Ossie Makepeace writes from Tripoli : The American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, has been killed by Libyan Islamists who stormed the US consulate building in Benghazi. Three other American officials died as a result of the assault by the fanatics. They hit the compound with gunfire and grenades and then torched it.
The attack came after an internet trailer for an American film about the Prophet Mohammed. The Islamists did not like the movie.
And the show was not big box office in Egypt. But in the capital Cairo, the protesters were content to take their riot into the US embassy but didn’t feel the need to shoot up the compound or kill anyone – not yet anyway.
When she heard about the killing in Benghazi, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, rightly said she was ‘heartbroken by this terrible loss’. Then, to cover the response as she was expected she added: ‘The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But let me be clear: there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.’
Of course that’s exactly right Mrs Clinton. But let’s not pretend you did not see it coming.
The movie was, apparently made in California by an American who is said to be anti-Islamist. Most people are when this sort of thing goes on. But the man, allegedly called Sam Bacile, teamed up with an Egyptian Copt – that is, an Egyptian Christian – to make and promote the budget movie, putting on YouTube with an Arabic translation.
Fans of the movie say it was all about free speech. The thousands who gathered outside the US embassy in Cairo and the guys who tore down and burned the American flag – flying then at half mast to commemorate 9/11 – saw their protest as a manifestation of free speech as well.
This year, the US will give Egypt about $12 billion in aid. The US also took a major part – passing intelligence reports to the NATO bombing team and operating drone attacks including the one that destroyed the convoy carrying a fleeing Gaddafi – in helping the Libyan rebellion ‘succeed’.
Meanwhile, the Americans are keeping their heads down over Iraqi demands on the US ally Turkey to send home Iraq’s vice-president Tariq al Hashemi who has, in absentia, been sentenced to death in Baghdad. Al Hashemi is a Sunni. Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is insisting Turkey sends him back.
Why no call for reconciliation and justice from the White House? For the same reason that Washington appears to have sympathised with those who didn’t like the movie: as Clinton might have said: It’s The Election Stupid.
In Afghanistan, Taliban are on a roll. They are killing US troops and want to show inside eighteen months that they’re chasing the US forces (and the NATO coalition with them) out of Afghanistan.
What all this shows is that George W. Bush should never have got the US and its allies involved in Iraq and Afghanistan because once they decided to go home (with a little help from their friends – the US electorate) they would get the idea that they had achieved nothing other than finding themselves hated throughout large parts of the most important region on the globe.
President Barack Obama tried a low key involvement in Libya, but there’s no way even he can control the power of YouTube and the rest of the social network.
The hell of it all is that there’s not a single place in the world that doesn’t have a view about US and the Alliance involvement in other people’s affairs. Problem is, other people’s instability and destabilising events are seen as part of the global war on terror. They are not, but that’s the way they are seen by increasingly incompetent intelligence analysts in the major Western capitals. Staying out of other people’s troubles may make good short-term sense. But it doesn’t handle prejudice at home and in other minds. If Romney wins, he’ll understand just how baseless are his speeches about making America strong again.
America is not strong when a couple of prejudicial guys in California can get the US ambassador killed in a place most Americans had never heard of until last year – and in truth, still don’t know where it is.