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                                                                                                                                      Gene Packwood




 Tuesday, August 17, 2010                                                                    The Daily Commercial                                                                                              A13

             OUR VOICE

Mosque                                                                                                                                                                                                Dale
                                                                                                                                                                                                      McFeatters
                                                                                                                                                                                                      SHNS

controversy                                                                                                                                                                              Gates says
needlessly                                                                                                                                                                               he’s leaving
divisive                                                                                                                                                                                 Pentagon
                                                                                                                                                                                         I
                                                                                                                                                                                             f Plato was right that the
                                                                                                                                                                                             people best equipped to

P
      erhaps because it's August, when off-
      beat controversies grab the public                                                                                                                                                     handle power are those
      imagination, but the issue of the pro-                                                                                                                                             who don't seek it, Robert
posed Muslim community center in Lower                                                                                                                                                   Gates is the platonic ideal of
Manhattan has become needlessly divisive.                                                                                                                                                a secretary of defense.
   The critics — and polls show these                                                                                                                                                       After a career in the CIA
include a majority of Americans — believe                                                                                                                                                and retiring as its director
that building a "mosque" only two blocks                                                                                                                                                 with the coming of the
from the site of the World Trade Center is a                                                                                                                                             Clinton administration,
                                                                                                                                                                                         Gates became a dean at
needless affront to those who lost loved
                                                                                                                                                                                         Texas A&M University and
ones in the 9/11 attack by radical Muslim
                                                                                                                                                                                         ultimately its president, a
terrorists.                                                                                                                                                                              job that by all accounts he
   But it's important to remember in the                                                                                                                                                 enjoyed immensely. He
heat of the moment the distinction
President George W. Bush made at the time                                                              OT H E R V O I C E S                                                              turned down offers to return
                                                                                                                                                                                         to Washington in senior
between the religion of Islam as a whole,                                                                                                                                                administration posts under


                                                              Obama stumbles on
with its many American adherents, and the                                                                                                                                                President George W. Bush —
zealots of al-Qaeda who really do mean us                                                                                                                                                as the first secretary of the
harm.                                                                                                                                                                                    Department of Homeland
   Cordoba House, the building that the                                                                                                                                                  Security and as the first
New York Muslim community plans, is not                                                                                                                                                  director of national intelli-


                                                              Ground Zero mosque
a mosque in the purest sense but a 13-story                                                                                                                                              gence.
community and cultural center with the                                                                                                                                                      Bush kept pressing, how-
space devoted to actual religious worship                                                                                                                                                ever, and after Donald
only a part of the premises.                                                                                                                                                             Rumsfeld was fired as
   And it is also instructive that Muslim                                                                                                                                                defense secretary in 2006,
Friday prayers have been held for some time                                                                                                     name of Islam. So a day after shak-      Gates agreed to take his

