‘Burn the Qur’an Day’ Endangers US Troops: Petraeus

Every day for the past few days there have been demonstrations in Afghanistan against the scheme of the Christian fundamentalist Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, to burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11. This sort of grandstanding by a tiny congregation with global ramifications reminds us that in the contemporary world, technology magnifies the power of individuals and small groups, which is a real problem when they are hateful. (The evangelical leadership has scolded the group for this action).

Reuters has video :

The Kabul demonstrations have alarmed Gen. David Petraeus, who is attempting a gargantuan counter-insurgency project in Afghanistan, which depends for its success on America winning the hearts and minds of Afghan Muslims. He issued a statement on Monday deploring the Dove Outreach plan and saying, “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan.”

Iran’s PressTv has more:

It isn’t only Petraeus who is petrified by the way this auto-da-fe could spin out of control. The Catholic cardinal in Mumbai, India and an archbishop in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, have condemned the stunt, as well. Likewise, Christian leaders in Indonesia have jointly protested the Gainesville church’s plans. Terry Jones, the Dove pastor, appears to want to prove Muslims are intolerant by provoking them to attack ‘Christians’ over the burning of their scripture. I.e., he thinks just like al-Qaeda, which wanted to provoke Christians to attack Muslims so as to demonstrate Christian imperialism. If what you want to do is spread hate and produce dead bodies, that is easy. Sowing rancor and harvesting corpses is no harder than piling up garbage Producing love and tolerance and unity across ethnic and religious boundaries is what is hard, and it is very, very hard. The most difficult thing in the world, like balancing a pyramid on its nose. Which is why we honor the Gandhis and the Martin Luther Kings, who strive toward it on a large scale. What is worrisome is that technology is magnifying the power of tiny fringe hate groups to shape the world.

As I pointed out in late July, “The German poet Heinrich Heine (d. 1856), in his play lamenting the forced conversion of Spain’s Muslims to Christianity, “Almansor,” wrote, “Wherever they burn books, in the end they will burn human beings.” (When the Nazis burned books in 1933, Heine’s were among those set afire, and his prediction was borne out).” (For the full posting, click here).

A correspondent from Gainesville writes,


As a long time resident of Gainesville FL, it pained me to hear this morning on NPR of a demonstration in Afghanistan against the 9/11 Quran burning here. We in Gainesville pride ourselves as being a progressive, tolerant and forward looking city. We also happen to be home of the small (less than 50) Dove Outreach church, a reactionary and publicity seeking outfit. Please, people of the world, know that this stunt has stimulated much pain and concern in our community. It has stimulated a lot of planning and dialogue, and there will be a variety of events to counter the proposed burning. There has been wildly inaccurate reporting about the event, with the Wall Street Journal repeating the false report that Dove is a “mega-church”. It is a micro-church, also run as a used furniture store . . . They are loving all the publicity, while the rest of our community can only look on in horror and try to come up with a cogent response. That this small group of wing-nuts have garnered so much publicity is a shame; hopefully we will make it through the week peacefully and come out with a community made even stronger. But to the world, we can only say we are sorry, and please don’t judge us by these bigoted few.’

One of the accusations that anti-Muslim bigots like the Dove group constantly make against the Qur’an is that it promotes vigilante violence. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, scholars of religion have found that the Bible is far more violent than the Qur’an.

In this regard, I’ll just reprint something I wrote earlier on the Qur’an.. (See also the links listed here.)

“Dangerous falsehoods are being promulgated to the American public. The Quran does not preach violence against Christians. [It does urge the early Muslim community in Yathrib or Medina to fight to defend itself against the genocidal campaign of the pagans of the west Arabian city of Mecca, who wanted to wipe out the Muslims and destroy monotheistic Islam. When verses in, e.g., Chapter 8, urge Muslims to fight the ‘infidels,’ they are referring to bloodthirsty polytheists, not to Jews and Christians, who I think the Qur’an never calls infidels without qualification.]

Quran 5:69 says (Arberry): “Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabeaans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness–their wage waits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.”

In other words, the Quran promises Christians and Jews along with Muslims that if they have faith and works, they need have no fear in the afterlife. It is not saying that non-Muslims go to hell– quite the opposite.

When speaking of the 7th-century situation in the Muslim city-state of Medina, which was at war with pagan Mecca, the Quran notes that the polytheists and many Arabian Jewish tribes were opposed to Islam, but then goes on to say:

5:82. ” . . . and you will find the nearest in love to the believers (Muslims) those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud.”

So the Quran not only does not urge Muslims to commit violence against Christians, it calls them “nearest in love” to the Muslims! The reason given is their piety, their ability to produce holy persons dedicated to God, and their lack of overweening pride.

