IraqNuclear Program

Fringe Pastor Has Change of Heart About Burning Koran

The Fox News, September 09, 2010

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Foreign Affairs Analyst and Iran Expert

Special Report With: Bret Baier
Jonah Goldberg, A.B. Stoddard, Charles Krauthammer

This is a rush transcript from “Special Report With Bret Baier,” September 9, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda. You know, you could have serious violence in places like Pakistan or Afghanistan.
REV. TERRY JONES, DOVE WORLD OUTREACH CENTER: The American people do not want the mosque there, and of course, Muslims do not want us to burn the Koran. The imam has agreed to move the mosque, we have agreed to cancel our event on Saturday. And on Saturday I will be flying up there to meet with him.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Pastor Terry Jones announcing that they will not have a Koran burning this Saturday to mark the 9/11 anniversary. Defense Secretary Robert Gates actually called the pastor of this church of 50 congregates this afternoon urging him not to do it because men and women in uniform would be at risk.

And then he came out and said he wouldn’t do it, but also said the mosque in New York is going to be moved, something that the supporters up there say is not going to happen, at least not yet.

The first reaction we had was former governor Sarah Palin, Fox News contributor, tweeted just a moment ago, “book burner stands down — good. Now followers of book who want to kill innocents because some people do things you don’t agree with, stand down.” Only reaction so far.
Let’s bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor of The National Review online, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Jonah, what’s your take on Reverend Jones’ announcement?

JONAH GOLDBERG, THE NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think it’s becoming ever more clear that Reverend Jones is a couple fries short of a happy meal. But you have to admit, it’s good news that he’s not doing this. Everybody condemns it, everyone should condemn it. Nobody should be burning Korans anywhere.

But I’m feeling an odd sort of outrage at the way this debate has turned out and a lot of sympathy for an unlikely person, Ari Fleischer. Remember the incredible debate we had when Ari Fleischer said shortly after 9/11 that we should watch what we say in this country when a congressman said something bigoted and Bill Morris said something stupid?
Frank Rich said that was a more significant event than 9/11 itself. It would set this chilling effect, we were told. The terrorists have won because we’re clamping down on free speech.
And now we are we’ve got the secretary of defense calling a minister telling him not to do this. We have the White House saying in effect that you know, if we let this guy do it, the terrorists will win and kill more people. Those kinds of arguments with considered absolutely beyond the pale when it came to free speech issues for 8 years under Bush, but now suddenly it’s a perfectly fine argument to make.

It was a perfectly fine argument then too, but now all of a sudden it’s now all right to make it.

BAIER: A.B., the administration argues if it saves one life it’s worth the phone call. They say things were heating up overseas just by the talk of this burning. That said, this phone call, you know, to one pastor with 50 congregants, who’s to say if there aren’t ten other pastor with 100 other congregates who are going to get the same idea?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: It really doesn’t matter how much parishioners they have. If they get an idea like this and it’s going to makes news around the world and be the subject of large in some cases violent protests in Afghanistan, Indonesia, and other places, and merit a warning like we heard from General Petraeus that this puts our men and women in uniform in danger in those places.

I think the fact that the administration inserted itself into this was absolutely necessary, and I don’t understand anyone criticizing them for doing so. These people are going to get a microphone and get themselves on cable no matter what. And if this indeed becomes a danger and a threat, I don’t see why the State Department and the Department of Defense and the president of the United States, when asked about it, cannot share their displeasure as Sarah Palin or anybody else.

BAIER: OK, just an ABC talked to the imam in New York with the proposed mosque, he says that he’s glad the Pastor Jones, this is Imam Rauf, he’s glad that pastor Jones decided not to burn any Korans.

However, I have not spoken with him. I’m surprised by their announcement. We’re not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. They are saying there’s no deal to move the proposed mosque in New York near ground zero. What about that whole thing?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, now we know that Jones was right. The man is a kook and a crank and, obviously, delusional. He needs counseling, and not the spiritual sort, I say this as a medical authority on these conditions, and I think he’s gotten infinitely more attention than he deserves.

I think the real outrage was the interview that Imam Rauf gave earlier this week in which he said that —

BAIER: Last night.

KRAUTHAMMER: Last night — I think you’ve got some tape of it, I could say to myself. He said if we don’t do this right — that means not handling the mosque issue, meaning if you force me to move it — anger will explode in the Muslim world and Americans could be hurt.
Now, either the man is excessively naive or that is an act of blackmail, out and outright blackmail. He’s saying, unless I get my way on this issue, there are Muslims out there, I’m the moderate and they’re of course extreme, but they will act in the name of me and of my religion and we’ll attack Americans.

Now, I don’t think that’s the way to argue about this issue. There have been a lot of arguments on the mosque. I’ve been in a lot of them. It’s about freedom of expression, it’s about rights, it’s about decency and sanctity. It’s not about the fear of attacks on us if America acts the wrong way. That’s not the way it ought to be done, and I think it’s disgraceful that he plays that card in this debate.

And if you want to believe he’s naive, he said himself as well that had he imagined any of this would happen, he would not have had the idea of the mosque in the first place. Well, now that he knows, he ought to stop threatening that Muslims around the world are going to attack Americans unless he gets his way.

