General David Patraeus, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander of the US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) recently told the Wall Street Journal that he wasn’t too pleased with Rev. Terry Jones’ and his Dove World Church’s plan to burn a pile of Qur’ans on September 11, 2010, the 10th anniversary of the Muslims’ terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
General Petraeus’ concerns seem to be over the probable additional risks to our troops stationed in the Muslim World the burning of the Qur’ans by the Gainesville, FL church would cause.
It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.
Firstly, let me say the General Petraeus is quite accurate in his claims that Muslims will respond violently to the burning of Qur’an and that such a violent response would explicitly increase the dangers faced by our soldiery stationed within the Muslim World, especially those serving and fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Stimulus: Burning A Qur’an
Response: Muslims Riot And Go On Violent Rampage
It’s simply a proven fact that a great number of Muslims respond to being offended by either targeted or mass acts of violence. Their responses to insulting cartoons of their Prophet proved that point to the world. Therefor it’s hard to blame Gen. Petraeus for being against such a public burning of Qur’an. It will, without a doubt, make his job and the jobs of the troops he commands that much harder and that much more dangerous. Simple.
But this whole situation is more complex than that and, along with risks, it also calls to my mind SCOTUS Justice William O. Douglas’ opinion upon the case of Terminiello v. City of Chicago (1949).
Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups.
Terminiello v. City of Chicago is quite applicable to this situation. Father Arthur Terminiello, a suspended Catholic priest, racist, and anti-Semite, sparked a violence in Chicago when his vitriolic speech at a rally resulted in a riot by 1000+ people outside the auditorium.
I’m also reminded of the oath that then-Cadet Petraeus swore in 1974 when he as a graduate of West Point accepted a commission in United States Army.
I, David Howell Petraeus, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of 2nd Lieutenant do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.
I can and do certainly sympathize with Gen. Petraeus’ feelings and I appreciate the horrible situation that he is currently in and how Jones’ planned burning of 200 Qur’ans would just make it worse. I’m not, however, completely sanguine about a 4-Star General publicly speaking in an official capacity – therefor under at least the appearance of the Color of Authority – against a small group of American civilians exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights of speech, expression, association, and religion.
How is that supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States as he once swore an oath to his God to do without reservation?
Frankly, I see little or no use for Dove World Church’s book burning whatsoever but I’m more worried about Gen. Petraeus’ and the Obama Regime’s responses to it than those of the Muslims. That’s because I’m worried about our government and military saying that we should censor ourselves because we might offend someone, Muslims in this case, and I’m even more worried about them wishing to censor Americans because they fear the likely violent response of those offended Muslims.
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