There is a reason the First Amendment is named first. Take away the right to speak on any subject and the entire concept of a free society is in jeopardy. The other nine amendments mean nothing without the first. There are few countries that respect free speech as much as the United States. Every American should be proud of that.
Today, a crowd stormed the American embassy in Egypt on the bogus reason that the U.S. was sponsoring a film critical of Muhammad. A trailer for that film is available here. Basically, the film is about the mistreatment of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
For some time, there was confusion by the embassy on why demonstrations were being planned. At first it was thought to be related to America’s own religious extremist, Florida pastor Terry Jones, known for his enjoyment at burning the Koran.
There is a minority of fanatical Muslims in Egypt and elsewhere who are easily whipped into a frenzy and believe the destruction of property and even taking of lives is justifiable in the name of Allah. They see blasphemy around every corner, but should just point their fingers at themselves.
This kind of hooliganism is no surprise. Of course, the U.S. government has had no role in developing the film but that does not make any difference since these extremists are up to their necks in a culture war against Western values of toleration.
What is disappointing, particularly on 9/11 of all days, is that the U.S. embassy apologized for the making of the film. The apology happened prior to the embassy assault.
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
Misguided individuals? Hurt the religious feelings of Muslims? Condemn efforts to offend believers? Abuse of the universal right of free speech? Who wrote this?
A lot of good this cowering did anyway. The embassy was still trashed. The embassy may as well have not issued a statement at all. At least then it would still have some dignity.
I understand that these embassy employees were trying to calm tensions. Their lives are endangered by extremist nuts who care little about life, religion or anything but their own perverted righteousness.
Yet how does such a panicky, timorous statement jive with an American foreign policy in the Middle East that involved the invasion of Iraq, the continuing occupation of Afghanistan and the threat of war with Iran? Whether we agree with this foreign policy or not, these wars and threat of war are supposed to be about protecting American values.
Add to this to the 9/11 commemorations today, which the embassy noted was to honor patriots. Actually, it goes deeper than that. It is to honor values of democracy and freedom as enshrined in the Constitution.
The embassy sought to protect itself but in doing so it did not honor the sacrifices of 9/11. Of course, the Egyptian government did not seem to do much to protect the embassy either, despite the billions that the U.S. has sent to Egypt.
If there are any apologies needed, it should come from the Egyptian government for clocking out on their responsibilities. Perhaps the U.S. can deduct the cost of embassy repair from our aid program to them. In addition, the State Department needs to apologize to Americans for even suggesting that the “universal right of free speech” can be abused.
There aren’t any winners in this scenario, just idiots trashing an embassy, a cowardly Egyptian government and an embassy selling out the principles it is supposed to uphold.
UPDATE: As I worked on this article, the White House responded to the statement from the embassy in Egypt. I wasn’t aware of the response until I posted this article. Politico reported on the official statement from the Obama administration disavowing the earlier statement from its embassy.
“The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.”
Thankfully, the Obama administration maintained some backbone, but they still need to clarify that the problem with the embassy statement was its disrespect for the First Amendment. Hopefully, that will be better cleared up tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the Romney campaign tried to turn this into political points while the State Department was trying to sort out the mess with its embassy. (Please note that there was also an attack at the Benghazi consulate in Libya.)
“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said.
This is about as ridiculous as the embassy’s statement. No, it is more ridiculous because at least the embassy officials were fearful for their lives. Where does Romney get the idea that the Obama administration is sympathizing with those who attacked the embassy? The embassy statement was released prior to the attacks.
This is the guy who wants to be directing American foreign policy? He shoots his mouth off without checking his facts so he can try to grab a few votes. The proper place for Romney is to keep his mouth shut while the President deals with a highly public crisis. Their is plenty of time for politicking tomorrow…not on 9/11 of all days.