Death by megaphone in Afghanistan

There he is again. In prime news territory in the New York Times, which offered Terry Jones another chance to speak for himself (while also, interestingly enough, stripping him of "the Rev." in a violation of Associated Press style on clergy titles). Jones pretty much says what you would expect him to say. There are no surprises, if you've been following this drama. I did find it sadly typical that most of the members of his tiny flock are carrying weapons these days. However, while pretty much the whole fundamentalist and evangelical Christian world has damned him, he is standing firm. But you know all of that, right? Of his actions, he notes:

"It was intended to stir the pot; if you don't shake the boat, everyone will stay in their complacency," Mr. Jones said in an interview at his office in the Dove World Outreach Center. "Emotionally, it's not all that easy. People have tried to make us responsible for the people who are killed. It's unfair and somewhat damaging."

Violent protests against the burning continued on Saturday in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where 9 people were killed and 81 injured. The previous day, 12 people were killed when a mob stormed a United Nations building in Mazar-i-Sharif, though on Saturday the top United Nations official in Afghanistan blamed Taliban infiltrators for the killings. He said the victims had been deliberately murdered rather than killed by an out-of-control mob.

"Did our action provoke them?" the pastor asked. "Of course. Is it a provocation that can be justified? Is it a provocation that should lead to death? When lawyers provoke me, when banks provoke me, when reporters provoke me, I can't kill them. That would not fly."

And so forth and so on. Is Jones responsible for the slaughter? Of course, he is one of a number of people who have blood on their hands in this current situation in that his actions deliberately provided the spark that others fanned into flames, meaning that they chose to join him in this whirlpool of guilt.

However, key facts continue to be left out of the mainstream coverage, as M.Z. noted the other day. Is anyone seeing reports about the actions of the radical -- perhaps multiple imams -- who turned one Koran burned by Jones & Co. into hundreds of Korans burned by large numbers of Americans? Who is giving us the facts on the ground? Feel free to leave URLs in the comments pages.

At this point, I think it is safe to say that M.Z. is right and that UN Dispatch has become the essential publication for anyone who wants to know what is happening with this story in Afghanistan. That is the publication, after all, that told us:

Local clerics drove around the city with megaphones yesterday, calling residents to protest the actions of a small group of attention-seeking, bigoted Americans. Then, during today's protest, someone announced that not just one, but hundreds of Korans had been burned in America. A throng of enraged men rushed the gates of the UN compound, determined to draw blood. Had the attackers been gunmen, they would likely have been killed before they could breach the compound.

So what is the bottom line? What is at stake?

That same post by Una Moore ends with this paragraph -- which sums up my reading of this drama, at this moment in time.

This is not the beginning of the end for the international community in Afghanistan. This is the end. Terry Jones and others will continue to pull anti-Islam stunts and opportunistic extremists here will use those actions to incite attacks against foreigners.

So, are you seeing this complete picture in the newspapers you read and the broadcast news reports that you watch? Are you seeing the sequence of actions, choices and, thus, responsibility? Jones did what he did. The extremists did what they did.

Who is MORE responsible? That is a question that really transcends journalism. It does not help, however, if reporters edit the story to leave out key facts in this deadly equation.

So for now, it helps to keep reading UN Dispatch. I hope journalists start clicking there as well. Here is the latest from Moore -- right here.

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