Friday, September 14, 2012

It's not about a stupid movie!

Protests and attacks on American (Western) interests have spread, from Egypt and Libya to Yemen, Iran, the Sudan, Lebanon, and probably more as I type these words. Ostensibly, these protests and attacks are in response to the made-for-YouTube movie Innocence of Muslims, which supposedly slanders Islam and the prophet Mohammed. The LA Times has a nice interactive timeline of the movie and the events that follow. It begins back in July, when the first trailer of the movie was uploaded to YouTube by someone named "Sam Bacile." A version of the trailer over-dubbed in Arabic was uploaded--by who?--on September 4th. And then came September 11th, when the violence and protesting began.

As I noted previously, this is a nothing film, made by some unknown--at this point--person that should have faded from memory moments after it appeared. Yet now it is apparently at the center of a wave of violence throughout the Middle East. The media--for the most post--is busy delving into the background of the movie and the person or persons who made it. Witness this piece at the WSJ entitled "Who is Sam Bacile." It makes some fair points, noting that everyone is probably getting played here:
Sam Bacile/Bassel is not an Israeli-American, and his attempt to pass himself off as one is a potentially deadly slander. His film—if there really is any footage beyond the 14-minute clip—did not cost anything like $5 million to make. There is no cabal of Jewish donors who put up the money. Sam Bassel, or whoever used that name as a Facebook alias, speaks and writes fluent Arabic and likely has an Egyptian background. The name Abanob Basseley is, as one Egyptian friend tells me, as typically Coptic as, say, Mohammad is Muslim or Shlomo is Jewish. (St. Abonoub is a Coptic saint named after an Egyptian child martyred , uby the Romans.) The fact that the film was publicly promoted by Morris Sadek, the head of the National American Coptic Assembly, also suggests a Coptic connection to the film.
But all of this is really inconsequential, with regard to what's happening in the Middle East. The film's origin is a red herring, because this isn't really about the film, at all. It's about the ever-present anti-American sentiment that still grips the Muslim world, that lead to the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979, to the first WTC bombing in 1993, to 9-11 in 2001, and many other terrorist-type attacks against the U.S. and U.S. interests.

Focusing on the movie is a waste of time with regard to understanding current events. The question that really needs to be answered is not "Why did these attacks occur?" but rather is "Why did these attacks occur now?" The answer is simple: because America appears weak and vulnerable, because--following a hardline stance against radical Islam  in the years after 9-11--we've adopted a much softer position, going so far as to support the rule of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood following the so-called Arab Spring.

Fanatical clerics and other Muslim leaders are clearly orchestrating all of this; the movie is just a convenient tool. And rather than ignoring this phony basis--the "hurting of religious feelings"--our own clueless leaders feel obliged to join in the condemnation of this nothing film, again and again, unwittingly making them--and the nation--appear weaker and weaker.

The only thing that needs to be condemned are the attacks. Leaders in the Muslim world--like the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi--are intelligent enough and sophisticated enough to know this film has no audience to speak of, is the product of a few individuals, nothing more. Yet, they still reference supposed insults of the film against Islam. Morsi, in condemning the attacks, can't help but also say:
The Egyptian people reject and oppose any pernicious attempts to offend the prophet of Islam. Everyone rejects this. Americans also reject these actions, president Obama told me.
Thus, the supposed justification for the violence is maintained, again and again, by those who claim to lead, who claim to want peace. And our responses--from those in power--legitimate the justification as well, again and again. The President, on the day after the attacks (my boldface):
Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.
Spokesmodel Jay Carney, speaking to the press yesterday (my boldface):
I think it’s important to note with regards to that protest that there are protests taking place in different countries across the world that are responding to the movie that has circulated on the Internet. As Secretary Clinton said today, the United States government had nothing to do with this movie. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible. America has a history of religious tolerance and respect for religious beliefs that goes back to our nation’s founding. We are stronger because we are the home to people of all religions, including millions of Muslims, and we reject the denigration of religion.
That's a lot of rejection. And to what end? All it does is empower those behind the protests and violence, by demonstrating that these actions are effective, that the leadership of the United States can ultimately be bent to their will, can be forced to bend a knee before Islam.

It's capitulation, plain and simple. And no good will come from it. Four more years of such an inept foreign policy will have grave repercussions for the United States and its role in the world.

Cheers, all.


  1. Brett Stephens has a good column in WSJ