While U.S. Commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus warned that a Florida pastor's plan to burn the Koran on September 11 "could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," Mayor Bloomberg says that Terry Jones has a right to do so, even if the plan is "distasteful." Bloomberg, whose eloquent defense of the proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site has been praised (and damned!), said today:
"In a strange way, I'm here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful. I don't think he would like it if somebody burnt a book that in his religion he think is holy. I think Gen. Petraeus pointed out that this perhaps puts our young men and women overseas and America itself in greater danger than it was already. But the First Amendment protects everybody, and you can't say that we're going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement. If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."
Jones told MyFoxOrlando, "We understand the general's concerns, we are taking those into consideration.. [But] We feel it’s maybe the right time for America to stand up. How long are we going to bow down? How long are we going to be controlled, by the terrorists, by radical Islam?"
Still, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, said on CNN's "The Situation Room," "We very much feel that this can jeopardize the safety of our men and women that are serving over here in the country... [The troops] are over here to defend the rights of American citizens, and we're not debating the First Amendment rights that people have... What I will tell you is that their very actions will in fact jeopardize the safety of the young men and women who are serving in uniform over here and also undermine the very mission that we're trying to accomplish."