Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the following statement from remarks delivered on Friday, September 14, 2012:
The U.S. government had nothing to do with a film about the Prophet Mohammad that has triggered anti-American protests in Muslim countries.
While there is no evidence that the United States government had any hand in the making of a film, originally titled “Desert Warrior”, but later changed to “Innocence of Muslims”, that both depicts the Islamic Prophet Muhammad in an unflattering manner, and has been the subject of protests in more than 20 countries world wide, the United States government does have one significant connection to the film’s producer. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula agreed to become an informant for the government after his 2009 arrest for bank fraud. So while the U.S. government did not actively participate in the financing or making of the film, the U.S. government is, for better or for worse, directly connected to the film’s producer.
Clinton’s words did not disclose whether or not the government had a connection to the people who made the film; only that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the film. The correct questions to ask would be related to whether or not the U.S. government had a direct connection to any aspect of the actual film production, and to a lesser extent, to those who financed or provided labor or time to the project, no matter how small. Did the U.S. government have a connection to the film, or the film’s makers? Yes, the government did, in fact, have a direct connection to one of the film’s major participants; the film’s producer.
The administration’s agenda at this point appears to be a pursuit of a two track foreign policy that places all other foreign policy matters on the back burner. On one track is the pursuit of al-Qaeda members wherever they are, and on a second track is establishing alliances with majority Muslim countries around the world. There are many things happening simultaneously that make it difficult to determine an overall outline of events that are impacting U.S. foreign policy right now. The film in question has been around since July, according to the Telegraph in London:
The New York Times reported that the film excerpt had drawn little attention since being posted in July, but was picked up after a version dubbed into Arabic was put online last week.
“Last week” was just prior to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and a video released by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri last Sunday appears now to have been a signal to mobilize his followers for an all-out media campaign against the United States, while simultaneously increasing counter-intelligence and military operations in location across the globe. In order for an al-Qaeda public relations campaign to be successful, al-Zawahiri needed to be able to assemble large groups to disguise other activities by al-Qaeda loyalists that included recruiting of new followers, conducting intelligence gathering, and testing security measures, procedures, and personnel at U.S. diplomatic stations. The strategy was meant to reduce approval for the U.S. government and it’s policies, raise the profile and public approval of al-Qaeda, while carrying on important al-Qaeda missions that included attacks in Afghanistan and Libya, intelligence operations, and where possible, damaging or destroying U.S. diplomatic installations across the Muslim world.
In the world of Madison Avenue advertising firms, a realistic evaluation of al-Qaeda’s ongoing public relations campaign would be to consider it a roaring success. The terrorist group, and it’s satellite affiliates, have been able to get stories about it’s followers published this week in every major western publication, without having to pay a single dollar to any public relations firm. They even have their own media unit. Let’s be very clear about things: The vast majority of the demonstrations have been highly organized, and the disorder and anarchy created has been the result of a highly effective organizers from across the Gulf getting their messages out about where to be, when to be there, and what people needed to bring with them. Weapons that were used to attack the U.S. embassy in Tunis, Tunisia were not found at the embassy site, they were carried to the embassy by protestors. Understanding the events of the past week requires you, the reader, to set aside the Obama administration’s statements regarding ongoing, and still tense, circumstances outside U.S. diplomatic missions and in those host countries right now, and to place your focus on the events and information shaping the current situation.
The Obama administration has been pursuing al-Qaeda leaders and fighters at a pace that is not matching the worldwide impact of the al-Qaeda message since the death of Osama bin Laden. The deaths of two al-Qaeda senior leaders this year led to the call for revenge by al-Zawahiri by video on Sunday. Within minutes of al-Zawahiri’s video hitting the internet, radical fundamentalist Islamic websites, chat rooms and bulletin boards lit up with messages that seemed to direct individual organizers to begin immediately communicating with Islamic community leaders and imams in and around U.S. embassy and consular locations, along with messages passed to militants in Lybia directing an operation in Benghazi against U.S. interests. The BBC reports, “There were calls on social media networks for protests against US interests in the capital, Tripoli, but no disturbances have been confirmed, our correspondent says.” Some intelligence analysts in the international community believe that this internet traffic served as the communications network, not only for the attack in Lybia, and the protests at U.S. diplomatic compounds, but also relaying specific information to insurgents in Afghanistan for coordinated attacks on U.S. forces there, simultaneously pressing the U.S. in multiple locations while stretching U.S. intelligence assets to the breaking point.