The tendency when reading the Quran is to read a word like “kafir” (infidel) as referring to all non-Muslims. But it is clear from a close study of the way the Quran uses the word that it refers to those who actively oppose and persecute Muslims. The word literally meant “ingrate” in ancient Arabic. So the polytheists (“mushrikun”) who tried to wipe out Islam were the main referents of the word “infidel.” Christians, as we see above, were mostly in a completely different category. The Christian Ethiopian monarch gave refuge to the Muslims at one point when things got hot in Mecca. The Quran does at one point speak of the “infidels” among the Jews and Christians (2:105: “those who committed kufr/infidelity from among the people of the Book.”) But this verse only proves that it did not think they were all infidels, and it is probably referring to specific Jewish and Christian groups who joined with the Meccans in trying to wipe out the early Muslim community. (The Quran calls Jews and Christians “people of the book” because they have a monotheistic scripture).

People often also ask me about this verse:

[5:51] O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as friends; these are friends of one another. Those among you who ally themselves with these belong with them.

This is actually not a good translation of the original, which has a very specific context. In the Arabia of Muhammad’s time, it was possible for an individual to become an honorary member or “client” of a powerful tribe. But of course, if you did that you would be subordinating yourself politically to that tribe. The word used in Arabic here does not mean “friend.” It means “political patron” (wali). What the Quran is trying to do is to discourage stray Muslims from subordinating themselves to Christian or Jewish tribes that might in turn ally with pagan Mecca, or in any case might have interests at odds with those of the general Muslim community.

So the verse actually says:

[5:51] O you who believe, do not take Jews and Christians as tribal patrons; these are tribal patrons of one another. Those among you who become clients of these belong with them.

Since the Quran considers Christians nearest in love to Muslims, it obviously does not have an objection to friendship between the two. But apparently now it is some Christians who have that hateful attitude, of no friendship with “infidels.” ”

43 Responses

  1. Our responsibility as Muslims is not to worry about the Quran disappearing off the face of the earth, as that won’t be happening. Our responsibility is to be good representatives of the Quran by being well-mannered and to share its message with the rest of humanity, so that they can make an informed decision about Islam and Muslims.

    Instead of feeling distressed by the “Burn a Quran” events being organised in some places, or reacting angrily in a way that could make matters worse, we should take positive action, by participating in the “Buy a Quran and Seerah for Libraries” project for example.

    This project was launched just a couple of days ago in the city of Cambridge, and has received so much support and excitement from the Muslim community and the county Library that it could well be expanded to libraries nationwide insha’Allah.

    Ramadan, the month of the Quran, is coming to an end, so don’t miss the opportunity to contribute directly by visiting the project’s website, link to qsl.meoc.org.uk, or by sharing this information with your friends, and the one who indicates the good is like the one who does it.

  2. .
    I wish the video of the Kabul protest showed a handful of American faces in the crowd, marching and protesting right alongside the Afghanis against the desecration of the Koran.
    Then the other marchers would not be shouting “Death to America,” but “death to that small group that is defiling the holy book.”
    Would it be unsafe for an American to participate in such a protest ? Doesn’t Pakhtunwhali demand that Afghanis be hospitable toward, and even protective of, a foreigner who puts his safety in their hands ?
    Or am I naive beyond belief ?
    .

  3. Dear Juan,

    Could I follow up with a question on your point:

    “But it is clear from a close study of the way the Quran uses the word (kafir) that it refers to those who actively oppose and persecute Muslims.”

    I would like to ask you about Q.5:72 – “they disbelieve (kafara) who say: God is the Messiah, son of Mary” and Q.5:73 – “they disbelieve (kafara) who say: God is the third of three”.

    (I have taken the translations from Hugh Goddard’s chapter in the book ‘Islamic Thought in the Twentieth Centtury, eds. S. Taji-Farouki & B. M. Nafi, I.B. Tauris, London, 2004)

    Do these ayaats not suggest a theological component to kufr, not just the opposition to the nascent Muslim community.

    Do you think it is possible that the Quran is inconsistent in its treatment of Christians?

    Thank you.

    • As I said, kafara as a verb has to do with being ungrateful to the one God, so obviously anything that detracted from his absolute unity such as a theological belief would be a form of such ingratitude.

      However, as a noun, ‘kafir’ (pl. kuffar) does not seem to me to ever be applied tout court to Christians or Jews. The Qur’an is unwilling to generalize about them as a group in that way. This is proved when it speaks of the ‘infidels/ kuffar from among the people of the book,’ which would not be necessary if they were all just infidels. And then it calls Christians closest in love to Muslims. All the verses having to do with fighting where the kuffar are mentioned clearly refer specifically to militant pagans. So it seems to me that theological belief may involve infidelity to monotheism but in and of itself does not seem to generate a sociological category of infidels in the absence of aggression on Muslims. I am arguing for a close contextualized reading of specific forms of the word and a hermeneutical circle where the Qur’an illumines itself in how it uses words.

      • A very interesting point, distinguishing between the verb and the sociological group associated with the active participle, so could we conclude (I’ll write it in Arabic as it’s clearer):

        من يكفر ليس بالضرورة كافراً
        (rough translation: one who commits kufr is not necessarily a kafir)?

        • There are many possibilities. All I can say is that the Qur’an does not refer to Jews or Christians in the aggregate as kuffar or ‘infidels.’

