Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 9/13/2012: Media Blows It On Embassy Attacks

From DG:

Rahman reason

Barry Rubin writes about the attacks on American diplomatic missions earlier this week in Egypt:
Egypt tells us everything we need to know about the horror of Obama’s Middle East policy. The latest development is that a group of several Salafist and jihadist groups — including the local affiliate of al-Qaeda — announced a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy. This was explained as a protest against some obscure film made in America by a mysterious man who is a crackpot or provocateur and who has told so many lies one starts to wonder whether this was all a set-up (by Islamists? Arab Christians?) to provoke riots and antisemitism. 
But note well that everyone — except the Western media — understands that holding such a demonstration at the U.S. embassy in Cairo on September 11 means supporting the September 11 attack. The Egyptian government knew the time of the demonstration and the participants — it was all publicly announced — yet Egyptian security forces did not protect the embassy. And so the demonstrators scaled the wall, entered the compound, tore up the American flag, and put up the historic revolutionary flag of Islam (the eighth century black one, not the seventh century green one) in its stead. Why didn’t Egyptian security forces stop them? It was a deliberate decision no doubt taken at the highest level. 
Rather than expose the phony excuse for the demonstration and condemn the Egyptian government’s behavior, the U.S. government groveled. It issued statements in English apologizing for the fact that someone had exercised his right of free speech within its country. The tweets it sent out in Arabic were even worse, pitiful pleas of the we-are-on-your-side-against-this-terrible-Islamophobia variety. And will Egypt’s failure to protect the embassy — because it is on the side of America’s enemies — have any effect on the Obama administration’s helping the Egyptian government get two German submarines (against Israel’s efforts), taking $1 billion off Egypt’s debt, and having a nice meeting with the visiting Egyptian president (while refusing to meet Israel’s prime minister, this supposedly super-pro-Israel president)? You know the answer.
 USA Today actually quotes an expert who knows something about Egypt, Eric Trager (h/t Alana Goodman):
The protest was planned by Salafists well before news circulated of an objectionable video ridiculing Islam's prophet, Mohammed, said Eric Trager, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 
The protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was announced Aug. 30 by Jamaa Islamiya, a State Department-designated terrorist group, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman. He is serving a life sentence in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. 
When the video started circulating, Nader Bakkar, the spokesman for the Egyptian Salafist Noor party, which holds about 25% of the seats in parliament, called on people to go to the embassy. He also called on non-Islamist soccer hooligans, known as Ultras, to join the protest.
Yet here's Robert Worth reporting in Struggle for Ideological Upper Hand in Muslim World Seen as Factor in Attacks the New York Times:
In Egypt, too, Salafis have become powerful in the newly elected Parliament, and anti-Americanism remains a resonant way to gain attention. But the attack on the American Embassy in Cairo — unlike the one that killed Mr. Stevens — appears to have been spontaneous, led by Egyptians genuinely angered by news of the film clip, distributed on YouTube, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a confused, bloodthirsty pedophile of uncertain parentage. 
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood reacted to the Cairo protests with statements that illustrated its need to rein in the popular anger while maintaining its role as the mainstream voice of Islam: it implicitly criticized the violence of the embassy attack while calling for peaceful nationwide protests against the video on Friday. 
As in earlier violence after the accusations that Islamic symbols had been desecrated, the nature of modern communications bears a heavy share of blame: a single match lighted by an anti-Islamic zealot in Florida can — again via YouTube — ignite deadly riots a world away. Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who provoked riots in 2010 and 2011 by threatening to burn (and later burning) a Koran at his church, has promoted the new film clip, amplifying the controversy.
So of course, by ignoring the Rahman demand, it allowed news organizations to focus on Governor Romney's criticism of the Egyptian embassy's obsequiousness.

