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Last summer, at the peak of "Ground Zero Mosque" fever, President Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus made an urgent plea for a Florida Pastor not to burn a pile of Korans. Gates telephoned pastor Terry Jones personally, warning him that the act could endanger U.S. troops and inflame anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. Well, last month, Jones went ahead with his Koran burning, and today, during a protest of the burning, enraged Muslims in Afghanistan killed seven UN workers, beheading two of them.
The violent demonstration occurred in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif where, according to the BBC, a huge crowd of protesters gathered and shouted "Death to the USA, Death to Israel" after Friday prayers. According to the A.P., the protests had been planned since yesterday, as "clerics with loudspeakers drove around the city in two cars on Thursday to invite residents to the protest." Things started peaceful, but then turned violent when protesters stormed the U.N.'s compound, grabbed the weapons of the guards and began firing.  Those killed include five Nepalese guards and three other non-Afghans.
It's easy forget the long chain of events that led to today's massacre even though it was just last summer when the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy began. The proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan became a major talking point for Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. Those figures elevated a civic debate into a national controversy that grabbed headlines for weeks on end with Jones's "International Burn a Koran Day" bringing the hysterics to a fever pitch. Jones cited the Park51 center as his reason for burning the Koran at his Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville. Though he backed out of the after pressure from Gates and Obama he would change his mind in March calling for an "International Judge the Koran Day."
In a statement issued to Sky News, Jones called the attacks "highly unacceptable" and remained unapologetic.

"Our United States government and our President must take a close, realistic look at the radical element Islam," he said. "Islam is not a religion of peace. It is time that we call these people to accountability. We demand that our United States government stand up and speak out against these acts. These people must be called to justice." Jones told the BBC, "We are absolutely not responsible, no, we are not responsible for their actions, that's an excuse."

Liberal blogger George Zornick at Think Progress chided Jones for burning the Koran and other Republicans for fanning the flames of the Park51 controversy.

"This unfortunate but predictable violence is exactly what Petraeus, Gates, and others warned about," he writes."It’s important to note that several prominent members of the far right — many of them leaders of the anti-Park 51 movement — bashed Petraues for his warnings."

Dan Amira at New York magazine focused on the bizarre logic of the Muslim killers. "Good job, citizens of Mazar-i-Sharif, for defending your religion's honor by killing a bunch of innocent people who had nothing to do with Jones or the Koran burning, and, in fact, had dedicated themselves to making your shit country a bit better for you to live in. You really changed a lot of hearts and minds today."

Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, in a post at The Huffington Post, focused on Jones's culpability.

"The lesson he needs to learn is that he has every right to express his opinion about Islam or to disagree with Muslims, but he doesn't have to spit in their faces to do it," Sanchez writes. "He didn't need to desecrate a book that one and a half billion people hold sacred in order to make a point." Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway addresses Jones directly. "You may not be responsible for these deaths, but our actions have done nothing but needlessly inflame passions. I hope you’re happy with yourself."

Pushing back against those blaming Jones for the massacre, The Daily Caller's Mike Riggs raises a hypothetical. "If a paranoid jingoist shot up a Mosque every time an Afghan burned the U.S. flag, would we blame the foreigner like we're blaming Jones?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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