The International Security Assistance Force commander released comments today by David Petraeus, speaking in his capacity as a U.S. General and head of ISAF in Afghanistan. Asked a question about the plans of a church in Florida to burn a Quran in a few days, Petraeus responded with the following:
It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”
“I am very concerned by the potential repercussions of the possible Koran burning. Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday. Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult.”
“Images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence. Such images could, in fact, be used as were the photos from Abu Gharyb. And this would, again, put our troopers and civilian in jeopardy and undermine our efforts to accomplish the critical mission here in Afghanistan.”
Petraeus’ remark, made on the job in his position as a General, certainly sends a message. Here’s the message I get: apparently, an American military leader thinks it’s his job to tell Americans what they should and shouldn’t say.
I don’t have quite as loud a megaphone as David Petraeus, but I have a message for him nonetheless:
You weren’t speaking as a private citizen. You were speaking as a General. It’s not the job of the military to regulate Americans’ speech. Butt out.