Outrage over Gen. David Petraeus' comments regarding burning the Qur'an lets some conservatives show their true colors. If they had their way, American foreign policy would consist of hating all Muslims everywhere and punishing them for their religion. Who is a terrorist? Is it all Muslims? Or was it nineteen specific people who were Muslim but also had a political agenda? There are two counter-arguments to this: there are some terrorists who are Christian, not Muslim (and Jewish, too! Don't forget Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslims peacefully at prayer, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing Orthodox Jew who opposed Rabin's signing of the Oslo Accords); and there are Muslims who are not terrorists.
But the people accosting Gen. Petraeus don't especially care about intellectual consistency. After all, their real viewpoint is not that terrorists are bad, but that Muslims are bad, regardless of whether they are terrorists or not. This sentiment is echoed in the silly "controversy" over the Park51 Islamic center in New York City. It's obvious that every argument against the center that appears in the civilized media (think CNN or New York Times, not Rush or WorldNetDaily) is false. Because it's not polite to say, on CNN, "I don't like Muslims and I associate them and their religion with the terrorist act that destroyed the World Trade Center, so I don't want any Muslims to be near the World Trade Center." Flimsy pretexts must therefore be invented to bolster the argument that the center shouldn't be there. "It would harm the memory of the people who died." This leads to the question, Why would it harm that memory? What specifically about an Islamic center would harm that memory in a way that a Christian or Jewish center wouldn't? And the talking heads get flummoxed because, on the one hand, their argument is, essentualy, "I don't like Muslims," but on the other hand, you can't say that you don't like Muslims. That's why the flimsy pretexts fall apart: because they're not true.
Sometimes, Gen. Petraeus is smart. This is one of those times. But then again, it doesn't take a rocket scientist -- or a Ph.D. in International Relations from Princeton University
-- to figure out that virulent ant-Muslim sentiment coming from Americans will -- guess what? -- make Muslims angry at Americans. Even Ron Paul suggested
that the September 11 attacks were "blowback" from years of anti-Arab Middle Eastern policies, and Ron Paul wants to abolish the Federal Reserve! You can be outright crazy and still understand that policies targeted at particular groups of people won't sit very well with those people. Nevertheless, Petraeus' critics, while outright crazy, don't understand that virulent, public hatred of one group of people won't make that group any less likely to do nasty things in the future. Of course, this argument doesn't address the morality
of hating a group of people for their religious beliefs. That is clearly reprehensible, but the Dove World Christian Center doesn't seem to think so, so the only way to possibly persuade them otherwise would be the public policy argument.
The inspiration from this post came from the Firedoglake piece linked above. The headline is based on a comment to that piece
, in which the commenter notes, "Idiots like the Florida preacher and his defenders are among Al-Qaeda’s best recruiters."