September 11, 2012

U.S. Embassy attacked in Cairo - the blame game

Islamist protesters at U.S. Embassy in Cairo - note jihadi flag

On September 11, 2012, the 11th anniversary of the al-Qa'idah attacks on the United States, hundreds of Islamist protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, tore down the American flag and replaced it with the black flag bearing the shahada' - "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." The flag is normally associated with al-Qa'idah and other jihadist groups.

The protesters scrawled profane graffiti in Arabic and English on the wall surrounding the embassy compound and demanded that the U.S. ambassador to Egypt be expelled from the country. Egyptian police surrounded the area, but did not stop the protesters from their actions.

The demonstrations and attack were purportedly in response to a movie being made by an American that criticizes Muhammad as a fraud. As we have seen with other unfavorable depictions of Muhammad, such as the Danish cartoon issue a few years ago, ultra-conservative Muslims react with death threats and violence. I have never understood how a religion whose adherents describe as one of peace, love and tolerance can be so violent, hateful and intolerant.

Having been assigned to several of our embassies in the Middle East, I am sensitive to these attacks. I am not only sensitive to this particular attack, I am outraged. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of American foreign aid, having received approximately $17 billion dollars just since 2001. Egypt is second only to Israel in the amount of American aid; the two countries account for fully one-third of all U.S. foreign assistance.

In response to what could have been a deadly situation in Cairo, the embassy issued a statement that is so off target that it rises to the level of insulting the freedoms that define us as a country.

Here it is in its entirety:

QUOTE: "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." UNQUOTE

That's it? If I understand this, the U.S. embassy condemns an American citizen for exercising his right of free speech in his own country while saying nothing about an attack on sovereign American territory (the embassy), desecration of the flag, disgusting graffiti on the walls and demands that the ambassador leave Egypt. This is reminiscent of the non-response to the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979.

I am surprised, embarrassed and disappointed. The U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Woods is a career Foreign Service officer with a reasonable amount of experience in the Middle East. It is inexcusable to not address and condemn the attack on the embassy.

I am sure the response was coordinated with the State Department in Washington. I ask Secretary Clinton - what say you? Who is to blame? An American citizen exercising his rights as guaranteed by the Constitution, or a group of marauding intolerant hateful Islamists? Still plan to send that $1.5 billion dollars to Egypt?