Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The violence in Libya and Egypt

On the anniversary of 9/11 two embassies in the Middle East (Libya and Egypt) were attacked by mobs angered by a movie created in the US called the Innocence of Muslims (you can find trailers on You Tube - I have not provided a link because it as offensive as PissChrist was when Andres Serrano created what was described as art in the late 1980s.)   When Serrano produced his monstrosity there were calls for reducing federal funding (this was funded from a federal grant) but there were no acts of violence against either Serrano or the government.  One of the risks of a free society is that these kinds of nonsense are allowed to exist.   Smart people ignore them.

There are two issues here.   First, should we accept the irrational behavior of devout fanatics like the ones in Cairo and Benghazi?  In many Muslim countries Christians are routinely persecuted.   The response of Christians to that treatment is to pray for both the Christians in those lands and indeed for the people who are persecuting them.  In this instance the new President of Libya issued an immediate and strong condemnation of the mobs.  Ultimately, leaders in muslim nations need to begin to isolate the fanatics.   Part of the changes brought about by the Arab spring is the installation of new leaders, some of whom are likely to be much better than the autocrats that were thrown out.  So this is a delicate situation for the leaders of these nations.   But we, as Americans, needed to issue an immediate condemnation of the senseless killing of our embassy personnel.   At some point other measures may be necessary.

Ultimately, loons like the people who created this movie have the ability in a free society to be fools.  (If you look at the trailers of the movie - it is horrible in production values - however than is not the point).   All that being understood that should not give opponents the ability to rampage.   It is not clear whether the video clips were indeed a cause or simply a justification for the violence.

The second issue is how should the US react to the killing of four embassy personnel?  After the ambassador was killed in Bengazi the Embassy in Cairo issued the following statement:

"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

 From my perspective that was a mistake.  Governor Romney issued a statement which said in part -

I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course."

From my perspective that statement was appropriate.  Some of the so called fact checkers including Politi-Fact argued that Romney was not accurate in his criticism.  (A so-called Pants on Fire fact check)   But I am not sure how one can interpret the statement from the Embassy as anything less than an apology.

The President after some time, issued a statement condemning the role of the mobs and through his press spokesman tried to distance himself from the embassy statement.  The press spokesman said the statement was not a policy of the US Government - if not then what is the word of the embassy issued as a formal statement?  In any event the President looked a lot less than presidential when he soon found his way to Las Vegas for some campaigning.   This is an important issue that the President should have addressed strongly and quickly.

Ultimately, leaders of these countries need to identify the moderates who will be willing to reign in the nutters.  At the same time we need to respond indignantly to these acts of violence.   As Lawrence Wright's excellent book argued, when we do not respond strongly, it encourages the next act of violence.


Anonymous said...

I prefer to believe what rush limbaugh said... obama is secretly in love with these bad guys because of his muslim nature. Osama was a gift from al qaida to ensure that obama got elected again and thus continue the life of the al qaida mole, in foggy bottom.

Jonathan Brown said...

Interestingly from the time I wrote this post to a few hours later the Embassy had pulled the comment. So the link to the comment from the US Embassy in Egypt no longer works. I guess they thought it looked like an apology.

Please don't try to foist that nonsense about it originally being posted by a junior attache. Nothing goes on that site without some careful review. But I guess if you pull a posting on the web - the DOS thinks it did not happen.

Jonathan Brown said...

Not sure whether you are offering the comment tongue in cheek. From my perspective Osama was a part of a much larger set of issues that continue (see The Looming Tower - which to date is the best short treatment of muslim extremism that I have seen). There are some that believe Obama is driven by neocolonialism and that has caused him to miss developments in Egypt and elsewhere. What bothers me the most about this is the seeming inattention to security that the Administration seemed to practice. This tragedy happened on 9/11 - it is not hard to think that it might have been better for the Administration to go on heightened alert for a couple of days around this anniversary - but there is plenty of evidence that they did not think of that.