                                                              T
                                                                     he old axiom "don't sweat
now at the building the center will replace                          the small stuff" isn't always                                              ing up the landscape and provid-         place. It says something
with little discernible reaction.                                    the best advice, particularly                                              ing Republicans with another club        about the regard in which
   The issue seemed to be all over except for                 when applied to politics. It often                                                with which to beat him about the         he was held — and the
the demagoguery when city authorities                         is the little things that get one                     Dan K.                      head and shoulders, Obama met            urgency in replacing the
unanimously removed the last hurdle to the                    into big trouble as President                         Thomasson                   reporters in Panama City, Fla.,          tempestuous Rumsfeld —
center's construction and New York Mayor                      Barack Obama is finding out.                                                      where he had gone to do penance          that barely five weeks
Michael Bloomberg unequivocally endorsed                         For instance, after urging                         SHNS                        over the Gulf flap and denied he         elapsed between his nomi-
the project as a critical test of America's                   Americans planning summer                                                         had meant to endorse the mosque          nation and his swearing-in.
commitment to the constitutional principle                                                            away from the site of the worst           site.                                    The Senate approved him
                                                              escapes to head for the beaches of
of freedom of religion.                                                                               foreign attack on American soil              "I was not commenting and I           95-2.
                                                              the Gulf in support of those belea-
   President Obama had been careful not to                                                            since Pearl Harbor. The presiden-         will not comment on the wisdom              Gates' calm, unflappable
                                                              guered by the nation's worst oil
get in the middle of what the White House                     spill, the Obamas spent their days      tial intervention was even more           of making the decision to put a          demeanor concealed a
regarded as largely a local matter. But at a                  off elsewhere. Mrs. Obama even          jarring because he had earlier stat-      mosque there," he was quoted in          tough, experienced bureau-
White House dinner marking the beginning                      went to Spain, setting off a minor      ed the issue was a local matter and       the national press. "I was com-          crat in the best sense of the
of Ramadan, Obama said that Muslims have                      public relations furor, raising seri-   should not be influenced by him.          menting very specifically on the         word. He had no hesitation
"the same right to practice their religion as                 ous questions about the political       New York Mayor Michael                    right people have that dates back        about firing or forcing into
                                                              sagacity of White House advisers        Bloomberg had already said he             to our founding." Well, you could        retirement senior officers he
anyone else in this country" and that they
                                                              and ultimately forcing the royal        would do nothing to try to pre-           have fooled those Muslims in             felt weren't measuring up.
had every right to build a place of worship
                                                              couple to briefly spend a day dip-      vent the mosque from being locat-         attendance at the earlier White          He took on costly weapons
on private property as long as it meets local                                                                                                                                            programs cherished by the
                                                              ping their toes in those troubled       ed on that site.                          House ceremony that cheered his
laws.                                                                                                                                                                                    brass and defense contrac-
                                                              waters.                                    Bloomberg, however, is probably        words as bestowing the presiden-
   That was all the Republicans — who seem                                                                                                                                               tors, like the F-22 and the
                                                                 But that gaffe pales in compari-     serving his last term in office           tial seal of approval.
to be intent on offending as many minority                                                                                                                                               Army's Future Combat
                                                              son to the president's decision to      while the president obviously                Whether or not this "clarifica-
groups as possible — needed to denounce                                                                                                                                                  System.
                                                              needlessly step into the middle of      plans to seek renewal of his White        tion" of his position will do the
Obama as insensitive and out of touch with                                                                                                                                                  And he presided over two
                                                              the controversy over Muslim plans       House lease for another four years        trick is anyone's guess. But history
the American people, which you could                                                                                                                                                     surges — one in Iraq that
                                                              to build a mosque as part of a cul-     beginning in 2012 and also faces          shows that memories are long
argue, and, in New Gingrich's words, as                                                               the prospect of having to finish                                                   has allowed us to exit this
"pandering to Islamic terrorism," which is                    tural center in Manhattan near the                                                when it comes to these emotional
                                                              site of Ground Zero where 2,752         this term in the uncomfortable            matters and that like several other      month; and another ongo-
beyond ridiculous.                                                                                    position of facing a much stronger                                                 ing in Afghanistan, presided
   Obama only made matters worse when he                      lives ended because of Islamic reli-                                              small instances of late the presi-
                                                              gious fanaticism. In a White            Republican minority if not a              dent has given his opponents             over by Gen. David Petraeus,
tried to retrospectively nuance his remarks                                                           majority after November's elec-                                                    whom Gates persuaded to
in the face of the criticism. He was not                      House celebration of Ramadan,                                                     opportunity to reinforce their
                                                                                                      tions.                                    accusations that he is sometimes         take a technical demotion to
endorsing or even commenting on the "wis-                     the president told American
                                                                                                         In the considerable fallout over       insensitive to the feelings of aver-     take the Afghan job.
dom" of the decision to build the mosque                      Muslim leaders that in this nation
                                                                                                      the mosque, it must suddenly              age Americans.                              Gates had planned to
                                                              of unparalleled religious freedom,
but only broadly on Muslims' right to do so.                                                          have occurred to the White House                                                   leave his Pentagon post at
                                                              they had a constitutional right to                                                   Was he correct in his first state-
   On Monday that had been further refined                                                            political team, albeit a trifle too                                                the end of 2008, but incom-
                                                              build the mosque on private prop-                                                 ment? Absolutely! This country,
to Obama speaking out because he "had an                                                              late, that polls have been showing                                                 ing President Barack Obama
                                                              erty anywhere they chose.                                                         after a shaky start in that regard,
obligation as president" to do so.                                                                    nearly 70 percent of Americans are                                                 persuaded him to stay, a rare
                                                                 While correctly and righteously                                                was founded on religious respect
   Generally, August outbursts dissipate in                                                           on the other side in this issue,                                                   instance of a Cabinet secre-
                                                              extolling the principles of our free-                                             and freedom. But there are times
the cooler air of September but this one bids                                                                                                                                            tary staying on for a presi-
                                                              dom as set forth in the First           that they consider it an affront to       good sense and taste dictate that
to be with us through the election. But per-                                                                                                                                             dent of another party.
                                                              Amendment, he seemed clearly to         the innocents who died there at           just because the right is there
haps after 2013, when the replacement One                                                                                                                                                   Gates announced his
                                                              be endorsing the idea of placing        the hands of religious radicals who       doesn't mean exercising it is
World Trade Center is dedicated and the                                                                                                                                                  intention to leave in
                                                              the worship center a stone's throw      justified it, correctly or not, in the    always the right thing to do.            Obama's first term, and this
memorial complete, people will look back at
the Cordoba controversy and wonder what                                                                                                                                                  week, in an interview with
                                                                                                                                                                                         Foreign Policy magazine, he
all the fuss was about.
                                                                                                           OUR VOICE                                                                     said that would be sometime
                                                                                                                                                                                         in 2011, when we've com-

