“There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.” — George Washington, Fifth Annual Message — 1793.
Reports are beginning to pour in about the attacks of the U.S. Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya. Fox News reports that the U.S. Ambassador to Libya along with three other State Department officials were killed in a rocket attack on our embassy in Benghazi. This follows on the heels of the storming of our embassy in Cairo and the tearing down of the American Flag and replacing it with an Islamic flag while the assembled mob was shouting “we are all bin Laden.”:
“The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American staff members were killed Tuesday in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, the White House confirmed. President Obama, in a written statement issued Wednesday morning, called the attack "outrageous" and "senseless."
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters, angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad, were firing gunshots and rocket-propelled grenades.
"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens," President Obama said in a statement Wednesday morning. "Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."
Obama said he's directed the administration to provide "all necessary resources" to support security for U.S. personnel in Libya and to increase security at diplomatic offices around the world.
"While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants," he said.
Hours before the Benghazi attack, hundreds of mainly ultraconservative Islamist protesters in Egypt marched to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Cairo, gathering outside its walls and chanting against the movie and the U.S. Most of the embassy staff had left the compound earlier because of warnings of the upcoming demonstration.
Dozens of protesters then scaled the embassy walls, and several went into the courtyard and took down the American flag from a pole.
They brought it back to the crowd outside, which tried to burn it, but failing that tore it apart. The protesters on the wall then raised on the flagpole a black flag with a Muslim declaration of faith, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet." The flag, similar to the banner used by Al Qaeda, is commonly used by ultraconservatives around the region.”
A similar report by Reuters states:
“Gunmen had attacked and set fire to the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of last year's uprising against Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule, late on Tuesday evening as another assault was mounted on the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
The California-born ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was trying to leave the consulate building for a safer location as part of an evacuation when gunmen launched an intense attack, apparently forcing security personnel to withdraw.
"The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets in their direction," a Libyan official in Benghazi told Reuters. Airport sources said the bodies were due to be flown from Benghazi to Tripoli.
The attack was believed to have been carried out by Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda-style Sunni Islamist group that has been active in Benghazi, a Libyan security official said. Witnesses said the mob also included tribesmen, militia and other gunmen.
The attack raised questions about the future U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya, relations between Washington and Tripoli, the unstable security situation in post-Gaddafi Libya and whether more protests might take place in the Muslim world.
The film portrayed Mohammad as a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake. In one clip posted on YouTube, Mohammad was shown in an apparent sexual act with a woman. For many Muslims it is blasphemous even to show a depiction of the Prophet.”
It is still too early to comment on all of the details as the fog of war is still covering the reporting of these two incidents, but a few things are becoming very clear to those who follow events in the Muslim world.
[A breaking report from Reuters states that Ambassador Stevens was smothered to death while his three passengers were killed by gunshot]
These attacks have occurred over a trailer to a film written and directed by Sam Bacile, who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew and says he believes his video will help his native land by exposing Islam's flaws to the world. Excerpts dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube. Fox News reports:
“A filmmaker has gone into hiding after his movie attacking Islam's prophet Muhammad sparked assaults on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya, where an American diplomat was killed.
Writer and director Sam Bacile spoke on the phone Tuesday from an unidentified location. He remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and he wanted his film to make a political statement.
The 56-year-old identifies himself as an Israeli Jew and says he believes his video will help his native land by exposing Islam's flaws to the world. Excerpts dubbed into Arabic were posted on YouTube.
Among other claims that have caused outrage, the film claims Muhammad was a philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse.
Bacile says he's sorry for the person who died, but lax embassy security is to blame.”
This is the most serious and egregious attacks on our Embassies since the 1998 bombing U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania leaving 258 people dead and more than 5,000 injured. And this happened on September 11th, the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
So what has the State Department done — according to CNS News they issued an apology for the abuse of free speech in the United States and those who hurt the religious feelings of Muslims which was posted on their web site. The official response from the embassy stated:
“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.”