          Another possibility is that the Qur’an did not see all Christians as confusing Jesus with God, only some; who knows what kind of Christianity was floating around Mecca and Medina then. There could have been Nestorians or Arians, e.g., who would not have been guilty of that act of kafara. Chalcedonians might still have been a minority out in that frontier. Perhaps for this reason it is not willing to generalize that Christians=infidels.

          It is also possible that Christians on hearing of the Qur’an’s criticism managed to explain to the Prophet that they made a distinction between Jesus and God the Father. After all, Chalcedonian Christians do not believe Jesus is God tout court.

          Ibn Ishaq/ Ibn Hisham talks of amicable meetings of Christians with the Prophet.

          My hypothesis is that as the Meccan pagans went to war on Islam, their aggressive, murderous paganism became the chief and most pressing sort of kufr/ infidelity in the Qur’anic diction, and mere theological lapses declined in importance. My suspicion is that the ‘infidels from among the people of the book’ were the Jewish and Christian tribes who politically allied with the Meccan pagan aggression against the Muslims.

          If I live long enough I will eventually write on all this.

      • In my, admittedly limited, studies on the subject at the time it was apparently the belief of the polytheists that the high god had several daughters who would share in his power and would be more accessible than their father.

        If that is true, then the dilution of God’s authority through lesser deities and intermediaries would likely have been an issue of discussion in theological discussions at the time and may have merited a mention in the qu’ran on that basis. It would also have been an important consideration for early Muslims to have clarified the differences between their own beliefs and the beliefs of their sister religions.

        Also, from my limited understanding of Christian history at the time there was still considerable controversy about those subjects (among otherwise) within the still far from homogenous Christian community.

        • I had often thought about who were the interlocutors of early Islam (specifically the Christian and Jewish communities) and what the nature of their beliefs was. Was the Quran aware of theological splits within other faiths (as one of your hypotheses suggests) and did, as Donner’s latest book seems to put forward, the early Islamic message seek to encompass other communities in the nascent umma…..all issues I hope you live long enough to write about!!!

          Thanks very much for this.

  4. Actually, I think its much more likely to endanger unarmed ,very upset Afghani civilians than heavily armed and always very nervous American troops…..but I don’t suppose that’d worry the good Christian folk @ the Dove Outreach Center.
    Doesn’t the USA have any ‘Hate Speech ‘ or ‘Racial Vilification ‘ laws ???…& yes, I know it’s religion not race..this time, but surely stirring up such hatred is covered by some kind of law?

    • Heavily armed and hair-triggered, maybe, but there’s a snippet from a PBS Embedded Reporter schlockumentary on the First Big Helmand Marine Putsch, where after the Colonel tells the Soldiers that what they do in Helmand will be something they can brag about to their grandchildren, big brave words about Bringing Freedom and Democracy and all that, segue to a scene where a cocky, aggressive, disrespectful young Marine is telling a bearded, turbaned man that “his people” MUST move back into the village that Warlord Warriors chased them out of. To re-establish “normalcy.” To start up the local market again. Because that’s what the present counterinsurgency doctrine requires. Skeptical silence. The GI says “No need to be afraid, we will protect you…” Says the villager, “With all your weapons and technology, you cannot even protect yourselves from the warriors. How are you going to protect me and my family? You will not even be here when they come back.”

      IEDs, snipers, ambushes, Hellfires, excited testosterone-poisoned young men BEGGING for authorization to “light up” some “terrorists” with 30mm cannon fire, that oblique retaliation where US troops kill people who had nothing to do with the original attacks that nonetheless raised the Band of Brothers, kick-the-fire-anthill, knock-over-the-beehive reaction and triggered the latest episode in the present cycle of vengeance… and Pashtunwali kicking in, along with the ancient antipathy toward The Invader. Out come the gallons of diesel and fertilizer, and the US-made munitions, 105 and 155mm artillery shells, supplied to those once and former Freedom Fighters, and guys like Hussein, for “good geopolitical reasons,” and the Jihadicide Vests and Jihadicide Car and Truck and Motorcycle and Bicycle Bombs. And $50 or $100 or $200 billion to the Joint IED Defeat Organization in the Pentagram, the “JIEDDO Knights,” to find that magical high-tech device to defeat the evil Asymmetric IEDs that it’s NO FAIR for the terrorinsurgentmilitants to use, but coming to the conclusion that letting GIs spot some bombs and be blown to flinders by others is The Best We Can Actually Do (maybe if we got some more money?)…

      Round and ’round.

      Professor, you do words and meaning. Have you happened to pull together a little lexicon of the words Our Troops, our Noble Protectors of Our Way Of Life Troops, use to name and describe the “wogs of the moment?” Towelheads, Hajjis, Sand N—ers, Camel Jockeys, there’s no doubt a whole bunch more, there certainly were for the gooks, dinks, slopes, slants etc. that now sell us Commie-made clothing through the medium of Walmart (and get invited to do joint naval maneuvers with US, for Jesus’ sake, right out there in the Gulf of Tonkin where It All supposedly started) since the guys from my war did what GIs always do, de-humanize, Other-ize, reify-the-Enemy-ize… Humans in Helmand, and anywhere else, cannot, will not, get past that kind of behavior, it’s what we are and what we do.

