Alas. Contentions, the blog of Commentary magazine, has a problem with this week's column. Abe Greenwald writes:
Over on her blog, Diana West gets a little hysterical about the fallout over the U.S. military sniper who shot up a Qur’an in Bagdhad.
Nice, ad hominem opener.
She objects to the reprimand the soldier received and the general air of apology from the U.S.
Which included, just to refresh, a deferential public apology from Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond during which another US officer presented the assembled locals (likely insurgents, not long ago) with a brand new Koran after kissing it. Abe then quotes briefly from my column:
"Let’s play around some more with the story. Imagine if, during the Allied occupation of post-Nazi Germany, a GI had been discovered using “Mein Kampf” for target practice. Would Gen. George S. Patton have kissed a new copy of the Nazi bible as he presented it to a cadre of former Nazis?"
And then he writes:
That won’t do, Diana.
What won't "do," Abe--comparing Gen. Patton and "Mein Kampf" with Gen. Hammond and the Koran? Why not? I assure you, I am hardly a trailblazer in noticing either similarities between the two books, or their places in different theatres of war. Indeed, Raymond Ibrahim, editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, recently drew my attention to an instructive comparison of the two books he put together last fall. The late Oriana Falacci, of course, is famous--infamous?--for having called the Koran the "Mein Kampf" of the jihadist movement. And well worth noting, as Andrew Bostom, author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, discovered, is that Winston Churchill, in the first volume of his history of the Second World War, dubbed Hitler's treatise "the new Koran of faith and war; turgid, verbose, but pregnant with its message."
But comparing "Mein Kampf" and the Koran wasn't actually my primary focus. The main point of my column, which I'm sorry Abe omitted, was to compare the contempt Americans once freely displayed for an ideology of antisemitism, Nazi supremacism and totalitariian conquest (as contained in "Mein Kamp") with the deference Americans now reflexively show for an ideology of antisemitism (and general anti-infidelism), Islamic supremacism and totalitarian conquest (as contained in the Koran). The quoted paragraph in full reads:
Let’s play around some more with the story. Imagine if, during the Allied occupation of post-Nazi Germany, a GI had been discovered using “Mein Kampf” for target practice. Would Gen. George S. Patton have kissed a new copy of the Nazi bible as he presented it to a cadre of former Nazis?" In the words of Ol' Blood and Guts -- oh, wait; this is a family newspaper. Let's just put it this way: Not likely. Difference is, of course, the anti-Semitism and imperialistic supremacism contained within "Mein Kampf" were recognized and treated as an existential threat to the rest of the Western world. In the so-called war on terror, however, our primary strategy is directed at masking or ignoring the overall anti-infidelism and imperialistic supremacism contained within the Koran.
I'm not sure whether Abe disputes my argument, but he certainly thinks it shouldn't be made. Here's why he says "that won't do":
While the Qur’an is sacred to our enemies in Iraq, it is also sacred to our allies in that country. Moreover, it is sacred to the millions of Muslims who are citizens of the United States, to say nothing of the thousands who serve in uniform.
Notice that this fact is given as a rationale for silence, not as a cause for concern. And consider also that this fact is never, ever contemplated in what passes for public debate over the, shall we say, impasse the Bush administration has reached on spreading Western-style liberty via ballot box throughout the Islamic world. In Contentions-land, "enemies" and "allies" alike being inspired by the Koranic message doesn't call into question the nature or potential of the "allies"; it inspires a veritable vow of silence about the nature or potential of the message. Abe continues:
True, teasing out Muslim extremists from the larger Muslim population is not always easy. True, the task is made harder still by the near silence of Muslim moderates.
But this is a difficulty that demands thoughtful analysis, not crude characterization.
No mention of what to do when that which is being characterized is crude. After all, antisemitism, totalitarianism, and supremacism invariably are. Which is why Gusto Nash, a movie character mentioned at the top of the original column, tossed "Mein Kampf" out the window in the first place. No doubt Contentions would find her "a little bit hysterical," too.