Three people are dead because US "pastor" Terry Jones, in collaboration with the American media, staged (or threatened to stage) an anti-Muslim Koran-burning exhibition, which predictably stoked anti-American protests in Afghanistan: also predictably, US troops fired on demonstrators. The result: yet more "collateral damage."
In more 9/11 anniversary news: a rally sponsored by the David Horowitz-affiliated "Jihad Watch," in alliance with Pamela "Shrieking Harpy" Geller’s "Stop the Islamization of America" grouplet and the British neo-fascist "English Defense League," attracted a few thousand wackos to a site a few blocks from Ground Zero, where uber-wacko Geert Wilders (Dutch neo-fascist and leading Islamophobe) made the case for banning Islam in the name of … "Dutch tolerance":
"America, New York and Shariah are incompatible in New York. New York stands for openness and tolerance. Suppose there was a place and it only allowed people of one persuasion within its walls. It would not be New York. It would be Mecca."
Maybe Wilders has been smoking too much of that strong Dutch weed, but to argue that we’re too tolerant to tolerate the intolerant seems a bit odd. Then again, Dutch neo-fascism no doubt suffers in translation.
Wilders, Geller, and "Jihad Watch" anti-Islam guru Robert Spencer want to import Europe’s Muslim-hating racist fringe to America: their thesis is that Islam is not a religion, but a political conspiracy to impose Sharia law on non-Muslims. They raise the specter of an Islamic States of America, with American women draped in the chador and mandatory mosque attendance – a scenario that doesn’t even qualify as credible science fiction.
And if you think it doesn’t get any kookier than that, then you didn’t listen to John Bolton’s speech to the anti-mosque rally, delivered via videotape, wherein he attacked the effort by "politicians" to "impose tolerance and understanding on us, whether we like it or not." He also indirectly attacked his own former boss, George W. Bush, when he lashed out against Imam Feisal Rauf’s role as a State Department emissary of good will to Muslim nations. It was Bush’s State Department who first sponsored him in that role. Shortly before delivering his remarks, Bolton confirmed he is considering a presidential run: can he ride the wave of hate all the way to the White House?
Another aspiring anti-Muslim Know-Nothing demagogue who spoke at the rally is one Ilario Pantano, whose credentials as a murderous hater are surely impeccable. We last heard about Pantano when Army prosecutors accused him of murdering two Iraqis in some very cold blood, as Mother Jones relates:
"The central facts of the incident that made Ilario Pantano famous are not in dispute. On April 15, 2004, Pantano, a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, led a small group of Marines to search a suspected insurgent hideout in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, outside of Fallujah. As the patrol neared the house, two men tried to leave in a car. The Marines stopped, searched, and handcuffed the men. A Marine scoured the vehicle, but didn’t find anything incriminating. After other Marines found weapons in the house, Pantano had the men uncuffed and ordered them to search the car themselves. At some point during that search, Pantano felt threatened by the two men. He shot them both—pausing to load a second magazine into his M-16 before emptying that clip too. Then he placed a cardboard sign reading ‘No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’—the motto of his Marine battalion—on top of the car. He wanted ‘to send a message to these Iraqis and others,’ he said later.
"For a time in 2005, it looked like Pantano might be court-martialed for killing the two Iraqis. One of his subordinates claimed the shooting was unjustified. But the prosecution’s case collapsed in an early hearing, and Pantano was never even tried. The judge in charge of the hearing recommended non-judicial punishment—but Pantano’s commander didn’t agree, and he was never disciplined."
This is the kind of person at the head of the "anti-Islamization" movement – an escaped war criminal.
Pantano is now running for Congress in North Carolina — as a Republican, naturally.
Joe Conason made an important point about this hate movement, and that is its intensely partisan nature. Go here to listen to hate-monger Geller, aka Pamela Oshry, at a pro-Israel rally earlier this year. She ends her ultra-Likudist diatribe – "There is no Israeli occupation: the Arabs are occupying Israel!" – by urging her audience to "Dump Chuck!" Chuck Schumer, that is, the Democratic US Senator from New York who "dared" oppose John Bolton’s nomination for UN ambassador: after all, "reasons" Geller, Bolton is "the best friend Israel ever had!" What else do we need to know?
