So it’s to be another spate of burnt or stormed U.S. embassies in the Middle East, this time over low-budget artistic direction of a recondite Californian whose pseudonym bears a marked resemblance to the word “imbecile.” (He also has no problem presenting himself as an Israeli funded by Jews; the last thing demagogic bigots do is discriminate.) The hysteria and violence have already manifested in strange ways -- or defied expectation by not manifesting at all. Rioters in Lebanon, where the pope is now visiting, set fire to a Kentucky Fried Chicken but chose not to disclose the connection between the Vatican and the Bargain Bucket. In Istanbul, according to CNN’s Ivan Watson, “There were more protesters at building rights demonstration at Istanbul mayor's office than at anti-America protest a few blocks away.” In Khartoum, protestors or attackers have targeted the British and German embassies, presumably for no other reason than they couldn't find the American one.
Meanwhile, the US response to this crisis has been a soap opera of alternating impulsiveness and course correction. First came a gratuitous insult to the First Amendment. “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”, Hillary Clinton said in a statement before her much-better press conference Tuesday. Even leaving aside the obvious point that the United States government should not be in the business of film criticism, this assertion cannot be true. Al-Qaeda have got rather strong religious beliefs that the United States intentionally denigrates. And you might think that Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris lay it on bit thick, but does the Secretary of State really “deplore” them for doing what atheists are definitionally bound to do?
Foreign Policy magazine reported yesterday that the non-partisan Congressional Research Service issued this dire warning last month: "Libya's security remains a function of Libyans' self-restraint rather than the capability of security authorities." This apparently means that Washington rates Libyan self-restraint quite high.
President Obama does deserve credit for accidentally telling the truth. He explained to an interviewer yesterday that the 9/11-conspiracy-mongering Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt, which tweets concern for the fate of American diplomats in English but encourages its constituents to “Rise to defend the Prophet” in Arabic, is not an “ally” of the United States. But Obama then "clarified" this position, too.
As yet more evidence amasses showing that the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi was the result of a pre-planned terrorist assault, and not the spontaneous fury of 400 offended Muslims, the less the news-gatherers seem to take an interest in what constitutes actual news. Did you know, for instance, that there are those in the Middle East who aren’t especially bothered by an unwatchable YouTube video that depicts their prophet in an unflattering light? Here’s a seriously satirical cartoon mocking the manufactured rage over “Innocence of Muslims” being held up in Kafranbel, Syria by residents who clearly have bigger things to worry about.