Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Peter Beinart Has Disgraced Himself

Jim Treacher says he's learned three things about the "Ground Zero 9/11 Debris Field Mosque" from his "moral, ethical, and intellectual betters on the left":

1. A mosque isn’t a mosque if it includes a pool and a basketball court.

2. Ground Zero does not extend one single inch past the lip of the crater.

3. Shut up.
I suspect Jim has been reading Peter Beinart's article "America Has Disgraced Itself":
The president is furiously backtracking; Republicans are clawing over each other to demonize Muslims; Democrats are dead silent. It’s time to face reality. Whether or not the “ground zero” mosque ever gets built, the political debate is over. Decency lost.
If decency has lost, it's because Beinart's column delivered the winning touchdown.

"Sad" doesn't even begin to describe Beinart's opening, and I could only shake my head as I read the entire piece. You see, I've always liked Peter Beinart. Agree or disagree with him, Beinart generally could be counted on to be one of the adults in the room. He always had generally valid points that needed to be considered, even if I didn't like how he made them, or agree with them after considering. Only now he's headed off down the same path that's taken Joe Klein from the heights of Primary Colors and The Natural to, appropriately enough, Swampland over at Time. You know, the road that turned Andrew Sullivan from a razor-sharp writer to a man who now fancies himself Fox Mulder to Sarah Palin's assorted obstetrical conspiracies.

Beinart does say one thing in this column that makes sense:
So almost nine years after September 11, we need to confront a few painful truths.
Chalk the high-water mark on the wall, people, because after this, it's sink-into-the-depths time all the way.
First, while the military and counterintelligence aspects of the struggle against al Qaeda will likely last long into the future, the “war of ideas” is over. America has thrown in the towel.
Game over, man! No longer will a woman in Saudi Arabia hope to someday drive a car, let alone hope to vote. Or a little girl in Afghanistan dream of going to school. Or her mother pray that religious fundamentalists won't beat her if she leaves the house to take that daughter to, I don't know, a hospital but doesn't have her husband or a male relative with her. The war of ideas -- hell, the very clash of civilizations -- is over, because too many of us, while consistently acknowledging the Constitutional right to build a mosque on this site, didn't think it was a particularly good idea in terms of building bridges and promoting understanding. And now that we've crossed that ethical rubicon, America can never hope to compete against even the most hellish of sharia-ruled hell holes. Let the Great Migration to northern Nigeria begin!

That's some seriously hyperbolic towel we're throwing in there, Peter.

I don't blame Beinart for being frustrated right now. For one, he's on the wrong side of supermajority on this issue, which is never a fun place to be. And for another, his team's star player, President Obama, fumbled the ball the very moment he finally got into the game. So the temptation to throw a hissy fit instead of writing an actual column must be pretty great. I just never thought it would be Peter Beinart who gave in to that temptation, because that's what this column is. A literary hissy fit that's only missing the slammed door after he insults everyone at the table and then leaves without being excused, because the 'rents just don't get it.
Remember when George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies used to say that the “war on terror” was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me? Remember when Karen Hughes paid millions to produce glitzy videos of Muslim Americans testifying about how free they were to practice their religion in the USA? Remember Bush’s second inaugural, when he said “America's ideal of freedom” is “sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran?”
Remember when Antonio Banderas played a kick-ass Muslim in The 13th Warrior? Well, that has about as much to do with the real issue here as everything that Beinart just mentioned.
Once upon a time, Republicans were so confident that the vast majority of Muslims preferred freedom to jihad that they believed the U.S. could install democracy in Iraq within months. Now, confronted with a group of Muslim Americans who want to build a cultural center that includes Jews and Christians on the board (how many churches and synagogues do that?), GOP leaders call them terrorists because they don’t share Benjamin Netanyahu’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
So is it a mosque, Peter, or is it a cultural center? Because if it's a mosque, then why would anyone expect Jews and Christians to be on its board, or are they on the board of the cultural center and will have nothing to do with the mosque itself inside that cultural center? And if it's only a cultural center and not a mosque, then why are you comparing it to a church or a synagogue to make your point? Please make up your about what it is you're talking about here.

Beinart is right, however, that acknowledging Hamas is a terrorist group means that you then share Benjamin Netanyahu's view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That's why Egypt and the Palestanian Authority -- or what's left of the Palestinian Authority since Hamas took over Gaza in that armed coup -- get along so well with the Israeli Prime Minister and always do what Netanyahu wants.
Once upon a time, the “war on terror” was supposed to bring American values to Saudi Arabia.
The way I remember it, the goals for Saudi Arabia were a little more, ah, realistic. Like getting all those wealthy royals to stop playing both sides. And maybe stop spending billions to build fundamentalist Wahhabi mosques and madrassas around the world that promote jihad and hatred of non-Muslims. But turn Riyadh into San Francisco? I clearly missed that one.
Now Newt Gingrich says we shouldn’t build a mosque in Lower Manhattan until the Saudis build churches and synagogues in Mecca—which is to say, we’re bringing Saudi values to the United States.
Because if this were happening in Saudi Arabia, the House of Saud would use the fine art of gentle persuasion to achieve their goal. Seriously, Peter, just make the obligatory mention of Newt Gingrich to color everyone who disagrees with you as rabid Islamophobic Newt-heads and move on. Please.
I wonder how David Petraeus feels about all this. There he is, slogging away in the Hindu Kush, desperately trying to be culturally sensitive, watching GIs get killed because Afghans believe the U.S. is waging a war on Islam, and back home, the super-patriots on Fox News have… declared war on Islam.
Silly me, I thought American GIs were getting killed because the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are waging a war against the infidel unbelievers, not to mention against Muslims who just aren't Muslim enough, or the right kind of Muslim. I did not realize that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda now represent the thinking of all Afghans. Because the last thing Peter Beinart would ever stand for is someone demonizing peaceful Muslims as terrorists, like those nasty Republicans are literally clawing over each other to do. Oh, no, not Peter.

