The Ground Zero Mosque Tests Our National Character

August 30, 2010

The current debate over the proposed Park51 project, also known as Cordoba House, in the geographic and emotional shadows of the World Trade Center calls to mind the Kobayashi Maru test. Star Trek aficionados know this as the no-win scenario that measures the character of future Starfleet captains.

In the test, a starship receives a distress call from the Kobayashi Maru, a freighter on the brink of blowing up. Rescuing the crew requires entering the Neutral Zone and inviting Klingons into a fatal encounter for the starship or risking all-out war. Abandoning the crew saves the starship and prevents war, but allows the destruction of the freighter with all hands on board.

James Kirk was the only Starfleet cadet to pass the Kobayashi Maru, only because he hacked the computer program and changed the test parameters. Some called that cheating. He received a commendation for original thinking. Such is the world of science fiction.

The Ground Zero debate, whether over a mosque or an Islamic community center, is a real-world scenario that tests our national character by presenting no-win alternatives: support the project and dishonor those who died in the 9/11 attack or oppose it and ignore the Constitution and appear to harbor ill-will toward a religion and its billion and half adherents.

This debate has become an emotional orgy that distracts us from defining once and for all the events of 9/11. Until we, as a nation of diverse political ideologies and religious beliefs, put a true and lasting label on the attacks, we will continue to be ruled by emotions and we will surely miss the next attack because we failed to identify its source.

By defining the 9/11 attacks, we change the parameters of this no-win scenario by making it possible to arrive at an answer devoid of the emotions that paralyze even the most clear thinkers among us and send us down rabbit holes that emerge into a labyrinth containing traps disguised as good intentions.

Opponents of the project use the terms “sacred” and “hallowed ground” to describe Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. The use of these words, however, and others like them, implies the people who died, including Muslims, were innocent victims, martyrs in a holy war, a jihad. If so, then we must define that war and identify the people who wage it against our country.

Who among us, except kooky conspiracy theorists who believe George W. Bush played some weird role, does not believe the 9/11 hijackers acted on a perverse and narrow interpretation of their religion? The alternative is to define the attacks as acts of a political or economic war, even though everyone claiming credit or rising in support of the attacks says otherwise.

Also, we must determine the 9/11 attacks were not acts of terrorism. The FBI defines terrorist incidents as criminal actions designed to promote political or social objectives. The Oklahoma City bombing by fringe followers of white supremacy and abortion clinic bombings by criminals with a warped view of Christian dogma are terror incidents.

The 9/11 attacks were one-sided acts of jihad, not attacks upon capitalism. Need proof? When was the last time you heard a jihadist cry “Death to the dollar!”?

And that brings us to the reason why the Ground Zero project is a no-win scenario: our nation chose to let emotions and hubris rule our hearts instead of allowing logic and foresight to rule our brains, and understandably so. Evil men attacked our country and killed nearly 3,000 people, mostly civilians, including people from 70 other countries. In those first sad and confusing days we vowed as a nation to rebuild the towers as a mighty “up yours” to those who knocked them down.

That is where we went wrong. We fix it by changing the parameters. First, we define the 9/11 attacks as acts of jihad, thereby classifying the victims as martyrs and the site as hallowed ground. Next, we declare the site a national monument, joining the nine sites associated with the War in the Pacific (including Pearl Harbor), the Little Bighorn Battlefield, Fort McHenry, and other battle sites .

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president the authority, “in his discretion,” to declare the site a national monument provided the owners give the property to the federal government. For this to happen, the owners of the property would forgo economic gain to honor the war victims and the president would agree those who died deserve such commemoration by this nation.

If we, as a nation, place greater importance on making a buck than on setting aside hallowed ground as a memorial to victims in a holy war not of our making, then objections to the Ground Zero mosque seem hollow and petty and portray a national character unbefitting those who died.

Our nation has no beef with Islam. We have a large animosity toward those groups waging a religious war against us. By defining the 9/11 attacks as acts of war by jihadists, we provide the means and the moral authority to take all appropriate measures to protect our nation and our Constitution against these enemies, whether foreign or domestic.

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Copyright ©2010 John David Powell

John David Powell writes his Lone Star Award-winning columns from Shadey Hill Ranch in Texas. His email address is