Four Americans are dead in Libya, including the U.S. ambassador to the country, after a rocket attack that came amidst protests against a cheesy, poorly produced, anti-Prophet-Muhammed film that was filmed in the United States and went viral in the Muslim world.
While the rest of the country mourned the dead and decried the act of violence, Mitt Romney went on the attack, accusing President Obama of apologizing to terrorists.
What actually happened is far different.
The American embassy in Cairo, feeling the heat from Muslim reaction to the film, distanced themselves from the film, stating in a tweet: "U.S. Embassy condemns religious incitement." That caught some flack for seemingly going against the right to free speech. They later wrote, "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
Now, the American embassy is doing exactly what its supposed to do. It is not the embassy's job to explain "sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," to a populace that for decades was thrown in jail or murdered for proclaiming unpopular beliefs. It is the embassy's job to smooth things over. Their job is to avoid violence in the interest of maintaining diplomacy. The filmmakers certainly had the "universal right" to make their film, however, free speech is not without consequences. If you're Michael Richards and do stand up, and respond to African-American hecklers with liberal use of the n-word, you'd better get ready for the backlash. And as we know, unflattering portrayals of Mohammed (who, according to the Muslim religion, isn't even allowed to be represented in a positive image), often result in protests, which lead some extreme factions to violence.
It's simple cause and effect--insult Mohammed, incite violence. No one's saying violence is the appropriate response to hate speech. We're just saying, it happens. So if you don't want people to die, you should probably resist the urge to insult the prophet.
Now, lets say someone in this country does decide to insult Mohammed. It's their right, sure. But the U.S. government shouldn't be insulting Mohammed, the same way they shouldn't insult Jesus, or Moses, or any other religious leader. The problem is, when an American citizen's insult travels around the globe (the way Pastor Terry Jone's Koran burning did, or the way our soldiers pissing on the Koran did), America's enemies use it as a weapon against America. "See!" they tell their followers. "This is America. Not the home of the free, but the home of hate. They hate Islam! They want to destroy you!" They publicly screen that crappy anti-Mohammed video, and say to those inclined to listen, "This is what America is about! This is what America represents!" They take the action of one individual or one small group and use it to represent what America is all about.
To respond to those extremists, it is necessary for a representative of the United States to stand up and say, "No, this isn't what we're about. We believe in free speech, and that means, sometimes, one of our citizens says or films something idiotic and offensive, like the hit ABC show 'Bachelor Pad.' But we as a country also believe in the freedom of religion. And we believe that it is irresponsible, and wrong, to use one's right of free speech to denigrate and shame another person's freedom of religion."
That's what the embassy said. That's what Hillary Clinton said: "Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to
inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores
any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.
Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of
our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for
violent acts of this kind."
It's a statement aimed at refuting what the extremists say-- that the actions by a very few represent the feelings of the greater whole. It condemns violence, while making it clear that perceived cause of the violence--religious intolerance--is not what America represents. In short: "What the extremists tell you is a lie."
Mitt Romney, clearly, does not believe this. Instead of standing up for the majority of Americans who don't think all Muslims are terrorists, he's standing up for the few that do. Instead of telling the world that this hateful, anti-Islam video doesn't represent the best of America, he's saying to the world that it does. Hate, according to Mitt Romney, is America's greatest export. And he's damn proud of it.
"It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not
to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with
those who waged the attacks," Romney said.
Except, well, of any of the American representatives commenting on this attack, it's Romney who gives the terrorists what they want. Instead of telling the extremists, "Your justification for this violence is bogus," he's AGREED with them. He's saying America doesn't have to distance itself from the film the extremists used as an example of America's intolerance. Rather, he's arguing that America should defend and support what the film had to say! It's free speech, so Romney will stand by it to the bitter end, even if that speech was made by an Egpytian Coptic Christian with a criminal history who clearly intended for the film to cause violence.
As far as the international stage is concerned, it seems that Romney and Obama have very different ideas about how a President should behave. While Obama believes a President should show America is better than what its enemies say it is, Romney believes a President should show America is EXACTLY what its enemies say it is.
You decide which is better. You decide which action really sides with the terrorists.