BY RHOADS STEVENS, MD – Recent anti-American violence across the Islamic world has been disturbing, to say the least. Even more disturbing, however, is our policy makers’ refusal to analyze and learn from the violence.
Sunday, September 16, 2012, Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, repeatedly insisted the uproar was simply a reaction that Muslims felt to an offensive movie trailer. That is a near-total canard.
Every major institution on the planet is insulted every single day. If one simply looks, offensive material can always be found. That hackneyed movie trailer would have remained in well-deserved obscurity had somebody not found it and publicized it. No, the movie trailer was a convenient straw man for whoever wanted to orchestrate the uprisings. If Islamists truly were to react to every insult to the Prophet, they would never have a day off. Moreover, although perceived insults may be offered as a reason, they are never justification for loss of life and property.
The riots were carefully planned in time and place. The timing was obviously the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Many previous attacks have been planned by violent Islamists to celebrate the 9/11 anniversary. Prior to 2012 those attacks have been foiled by human intelligence. This year somebody took their eye off the ball. The riots were carried out in multiple locations – initially in those countries where dictators had recently been over-thrown, such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
The demonstrations were also concentrated around the American embassies. It was reported one could go several blocks from the US Embassy in Cairo and observe normalcy. Evidently Muslim outrage was limited to the proximity of our embassies. Given the demonstrations were planned in time and place, who did the planning? Historically, radical Islamic organizations in Egypt and Iran would be the best bet.
Even more important is the consideration of what purpose the riots serve. Even though the violence seems senseless and capricious, it serves a purpose to those who organized it. There are many possibilities.
First, it serves as a diversion. Certainly it served as a diversion for those militants who stormed our consulate and killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya. No, Libya was not a demonstration that got out of hand, but rather a well-planned military-style operation that successfully assassinated one of our most talented and experienced diplomats. What a sad day for America. Maybe the riots also serve to divert attention from Iran as it toils to complete the last steps in making its first nuclear weapon. Might the violent protests serve to divert attention away from President Bashar al-Assad as he struggles to hold on to power in Syria? Could the demonstrations be cloaking an even more dastardly attack elsewhere in the world, such as another 9/11?
Secondly, the violent demonstrations serve to intimidate. They have intimidated our own media even though we are half a world away and protected by the First Amendment. When violent protests erupted over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, no media outlet in the United States had the courage to publish them. The jihadis effectively silenced our own media by intimidation. Furthermore, the US media have been timid in covering gross civil rights violations of women and religious minorities in Muslim countries. To be sure, the riots also intimidate those moderate factions in the Islamic countries that might advocate tolerance and a secular government.
Thirdly, the violent mass demonstrations serve a public relations function. Even during his last days in power, Saddam Hussein would organize “spontaneous” demonstrations of hysterical support. Such large public demonstrations make a political cause seem much more popular and powerful than it actually is. Large public demonstrations have been standard fare for every tyrannical regime in history. Mass demonstrations exude power that attracts potential adherents.
The Islamic Ottoman Empire ruled over vast areas and peoples for centuries. Countries were conquered. The people converted to Islam or were forced to live in dhimmitude (pay tribute and worship in secrecy). The Ottoman Empire embodied a rich and successful culture but crumbled in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. European powers divided up the imperial remains. Since that time, greater Islam has largely been relegated to the dustbin of history. If it weren’t for oil, the pyramids, and the Palestinian conflict, who would give much attention to the Middle East? What have they invented? What popular Middle East songs, movies, or celebrities capture our attention?
The professed goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is to restore the Islamic caliphate and recreate a vast Islamic state. In other words, they want to go back to the good old days. That is why they hate America so much. They don’t hate Americans because they don’t understand us; they hate us because they under stand us all too well.
The Islamists are bombarded by our popular culture, our freedoms, our tolerance, our success . . . and they hate it all. The Muslim Brotherhood sees how the Internet is disseminating American culture to the young people and more tolerant secular factions within the Islamic world. If they fail to act now to re-establish the caliphate, it may be too late. In fact, the riots may represent the death rattle of rapidly dying Islamic dreams. Ambassador Stevens was leading Libya to a bright future in the 21st century. That is why the militant Islamists killed him first.
Well, what is America supposed to do? First, and foremost, stand up for something! Freedom of speech means we tolerate all forms of expression, regardless of how repugnant they might be to us. There are no words or images that justify loss of life and property. President Obama should stand up for American principals, not apologize or soft-peddle them. He should tell the Islamic demonstrators to stop acting like a bunch of spoiled brats throwing a tantrum and grow up.
President Obama and all Americans should also stand up for freedom. Obama’s biggest foreign relations blunder was refusing to strongly stand up for the Iranian demonstrators who were trying to free themselves from the tyranny of the mullahs. Tyranny is subjugation of the many by the few. It does not matter whether it is the result of a Western-backed dictator or an Islamic theocracy, tyranny is the opposite of freedom. Rest assured, however, that freedom always has many more friends than any form of tyranny.
There are violet and intolerant features in the historical foundations of Islam. That fact cannot be changed and must be accepted. Islamic fundamentalists will always plot attacks on infidels, and those attacks must be stopped before they occur, primarily by human intelligence. Perpetual vigilance was the real lesson of 9/11. We must always keep our eye on the ball privately and publicly. Our government must be dedicated to collecting human intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks. Never forget 9/11.
The United States cannot force tolerance and freedom on anybody. As civilizations evolve, they must first choose freedom and then defend it. We Americans can offer moral support for those who choose freedom.
We can quietly and clandestinely support those who fight for freedom. Our leaders should never back down from espousing our principles of tolerance and freedom, nor be confused or distracted by these loud noises and disturbing images.
Finally, our most powerful political statement is to set an example by living our principles. Militant Islamists hate America simply because it exists – as that “shining beacon on a hill” to inspire all those who yearn to live in peace with mutual respect and freedom.