The last Republican Administration lied and manipulated us into a war based on grounds that proved illusory, approved torture and other human rights abuses, unnecessarily cost our country billions of dollars, caused untold numbers of casualties, and undermined their own avowed goal of thwarting the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Did they ever admit their mistakes much less apologize for their monumentally destructive conduct?
On the contrary, since leaving office Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice have bragged and boasted about their policies, and have tried to take credit for whatever success President Obama has had. And when they were still in power we were treated to this, um, awkward moment:
It doesn't get any better with the current crop of Republican leaders. Mitt Romney's book is actually called "No Apology," in which he falsely accuses President Obama of going around the world apologizing for America, a dubious claim he repeats often on the campaign trail. ("Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined.")
President Obama did apologize for the burning of copies of the Koran by American personnel at a NATO military base in Afghanistan. In the wake of increasing violence over the incident, Obama expressed "deep regret," extended his "sincere apologies" to Hamid Karzai and the Afghan people, and promised "to take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible."
This was too much for the GOP.
Newt Gingrich is not one to apologize for anything. (Recall his rationalization for an extra-marital affair -- that it was due to his excessive patriotism.) He said Obama's apology was an “outrage,” and later gave this advice to the Afghans, “You know, you’re going to have to figure out how to live your own miserable life… Because you clearly don’t want to learn from me how to be unmiserable."
Mitt Romney was also troubled, saying that for many people the apology "sticks in their throat." According to Romney, since we have done so much for the Afghan people in helping them "achieve freedom," to "apologize at a time like this is something which is very difficult for the American people to countenance."
And then there was Rick Santorum, spewing his typically illogical and sanctimonious claptrap
I don’t think the president should apologize for something that was clearly inadvertent. What you should lay out is the president saying this was inadvertent. This was a mistake and there was no deliberate act, there was no meant to disrespect. This was something that, that occurred that, that should not have occurred, but it was an accident and leave it at that. I think you highlight it when you, when you apologize for it. You, you make it sound like it was something that you should apologize for. And there is not—there was no act that needed an apology. It was an inadvertent act and it should be left at that and I think the response has—needs to be apologized for by, by Karzai and the Afghan people of, of attacking and killing our men and women in uniform and, and overreacting to this, to this inadvertent mistake. That, that is, that is the real crime here, not what our soldiers did.
Maybe Santorum and his fellow-candidates have been trapped in the kindergarten-delinquent classroom of the Republican primaries for so long that they think the same rules, and illogic, that help decide who the not-Romney of the week is apply everywhere. But Afghanistan is a real and dangerous place; more than two dozen people have died in the violence, including two Americans, who were assassinated in the Interior Ministry. (The Afghan government reportedly did apologize for that.) The senselessness of the response does not take away from the necessity of an apology, or from its grace.
In apologizing, we remind ourselves who we are. We also learn more about where we are, who we are talking to, and our circumstances. Having done so—done the right thing—we may reasonably conclude that we can make our apologies, and leave.