Is there anyone who has not weighed in on the Saturday night, Sept. 11, bonfire of the Qurans at the Rev. Terry Jones' Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.?
Gen. David Petraeus warns the Quran burnings could inflame the Muslim world and imperil U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton declares it "disgraceful." Sarah Palin calls it a "provocation." President Obama calls it "a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaida. You could have serious violence in ... Pakistan and Afghanistan," and Muslims could be inspired "to blow themselves up."
The State Department has put U.S. embassies on alert in the near 50 countries where Muslims are a majority. The Vatican calls the bonfire "an outrageous and grave gesture. ... No one burns the Quran."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the defender of the ground zero mosque, is consistent. Burning Islam's most sacred book is "distasteful," he says, but the "First Amendment protects everybody."
Everybody frets and wrings their hands. No one acts.
Yet if, as President Obama and his commanding general both say, the torching of hundreds of Qurans could so enrage the Islamic world as to incite terror-bombings against U.S. troops and imperial our war effort, why does not the commander in chief send U.S. marshals to arrest this provocateur and abort his provocation?
For Jones, who sells t-shirts saying "Islam is of the Devil," may be an Islamophobe, but he is also a serious man, willing to live with the consequences of his deeds, even if he causes U.S. war casualties.
The questions raised by his deliberate provocation are not so much about him, then, as they are about us.
Are we a serious nation? Is Obama up to being a war president?
Constantly, we hear praise of Lincoln, Wilson and FDR as war leaders.
Yet President Lincoln arrested thousands of citizens and locked them up as security risks, while denying them habeas corpus. He shut newspapers and sent troops to block Maryland's elections, fearing Confederate sympathizers would win and take Maryland out of the Union.
President Wilson shut down antiwar newspapers, prosecuted editors, and put Socialist presidential candidate and war opponent Eugene Debs in prison, leaving him to rot until Warren Harding released him and invited the dangerous man over to the White House for dinner.
California Gov. Earl Warren and FDR collaborated to put 110,000 Japanese, 75,000 of them U.S. citizens, into detention camps for the duration of the war and ordered the Department of Justice to prosecute antiwar conservatives.