Enraged Afghans rioted after evidence emerged that U.S. military officials had burned the holy books, something that is considered blasphemy for devout Muslims. Gen. John R. Allen, the top Western military commander in Afghanistan, responded swiftly with a statement promising a thorough investigation and expressing his sincere apologies, and Obama later sent Afghan president Hamid Karzai a letter expressing his deep regret.
I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies, the letter read. The error was inadvertent. I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.
Gingrich pounced on Obama's apology as evidence of the president's weakness on Islamic extremism. Two American soldiers were killed in reprisal for the Koran burnings after Obama's apology, and Gingrich demanded that Karzai apologize for those deaths.
There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama's attention in a negative way and he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States period, Gingrich said. If Karzai does not apologize, Gingrich said, we don't need to be here risking our lives and wasting our money on somebody who doesn't care.
The former Speaker of the House has leveled similar criticisms before. In a 2010 speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute Gingrich said that the Obama Administration is willfully blind to the nature of our enemies and the forces which threaten America, which in Gingrich's eyes include the gradual imposition of Islamic Sharia law in America.
GOP presidential hopefuls have been trying to build a case for Obama's foreign policy weakness. During Wednesday night's debate in Mesa, Arizona, Mitt Romney said Obama had failed to enact crippling sanctions against Iran and Rick Santorum said the president was afraid to stand up to Iran. Romney often repeats the line that Obama's foreign policy has been to go around the world apologizing for America, and in an October speech he equated the president's policies to wav[ing] the white flag of surrender.