      Law? what, are you kidding me?

  5. Mayor Bloomberg knows that this sort of thing endangers his city, which will always be a target of interest for terrorists. The more this gets out of hand, the greater the likelihood that residents of NYC will pay the price.

    • That NYC will pay the price is just fine with those folks in Florida. The rightwing xtianists have always hated NYC, where the Jews and the Homos are, and when it gets bombed they get to have the outrage about it while secretly rejoicing that sodom got hit by righteousness. Let’s face it, fundies are all on the same side, ultimately, the side of death for g-d’s glory.

  6. What endangers American troops is being in Afghanistan and Petraeus is calling for more troops. I want America troops out of Afghanistan, now. President Obama should be worrying about jobs in America and not about saving banks in Afghanistan when not bombing Afghans.

  7. ‘kafir’ stands specifically for a person who knows Islam in its basic essence but rejects it. This is the definition given by Imam Nawawi raziallahuanhu. He/she does not have to be actively opposing Islam.

    For such a person’s actions and beliefs, the Muslims are asked to hate and despise in the heart, but not to hate the person or kill him/her because there is no compulsion in religion. Infact the Muslims are asked to pray for him/her guidance, because oneday he/she may be Muslim.

    Many of the famous Muslims in Islam were kafirs once.

    However, jurisprudence derived from the Quran and other sources, demands to fight against those ‘kafirs’ who actively attack and oppose Muslims as last resort, as protection for the community.

    It is very silly to assume that Islam commands killing ALL non-Muslims. If that were the case, there would not have been any single non-Muslim left alive in Eastern Europe, India, China, and other places.

    There have been cases of copts in Egypt being attacked by Salafis. Many of these incidents are salafis making troubles, however, a great number of incidents are when the copts in upper egypt try to spread hate towards Muslims with their foreign funded channels, with Muslims reacting generally. In addition, if you look into the incidents, you will find Muslims working as guards of churches generally, and Muslims being excellent neighbours to the copts. A lot of the incidents have tribal and family feuds across religious lines too. The point I am making is that it is NOT a Muslim against Christian fight. The Copts have flourished in Egypt always.

    • “Many of the famous Muslims in Islam were kafirs once. ”

      And Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul, the Great Huckster of what has become Christianity. Went from denouncing and crucifying the followers of Jesus, the REAL Jesus of Nazareth, to peddling the whole set of epistles that have magically have become The Word Of God, to make one enormous sales pitch for a really interesting notion of The Divine.

  8. If the Dove outreach center is going to burn the Quran they need to burn the Bible, the Torah right along with the Quran.

    The head of that Dove out reach center should change the centers name to the HATE outreach center.

    Important interview. Important discussion. Great information

    Mearsheimer: There will be no two-state solution, only a greater Israel, and Palestinians will need the int’l community in the coming fight against apartheid
    link to mondoweiss.net

  9. Stunt it is, and hateful too. In a nation of 315,000,000 it is not terribly surprising to find such a church, whose membership does not exceed 50 persons, that has toppled over the abyss into behavior that can only be characterized as viciously anti-Christian and anti-American.

    That having been said, a few points. First, US media is to criticized for according these nut jobs any publicity. I understand that the MSM, whose sympathies lie with building the GZM, would like to highlight American “Islamophobia;” I’m not sure publicizing these marginals accomplishes that feat. Few Americans look at these characters and see much to identify with. While some might argue that this is “news,” I would point out that far larger gatherings of neo-Nazis and the Klan occur regularly without receiving a fraction of this publicity.

    Second, I must criticize General Petraeus, a man who I much admire and have written about extensively. Nevertheless, it is highly inappropriate for him, as a serving military officer, to publicly criticize what is essentially a domestic political controversy. While the repellent nature of his target will cause some to applaud him, I suspect feelings would be different if Petreaus were to criticize say, opponents of the war as “helping the enemy” or some other such comment. If the general wants to get his point across, he can surely, privately enlist the help of some respected US political figure, from the President on down, to make this case. No matter how attractive today’s target, Petreaus’ remarks set a nasty precedent at odds with good policy.

    • Yah, Gen. Petraeus is a man to admire, all right. Great job, getting almost to the top of the heap of Generals and Bird Colonels who with their talons drag us along through futile but profitable-for-some-including-themselves stages of the Forever War. What’s to admire about a guy who bribes His Enemy not to attack Him? or His convoys of ever more expensive war stuff on the way to becoming more expensive trash in more foreign lands? A real expert in Counterinsurgency, a “doctrine” that is fuller of holes and dumb ideas and failed notions than an invasion of Somalia. Or Costa Rica.

