Painfully familiar 'ghost' in the shooting of the U.S. general

What we have here is -- alas -- an example of a religion-new "ghost" that your GetReligionistas could write about day after day after day, world without end, amen.

For newcomers, a "ghost" (in the lingo of this weblog) is a religious issue or subject that journalists really should have included in a news report -- if the goal was for readers to understand what is happening. For more information on this term read the very first post published at, back on the original Day 1.

A classic example of a "ghost" in mainstream news? How long did it take for the mainstream press to explain the doctrinal elements at the heart of the bloody conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq? Way too long, quite frankly, and some newsrooms are still in the dark on that.

This brings me to the fatal shooting of that U.S. general in Afghanistan. Anyone who reads the main report in The New York Times learns, over and over, that he died because of "political" tensions. Period.

Thus, near the top of the report:

The slain officer, Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, was the highest-ranking member of the NATO-led coalition killed in the Afghanistan war, and his death punctuated the problems vexing the Americans as they try to wind down the 13-year-old conflict, contending with a political crisis that has threatened to splinter the Afghan government and leave it unable to fend off the Taliban.
The general was among a group of senior American and Afghan officers making a routine visit to Afghanistan’s premier military academy on the outskirts of Kabul when an Afghan soldier sprayed the officers with bullets from the window of a nearby building, hitting at least 15 before he was killed.Though American officials said General Greene was not believed to have been specifically targeted, his violent death at the hands of an Afghan soldier, not an insurgent, was a reminder of the dangers faced by even the highest-ranking, and best protected, officers in Afghanistan.

I am not, of course, saying that there are no political tensions in Afghanistan, tensions fueled by corruption and decades of strife and confusion.

What I am arguing is that these tensions also involve religion, with the Taliban leadership portraying itself as a more pure, a more traditional form of Islam than that represented by government leaders who have cooperated with the American invaders, who are often called "Crusaders," as well as "infidels."

As the Times story makes clear, these tensions -- religious, political and cultural -- often lead to deadly acts of violence committed by who are supposed to be cooperating with American troops.

Thus, readers are told:

Yet the shooting was a blunt reminder that discipline and vetting remain a challenge, and rogue Afghan soldiers and policemen remain a threat, despite a sharp drop in insider attacks since 2012, when the violence peaked and dozens of coalition service members were killed by Afghan counterparts. ... 
The political crisis that has gripped Afghanistan in recent months has increased the doubts among many here about the American project to rebuild the country. The crisis grew out of a presidential election runoff in June marred by widespread fraud. 

If only matters were that simple.

So what is the "ghost" in this story? Simply stated, it is the religious and doctrinal conflicts between various groups of Muslims in Afghanistan, as well as tensions with Americans who are opposed to the more radicalized -- from our nation's point of view -- elements of the overwhelmingly dominant faith in that land.

To be blunt, there is a religion-shaped hole in this news story, one that does not exist when Afghans talk about the fighting there. You can see that hole in mainstream news reports from this battlefield day after day after ...

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