by Peter Huessy
A video sharply critical of Islam and Mohammed, “Innocence of Muslims”, was first posted to the Internet in July 2012. Two months later, still a week prior to the anniversary of the attacks in America on 9-11, there had still been little reaction within the Islamic world.
But on the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York, armed militants stormed a “diplomatic outpost” in Benghazi, setting the building on fire. Ambassador Stevens, computer specialist Sean Smith, and CIA security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALs, were killed over the course of two battles that night.” **
The US administration was quick to blame the July video for the rioting in such places as Cairo, Istanbul and Rome that preceded the attacks in Libya, as US facilities and embassies were set on fire and attacked across Northern Africa and in the Middle East.
And despite major evidence then available to the contrary from the American intelligence and diplomatic sources on the ground locally, the Libyan attacks were initially and through much of the next weeks still described by senior members of the administration as a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand implying that as such they could not have been anticipated and thus prevented.
Now nearly two years later, the video release continues to be blamed for the riots of September 8-11, 2012 that occurred in Yemen, Egypt, and in Istanbul and Rome, although the attacks in Benghazi are now determined to have been a planned terrorist assault.
But this narrative is wrong headed.
We have seen this all before, however, and that is a pattern of the US first not understanding the terrorist attacks against us and then falling victim to a serial attempt to find excuses for Islamic terrorism as related primarily to perceived grievances of the Muslim world against America.
For example, on September 30, 2005, a series of cartoons, some depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist with an atomic bomb, were published by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. One report concluded that few people outside the Scandinavian nation took notice at the time. A group of Danish Muslim organizations brought the issue to the attention of Danish authorities but failed to get any action. By the end of 2005, any violent reaction in the Islamic world to the cartoons being published was virtually non-existent.
But early in 2006, the cartoons were then carefully republished in major Arab cities and shown at local mosques while crowds at Friday prayers were urged to attack symbols of the West in anger. Ahmad Akkari, who had previously led the Danish Muslim groups to petition the government of Denmark to demand the cartoons not be published, urged violence against the government and the newspaper. (He would later visit Lebanon and reverse his support for the violent response he had encouraged explaining:“I was shocked. I realized what an oppressive mentality they [the jihadis] have.”
Unknown at the time, however, was that the Syrian government was behind this diversion as a means of lessening the pressure on the Damascus regime to stop its infiltration of jihadis into Iraq. In fact the Iraqi regime repeatedly and bitterly opposed the Syrian destabilizing actions aimed at the government in Baghdad.
By putting out the story that the “West” was again being “insensitive” to Muslim feelings, Syria changed the media narrative. It was then easy to build up a popular and conventional belief that whatever demonstrations, riots and killings that occurred in the Arab and Islamic countries, it was largely the outgrowth of the insulting cartoons. In short, what did the West expect?
When the Danish newspaper republished the cartoons to further its stand that a free press should be able to publish such material, it was then easy for Syria and its fellow jihadis to make the “blasphemous” cartoons the issue all over again. Gone was an any incentive to look directly at the nature of not only the Syrian regime but its partners in terror.
And it was not as if this was not a serious issue, central to our security. Wrote one observor later that year, Syria “Also had deepened its cooperation with Iran in an effort to solidify its most important strategic alliance…[and] reassert[ed] its regional significance, especially in Lebanon…[and] continued to allow a bevy of terrorist organizations, among them the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Hamas, to operate in Damascus.”
Further the author warned, the “Syrian regime mobilized Muslim public opinion in an effort to encourage jihad infiltration into Iraq. It did so by creating religious sanction for instability in Iraq, with Syria’s senior cleric, Grand Mufti Ahmad Kaftaro, issuing a fatwa (religious edict) calling on Muslims ‘to use whatever means possible to defeat the [U.S.] aggression including suicide bombings against the Zionist Americans and British invaders.'”. (“Syria: Buying Time”, by Robert Rafil, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2006.)
Unfortunately this example the Islamic world’s continued serial sanitation of the totalitarian roots of Islam and its modern strains such as Saudi Wahhabism and Iran’s Khomeinism and their terrorist accomplices, such as Syria, was in large part successful. Popular attention was thus deflected from examining the use of Islamic mob violence against the western world as a political-military tool of aggression.
But even more inexplicable is the constant support such Islamic “white washing” gets from key centers of power in the infidel world which is the object of Islamic terrorism.
We first have to start with the strange idea that anyone would believe that simple criticism of Islam would in fact incite or trigger violent but spontaneous demonstrations. It is not as if religions do not get criticized, sometimes harshly around the globe. But why would anyone think folks would spontaneously burn an embassy because of a video critical of a religion? Do Christians, Jews, and Buddhists do this?
