Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughts on the Embassy Attacks

Over the last few years we have added a footnote to the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.*

*Unless it offends Muslims in other countries.

The sensitivity to not mocking other people's religious beliefs seems to be limited to Muslim beliefs. No one complained when the anti-Mormon Angles in America won awards.

Attempts to tie the embassy attacks and deaths to an anti-Mohamed movie overlook several factors. Before the fuss, very few people in the US even knew of this movie. According to news reports, it had one free showing and only ten people watched. Very few news reports have mentioned that the movie trailer was translated and has been shown in Egypt constantly since July. Who has the real blame, the people who made an obscure movie or the ones who showed it to millions in foreign countries?

I am having trouble finding a transcript of President Obama's speech from the Rose Garden. My impression at the time was that he repeated the assurance that his administration is against ridiculing anyone's religion but killing people is going too far. It seemed like he was agreeing with the Egyptian Embassy tweet. That is the tweet that Romney condemned and that Obama later said had not been authorized.

There is a lot of speculation that the attacks were coordinated efforts rather than spontaneous. Was there any sign of this in the national security briefings? According to a Washington Post column posted Monday (the day before the attacks), the President has skipped more briefings than he has attended. Other reports say that he had not been to a security briefing in a week. Was there anything about plots to attack American embassies in the documentation he was provided? Would he have ordered the embassies to be better protected if he had attended the meetings? Granted that this is an order of magnitude different from 9/11/2001 but I am still seeing articles about warnings issued to the Bush administration. If it is fair to ask if Bush could have done more 11 years after the event then it is fair to ask of Obama could have done more while attacks are still happening.

The press turned on Romney for issuing a statement about the Embassy tweet. Two reporters were caught on an open mic saying that the entire press pool was prepped to ask the same questions. The tragedy is a public relations disaster for Obama but the press has turned it on Romney. Obama in 2008 and Kerry in 2004 were making statements about ongoing events without any questions from the press. Why is Romney held to a different standard?

Obama made a statement about Romney "shooting before he aims" and saying things before he has all of the facts. Obama admitted that he had to learn not to do this himself. Since he did this at least a few times after taking office (remember the "beer summit"?) this trait does not disqualify someone from being president.

Obama said that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. It is very difficult to find members of a mob. Is this an admission that the attacks were part of a plot?

Obama admitted that Egypt is no longer a friend but is not exactly an enemy. Many conservatives have been waiting for the Arab Spring to blow up in Obama's face. There are parallels with the Iranian revolution. What started as a populist rising against a corrupt, pro-American government was taken over by anti-American Islamists. In 1979 the American embassy staff was taken hostage. This time multiple embassies have been attacked and four members, including the ambassador, killed. Does this represent a failure of Obama's policy of "leading from behind"?

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