"I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. ... I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies."
As President Obama sent this letter of apology to Hamid Karzai for the burning by U.S. troops of Qurans that were used to smuggle notes between Afghan prisoners, two U.S. soldiers were murdered in reprisal.
Saturday, a U.S. colonel and a major working in the Interior Ministry were shot dead by an Afghan protesting the desecration of the Islamic holy book. All U.S. officers have been pulled out of the ministries in Kabul.
Sunday, seven U.S. troops on base were wounded by a grenade.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. John Allen, commander in Afghanistan, have also offered their apologies.
Remarkable. After fighting for 10 years, investing $500 billion, and losing nearly 2,000 dead and many more wounded and maimed to save Afghanistan from a Taliban future, America is issuing apologies to the regime and people we are fighting and dying to defend?
And how has Obama's apology been received?
Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of Parliament, stood with 20 other members to declare, "Americans are invaders, and jihad against Americans is an obligation." He urged mullahs to "urge the people ... to wage war against Americans."
In what other war would we have tolerated this from an elected leader of a government we had sent an army of 100,000 to protect?
Undeniably, the soldiers who burned the Qurans blundered. Yet there is no evidence that it was malicious. If vandals desecrate a Bible in America, burning and replacing the holy book would not be regarded a valid excuse for mayhem and murder.
If Afghans cannot understand this mistake and have no other way to express their rage than rioting and ranting, "Death to America!" what kind of raw material are we working with in building a Western-style democracy in any foreseeable century?
Two pertinent questions needs to be put.
While keeping Afghanistan free of the Taliban is a desirable goal, what vital U.S. interest would be imperiled should the Taliban take over again, now that al-Qaida is largely gone?
What price in blood and billions should we expend on what appears a dubious enterprise at best -- creating a pro-American democracy in a country that seems mired in some distant century?
It is time we took inventory of all of these wars we have fought since the Army of Desert Storm restored the emir of Kuwait to his throne.
That 1991 war was seen as a triumph of American arms and a model of the global cooperation to come in establishing the New World Order of George H.W. Bush.