For example, in the United States The Holy Virgin Mary, a “painting created by Chris Ofili in 1996 was displayed at a public museum in New York City. It was a portrait of a black Madonna surrounded by many collaged images that resembled butterflies at first sight, but on closer inspection were photographs of female genitalia along with a lump of dried, varnished elephant dung forms one bared breast”. (Gareth Harris, The Daily Telegraph, 28 January 2010 and BBC News, 28 September 1999).
The first reaction of most Christian Americans was of indifference. The mayor of New York, Mr. Giuliani attempted to eliminate the painting from an exhibit at a publicly funded Brooklyn museum. Michael Davis of Mt. Holyoke College supported the paintings exhibition, and slammed the Mayor’s efforts explaining the elephant dung connected the Virgin Mary to the “African people”.
Similarly Piss Christ was a 1987 photograph by Andres Serrano. It depicted a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. Amazingly, the piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art‘s “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition, which was sponsored by the US National Endowment of the Arts. PBS’s Bill Moyers rushed to defend the material, interviewing on his television show a Catholic nun who claimed the art was an accurate depiction of how contemporary society had come to regard Christ.
Ironically, the very night of the attack on our Benghazi facilities the US Department of State released a statement that in part said the United States was against any effort to “[H]urt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” (http://www.frontpagemag.com/author/nonie-darwish, posted on Thursday, May 1st, 2014 Neo-Neocon. Ironically, according to Todd Barnes, the White House remained silent over efforts on September 28, 2012 to get it to denounce the Serrano work which was on display September 27, 2012 at a local New York museum, unlike its reaction to the video “Innocence of Muslims”.)
But the video as we now know, had nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi. According to Andy McCarthy, from “A number of sources, the State Department knew there was going to be trouble at the embassy on September 11, the eleventh anniversary of al-Qaeda’s mass-murder of nearly 3,000 Americans. It was well known that things could get very ugly. When they did, it would become very obvious to Americans that President Obama had not ‘decimated’ al-Qaeda as he was claiming on the campaign trail. Even worse, it would be painfully evident that his pro–Muslim Brotherhood policies had actually enhanced al-Qaeda’s capacity to attack the United States in Egypt.”
McCarthy further expands his points, noting “Few Egyptians, if any, had seen or heard about [the video] it, but it had been denounced by the Grand Mufti in Cairo on September 9. Still, the stir it caused was minor, at best. As Tom Joscelyn of FDD, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, [“In Service of the Blind Sheikh?”, Sep 12, 2012] has noted, the Cairo rioting was driven by the jihadists who were agitating for the Blind Sheikh [Rahman’s] release [from US prison] and “who had been threatening for weeks to raid and torch our embassy.”
In short, the riots starting in Cairo and subsequent terrorism were carefully planned. That is what mosques world-wide are used for–plotting terrorism. In this case it was designed to further sustain the political power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
For example, “In the United States the Dar Al-Hjrah Mosque was visited by FBI agents after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks after it was discovered that two 9/11 hijackers had worshipped at the mosque.”
“The mosque’s imam from 1995 to 1999…was Mohammed Al Hanooti, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing…Al Hanooti defended an acquaintance that was deported and indicted for arranging financial support for the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.”
Further, “The mosque’s imam from January 2001 to April 2002 was Anwar Al-Awlaki, a senior al-Qaeda recruiter linked to a handful of high-profile terrorists. U.S. officials stated that Al-Awlaki preached to three of the 9/11 hijackers while he was imam of the Falls Church mosque, and was also linked to the Fort Hood shooter. Al-Awlaki left the United States for Yemen in 2002 and was killed in a September 2011 drone strike commanded by the CIA [Material taken from The Daily Caller, April 19,2014].
It is not as if we do not know about the use of mob violence for political purposes. During the 1980s, for example communist comandante Daniel Ortega ruled Nicaragua with an iron fist. Aided by Cuban and East German advisers, his regime built a penitentiary system that held between 6,000 to 10,000 political prisoners.
The Interior Ministry encouraged violent street gangs called “divine mobs” that regularly attacked opposition leaders. (FrontPage November 8, 2006.www.frontpagemag.com/…/the-red-fascism). So too in Venezuela where the late President Chavez used mobs and vigilantees to silence opposition voices (FrontPage Magazine, May 29, 2013).
The idea that similarly mob violence in the Islamic world is also simply an extension of politics seems to have escaped the thinking of many leaders in the western world charged with protecting the American people from terrorism.