      You got any idea of the huge gulf between what Our Leaders pretend is going on, and the real nitty-gritty (how appropriate, given the terrain of Notagainistan) of the Milo Minderbinder business that’s playing out? This is not really a nice War College simulation or four-dimensional game of RISK! ™. The premises are false, the reporting is false, the actions only make more violent conflict inevitable and continually profitable. So in Iragheadistan, “we” kind of sort of pretend that, haha, lookit all the Good Stuff we did, we’re going home now or most of us are. Wonder if there will be a repeat of that photo op, with CIA guys punching women in the face to keep them from overloading the C-5s and Blackhawks taking out the last Few Good Men and leaving just what? behind? We gonna buy our share of the Huge Surprise Deposits of Rich Ore and All That Oil from the Chinese, or the Japanese, or the Russians?

      Since when, in a long unbroken string from McClellan to MacArthur to MACV to McChrystal, with side trips to the Newly Fundamental Christian Air Force Academy and Curtis LeMay Memorial, has there been any sanctified purity of Military-Only stayoutofpoliticsand”policy” amongst the General Orders? Now it turns out they lied about the Bomber Gap, lied about the Missile Gap, lied about the Window of Vulnerability, sucked trillions out of the civilian economy for war toys of zero relevance to Providing For The Common Defenfe, fighting the most savage battles in the War of the Rings of the Pentagon where the sharpest knives are not for the Big Budget, but to cut the n_ts off the people pushing other “services'” procurements, and tell me why “we” invaded Costa Rica, according to the Armchair General Narrative?

      “Good policy?” Do me a favor and define two words: “Freedom,” as that nebulosity is used in the common parlance, and “policy,” that all purpose buzz. And then put them together in a sentence that means anything for the survival of the nation as an extension of what was laid down by our Old White Guys in the brightness of the Enlightenment?

      If only there were some agreement on definition of terms, maybe It All would be McChrystal-clear…

      • Sorry, JtMcPhee but the generals don’t “drag” us anywhere. I’m afraid that’s the task of the National Command Authority, which is (currently led by) President Obama and his politically appointed cohorts. In case you’ve forgotten, we are in Afghanistan (only more so) because of Obama’s choices, not that of our generals.

        No, I won’t bother defining “Freedom”–I’ll leave that you and Janis Joplin. I do know that since the Newburgh Address, we’ve had an admirable policy of keeping soldiers on the active list out of domestic politics. Have past figures transgressed? You bet. But the examples you cite only prove my point. McClellan was relieved by Lincoln, MacArthur by Truman and McChrystal by Obama. Incidentally, Curtis LeMay was forced into retirement by LBJ over various policy disagreements.

        Debating the merits of COIN is another conversation; like amphibious landings at Normandy, Meade’s defenses at Gettysburg, and Smith’s breakout at Chosin, COIN is undoubtedly “full of holes.” That’s a given with any plan. The question about holes is what kind and how large. At the moment, the biggest hole is Obama’s self-sabotaging 7/11 drawdown. Self-sabotaging, that is, if he’s serious about progress. After all, it’s not a war that he has to wage. But you’ll have to take that up with him.

        To borrow Mr. Lincoln’s words, Afghanistan’s fate all depends on the “progress of our arms;” although there are good reasons to doubt the outcome, the last patrol hasn’t reported back quite yet, and I’ll wait a while before drawing any final conclusions about a war in which final conclusions are likely to remain unsettled for a long time.

        • Always glad to encounter a True Believer in the “progress of our arms.”

          How many examples of futility and stupidity and arrogance and policy-driving does it take to make a dozen? How much damage do the Generals get to do before they get relieved or moved to other commands? Are you ex-military, or a Krauthammer Hawk? Do you know what goes on at the micro level in the great game of war, pay any attention to all the “politics” that drive procurement and deployment and the turgid, churning mud of doctrine? Everything from troop suicide to $400-a-gallon petrol to Oops! attacks from on high to drug use, compulsory for “depression” and PTSD, voluntary because our Troops are just a subset of our drug-using culture, crammed once again into a place where Futility is the real Doctrine and Grand Strategy, and they know it. Ever heard of Pat Tillman? Read stuff like this?

          This ain’t moving markers on a sand table, or a kids’ game of RISK!, it’s screwing up not only what’s left of civil society at home, and taking the Great Military-Industrial Franchise global, as if The Generals have any answers to life’s great questions or a “vision” of anything other than a Threat-Based Analysis And Reaction in their trillion-dollar Networked Battlespace, that can’t even begin to “achieve victory” in asymmetric reality except by “killing ‘em all, and letting Allah sort them out.” Nothing other in their playbooks than the desire to be able to pronounce “I have met the enemy, and he is mine.” Albeit with a huge amount of detailed logistics and strategy-for-hire “experts” and infusions of huge amounts of wealth to be sure the greens on the base golf courses are kept up, TriCare is funded, and the private jets are ready to fly on a moment’s notice.

          The Military Approach is a bubble, as sure as the dot.com and derivative scams, and it just keeps inflating, behind the myths of Power Projection and Threat Perception. Yah, believe it is a zero-sum game, but it looks like pure negative-sum to me.