Within hours of al-Zawahiri’s message being delivered across the internet, militants were planning an armed assault of the Benghazi compound. At the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Lybia, there was no protest taking place when the compound was attacked by militants, according to an eyewitness on the scene, who is not directly connected with the U.S. government. This eyewitness calls into question, more now than ever, the Obama administration’s claims that there was a protest before the U.S. Ambassador to Lybia, Chistopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Monday night. This eyewitness states that at 9:35 p.m. on the night of the attack, as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound, lobbing grenades as they entered. There seems to be far more credibility to the belief that al-Qaeda had plans for a simultaneous attack on the Benghazi facility and the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The attack on the air base came at around 10 p.m. local time as Afghan insurgents bombarded a U.S. base and destroyed a NATO helicopter, killing three Afghan intelligence employees, officials said Tuesday. There were also NATO personnel aboard and wounded, the coalition said without providing further details. CBS news.com was the first to report on a protest at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt on the night of September 11, just hours before the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Surprisingly, the Obama administration transferred the Bagram prison in Afghanistan to the control of the Afghanistan government on September 10, where more than 3,000 al-Qaeda prisoners are kept. Some security analysts warn that local guards could release detainees and return them to the battlefield, but military commanders stressed that they would still have a say in who is released.
Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appeared this morning on the American news network ABC’s program “This Week”, and claimed that the attack on the embassy was, “a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.” She said, “We are quite popular in Libya, as you might expect, having been a major partner in their revolution”, and “we had a substantial security presence with our personnel…” However, if Rice was presenting the official position from the White House, it signals that the administration is doing all it can to avoid talk of several things that have happened in the past two weeks:
- President Obama attended less than half the intelligence briefings in the week prior to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
- President Obama either had a lack of knowledge about coordinated attacks in Afghanistan and Libya, or dismissed their timing as “coincidence”.
- President Obama is not accepting that radical Islamists control most of the countries where his administration supported armed revolution, now referred to as the “Arab Spring”, and that the militias that now operate unfettered in all of northern African states have no allegiance to the governments in the countries where they are; their only allegiance is to al-Qaeda.
- President Obama is dismissing information that al-Qaeda flags are present at protests and that both intelligence gathering and recruiting for al-Qaeda are taking place right in front of journalists.
- President Obama is ignoring the fact that al-Qaeda’s media division has had representatives at every major protest; from Iran, Iraq, England, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Indonesia, and every country where al-Qaeda has active community outreach programs.
- President Obama’s diplomats at the State Department wanted to make the U.S. presence “appealing and open” to countries that have established altered relationships with the U.S. government, at the request of the U.S., including Egypt and Libya. Both Egypt and Libya have vast areas of land that are currently controlled by armed gangs of militias, most with ties to al-Qaeda.
- The State Department was unprepared for a coordinated attack and intelligence operation to be conducted against them by radical Islamists. On the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is hard to fathom why they would have ever let their guard down.
- The State Department, in it’s rush to establish diplomatic relationships with new Islamic-controlled governments, set aside security concerns expressed by the CIA and the U.S. military about potential threats from coordinated terrorist attacks and call for public action against U.S. interests.
The riots and the protests are about more than a film; they are a coordinated public relations campaign by al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda is succeeding in getting their message to Muslims far easier than President Obama, while, at the same time, having their call for jihad answered around the world. The administration’s response to this diplomatic crisis has been slow, faltering, and unable to overcome the distinct media advantage that al-Qaeda now holds. At this point, Ayman al-Zawahiri looks to be the one person who has benefitted from the administration’s continued denials of al-Qaeda involvement in the attack on Benghazi, and the ongoing public relations disaster for the administration.
What has happened on the American side is that President Obama has not taken responsibility for his unwillingness to provide sufficient military assets to protect U.S. diplomats overseas, while stretching U.S. diplomatic and intelligence assets to their limit. On ABC’s “This Week” today, Ambassador Rice had this exchange with Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: Why was there such a security breakdown? Why was there not better security at the compound in Benghazi? Why were there not U.S. Marines at the embassy in Tripoli?
RICE: Well, first of all, we had a substantial security presence with our personnel…
TAPPER: Not substantial enough, though, right?
RICE: … with our personnel and the consulate in Benghazi. Tragically, two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security. That was their function. And indeed, there were many other colleagues who were doing the same with them.