The money word there, of course, is “abuse.” If speech is illegitimate because it offends religious sensibilities, then we’re on the doorstep of yelling “blasphemy.” In practical effect, that’s what the embassy is pushing: There’s not a syllable wasted here on condemning the cretins who climbed the embassy walls and tore down the flag — on 9/11. The denunciation is reserved for the blasphemers, who in this case turn out to be Egyptian expats who made an amateur film about Mohammed that’s presumably being used by Islamist demagogues over there to whip up the crowd. Every now and then, the Organization of the Islamic Conference pushes a blasphemy resolution at the UN designed to carve out international exceptions to free speech laws for insults to religion, i.e. Islam. The statement from the embassy is precisely the mentality they’re trying to cultivate. All that’s missing is a call for criminal penalties, but that’s less important to the anti-blasphemy bloc than western officials groveling to their sensibilities. Mission accomplished.
[The White House is repudiating a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo that apologized for individuals who “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” The apology came after rioting Islamists in Egypt on Tuesday took down the American flag at the embassy and tore it apart after trying to burn it because they were upset about an anti-Muslim film being produced in America.
“The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government,” a senior Obama administration official told Politico.]
Some photos from the Cairo and Benghazi attacks, Source AP. Note the Occupy Wall Street Guy Fawkes masks on the protesters.
This photo of Ambassador Stevens being dragged and eventual killed was posted on an Arab Facebook site.
Here we have the State Department apologizing for an amateur film they did not create. This could be 1979 all over again when the Islamic radicals took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
On February 4, 2011 I posted a blog outlining the dangers of Egypt becoming an Islamic State. In several follow up blogs I explored the dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood and the influence they would have not only in Egypt, but the entire region. You can access those blogs at the following links. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
By all international norms these attacks constitute an act of war against the United States of America. Bruce Herschensohn, a foreign policy adviser to President Richard Nixon, says the attacks on U.S. property in Egypt and Libya are acts of war:
"These are all acts of war. A U.S. embassy should be as safe as your living room. If you're overseas and you go to an embassy of a foreign country, you are in that foreign country. And by all international law, those are acts of war."
Herschensohn also had some advice for President Obama: "For God's sake, stay home and be commander in chief," he said.
It’s too early to address the domestic political ramifications of these acts. They could influence the upcoming election in either a positive or negative manner for Barack Obama.
In 2004 George W. Bush won the election based on his response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and national security was high on the list of voter concerns. The electorate felt John Kerry would be weak on this issue and they voted for Bush.
On the other hand Jimmy Carter suffered from his weak and ineffective response to the 1979 Iranian Hostage problem. The crisis has also been described as the "pivotal episode" in the history of Iran–United States relations. In the U.S., some political analysts believe the crisis was a major reason for U.S. President Jimmy Carter's defeat in the November 1980 presidential election. In Iran, the crisis strengthened the prestige of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the political power of those who supported theocracy and opposed any normalization of relations with the West.
According to Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia, political analyst, and Fox News contributor Ronald Reagan led Jimmy Carter by a narrow margin of 2 points a week prior to the 1980 presidential election. Carter had been viewed as weak and ineffective in dealing with Iran on the hostage situation and his ill-fated secret rescue mission, Operation Eagle Claw on April 24, 1980 ended in a disaster for the U.S. military.
When Iran pulled the plug on negations with the Carter administration one week prior to election Reagan’s lead jumped to 10 points and he own the election. The hostages were released minutes after Reagan’s 20-minute inauguration address on January 20, 1981.
This crisis could be Obama’s “October Surprise.” Depending on how Obama responds to these events he runs the risk of losing several battleground states such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Wisconsin. These states are so close that any hiccup in Obama’s leadership could tip the electorate, especially independents, to the Romney camp.
On the other hand money has to be very careful how he handles these events. As Romney and the Republicans have focused on the economy and national security has not been high on his list and he has no real national security resume. He has to move carefully to attack Obama on his foreign policy agenda and his apologetic attitude to the Muslim World. These attacks combined with Obama’s weak comments on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, his lack of focus on intelligence briefings, his constant vacation of the White house for his numerous campaign trips, and his past apologetic speeches to the Muslim World could be fodder for the Romney camp. If Romney plays his cards right he could turn these embassy attacks into a winner, but he has to proceed with caution for now.
So far Romney has played the issue in a presidential manner. according to the Washington Post Romney had this to say about the embassy attacks:
“America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion.
We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”
We will have to watch the polls for the next few weeks to see if Romney is getting traction on this issue. Anyone who can tell how this will play out right now is just blowing smoke.
This is the video that caused all of the problems. You can see it’s amateur nature. The film is something between a public access spot and a commercial for a used car lot.