Regardless of what you think about the Iraq war, whether or not it was the right place to concentrate our efforts against Al Qaeda, or if we should still be there, it does look like we're learning how to correct our mistakes in a timely fashion ... before they come back to really hurt us.
Take for instance, a recent incident at a military shooting range near Baghdad. An Iraqi soldier found a copy of a bullet-ridden Quran that had been used as target practice. An obscenity had also been scrawled on the cover. The soldier reported his discovery to his superiors who were furious. (Muslims consider each Quran a sacred object.)
U.S. military officials quickly recognized that an incident like this could quickly undermine much of the progress they've made with the Muslim Sunni community in recent months. So they quickly launched an investigation, which discovered a U.S. soldier (a staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader assigned to the headquarters of the 64th Armored Regiment) had been the shooter.
Military officials immediately confronted the soldier. He wrote an apology for his actions, and was then sent back to the U.S. Then Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad repeated the apology publicly at a gathering with tribal leaders and also asked for forgiveness on behalf of his soldiers. Then another military official kissed a Quran and presented it to the tribal leaders as a gift.
Finally, President Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Tuesday to apologize and promised that the solider would be prosecuted for using the Quran as target practice.
The quick reaction of U.S. officials may have prevented Al Qaeda from using the incident as a way to provoke outrage at the U.S. But here's another question - did the apology go too far? Do you think after the actions by the U.S. military in Iraq that the president also need to say something? Or, as we noted above, is this a case where the U.S. has learned that you need to use different rules with different cultures?