conservative apathy -- on the termination of Pentagon analyst Stephen Coughlin, which I recently wrote about. The military's primary expert on Islamic law, Coughlin was reportedly fired at the behest of a highly placed Pentagon aide named Hesham Islam whom Steven Emerson has since thumb-nailed as "an Islamist with a pro-Muslim Brotherhood bent." Thankfully, Rep. Sue Myrick of the bipartisan House Anti-Terrorism Caucus is considering action, but there is little public sense that this outrage of a story is happening to us as a nation.
But it's something that should deeply concern Americans, particularly as a nation with soldiers under arms. Coughlin's meticulously researched legal brief not only links Islamic law to Islamic terrorism, but also demonstrates the professional negligence involved in ignoring Islamic law when devising strategies against Islamic terrorism.
Of course, that right there may explain the silence, particularly among many conservatives. The kind of negligence Coughlin is talking about, deriving from a PC ignorance of Islamic law, is quite evident in the strategies and tactics of the so-called war on terror that conservatives have widely championed -- up to and including "the surge" in Iraq, which, for example, presupposes that American-won security will trigger a set of cultural behaviors and aspirations in Iraqi society best described as non-Islamic.
In other words, we seem to have arrived at a strange junction where neither jihadist apologists nor surge enthusiasts want to hear the facts about Islamic law. You might say it's become the new blasphemy.