On May 13, the Washington Post published an online op-ed by former CIA director and CENTCOM commander David Petraeus, titled “Anti-Muslim bigotry aids Islamist terrorists.” The op-ed was noteworthy chiefly for Petraeus’ use of rhetorical clichés more commonly expected from the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s “Islamophobia Observatory,” including such standards as “inflammatory political discourse against Muslims and Islam,” “blanket discrimination on the basis of religion,” “those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims,” “those who demonize and denigrate Islam,” “who toy with anti-Muslim bigotry,” and the ever-reliable “demonizing a religious faith and its adherents.” Although the op-ed seemed to target Donald Trump, it also admonished all Americans to limit what we say about Islam.
Petraeus’s attack was so over-the-top, no expression critical of Islamic doctrine would escape his censorship. Have you criticized mainstream Islamic doctrine or the laws of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates? You’re demonizing a religious faith. Do you object to authoritative Islamic doctrines justifying jihad, proclaimed by both Islamic governments and non-state Islamic militants alike? Stop toying with anti-Muslim bigotry; you’re just aiding “Islamist terrorists.”
Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch expertly summarized Petraeus’s specious logic: “So the upshot of Petraeus’ argument is that we must not say things to which Muslims might object, because this will just make more of them become jihadis. His prescription for minimizing the jihad against the West is for the West to practice self-censorship in order to avoid offending Muslims.”
Sadly, Petraeus’s attacks primarily undercut the foremost critics of Islamic doctrine: Muslim reformers, the group of Muslims who most need our support. A prominent young Muslim reformer, Shireen Qudosi, responded to his op-ed with this poignant tweet: “Petraeus doesn’t see that for much of the maddening world of Muslims and liberals, hate speech is conflated w/ truth.”
But in the curious case of Petraeus’s op-ed, what was deleted prior to publication is more interesting than what the Post finally published. Sometime early in the morning on Friday the 13th, these six words were deleted from the short Petraeus bio (known to editors as the ID) accompanying the piece: “chairman of the KKR Global Institute.”
Here’s a screenshot from the indispensable Newsdiffs.org website:
Explaining the deletion, Washington Post Opinion Editor Michael Larabee said, “The ID including the KKR phrase was not the final edited ID for the piece. I had decided on the shorter ID during the editing process, but unfortunately the longer ID was still on the Web text when it was published overnight. It was updated when it came to my attention first thing that morning.” Larabee later emailed, “We didn’t do a correction because there was no factual error to correct – both ID’s were accurate — and I can’t get into the internal process of how it came to my attention.”
Kristi Huller of KKR’s media office unequivocally stated Petraeus had requested the change. “General Petraeus regularly…