In a statement bearing as much surprise as an announcement that water quenches thirst, David Petraeus says the plans of a church (here I go again, bashing Christians) to burn Korans on 9/11 could endanger lives of our troops. Gee. Really? Think it even might turn friends into enemies?
I would hope that Pastor Terry Jones and his supporters will consider the ramifications of their planned book-burning event. It will feed the fire of caustic rhetoric and appear as nothing more than mean-spirited religious intolerance. Don't feed that fire. If your ultimate point is to prove that the Christian teachings of mercy, justice, freedom, and equality provide the foundation on which our country stands, then your tactic to prove this point is totally counter-productive.
I've long argued that the way Americans treat Islam and Muslims definitely has an effect on the fight against terrorism abroad, but I'm uncomfortable with Petraeus drawing a direct line of responsibility between whether or not American troops live or die and whether or not a group of radicals holds a "burn the Quran day." There's something about that statement that crosses the line for me -- I just don't think that in a democracy people in uniform are the proper arbiters of what constitutes appropriate free expression, even when it's an event with fascist overtones as obvious as a public book burning. Suffice it to say that if Republican elites were committed to tamping down Islamophobic hysteria rather than exploiting it and Democratic officials were less timid about assembling a national-security narrative in which America was strengthened instead of weakened by its tolerance and religious plurality, we wouldn't be here.
In my view, the general crossed a line. But he did so out of a sense of responsibility - as in his insistence on the importance of the Israel-Palestine question to the broader war. Alas, I see the American far right - in which I include the likely Republican candidates for president - crossing far worse lines of incitement out of irresponsibility and cheap politics. And then a farce like Palin - who wants more aggressive Israeli settlement in the West Bank and conflates the Cordoba complex with bin Laden - simultaneously declares her love for the troops.
And what is the price for her? It wins her votes. It flatters her vanity. It rouses the true believers. And it helps lose the war. (emphasis mine, big surprise.)