The angry anniversary of 9/11

If politicians and TV anchors spent less time on corporate and military jets and more time in line at the airport, they might have figured it out a little sooner.

Go to an airport and watch Americans patiently and quietly allowing thuggish and rude security personnel to insult them, glare at them, feel them up, go through their private things, and generally treat them more like criminals than customers.

People just take it.

Why?

Because they don’t want to look at the date on their ticket and think, “This date will be the anniversary my loved ones mark by going to the scene of the crash and tossing rose petals.”

But if you think Americans aren’t angry, guess again.

Out in the sticks in Gainesville, Florida, a Pentecostal preacher by the name of Terry Jones announced that he would mark the anniversary of 9/11 by burning a Koran, the Muslim holy book.

He was denounced by, among others, the President of the United States.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates personally telephoned Pastor Jones to plead with him to call off the book-burning. Echoing the words of the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, Secretary Gates said the destruction of the Muslim holy book would endanger the safety of U.S. forces around the world and increase the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens everywhere.

They weren’t just currying favor with the president. They really meant it. They were alarmed.

In Afghanistan, candidate for parliament Mohammad Mukhtar predicted that “wherever Americans are seen, they will be killed.”

But in the United States, more churches announced plans to burn a Quran.

Why?

Americans are angry. Americans are really, seriously, deep-down, go-to-war angry.

And rightfully so.

We all should be angry that the U.S. government has reacted to a terrorist threat by shivering and wailing that it’s dangerous for Americans to offend the sensibilities of Muslims.

Let’s write some dialogue for the president, shall we?

“While I deplore the destruction of a holy book and call on people everywhere to be respectful of the religious beliefs of others, I would like to make one thing absolutely clear. Anyone who attacks Americans, or plans an attack on Americans, or funds an attack on Americans, or harbors anyone who attacks Americans will be held accountable by the United States of America. Let there be no doubt. We will not permit, we will not ignore, and we will not forget a terrorist attack on American citizens anywhere in the world.”

How does that work for you?

Or do you prefer this:

“I just hope he understands that what he’s proposing to do is completely contrary to our values of Americans. That this country has been built on the notions of religious freedom and religious tolerance. And as a very practical matter, as commander of chief of the Armed Forces of the United States I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women in uniform who are in Iraq, who are in Afghanistan. We’re already seeing protests against Americans just by the mere threat that he’s making. This is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda. You know, you could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who’d be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities. You know, and so, you know, I just hope that, he says he’s someone who’s motivated by his faith. I hope he listens to those better angels. And understands that this is a destructive act that he’s engaging in.”

That’s what President Obama actually said to George Stephanopoulos in an interview for ABC News.

And there’s more. As reports surfaced that Pastor Terry Jones received at least three visits by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the president told ABC News:

“It, well it is frustrating. Now, on the other hand, we are a government of laws. And so, we have to abide by those laws. And my understanding is that he can be cited for public burning. But that’s the extent of the laws that we have available to us. You know, part of this country’s history is people doing destructive or offensive or harmful things. And yet, we still have to make sure that we’re following the laws. And that’s part of what I love about this country.”

Oh, boy.

Let’s rewrite that for the president, shall we?

“We treasure our freedom as Americans. An important part of that freedom is the right to speak out. The government can’t tell you what to think, and it can’t stop you from expressing your views, even when those views are unpopular or hurtful. Throughout our history, courageous Americans have given their lives fighting for our freedom. Our young men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces are overseas right now fighting to protect our freedom. We would be doing them a terrible disservice if we started treating our freedom as something we can toss out when it becomes inconvenient for us.”

Do you like that better? Call me, I’ll work cheap.

One of the most disturbing things about this story is the spectacle of the highest-ranking U.S. officials, military and civilian, announcing that Pastor Jones’ actions endanger the lives of U.S. troops around the world.

Why are U.S. troops so vulnerable?

Is it because they’re sitting in tents having tea with militants instead of fighting a war as they were trained to do?

Perhaps the Pastor Jones incident has exposed something important that Americans ought to scrutinize very closely.

Does the “counter-insurgency” strategy of mingling with the population put American troops at unacceptable risk?

The answer appears to be yes.

Anyone who watches “South Park” could tell you that Islamic militants react to insults by threatening to massacre Americans. They don’t care if you’ve won an Emmy or not.

The U.S. taxpayers have paid a lot of money and gone to a lot of trouble to keep Americans safe from attacks by hot-headed, thin-skinned terrorists.

So it’s very disturbing to hear General David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates personally imploring a Pentecostal preacher to call off a book-burning because American troops will pay with their lives for his stunt.

Their panicked statements amount to a confession that the Pentagon has compromised force protection to an extent that Americans would certainly find unacceptable if they knew about it.

It’s time they knew about it.

Copyright 2010

Susan Shelley posted at 2010-9-10 Category: Uncategorized