(Photo: Reuters/Chris Keane)U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks during the Faith and Freedom Prayer Breakfast in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina January 15, 2012.
Rick Santorum joined other Republican presidential hopefuls in denouncing President Barack Obama‘s apology for the burning of Qurans in Afghanistan, saying it could be misinterpreted as an admission of guilt for a “deliberate act.”
“There was nothing deliberately done wrong here,” former Penn. Sen. Santorum said during an interview with ABC’s “This Week” show Sunday, referring to Obama’s apology for the unintentional burning of Qurans at a U.S. base in Kabul last week that resulted in the killing of over 30 people, including four American soldiers.
Two American officers were shot dead inside Afghanistan’s heavily guarded interior ministry Saturday, and two U.S. soldiers were killed Thursday, the day Obama apologized in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
“This (the Quran burning) was something that happened as a mistake. Killing Americans in uniform is not a mistake. It was something that [was] deliberate,” added Santorum, the current GOP front-runner.
Last Tuesday, Afghan workers at the Bagram air base discovered copies of the Quran dumped into a pit where trash is burned. The workers reportedly salvaged the Islamic holy books to show to local leaders.
Santorum was interviewed also by NBC’s “Meet the Press” show Sunday. “The response needs to be apologized for by Karzai and the Afghan people for attacking and killing our men and women in uniform and overreacting to this inadvertent mistake,” Santorum told NBC. “That is the real crime here, not what our soldiers did.”
Obama’s apology, he said, suggests that there was blame “in the sense of doing a deliberate act.” The president, he added, should have said “this was inadvertent, this was a mistake. There was no deliberate act. There was no meant of disrespect – this is something that occurred that shouldn’t have occurred, but it was an accident … But to apologize, I think, lends credibility that somehow or another that it was more than that.”
Santorum’s rival, Mitt Romney, also flayed Obama’s apology. “With regards to the apology, I think for a lot of people, it sticks in their throat,” the former Massachusetts governor told Fox News Sunday. “The idea that we are there, having lost thousands of individuals through casualty and death – we’ve made an enormous contribution to help the people there achieve freedom, and for us to be apologizing at a time like this is something which is very difficult for the American people to countenance.”
Earlier, on Saturday, GOP candidate Newt Gingrich said Obama’s apology amounted to appeasement. “There doesn’t seem to be any request for an apology from Karzai,” he told Fox News.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended Obama. “I find it somewhat troubling that our politicswould enflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan,” she told CNN on Sunday. “It was the right thing to do to have our president on record as saying this was not intentional, we deeply regret it … We are hoping that voices inside Afghanistan will join that of President Karzai and others in speaking out to try to calm the situation … It is out of hand and it needs to stop.”
President Karzai appealed for calm on Sunday, but he has also called for punishment of those responsible for the burning of Qurans.
NATO’s General John Allen has recalled all International Security Assistance Force personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul “for obvious force protection reasons.”