Petraeus v. Jones

General David Petraeus - Commander, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A)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.

Qur'an Burning

Stimulus: Burning A Qur’an

Afghani Muslims Riot and Attack US Embassy Vehicles

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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12 Responses to “Petraeus v. Jones”

  1. ichabod Says:

    Hi jonolan;

    Well thought out.

    I do agree with your concern over the General and Administration, as freedoms are being stripped away quite rapidly and the freedom of speech is one of the few freedoms we still enjoy today, to some extent.

    “unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest”

    The Qu’ran burning also insults the American Patriot Muslims. In the USA there is freedom of religion as well as speech.

    What this fellow is doing is attempting to subvert one freedom by using another.

    He is basing this on his own warped view of the bible’s message and he thinks he is one of the few to stand up for God’s desires, making him a symbol or martyr if some nutcase whacks him.

    The US is engaged in war in three countries. Whether one agrees or not with the wars, the soldiers are outnumbered and far away from home.

    Do we need to risk lives to satisfy one man’s discriminatory and hate mongering act of burning something considered “holy” by so many?

    Freedom of speech is worth fighting for. Calling Obama, Palin or Clinton names on a public forum is not quite the same as what the pastor is preparing to do.

    Personally, I don’t think he deserves the attention and the news media doesn’t have to cover it, but they will as it is likely to cause more news in the coming weeks when the “enemy” starts revolting over this.

    There are no easy answers here. I do not have much respect for the bible or the Quran, but would not insult my friends by burning one in front of them.

    That is respect for fellow man. The radical Muslims who are angered by this are not acting like reasonable adults either.

    This is the kind of stuff that starts “holy” wars, the worst kind. Most of us are stuck in the middle.

  2. Natassia Says:


    You tread some dangerous waters.

    What happens when someone’s freedom of religion steps on someone else’s freedom of religion?

    Which is more worthy of being “tolerated”?

    The Qu’ran burning also insults the American Patriot Muslims. In the USA there is freedom of religion as well as speech.

    What this fellow is doing is attempting to subvert one freedom by using another.

    How can speech subvert someone’s freedom of religion?

  3. ichabod Says:

    Hi Natassia;

    For one thing, he is not exercising freedom of speech. He is not talking. He is expressing himself through burning books.

    There are many in the US who equate Islam with terror, stoning and lashes as well as oppressive regimes. By his expressing himself he is fueling the flames of religious self righteous hate, possibly making it dangerous for Muslims to practice their religion in public as there may be a radical Christian crowd around which is reducing the freedom of religion for those who wish to partake.

    The pastor can say whatever he wants.

    What he does is another thing.

  4. Natassia Says:

    The freedom of expression is not limited to what comes out of your mouth. That’s why people can put a crucifix in a jar of urine and call it “art” in this country, regardless of who might be offended by it.

    There are many who equate Islam with terror stoning and lashes as well as oppressive regemies because Islam is the evil behind such barbarity. The Islamic penal code (known as sharia) is codified within the Islamic scriptures themselves (Koran and ahadith). Muhammad was barbaric, his companions were barbaric, and so sharia is barbaric.

    And the flames this particular pastor is fueling are not the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment (Dhimmis have been coming out of the woodwork ever since the Dove Outreach Center’s bonfire plans hit the mainstream media). No, the flames being fueled are those of the mujahideen who seek any excuse to persecute and terrorize the kufaar.

    What the First Amendment does not guarantee, however, is the right to not be offended. 🙂

  5. ichabod Says:

    Hi Natassia;

    Islam and Christianity and other religions all have their extremists. It all depends on interpretation.

    There is as many horrible stories and laws in the old testament than the laws we are offended by in the Koran.

    There is no right to not being offended. However, we are talking lives here.

    There are idiots on both sides of the fence and they are throwing fuel on the fire which will consume those who have nothing to do with it.

    To be honest with you, secular government and ideals appear to have been more compassionate to the human race than “religion”.

  6. ichabod Says:

    Hi jonolan;

    When you think about it, this is pretty humorous.

    I can see it now, Christian lighter manufacturers fighting over who gets to sign up the pastor to endorse their products. 🙂

  7. zhann Says:

    Personally, I think the ideal response by the Muslim faith would be to hold a similar “burning of the bible” session. They can make it a competition, who can collect more tomes to burn. Its a win/win for everyone … the Christians can have their fun, the Muslims can have their fun, and both religions will see a spike in Tome sales. What could possibly go wrong?

  8. Paradigm Says:

    “There is no right to not being offended. However, we are talking lives here.

    There are idiots on both sides of the fence and they are throwing fuel on the fire which will consume those who have nothing to do with it.”

    Ichabod: We are indeed talking lives here – people have died for the right of free speech. One example is the Martyrs of Cordoba who were executed for stating openly that they were Christians. Yes, it’s that Cordoba that lend its name to the Ground Zero Mosque, House of Cordoba, now graciuosly renamed Park 51.

    And anyone who wishes to keep free speech has something to do with it. This why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along attitude only serve the Muslims who want to limit free speech. You can’t look at this from a comfortable third person perspective unless you are truly disinterested in the issue.

  9. ichabod Says:

    Hi Paradigm;

    Problem is for people like me who are not offended when people burn stuff, is eventually these people or their target market end up stepping on our toes.

    There is no way a person can be a detached third party to this as someone will eventually be demanding which camp you want to align yourself with.

    We end up having to pack arms to provide some sort of security against those brainwashed. There are three sides to this war, the Christians, Muslims and those who don’t want to have anything to do with either camp. 🙂

  10. There Is Humor In It | Reflections From a Murky Pond Says:

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  11. Alfie Says:

    1.Actually Bibles get burned in Islamic nations quite often.
    2.It’s a book!!!! Does burning it really diminish ones beliefs?
    3.Jesus in urine,nothing gets blown up so it is ok.Muhammed cartoon or flaming Quran=riots so that stuff isn’t ok.
    4.It’s a book

  12. Distilling Petraeus | Reflections From a Murky Pond Says:

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