On October 5, 2010, former President Clinton asserted that Islamic terrorism was primarily a response by people with legitimate grievances against the United States and Israel. He said solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would “take away much of the motivation for terrorism around the world” (NewsMax, October 5, 2010).
So too did the former cyber official Mr. Richard Clarke of the National Security Council claim that the American overthrow of the Taliban and subsequent liberation of Iraq from the tyrannical and bloody rule of Saddam Hussein created the “rat lines” of jihadis flowing into Iraq from Syria and Iran, conveniently forgetting that those terrorist rat lines have been part of the geostrategic landscape since Yasser Arafat killed the US ambassador to Sudan right through to the four attacks on 9/11–all of which occurred BEFORE Afghanistan and Iraq.
When asked by former Congressman Chris Shays what terrorist threats we faced during a closed July 2000 Committee hearing,Clarke said the threats from terrorism were so numerous the Clinton administration had not been able to prioritize them sufficiently to help determine how to allocate resources to fight and prevent terrorism.
Many experts like Clarke apparently believed that once the US withdrew from Iraq and made it clear we were leaving Afghanistan, further Islamic terrorism aimed at the US would largely disappear. Former Congressman Ron Paul asserted that the only reason we were attacked on 9-11 was that Osama Bin Laden was upset American military forces had been deployed in Saudi Arabia to fight Desert Storm and kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Logically then if had we removed the troops, we would never have been attacked in the first place.
We should see therefore a marked drop in terrorist attacks as US forces having left Iraq are now in the process of leaving Afghanistan as well. But just the opposite has occurred. According to the US Department of State,“A surge in the number of aggressive al-Qaida affiliates and like-minded groups the Middle East and North Africa poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and allies, the State Department said Wednesday in reporting a more than 40 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide between 2012 and 2013. It counted 9,707 terrorist attacks around the world in 2013, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. Most of those occurred in Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Thailand and Yemen.”
Benghazi was thus the logical outcome of the United States adopting a seriously flawed narrative to explain the attacks of 9-11 and other Islamic terrorism. We looked to remove what we thought were “grievances” from the list of impediments to more peaceful relations with the Islamic world. But by doing so—coddling jihadis, aiding the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, trashing Israel, funding the Palestinian authority, withdrawing prematurely from Iraq and throwing away the extraordinary accomplishments of the surge and drawing in “disappearing ink” what became known as a “red line” on Syria—we encouraged further attacks and more terrorism.
According to a bi-partisan US Senate report (See the January 14, 2014 Daily Mail), “Despite a deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, the U.S. government did not do enough to prevent the attacks or to protect the diplomatic facility. ‘A broken system overseen by senior leadership contributed to the vulnerability of U.S. diplomats … in one of the most dangerous cities in the world,’ said Senator Sue Collins. ‘And yet the secretary of state has not held anyone responsible for the system’s failings.'”
The tragedy of Benghazi was we failed to heed requests for help from our own people long before the 9-11 anniversary. And we did not go to the sounds of the guns and rescue our people after the attacks commenced.
In an irony of ironies, apparently one of the terror groups at Benghazi was led by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee. According to the US Department of State, Ansar al Sharia in Darnah played a part in the attack…believed to be led by Abu Sufian Qumu, a Libyan former Guantanamo detainee who was transferred from a U.S. military prison into Libyan custody in 2007. At the daily press briefing the Department revealed for the first time, “Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al Sharia in Darnah had been involved in terrorist attacks in the past … that includes the Sept. 11 attack against the U.S. special mission and annex in Benghazi.” Remember the refrain that if we only released the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, terrorism would subsequently decline.
There are lessons here for what we are seeing unfold in Eastern Europe and Ukraine. According to the Eurasia Monitor, (April 10, 2014, Volume 11, Issue 68, RFE/RL “Armed Pro-Russian Activists in Lugansk May Trigger a Russian Invasion) Russia is seeking to use the same techniques to further its strategic ambitions.
The administration correctly identified eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists as “heavily armed militants who are receiving significant support from Russia”. The White House also concluded “As Ukrainian forces move to restore order in eastern Ukraine, it is obvious to the world that these Russian-backed groups are not peaceful protesters.”
Peaceful or not they are not protesters. They are part of a Russian staged militarily led dismemberment of Ukraine and possibly other Eastern European nations and as such pose a critical threat to the very system of governance and peaceful international relations that has governed much of the globe since the end of World War II and the Cold War. As Russian President Putin portrayed the new environment it is “the rule of the gun”.
Indeed it is, with Russia from love.
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Peter Huessy is the President of Geostrategic Analysis located in Potomac, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C.