During this presidential campaign, Americans have focused on our troubled economy and other domestic problems. Yesterday, we were rudely reminded, yet again, that there is a big, unfriendly world outside our borders.
On the anniversary of 9/11 — of all days! — an Egyptian mob stormed the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, tore down the American flag, and raised instead a black flag like that used by al Qaida that read: “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger.” Hours later, in Benghazi, Libya, militiamen attacked a U.S. consulate, firing shots, throwing homemade bombs, and killing a U.S. State Department official and wounding another American. In both cases the attacks were said to be provoked by a low-budget film about Mohammad produced by an American that Muslims consider offensive to Islam.
On the day of the Cairo attack, the U.S. Embassy there issued a curious statement that said: “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 statement was condemned by many as a mealy-mouthed apology to Muslims, and the Obama Administration later indicated that the statement was not cleared and does not reflect the Administration’s views.
The United States has poured billions of dollars into the Middle East — Egypt has for years been one of the largest recipients of American aid — and supported the “Arab Spring” uprising in Libya with military assistance. All of that is forgotten, of course, when some unknown movie supposedly bruises the tender religious sensibilities of fringe elements of the Islamic faith, and their grossly disproportionate response is to physically attack official American installations and kill an innocent diplomat who had nothing to do with the offensive film.
And, amidst it all, our embassy personnel think it appropriate to “condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” and to invoke 9/11 in doing so? What “continuing efforts” are they talking about, by the way? Doesn’t that statement send an appalling message of weakness to the radicals who mean to do us harm?
Edited to Add: The assault on the American consulate in Benghazi was even worse than first reported. Four Americans were killed, including the American Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and two Marines who tried to defend the consulate against the attack.