          Most Americans see the whole Forever War thing at the shallowest of levels, Good Guys Protecting The Homeland By Invading Evil Axis Foreign Wogland versus Spittle-Dripping, Hook-Nosed Terrorists, and as long as none of what’s going on happens to hit them immediately, they have no notion of looking ahead or seeking tools and tactics that lean toward stability that might give their offspring a chance to be something other than wage slaves to the tail that so vigorously is wagging the dog. Your insistence that Generals don’t drive politics is naive or just disingenuous. Did you happen to notice that the Official Pentagram Dictionary got revised lately? Seems the definition of “insurgent” used to say something about “violent attacks directed at the overthrow of a legitimate central government.” Gee, that doesn’t work for places like Iraganakapukustan or Notagainistan, so let’s just re-write the definition to leave out the part about “legitimate government,” start shooting, and then nail ‘em when they dare to shoot back.

          Ah yes, the teary-eyed waiting in Patriotic Suspense for the “last patrol” to report in… What do they call that? The Pathetic Fallacy?

        • Kris Kristofferson wrote about Freedom in “Me and Bobby McGee;” Janis just sang the song. A better examination of freedom can be found in Jean Paul Sartre’s work. You do like your military stuff, though, don’t you?

        • What is the point of debating the merits of counter-insurgency strategy when the Chinese government is sitting on over a trillion dollars of foreign currency, and its business agents are swarming all over every continent looking to buy up every resource of value? When the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is the only hope for development in Central Asia while Wall Street freezes capital to help the Tea Partiers? When Chinese trade ministers are going to Havana right now to offer the people of Cuba a much better deal than our Mafia ever did? We might as well be Britons in Iraq in the 1920s, arguing strategies to legitimize a puppet king while our own country is being bound to Wall Street and our troops worldwide are preparing the way for Ford and Coca-Cola.

          What good is strategy when it is blind to the largest realities in global power?

  10. I am ashamed and embarrassed by not only the Dove Used Furniture Store masquerading as Christians, proposing this terrible thing; I am equally appalled and unhappy with my fellow countrymen and women who have expressed fear and ignorance of world religions, especially Islam. There is nothing patriotic about being an Islamophobe, it is simply stupidity and the basest of human emotions; we are capable of so much better.

    What I hope will come from this bad thing is a demonstration of how we are capable of being better, of rising to the challenge in a way that demonstrates who we really are to the rest of the world – especially to our Muslim allies.

    We have in this country freedom of speech and freedom of religion. What I hope we show is that we respect those freedoms while condemning the offensive use of those freedoms without diminishing those freedoms. I hope we see Gainseville mount a very large, very peaceful repudiation of these Dove Church-Used Furniture Store bigots that will offset any sense of acceptance of their actions by those in this country and elsewhere who cater to (and profit from) hatred and fear and bigotry. Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, News Corp – I’m talking about you and those who share your views. I hope you have the decency left in you somewhere, in some deep dark hole in your soul, to still manage to be ashamed of yourselves.

    But if you do not — that’s tragic, but I’ll be saddened and ashamed FOR you, and OF you. Whatever momentary notoriety and tabloid trashy moment of fame you manage in the short te, Dove Church, Fox New-sance, Tea Partiers — you won’t win in the long run. You will ultimately never really win the hearts and minds of America.

    • Well, they won’t win the hearts of America’s imminent non-white majority, that’s for sure. But then the entire point of the venture, and why it will succeed for a while, is that “our enemies abroad” is a codeword for “everyone who refuses to obey us”, at home or abroad. If November 2008 proved nothing else, it proved that white reactionaries have reason to feel embattled; that if minorities vote at all, they will vote for the guy further to the left, and that American conservatism has zero friends overseas where the future is being built. But those folks can’t very well openly proclaim that, can they?

      Nothing left to do but what the Afrikaners did in South Africa in 1948 when they knew blacks would be allowed to vote in future elections: scrape together one more temporary majority, storm into power and install a new order that would wall itself off from the world as necessary. In South Africa, the alien code-word was “Communism”.

      And that’s why we seem angrier at Moslems than we were after 9/11.

  11. Juan, I have taken the liberty of copying this:

    ‘A correspondent from Gainesville writes,
    “As a long time resident of Gainesville FL, it pained me to hear this morning on NPR of a demonstration in Afghanistan against the 9/11 Quran burning …etc.”‘ as a comment to this PressTv article:

    Petraeus bashes plan to burn Qurans
    link to presstv.ir
    It is just loaded with comments, and I wanted to add a voice of reason. Thanks for publishing it.
    d.

  12. link to tomdispatch.com

    September 7, 2010

    Will Our Generals Ever Shut Up? The Military’s Media Megaphone and the U.S. Global Military Presence
    By Tom Engelhardt

    [The political roles being played by our generals is shameful and Unconstitutional.]

  13. “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” –Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

    In agreement with Jefferson’s timeless wisdom, therefore, I do not approve “Jewish” governments, “Islamic” governments, “Christian” governments, or any government affiliated in any way with any form of superstitious animism — religion, by definition — especially the Single Spook variety — the most malignant of all. In other words:

    The concept of the single GAWD
    Leaves little more to mock.
    Yet charlatans consider this
    Their tawdry trade and stock.
    No worse idea ever crawled
    From underneath a rock.