BAIER: Jonah, he also said that the anger could be much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies, obviously, in various parts of the Muslim world.
GOLDBERG: I agree with Charles entirely that that aspect was outrageous, but I think he compounds the outrageousness of it, because also in the interview he says what I’m trying to do is take back the debate from the extremists on both sides.

And in his formulation of it, he essentially says that the peaceful democratic protesters who have already conceded that they have a right to build the mosque are the same, are the moral equivalent of the extremists who are going to kill people in all these Muslim countries around the world.

It is an absolute category error. It’s a more than apples and oranges, it’s a repugnant way of framing things, to somehow say that the democratic opponents of this thing in the United States can be equated with the violent Muslim extremists around the world.
And these kinds of debates are never going to end as long as we have YouTube, this is going to be coming around, and we might as well figure how to deal with these things.
BAIER: A.B., quickly, Donald Trump saying he wants to offer more money to try to get this thing to move. Everybody is getting in this thing.

STODDARD: This isn’t — it’s just, you know, I can’t stand this story. It’s not going to end well. I think both sides are a little bit right and a little bit wrong. And so, it’s like I said, it’s not going to end well.

I do think if you look at this Koran burning story combined with the mosque debate, and you look at what we’re doing overseas, what we’re doing in Afghanistan, tripling down there in the ninth year of a war, trying to stabilize a Muslim country, we’re trying to win their hearts and minds. And what they see over here undermines our sacrifices there, and that’s how I feel about both incidents.

BAIER: OK, up next, Iran’s previously secret uranium enrichment facility and the promised release of an American prisoner. Check out our website as well.

ALIREZA JAFARZADEH, “THE IRAN THREAT” AUTHOR: There’s this huge underground site built under the tunnels, huge casket halls underground, Tehran secret uranium enrichment program, certainly not for peaceful purposes. This is a serious revelation far greater than the revelation in the site at Qum near Tehran.
GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: I don’t know how valid they are. I don’t know that it would necessarily be surprising that there are. We’ve long talked there being multiple sites that are of concern to us.

BAIER: And this is the site, satellite photos of a site about 80 miles west of Tehran. Running Exiles, a group revealed in 2002, the Natans facility the uranium enrichment facility that really caught U.S. intelligence off guard back then pointing to these pictures today of a complex series of tunnels built in the side of a mountain where they say the military in Iran has moved forward with a nuclear facility underground and very protected.

What about all of this, Iran policy and where we are today? We’re back with the panel. Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: I find remarkable the reaction of the State Department spokesman which we just saw in which he says, well–

BAIER: Defense Department.

KRAUTHAMMER: I’m sorry, Defense Department. “We’re not surprised. It’s another site of concern.” This is unbelievable how the placidity of the language being used here. This is another piece of undeniable evidence that Iran is pursuing a bomb, and we persist in all of our statements about speaking about the ambiguity, is Iran living up to its obligations, is it honoring the IAEA requirements? Of course it’s not. Every sentient adult in the world knows that.

And we pretend that it’s all a matter of speculation and ambiguity. The reason that we are doing that and denying the importance of this huge underground site, which could be extremely useful in developing a bomb, is because it would make the administration have to face reality, i.e., either go for huge, very strong sanctions, probably unilateral, we’re not going to get the Russians and the Chinese in on this, but American and western, or seriously at least threatening or talking about a military attack.

And if you want to be multi-lateral about this, bringing in the French — the president of France has spoken about how unacceptable a bomb is – or the UAE — the ambassador has said it’s unacceptably worse Iran having a bomb than attack on Iran, and have a meeting of high level Americans, French, UAE and others who would say this is unacceptable and at least a military option ought to be considered.

That is what we at least ought to be thinking about and stop speaking in these very, very soft and absurd terms about the Iranian program.

BAIER: At the same time, the Iranian regime today announced it will release one of the three American hikers charged with espionage there. Sarah Shourd is supposed to be released early hours on Saturday. There you see her September 11th, which is also the Muslim holiday Eid.
That aside, A.B., the Iran policy decisions that Charles is talking about, what about the administration, what lies ahead?

STODDARD: Well, obviously, the question of a military strike and that coming from Israel looms at this — looming soon. The administration, when the latest IAEA report came out basically saying that Iran continues it’s complete blockade of the inspectors and will not divulge information with regard to any of the processes by they are creating a nuclear weapon, the administration said that they continues — the United States implying unprecedented and growing international pressure as long as Iran continues on its path, its leaders will deepen its isolation.

The question now is, what is isolation to Iran? Just because the Chinese may not be selling as much refined gasoline to them as before, they are still continuing well on the way. The report about this facility shows it’s not only well protected in terms of placement in the mountain side to fortify itself against aerial strike, but it’s well-funded, and the secrets are being kept.

And then you look at the fact that they have infiltrated the Afghan government in order to pay off the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers there. They’re doing well with all of their goals. So, what does isolation mean?

BAIER: Quickly.

GOLDBERG: I think there is an other-worldly aspect to all of this. The country is war weary. Obama has no interest in doing anything with any steel to it. And we have a report this week, as A.B. just mentioned from the Times of London saying that the Iranians are paying the Taliban bounties of $1,000 a head for American bodies. That should alarm people and give us a sense of the nature of the regime.