And if the Afghans are starting to hedge their bets and throw in their lot with the Taliban? I'd say that has more to do with the fear America will start pulling out for good next summer and leave them to the gentle persuasion of the Taliban than it does with what some cable pundit says on Fox. Because if it's one thing a peasant in Afghanistan spends his time doing, it's catch Bill O'Reilly on the village satellite feed.
So please, no more talk about those idealistic neoconservatives who are willing to expend blood and treasure so Afghans and Iraqis can live free. People in Basra and Kandahar had better hope that America’s counterinsurgency warriors create a society in which they can practice their religion free of intimidation and insult. Because it’s now clear they can’t do so on the lower tip of the island of Manhattan.
Yes, Peter, by continually acknowledging their right to build the Park51 community center/mosque but hoping to convince them that the location is inappropriate, we're just like the Taliban who intimidated those 1700-year-old Buddha statues into relocating somewhere else. If ever I needed a good reason to support bringing America's counterinsurgency warriors home from Basra and Kandahar, Beinart has just given me one. Those soldiers clearly have far more work to do against religious intimidation and insults in Lower Manhattan than they do over there in the Kush.

I honestly don't know who should be more insulted by what Beinart wrote here: America's counterinsurgency warriors, the Muslims of Basra and Kandahar, the Americans against the Park51 project, the Taliban (because Beinart apparently thinks they're just a bunch of blowhard talkers who pale before the talkers on Fox), or really just any thinking person who even attempts to comprehend that passage.
And from now on, let’s stop condescending to the French about their anti-headscarf laws.
No, Peter! Stop! You've already take away my bona fides as a freedom-loving, true American who believes in religious liberty! Please don't take away my right to condescend to the French, too!
Until a month ago or so, I genuinely believed that no such law could ever pass in the U.S. How na├»ve. After the right’s despicable performance over the last month, can anyone seriously doubt that if the U.S. had as large, and religiously traditional, a Muslim population as France, that Republicans would be clamoring for Congress to regulate their “Islamofascist” garb? Perhaps they’d merely propose that Muslim women be prohibited from wearing the headscarf within a mile of military bases that house families that have lost loved ones in the “war on terror.” We have to be sensitive, after all.
How can you tell that Peter Beinart is one of the legendary "cultural elite"? Because he can equate having qualms about a $100-million mosque built using foreign money two blocks from where radical jihadists killed 3,000 people in the name of Islam, while still acknowledging their Constitutional right to do so, with Congress instituting a national religious fashion police and think he's actually making a serious point.
Words I never thought I’d write: I pine for George W. Bush.
Words I never thought I would believe, and don't.
Whatever his flaws, the man respected religion, all religion. Maybe it was because he had been an addict himself, and knew from hanging around prisons that Allah had saved as many broken souls as Jesus Christ.
Seriously, Peter. Just make your obligatory mention of George Bush's 1976 DUI arrest and alcoholism and move on. Because otherwise, someone might mention that at least in 2004, Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam was reported to account "for some 70% of Muslims in [U.S.] prisons." And if there's one religious group that promotes tolerance and diversity and all those values you say we've thrown in the towel over, it's certainly Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.
Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place.
Until a day ago, I genuinely believed that Peter Beinart would have never written a column like this.
Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage.
Maybe, Peter, because this issue has nothing to do with gay marriage!
In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry.
Please, Peter, save it for someone who wasn't living in California during the Prop 8 backlash. Because from what I saw, even voting for Obama or paying to fly a grieving mother out to California to attend the funeral of her gay son doesn't spare you from the bigotry of the self-proclaimed anti-bigots of today's progressive Democrats.
I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee.
And then have faced even greater hostility to Mormons from good Democrats like Lawrence O'Donnell and all those progressive anti-bigots the Prop 8 campaign had fired up.
I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.
Which I guess will be when Mitt Romney tries to build a Mormon Temple overlooking the site of the Mountain Meadows massacre, which is what it will take for this whole "stream of Romney-ness" to make some kind of sense.
And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.
Because in Peter Beinart's New York, no Jew in living memory has ever had to worry about antisemitism, assassination, riots, or arson after days of protest led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. It's a wonderful place, Beinart's New York. Unfortunately, the parallel universe where it resides can only be reached through a malfunctioning Stargate.

Oh, wait a minute! I see what he did! Beinart limited this example to Lower Manhattan only! How smart of him! Please ignore any recent history that might have occurred in Harlem or Crown Heights.
Congratulations, Republicans, you’ve safeguarded ground zero against the insidious threat of religious liberty. I’ve always found going there a deeply moving experience, but for the time being, at least, I’ve lost my desire to go. Hallowed ground? After the unforgivable events of the last month, it’s become a little less hallowed for me.
Poor Peter. Decency has lost, America has disgraced itself, and he won't be the towelboy for our religious liberty any longer.

(H/T: Memeorandum)