    500 years ago, people — perhaps — had some excuse for “believing” in animist nonsense. But after Gallileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein? “Religion” leads nowhere but back to the cave. Way past time to move on from anachronistic animism — and the priests, despots, and barbarism it always engenders.

  14. One of the forms of psychological pressure put on U.S. soldiers in the SEAR program was to desecrate copies of the bible.

    • The Vietnamization program’s 11-week “counter-insurgency” training course — from which I graduated in 1969 — included a week of S.E.R.E. training, which acronym stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. The survival part consisted of marching around for a week in the desert near Warner Springs (outside San Diego) with little food or water and sleeping on the frozen ground at night with only half a plastic poncho and part of a parachute for “cover.” On the morning of the next-to-last day, we got the chance to “evade” capture, if we could, before having to turn ourselves in at 12:00 noon so that our “captor”/instructors could throw us into a mock prisoner-of-war camp. There, we got an afternoon and night’s experience “resisting” our imprisonment (which included a few water-boardings) while picking up hints as to how we might try to “escape” if ever actually caught in such an unfortunate circumstance. I don’t recall anyone “desecrating” any bibles in order to put psychological “pressure” on us. Most of the sailors that I went through the training with would probably have chipped in with many a profane suggestion as to just what our “captors” could do with that barbaric piece of inscrutable literature. “Desecrating” it would probably only have raised our spirits instead of crushing them. Mostly, we just wanted to get something to eat instead of only getting to dream about food. Unfortunately, when we finally returned to base after our week of near starvation, our stomachs had shrunk so much that we couldn’t eat more than a few bites from the heaps of food we had loaded onto our plates. Now that really pissed us off.

      Anyway, the so-called “winning the hearts and minds” stuff in our training materials rapidly morphed into “Grab ‘em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow.” I rather suspect that today’s military in Iraq and Afghanistan understand General Petraeus’s newly resurrected “C.O.I.N.” doctrine the same way, no matter what they and he allow the American public to think about the nature of their occupational attitudes. I understand that U. S. Marines now engaged in killing Afghans for resisting them refer to their activities as “mowing the lawn.” Same doctrine, same callous condescending attitude towards the indigenous natives, and the same result in generating more “resistance” than it quells. For a supposedly “smart” man, President Obama seems either abysmally ignorant about the American military or too dumb to learn from listening to its endless annual excuses — or both.

      • A-Mens, brother, from a guy who went through Basic in 1967 and did a year and a day with the First Cav in Vietnam.

        Oh yes, Our Brave Troops, Sacrificing Themselves For Our Security And Protecting Our Nation And Our Way Of Life, by doing what grunts have always done, and always will, thanks to how we are wired. Down under the Announcements of New Strategies and Doctrines, and the Embedded Puff Pastries, the myths are so many layers deep — Did it become apparent to you that Basic exercises like the Tear Gas Hut (work up a sweat, don your gas mask, march into the hut full of CS gas, remove your mask, take a deep breath so you can try to recite your name, rank and serial number for Sarge, still wearing HIS mask, and repeat until he was satisfied , run outside to gag and puke with eyes and skin flaming) were infinitely less about Preparing You For War and infinitely more about Sergeants Getting Their Rocks Off Harassing The Dumb Troops?

        Or how about Hand-To-Hand Combat, where they taught you by strangling or flipping or punching you, then advised you that if, with your 16 hours of their tutelage, thought you were now Real Tough, if you went into a bar with the idea of kicking ass and taking names, some REAL brawler was going to drop you for the ambulance guys to scrape up?

        In “my” war, one favorite pastime was desecrating (or is it “defecrating”?) the many ornate and humble tombs. Wonder how the Band of Brothers would react to having “gooks” or “Hajjis” smear shit on Granny’s tombstone and write imprecations equivalent to what THEY wrote on the whitewashed walls of those Catholic and Buddhist and Cao Dai funereal shrines?

        If Wiki is right, them Godless Commies, who make our Walmart shirts and slacks and are now magically transformed into Naval Partners for us’ns to conduct joint naval maneuvers with (preparing for WHAT war, again?)– here’s how FAUXNews plays it– seem to manage the coexistence of many religious traditions a lot better that Bubba and Yahoooo do.

        But we all live only in the moment, now don’t we, and ever fewer of us with eyes for a wider world and our history and prospects. Humans are not a very nice species, and as tribalism merges with the ability and intent to bring WAR to the whole planet, we are getting nastier and nastier. (You might take a read of a little book by C.S. Lewis, a REAL Christian, titled “The Screwtape Letters”: Hell is a noisy, soul-eating bureaucracy, and so is the Pentagram, and our “world’s greatest deliberative body,” and those way-beyond-trans-to-Uber-national corporate entities that are sucking the blood and souls out of us now.)

        Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

        Or so those who were embedded there and then are reported to tell us.

      • ” I don’t recall anyone “desecrating” any bibles in order to put psychological “pressure” on us.”

