Factchecking the NYT Ground Zero Mosque Editorial

In a recent editorial the New York Times found it “appalling” that, according to a poll it had commissioned, over two-thirds of New Yorkers were no better than all the bigoted and benighted Americans living in the hinterlands west of the Hudson in their lack of immunity “to suspicion and to a sadly wary misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans.”

One example that shocked and saddened the Times is that when respondents were asked “whether they thought Muslim-Americans were ‘more sympathetic to terrorists’ than other citizens, 33% said yes, a discouraging figure.”

I must say that I find that 33% figure surprising. I thought it would have been higher, since by now many New Yorkers are aware of the comments of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He refuses to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization (nor can other “moderate” imams). He thinks that U.S. policies were an “accessory” to 9/11, “that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims,” and that (from a letter he wrote to the New York Times in 1977) “Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.”

These comments, and others like them, do not prove that the imam supports terrorism, but if they reflect what “moderate” American Muslims believe, it does not seem unreasonable for 33% of New Yorkers -- or even many more -- to believe that Muslims are more “sympathetic” to terrorists than other citizens. Especially since many Muslims believe no infidels are “innocent” and hence killing them is not terrorism.

The Times editorial was effectively eviscerated by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal for its “muddled thinking and self-righteous attitudinizing” (“Times to City: Drop Dead”), but I would like to call attention to a particularly tendentious historical analogy that is mind-boggling in its obliviousness to history and even to the Times’s own historical posture. The Times editorial pontificates:

The country often has had the wisdom to choose graciousness and reconciliation over triumphalism, as is plain from the many monuments to Confederate soldiers in northern states, including the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Confederate monuments in northern states? Really? Where?

Except for the monuments at Gettysburg, I’m not sure there are any Confederate monuments in northern states, aside from one or two in the border states of Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri, and Wikipedia apparently doesn’t know of any either. I shall turn below to the Times’ transparently insincere (and as far as I can tell, unique in its modern history) embrace of “graciousness and reconciliation” toward former Confederates, but first it is worth pausing to consider its argument that the proposed Ground Zero mosque should be welcomed in the same spirit as the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg.

The editors of the Times are obviously unaware of the history of placing Confederate monuments at Gettysburg. The first monument to any Confederates did not appear there until 21 years after the battle (honoring the 1st Maryland Battalion), “after a great deal of resistance from the battlefield commission authorities,” and “[i]t took years for the next to follow,” in large part because “the battlefield commission was controlled by Union veterans whose rules discouraged the meaningful placement of Confederate monuments.” With that first monument (and subsequently) there were fierce debates over placement. As Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, a monumental (pardon the pun) study, observed:

The Confederate veterans wanted to place it where they had penetrated Union lines on Culp’s Hill on the second day of the battle, but the GBMA objected, claiming that the “erection of an ex-Confederate monument within the Union lines [would set] an important precedent.”

It was placed elsewhere. Sound familiar?