If you think this gathering of pro-Israel fanatics, British football hooligans, and a Dutch neo-fascist is just a fringe phenomenon, ask yourself how many Americans believe Obama is a "secret Muslim"? The answer is depressing: and Republicans like Newt Gingrich are already using the anti-Muslim hysteria to target the President and his party in a display of shameless opportunism that is a new low, even for the GOP.
Part of this is due to internal Republican party politics: with the economics-driven "tea party" faction rapidly overturning the GOP Establishment, the neoconservative remnants are trying to stage a comeback by diverting the movement’s energy to anti-Muslim scapegoating — anything other than holding Republicans as well as Democrats accountable for spending us into penury.
The impetus for this comes, as I detailed in last Friday’s column, from the pro-Israel lobby, which is moving into high gear with its bomb Iran campaign, with Bolton calling on both the US and Israel to launch an immediate military strike. Millions of dollars are being poured into this effort, with Spencer’s "Jihad Watch" and various and sundry other pro-Israel groups on the receiving end of the moolah. Like many right-wing movements, the anti-Islam activists have founded a new industry, marketing books, videos, and t-shirts, and throwing up "celebrities," e.g. the exhibitionistic bikini-wearing Geller, whose nude body painted gold adorns her blog’s masthead. Follow the money!
As nutty and improbable as the idea of an "Islamic States of America" might be, there is real potential for a mass anti-Muslim movement in this country. All we need is another terrorist attack, not even one on the scale of 9/11, and the smoldering fires of unfocused anger that burn just beneath the surface of polite society will burst through to the surface. Ask any Japanese-American.
Languishing for the lack of a proper enemy in the post-cold war world, the neoconservative right was saved from extinction by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The specter of militant Islam is, for them, the perfect villain, one who represents a threat not just to the US but also to Israel, a country which is to them as the old Soviet Union was to American Communists: a model and a fatherland. Their strategy is to replicate in the US the anti-Muslim xenophobia that swept Likud into power in Israel, and which has catapulted Avigdor Lieberman, head of an anti-Muslim ultra-nationalist party, into the Foreign Ministry. Bolton is our Lieberman, and hopes to take the same route to power.
"I don’t think anybody has a problem with Muslims in America," opines Reason.com editor Nick Gillespie on PBS. Is that why the anti-mosque campaign has gone national, and with some success? Is that why "mainstream" Republican politicians like Newt Gingrich and Speaker John Boehner are weighing in against the Park51 community center? Is it because there’s never been a mass political movement in America targeting a vulnerable religious minority?
I’d like to believe these people won’t get far: after all, how many Americans feel threatened by the possible imposition of Sharia law? On the other hand, it takes very little to drive people over the edge, especially in these troubled times.
The only way to defeat these bastards is to counter-attack immediately, and mercilessly: don’t let them get away with it for one moment. The very idea of forbidding the building of a mosque, or any religious edifice, is anti-American to the core, and must be fought tooth and nail. What could be a clearer confirmation of the libertarian contention that a foreign policy of global intervention necessarily means the rollback of our civil liberties here at home? For libertarians, there is no question but that Muslims must be defended against the gathering lynch mob.
How to do this is another question, but that’s a subject for a future column. Suffice to say here that the defense of the Muslim minority in the US is the acid test for all those who claim to believe in "freedom" and "liberty."
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Rallies, demonstrations, "Collateral Murder" film screenings, whistle-blowing parties and forums will be held around the world between the 16th and 19th of this month as vital expressions of international solidarity with Bradley Manning. To find out how you can show your support for the brave young man who dared expose US war crimes, go here.
I’m taking my show on the road this autumn, to campuses around the country, talking about some of the ideas expressed in last Wednesday’s column on "Anti-Interventionism: The Left-wing Tradition." My talk is entitled "Why Has the Left Sold Out the Antiwar Movement?" – which is sure to provoke a controversy, or at least that’s the hope.
If you’re interested in booking me at your campus, write firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Antiwar.com office, at: 510-217-8665.