        Maybe I am wrong about this but I think I did read somewhere that the S.E.R.E. program does include this. Or perhaps I am thinking of a S.E.R.E.-like program. The program might have changed since 1969. While this act might not disturb you personally, it could have meaning for a very religious person. I believe the S.E.R.E. strategy is to destroy your ego.

        I believe prisoners at Guantanamo were harassed for a while by desecrating the Koran. Since the interrogation methods there are derived from the S.E.R.E. program, that is circumstantial evidence for my claim.

        Did you find the S.E.R.E. training useful?

  15. “technology magnifies the power of individuals and small groups”

    I wish technology would magnify the power of critics of U.S. policy. Somehow I don’t think the oligarchy-controlled U.S. media is going to magnify those views.

  16. “If I live long enough I will eventually write on all this.” Juan Cole

    Professor Cole, May God give you long life & strength to write a book on this subject, Amen summa Amen.
    I can hardly wait for your book to read. As I can see, many people will benefit & learn so much from your book. We badly need your book on this subject.

  17. What I find funny is that they will first buy the Qurans, thereby giving money to those “ebil terrirists!!!”

  18. Ouch. The truth
    link to seminal.firedoglake.com
    Yes You Do (and People Too)
    By: Mohammed Ibn Laith Tuesday September 7, 2010 2:20 pm

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    “Americans Don’t Burn Books” they cry. Oh yes they do. Americans most assuredly do burn books. They burn them with malice and with forethought as an expression of their hatred and contempt for the peoples’ of the lands they have invaded, for the peoples of those lands and for our religion.

    I know for a fact that Americans burn books, in particular The Holy Qur’an because like other Gorilla’s Guides team members I have gone into Mosques to clean them after your soldiers have desecrated them.

    Your soldiers’ SOP for doing this is to shit on the prayer mats, to scrawl crude graffiti (mostly penises) on the walls, to spray paint hate slogans against Irakis, against Muslims, and against Islam on the walls, they also scrawl Christian and Jewish religious symbols on the walls, and they gather together copies of The Holy Qur’an, together with any other books they can find and set them on fire.

    Don’t you dare try pretend that “Americans Don’t Burn Books” because I, other Gorilla’s Guides team members and plenty of other people in Irak can tell you from direct personal experience that yes you Americans damned well do burn books. They are Your American troops, from your American culture, imbued with your American culture’s values and yes they do burn books.

    There is a proverb in the English language, I am told it comes from a Scottish poem, which expresses the desire “to see ourselves as others see us”, well now you can. If you don’t like what you see then you can try to fix it. You can start that by refusing to mouth the comforting lies about how “Americans Don’t Burn Books”, oh yes they damned well do.

    You also burn people. — Ask the survivors of Fallujah.

    Mohammed Ibn Laith.
    link to gorillasguides.com

  19. […] ‘Burn the Qur’an day’ Endangers US Troops: Petraeus, by Juan Cole.  It isn’t only Petraeus who is petrified by the way this auto-da-fe could spin out of control. The Catholic cardinal in Mumbai, India and an archbishop in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, have condemned the stunt, as well. Likewise, Christian leaders in Indonesia have jointly protested the Gainesville church’s plans.  General Eric Holder,  according to a Justice Department official, called the bonfire idiotic and dangerous during a private with religious leaders Tuesday. […]

  20. If only we could make the overseas war total, then, finally we could wipe out the real enemy here at home. Isn’t that how it always works? We just need for someone else to step forward first and say the hateful words, then we can rush to proclaim him as “grassroots” and “sincere” and drag the Overton window a few inches further right. Someone else has to say it first, because the rest of us who lust for war and conquest and curtailment of domestic rights also know in our hearts that it will involve sacrifice and we don’t want to make any sacrifices. But if some guys in Florida double-dare our manhood, we can happily toss out our own common sense and charge over the cliff with them.

  21. I got this email today for “Read a Qur’an Day”:
    ‘In response, Or Hadash USA, a Jewish project concerned with constitutional issues, is organizing and sponsoring an interfaith public reading of the Qur’an on the same day. The event will take place at Ohlone Park, in Berkeley on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010 at 3:15 PM. Meet at the corner of Sacramento and Delaware at 3:15. We shall all symbolically stand with Muslim Americans and read aloud in English parts of the Qur’an, affirming that we will not stand by silently while others perpetrate un-American acts of hate in the name of patriotism or religion.

    All people — of any faith or no faith — are welcome to join us. We will read and discuss the Qur’an for about 30 – 45 minutes. The official event will then end, but some of us may choose to stay and share our thoughts and feelings.

    The park has facilities to entertain children while parents take part in the reading and discussion.

    September 11 this year for Jews is Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of returning and renewal between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. September 11th this year is also just after the last day of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, prayer, purification, forgiveness and renewal. Materials about Ramadan will also be available for people to learn about this important Muslim observance. Please join us in standing up for religious coexistence and for the celebration of what we all can learn from people of varied faiths.’

    The only thing better would be for the Monty Python Terry Jones to denounce that “Loathsome Dove” guy on Jon Stewart.

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