Here's a news story in the New York Times A Challenger’s Criticism Is Furiously Returned:
By Wednesday morning, when it became public that four Americans had been killed in an attack at the mission in Benghazi, Mr. Romney’s initial statement looked clumsy and badly timed to many, and Republicans like Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal columnist, and John E. Sununu, the former New Hampshire senator, publicly criticized it. 
Rather than back away, Mr. Romney doubled down with reporters in Jacksonville, where he denounced Mr. Obama for not defending the filmmakers’ free speech rights. “Apology for America’s values is never the right course,” Mr. Romney said. He argued that the White House disavowal of the statement showed that the administration, too, realized it was wrong. 
Democrats pounced. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said Mr. Romney showed “a degree of instability” and demonstrated that “there is almost nothing he won’t do for political gain.” Pundits called it “craven” and a “Lehman moment,” alluding to Senator John McCain’s fumbled handling of the collapse of Lehman Brothers that helped sink his 2008 campaign. Mr. McCain’s longtime adviser Mark Salter chastised Mr. Romney for “unfair and hyperbolic sound bites.”
An editorial Murder in Benghazi echoed these sentiments and magnified the criticism:
President Obama’s statement of outrage and his vow to bring the killers to justice received bipartisan support, including from politicians otherwise committed to partisan warfare, like the House speaker, John Boehner, and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who rarely misses a chance to attack Mr. Obama. 
But not from Mitt Romney, who wants Americans to believe he can be president but showed an extraordinary lack of presidential character by using the murders of the Americans in Libya as an excuse not just to attack Mr. Obama, but to do so in a way that suggested either a dangerous ignorance of the facts or an equally dangerous willingness to twist them to his narrow partisan aims.
Unfortunately the editors of the Washington Post were little better, piling on in Mr. Romney’s rhetoric on embassy attacks is a discredit to his campaign:
J.CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was a skilled and courageous diplomat who repeatedly placed himself at risk to support the cause of a democratic Libya. His death, along with those of three other Americans, during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday is a tragedy that should prompt bipartisan support for renewed U.S. aid to Libyans who are struggling to stabilize the country. That it instead provoked a series of crude political attacks on President Obama by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is a discredit to his campaign. 
Mr. Romney’s first rhetorical assault came Tuesday night in response to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which was also besieged by demonstrators Tuesday. His statement claimed that the administration’s first response was “to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” In fact the embassy statement was issued before the protests began; referring to an ugly anti-Islam film that was the focus of demonstrators, it condemned “those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious belief of others.” 
Mr. Romney did not then know the extent of the Benghazi incident — his statement referred only to “the death of an American consulate worker.” So it was stunning to see the GOP nominee renew his verbal offensive Wednesday morning, when the country was still absorbing the news of the first death in service of a U.S. ambassador since 1988. Though reports were still sketchy, it appeared that a militant jihadist group, Ansar al-Sharia, took advantage of the Benghazi protest to stage an armed assault that overwhelmed the Libyan security force at the consulate.
Here is Romney's second statement. After expressing his sorrow at the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three others he said:
I also believe the Administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It's never too early for the United States Government to condemn attacks on Americans, and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn't ‘cleared by Washington.’ That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world. 
The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests. Over the last several years, we have stood witness to an Arab Spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous region, but also poses the potential for peril, if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events.
To be sure, Romney could have been clearer, but what he meant was that statements condemning the film undercut the condemnations of the attackers of the American diplomatic personnel. I hardly think this is out of line.

Going over this again. The protest in Egypt was planned in advance. The initial purpose - though the anti-Islam film was added later - was to demand the freedom of convicted terrorist, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman. The release of Rahman is something that President Morsi has also advocated. Despite the advance warning of the protests neither the Egyptians nor the Americans were not prepared for the possibility that they could get out of hand. That President Morsi did nothing to protect American interests and seeks the release of a terrorist who attacked the United States shows that he is not America's friend.

Yet the media seemed intent not on critiquing President Obama's performance in meeting the challenges presented by the Arab spring, but in condemning Romney's statement. Doug Ross put together a nice digest of the issues that are generally being ignored. (h/t Richard Landes)

Instapundit has had a number of excellent roundupsJames Taranto observed:
The embassy reiterated the message in a series of tweets, some of which, reports, have since been deleted. The mob was not appeased. "Despite that overture," as Weigel puts it--one might wonder if it was because of it--the mob stormed the embassy, an act "culminating in the raising of a black-and-white flag that resembles the icon of al-Qaida."
Michael Rubin, in the Daily Caller, listed the numerous false premises behind the administration's actions:
Islamist terrorism, however, has far less to do with material grievance than ideology. Obama’s serial dismissal of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish state’s security concerns suggest an assumption that Israel’s behavior — or perhaps its very existence — provokes Islamist terror. The problem with the belief that Israel represents original sin is that Islamist terror predates Israel’s creation and, indeed, the partition of Palestine. In 1946, the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department, the predecessor to today’s Defense Intelligence Agency, identified Muslim Brotherhood terror as posing a growing threat to the international order. Years later, Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood acolyte, would teach his student Osama bin Laden that Western culture was a deliberate plot dreamed up in the bowels of the Pentagon to separate Muslim youth from religion. Diplomats may accept the idea that Jihad is first and foremost about the struggle to better oneself and only violent in defense, but if the Islamists like Azzam, Bin Laden, and blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman believe they have been attacked by the likes of Beethoven, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys, then they believe violence against the West is justified. Women’s rights? Justification for murder. Religious tolerance? An abomination justifying slaughter. Free speech? An excuse to kill. 
Simply put, when the grievance is Western freedom, there can be no compromise. It is time that President Obama and the men and women representing the United States abroad understand that.
David Schenker and Eric Trager tell How to send a message to Egypt:
Washington should present President Morsi with a choice: Either abide by international norms or preside over an Egypt increasingly threatened by economic collapse. At present, Egypt's economy is tanking as instability and violence continue to scare away both tourists and investors. 
To forestall a crisis, Washington committed to forgive that $1 billion in debt, and it has ardently supported a pending $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan. And just this week, the Embassy in Cairo sponsored a delegation of American businessmen in Cairo to encourage U.S. investment in an Egypt that was "open for business." 
All of this should be put on hold. Washington can tolerate a lot, but it cannot invest in an Egypt that refuses at a minimum to secure American diplomats. So long as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi Administration insist on encouraging Salafists and soccer hooligans to target U.S. interests, the U.S. can and should impose costs for this choice.
What's frightening is that Egypt is emerging as a major threat to American interests and security, yet the mainstream media has retreated to full campaign mode, protecting President Obama from his own mistakes (or maybe suffering the same misconceptions the President does) and attacking Mitt Romney, rather than reporting on the real issues involved here.

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