For years, the American Right and neocons have been quick to accuse critics of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of endangering American troops by causing disunity, exposing counter-terror techniques, etc. but these war enthusiasts are now the ones putting the lives of U.S. soldiers in jeopardy.
Indeed, the Right and the neocons may have American blood on their hands because of the ugly histrionics over a plan to build a mosque and Islamic center two blocks from 9/11's Ground Zero.
As American troops are undertaking dangerous operations to win the "hearts and minds" of Muslims now including flying helicopter missions in flood-ravaged Pakistan Republican politicians and right-wing media outlets are fueling hysteria over the planned mosque.
So, instead of the United States appearing to be a nation tolerant of Islam and all other religions, the world is seeing red-faced Americans screaming at New York City officials who allowed the building plans to go forward.
Sensing another useful wedge issue, prominent Republicans, including potential presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, then jumped into the fray, escalating the rhetoric ever further.
Gingrich told Fox News that "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington," thus likening Islam, even the sort practiced by the moderate Muslims involved in the so-called Cordoba House in Lower Manhattan, to Nazism. Gingrich's metaphor also connected Muslims, subliminally at least, to one of history's great crimes, the Holocaust, which incidentally was carried out primarily by European Christians.
Gingrich, who is portrayed by the mainstream U.S. news media as a deep-thinking intellectual, also played the victim card by casting the mosque as a symbol of Muslim "triumphalism."
Not to be upstaged, Palin, in a Twitter message, called the mosque an "unnecessary provocation" and a "stab " in the heart."
So, the construction of a mosque on privately owned land is not simply an American Muslim group exercising its constitutional and property rights. It is a case of al-Qaeda sympathizers doing something of a victory dance near Ground Zero and further twisting the knife into the American people.
After the Right made the mosque an emotional national issue, a poll showed about two-thirds of Americans objecting to the mosque's construction.
The message to the Islamic world couldn't be clearer:
Despite soothing words from Gen. David Petraeus and President Barack Obama (and even from former President George W. Bush), Americans do see the "war on terror" as a war against Islam, not just against a few violent extremists but against all Muslims including moderates who have risked their own lives to condemn Islamic radicalism.
While the U.S. press corps has focused on the political implications of the furor mostly, how it should help the Republicans in November and, secondarily, on the constitutional issues regarding freedom of religion, there has been little attention given to the military implications of the controversy.
Just as Bush's clumsy remark calling the "war on terror" a "crusade" was a propaganda boon to al-Qaeda, so too is this grotesque demonstration of anti-Islamic bigotry. It makes the work of American troops -- conducting a delicate withdrawal from Iraq and mounting counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan -- all the more hazardous.
The nasty mosque debate also undercuts the humanitarian message conveyed by dispatching U.S. military helicopters to flood-ravaged Pakistan and, indeed, the controversy escalates the dangers facing those crews.
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