Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fanning the Flames of Jihad

I usually check in with the opinion page of the New York Times online every day. Some of the regular columnists-- Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert, for instance--are like dark chocolate, perfect for a political chocaholic like me. Often, when I enjoy an article I've just read, I will follow up by reading some of the readers' comments that follow, to see how others have responded. One reader wrote something recently that was so intensely stark and fierce and brief, I have not been able to get it out of my mind. "What's next?" the person wrote (it was in the context of a discussion about where the country was headed.) "WW III. Obama is the last president the United States will ever have."

I prefer writing blogs when I am either fired up or wigged out--horrified or excited by something. I'm not in the business of simple reportage. I prefer digging among ashes, probing for synchronicities with blunt instruments, recognizing the kind of hidden connections you can't take your eyes off of once you've spotted them. This week, it was the sudden appearance of a semi-obscure but menacing pastor of a small church in Gainesville, Florida, Terry Jones, who proposes to "commemorate" the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by burning copies of the Koran. He has been collecting them from supporters for some time, and is planning a big bonfire on the ninth anniversary of 9/11. which is this coming Saturday, god help us all.

Not a good idea, declared General Petraeus; a provocation that could undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and seriously threaten the safety of our troops. Afghan protesters have already staged a "death to America" rally and flag-burning in Kabul in advance of the event. The photo above shows Afghans burning an effigy of Pastor Jones in a demonstration against the U.S. on Monday, September 6th. The protesters were also calling for the death of President Barack Obama.

Jones says he's praying on it, having been called on to desist by the likes of the Pope and Hillary Clinton, the White House and heads of many religious organizations, and even Mitt Romney. Public book-burning is more a Nazi than a Christian thing: it won't play well, according to everyone. Remember when a U.S. interrogator at Guantanamo Bay prison flushed a Koran down the toilet and set off a rash of riots across the Muslim world? Remember the devastating conflagrations that tore through Denmark when their national newspaper ran a cartoon about Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban? But the Pastor, instead of being tried for treason, or viewed as a threat, is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Burning books, in this country, is not illegal.

Once again we are proving ourselves as the best recruiters for Islamic extremism around the world. Welcome to the surreal world of U.S. national security. On this evening's news, it was announced that the Pastor has decided to go through with his plan, despite the many entreaties from people begging him not to. He has been "called by God" to do this.

Something very deadly, according to my intuition, is incubating here--but I don't want to be the one who scratches in the first faint marks of the dawn of World War III.

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