It obviously didn’t prove sufficient to the — the nature of the attack and sufficient in that — in that moment. And that’s why, obviously, we have reinforced our remaining presence in Tripoli and why the president has very — been very clear that in Libya and throughout the region we are going to call on the governments, first of all, to assume their responsibilities to protect our facilities and our personnel, and we’re reinforcing our facilities and our — our embassies where possible…
TAPPER: But why…
RICE: … and where needed.
TAPPER: Why would we not have Marines at the embassy in Tripoli to begin with? It would seem like this — this is obviously an unstable country. This is a region where U.S. interests have been attacked in previous months. Why were there not Marines there to begin with?
RICE: First of all, there are Marines in some places around the world. There are not Marines in every facility. That depends on the circumstances. That depends on the requirements. Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi, is relatively new, as you will recall. We’ve been back post-revolution only for a matter of months.
But I’ve visited there myself, both to Tripoli and Benghazi. I was very grateful to have a strong security presence with me as part of our — our embassy detachment there. So we certainly are aware that Libya is a place where there have been increasingly some violent incidents. The security personnel that the State Department thought were required were in place. And we’ll see when the investigation unfolds whether what was — what transpired in Benghazi might have unfolded differently in different circumstances.
But the president has been very clear. The protection of American personnel and facilities is and will remain our top priority. That’s why we’ve reinforced our presence in Tripoli and elsewhere.
Six days have passed since the attack in Benghazi, and it is unlikely that there will be enough clues remaining to tell anyone exactly who was involved in the attacks. The compound’s crime scene area has already been compromised to the point of leaving insufficient evidence to confirm exactly who was present on the night that Ambassador Stevens was killed. It seems as if the administration is in no hurry to learn what is happening and why. No great international diplomatic outreach effort, at least not in public, is happening from the White House. No great outcry from America’s leader over the airwaves about the deaths of our own people, or those overseas; yet campaign ads flood television channels all throughout the election battleground states. The groups who have succeeded in blackening the eye of America in the past week are well financed, well coordinated, and highly motivated. It is al-Qaeda who has the attention of the Muslim world, not America. It seems like an amazing result from so much time, money, and effort that was spent trying to create democracies across northern Africa and around the Mediterranean, and that the administration expected those newly founded states to automatically support the U.S., even in the face of substantial information that armed militias were remaining organized in the countries long after the fighting had subsided. The states in northern Africa are now some of the most destabilized in the entire world.
On September 11, 2001, I was in a truck stop restaurant in Billings, Montana when the second plane struck the World Trade Towers in New York City. I watched the TV as it happened, and I watched until the last tower fell. I did not personally know anyone who died on September 11, but I did have colleagues who did know family and friends that perished during the 9/11 attacks. I remembered leaving from there two hours later to try to get to Rapid City, South Dakota, to seek shelter at Ellsworth Air Force base there, if need be, and I came across zero vehicles for over 200 miles. The only vehicles that I did come into contact with was a convoy of jet fuel tankers headed to the Air Force base. I learned the next day that they were sent there to refuel a group of B-2 stealth bombers that had been put into the air immediately following the attacks for national defense reasons. Traveling over 6 hours with no vehicles on the road other than myself and the U.S. military gave a feeling of Armageddon to the events on that day for me.
It is not surprising to me, after being a witness to the events of 9/11, that those same people who cheered that event still are eleven years later. Nor does it surprise me that al-Qaeda would attack the United States around the time of the annual anniversary of that act of war and genocide. Let’s not forget that the attacks of 9/11 were an act of war and genocide, committed against the non-violent civilian population of the United States, with no prior warning; and that bears a striking similarity to the attacks this week. The diplomats are civilians, they are not military personnel. Their purpose is to represent the United States in diplomatic affairs on behalf of the President of the United States. These attacks against U.S. consular installations are attacks against civilians, and against the United States.
At some point, there has to be some accountability from the White House. There have been condolences to those lost in the Benghazi attack, but no real answers from the administration. We have heard the administration’s “position”, but the only problem with that position is that it does not correspond to evidence. What will help to protect the lives of Americans around the world is not more speeches about tolerance from the administration, but more security for our people and our interests. If the deaths and injuries to American soldiers after the 9/11 attacks are to have real meaning, then that means we must honor our people, our military, and our flag.