Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Necessity of Apology

An American GI in Iraq had used a Quran for target practice. A more insulting, incendiary act against Islam can scarcely be imagined. America's alliance with Sunni militia was severely threatened. The stakes were high. There was only one thing for the American military to do.

They apologized.

As previously noted here, an effective apology must demonstrate recognition that your action caused harm, must offer empathy and acknowledgement of the injustice caused, must accept blame without excuses, must promise not to repeat the harm, and must offer restitution.

Blessedly, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, did it properly:

"I am a man of honor, I am a man of character. You have my word, this will never happen again," the general told the angry crowd through loudspeakers, pounding the makeshift podium three times with his fist.

"In the most humble manner, I look in to your eyes today and I say, please forgive me and my soldiers." The act of his sniper was criminal, he said. "I've come to this land to protect you, to support you...this soldier has lost the honor to serve the United States Army and the people of Iraq here in Baghdad."

A Division commander then offered a symbol of restitution:

Holding a new Quran in his hands, [Col. Ted Martin] turned to the crowd. "I hope that you'll accept this humble gift." Martin kissed the Quran and touched it to his forehead as he handed it to the tribal elders.

A local sheikh came to the microphone. "In the name of all the sheikhs," he
said, "we declare we accept the apology that was submitted."

With hands shaken and sheepish thank-yous made, the general and the colonel returned to their armored convoy. The crisis, it seems, was averted.

Never underestimate the power of apology.

No comments: