Thoughts on Killing of U.S. Ambassador Stevens

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Opinion, Religion, War

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Published on September 15, 2012 with 8 Comments

By Ralph E. Stone

September 15, 2012

While the nation mourns the killing of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and four others, there lingers misunderstandings of what happened in Libya and Egypt and why.

While anti-American feeling is strong in parts of the Middle East, the attacks in Egypt and Libya were really a case of political opportunism by the Salafist Islamic extremists who are unhappy with the success of the more moderate Islamist and secularist parties in Egypt and Libya.

The violence was not spontaneous; rather it appeared to be well-planned and coordinated. The “Innocence of Muslims” film that mocks and insults the prophet Muhammad, was really just a pretext or excuse for the violence. Once violence begins, no matter how well-planned, it can turn quickly into a mob, taking on a life of its own, spreading thoughtlessly. Even al-Qaeda is taking part.

Who made the film? The knee-jerk reaction by too many is, “It must be the Jews.” But we should have been extremely skeptical of the source of the movie. Initially, the word was that the film was made by an Israeli-American named Sam Bacile, cost $5 million, and was financed with money from “more than 100 Jewish donors.” The filmmaker was later identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Coptic Christian and convicted felon. As the dust finally settles, it now appears that fundamentalist Christians were aided by a fundamentalist Islamic cleric in Egypt to stir up chaos in the Middle East, and then blame the Jews. The moral of the story is that we should wait until all the evidence is in before pointing fingers.

The filmmakers are protected from prosecution in the U.S. under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Of course, we all have a right to condemn filmmakers for making the film, the resulting violence, and the killings. I do not plan to watch the film.

The film, by the way, was translated into Arabic and broadcast on Arab TV stations and talk shows, which sparked the violence. Why would Arab TV stations choose to show it if they knew or should have known it would spark violence? If it had not been shown on Arab TV, the movie probably would have slipped quietly into obscurity where it belongs. What were the Arab TV producers’ motives in highlighting a film made by extremists? Yes, they had a right to show and discuss the film, but they could have chosen not to.

How will the film, the violence, and the death of Ambassador Stevens and four others effect American politics? Fox News used the killings to revive the long-debunked claim that President Obama apologizes for America. The U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” which was released before the protests started. The embassy later denounced the “unjustified breach of our embassy.” Hours later, this statement was disavowed by the Obama administration, quoting an official who said that “the statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.” President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both strongly condemned the violence that resulted from these protests.

One thing the deaths have done is take the election focus away from the economy to foreign policy. It looks like Obama is coming away a winner in the short term. But then the violence is not over, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions are ever present.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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Comments for Thoughts on Killing of U.S. Ambassador Stevens are now closed.

  1. In the U.S. hate speech is protected as a civil right (aside from usual exceptions to free speech, such as defamation, incitement to riot, and fighting words).  Laws prohibiting hate speech are unconstitutional in the U.S; the federal government and state governments are forbidden by the First Amendment of the Constitution from restricting speech.  Why do we have the First Amendment?  The cornerstone of democracy is having a vigorous marketplace of ideas, where all ideas, regardless of merit, are tested, validated or refuted – with other ideas. The presumption is that from the melee will emerge the truth.  But “Innocence of Muslims,” as with the Danish anti-Muslim cartoons in 2005, the 1979 neo-Nazis’ march in the Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois and anti-Semitic blood libels kept alive by some in the Arab media remind us  that First Amendment protections aren’t there primarily for acceptable expression.  They are there to protect minority viewpoints, however stupid, incendiary, obnoxious, hateful, damnable and no matter how much we may want to wring the necks of those who promote the garbage. As an aside, I note that Hassan Sanei, an Iranian, who heads a religious organization behind the bounty on Salman Rushdie, has added another $500,000 to the reward for killing Rushdie for publishing the “Satanic Verses.”  The total reward is now about $3.3 million.   I guess I would rather live in the U.S. where we can criticise without facing a death sentence.

    He at least uttered the words “Ottoman Empire”. That puts him head, shoulders and navel above 99.9% of the politicos, pundits, talking heads who demonstrate no apparent understanding of history. There have been very few religious conflicts over belief systems, they have always been over power and control of resources, back to early hominoids fighting over a berry patch. A case can be made that the current ‘Crisis in the Middle East’ (including Central Asia), began in the late 1800’s with ‘The Great Game’ in which the major ‘battlefield’ was – surprise – Afghanistan. The only recent politician who has, inadvertently, made this connection is The Shrub, who out of his profound ignorance declared that we were embarking on ‘A New Crusade’. Way to go doofus, way to win friends, hearts and minds.
    Just my thruppence. 

    •  all yer entitled to is tuppence, mate.

      • That leaves a penny for your thoughts, chum.

  3. “President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both strongly condemned the violence that resulted from these protests.”

    Oh the hypocrisy of these people.  Mr Hope and Change We Can Believe In Obama is always condemning violence when somebody else is doing it.  But his violence is okay.  It’s okay to violently terrorize and kill innocent people all over the place with drones (as just one example). How many places is Mr Nobel “Peace” Prize droning now? It’s hard to keep track.

    Or this headline:

    NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills 8 Women
    A NATO airstrike (translation:  U.S., stop the newsspeak by calling it “NATO”) has killed at least 8 women and girls and injured at least 7 females in the eastern province of Laghman while they were collecting firewood on Sunday, Afghan officials say.

    Sickening. Disgusting.

  4. It is never okay to resort to violence just because someone says that your imaginary friend has cooties. 

    What gets me is this politics of inverse associative cooties as played out by the left, where since the US has done bad things in the Islamic world, Muslims are transformed into the oppressed and anything that they do is automatically justified.

    I fear anyone who has to wear special clothes to appease their god, be they orthodox Jews, Christian clerics and subsects, magic underwearing Mormons and, yes, Muslims as well.  All of the radical Abrahamics should be feared.

  5. Yes, the latest anti-western hysteria was calculated like the Danish cartoon riots several years ago.

    “The filmmakers are protected from prosecution in the U.S. under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Of course, we all have a right to condemn filmmakers for making the film, the resulting violence, and the killings. I do not plan to watch the film.”

    This makes the First Amendment sound like some kind of a loophole. You should at least take a look at the trailer, which is enough to get the drift. Of course it ridicules Islam and Mohammed, which, like all organized religion, deserves to be mocked. But the video is nowhere near the level of The Life of Brian, which mocked Christianity with wit and humor. 

  6. Also, the Egyptian TV host, Sheik Khaled Abdallah (a sort of Islamic fundamentalist Rush Limbaugh type), showed the video on his program and it was he who apparently added the Arabic subtitles.  This is how the average person in Egypt and Libya saw the video.  Abdallah has a history of stirring up feelings against Egypt’s minority Copts.