(Updated Sept. 15 at 11:30 pm MDT)
I’ve been dumbfounded and appalled by world events the last few days, and things don’t seem to be getting any better. The rioting and demonstrations in the Muslim world have spread from North Africa and the Middle East to India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and now Australia.
Tuesday evening the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked and overrun. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three staff members were murdered. The pretext for the attacks — the first by a bunch a street thugs, and the second by a group of organized militants using the first attack as cover — was the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” a shoddy, amateurish video produced in the U.S. that depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and worse.
That in itself was bad enough, but it got worse when Mitt Romney jumped in, totally misinformed, and accused President Obama of apologizing for American policies. The “apology” was (a) not an apology but a conciliatory message from Cairo embassy staff, and (b) not from or authorized by the president. The word “traitorous” came to mind when Romney attacked the president in the midst of a diplomatic crisis overseas, and the majority of his own party leaders condemned his response. Trying to make political hay while Americans overseas were being murdered was contemptible.
The embassy statement in question, since taken down and disavowed by the White House, was as follows:
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 protests across the Muslim world have been ongoing since Tuesday night, spreading to 10 or 11 different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Demonstrators, screaming their outrage over a petty, hateful little movie that is laughably amateurish and yet has had predictable, deadly consequences. Of course, most of them would never have heard of the movie if it hadn’t been widely televised in Egypt, so the idiot producer, Sam Bacile aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula aka 15 other names, can’t take all the “credit.”
Personally, I think the rioting in general is a gross overreaction to a really stupid little video, but then, I think killing, harming, or discriminating against anyone based on religion is absurd. The world might well be a more peaceful place without religion. The man who made the movie is a moron who either did it deliberately to provoke the rioting we are seeing, or was too damned stupid to comprehend what the reaction might be. That makes him much like the Koran-burning Florida preacher Terry Jones who, not surprisingly, supported the movie. In any case, he’s in hiding now, fearing for his life. Good. Our free speech laws may not give us a way to prosecute him (although it seems such intentional malice and hate should be punishable somehow), but if he has to live in hiding for the next few decades, that will be a small bit of justice for what he’s done.
As for events overseas, I don’t have much sympathy for the rioters. A few people have noted that since the rioters don’t understand how free speech in America works, they blame the U.S. government and America in general for the offensive movie. Frankly, I see it mostly as an excuse for young men, street thugs, the poor and unemployed, and the oppressed to vent their anger and frustration by attacking innocents and destroying property.
I blame the host countries for not controlling their citizenry and protecting our embassies, but I also wonder why our embassies have not had larger defensive forces on hand. Furthermore, since our embassies are the equivalent of American soil, I’m tempted to say our citizens should stay inside and shoot to kill anyone who breaks in. Meantime, why are we not either sending troops in to protect our embassies or pulling our people out?
Lastly, one rioter in Jerusalem reportedly said he’d rather die than be humiliated. I’m sure his death could be arranged if the humiliation is that overwhelming. Seems to me he’s not the one who was humiliated, but if that’s the way he thinks, I’m sure someone could accommodate him.
All in all, I’d say the rioters (not demonstrators; demonstrators are peaceful) are just giving in to mob mentality, using the movie as a pretext. They are giving the movie and its producer far more attention than either deserves, and they are making themselves look ridiculous and more than a little unhinged. I suspect Muhammad would not advocate their going out and murdering innocents in his name.