Over on the Spengler blog, David Goldman wonders why General Petraeus is weighing in on a First Amendment issue:
Burning the Koran (or any book) is a bad thing, and the Rev. Terry Jones of something called the Dove World Outreach Center will violate basic standards of decency when he sets fire to the Muslim holy book on Sept. 11. But it is Constitutionally-protected free speech. Last year a North Carolina church observed Halloween by burning Bible translations it considered heretical, to nary a peep from the national media. Blasphemous treatment of Christian religious symbols is commonplace, from Andre Serrano’s crucifix-in-urine construction to Chris Ofili’s elephant dung Madonna.
Where does Gen. David Petraeus get off telling American civilians how to express their opinions? Serving American military officers are not supposed to poke their noses into such matters. Petraeus well may be correct that “extremists” will use the burning of the Koran to stir up anti-American sentiments. If an American commander finds it inconvenient when Americans express antipathy towards Islam, where will it end?