                                                              Iran readies mass graves for U.S. troops                                                                                   pleted the surge in
                                                                                                                                                                                         Afghanistan, the U.S. will
                                                                                                                                                                                         know whether its strategy is
       The newspaper of choice for Lake                          While Iran's judicial system was     Staff, said that the U.S. has a con-      again for U.S. soldiers, and this is     working and a scheduled
       and Sumter counties since 1875                         weighing whether to execute a           tingency plan for a military strike       the reason for digging this big          assessment of the war will
                                                              mother of two by stoning or             on Iran — not exactly a news              number of graves."                       have been completed. "And
Letters                                                       hanging based on a coerced con-         flash; the Pentagon has contin-             In the event of a U.S. attack,         it seems like somewhere
Letters are limited to 350 words on a single issue of         fession, Tehran made another            gency plans for everything — but          Iran says it will strike U.S. bases in   there in 2011 is a logical
public concern. They must be original, signed with            loopy decision. In a fit of crazed      that he thought an attack would           the region and Israel and close the      opportunity to hand off," he
the full name of the writer. Letters should be type-          military hubris, the Republican         be a bad idea.                                                                     said.
                                                                                                                                                Persian Gulf to shipping, precipi-
written and include the writer’s address and tele-            Guard dug mass graves in the               A Gen. Hossein Kan'ani                                                             Gates, 66, did not want to
                                                              desert to bury U.S. soldiers in the     Moghadam, identified as deputy            tating a global oil crisis. And the      wait until 2012 because of
phone number for verification. Letters will be edited
for length, grammar and clarity.                              event of a U.S. invasion.               commander of the Republican               mass-graves stunt seems like the         the difficulty in finding a
                                                                 The existence of the graves and      Guard during the Iran-Iraq war in         Iranians are trying to taunt us          replacement in an election
No open letters, form letters or copies of letters to
third parties will be published. Writers are limited to       video of a long line of holes           the 1980s, told the Associated            into an attack. But if Iran wants to     year. Let's hope the replace-
two letters per month.                                        scooped out of the desert came to       Press: "The mass graves that used         be invaded, it will have to take a       ment is as capable as Gates.
              Letters may be e-mailed to:                     light after Adm. Mike Mullen,           to be for burying Saddam's sol-           number because we rather have            We respect his desire to
                                                              chairman of the Joint Chiefs of         diers have now been prepared              our hands full at the moment.            retire, but wish he wouldn't.
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