Burning American Flags: Obama’s Foreign Policy Repudiated
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
 Politics
September 18, 2012 07:55 AM | 3058 views | 14 14 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

On September 11, Embassy walls were stormed in Egypt, and the black flag of militant Islam was hoisted over what is sovereign American soil in Cairo.  An American ambassador and three of his staffers were murdered in Benghazi in what US Ambassador Susan Rice has called a “spontaneous” protest over the release of a minor movie. (Conversely, Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf has said this was a planned “criminal act” by militants.)

Since then, American flags have burned across the Middle East in countries like Pakistan where hundreds were subdued with tear gas while marching to the American Consulate in Karachi.  Protesters in Morocco, a moderate Muslim country, chanted “Death to Obama.”  In Kabul, crowds yelled, “Death to America.” 

Rocks and bottle rockets have been hurled outside the US Embassy in Jakarta where the AP recorded a protester yelling, “We will destroy America like this flag!” In Sudan riot police have had to protect the American, British and German Embassies. 

Still, Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney insists, “This is not a case of protests directed at the United States at large or at US policy, but it is in response to [a] video that is offensive to Muslims…” 

In regards to that perspective, one should note ABC News and other outlets have reported that the producer of Innocence of Muslims used an alias while promoting his film.  While he claimed to be a Jewish real estate agent, he is actually an Egyptian who raised the money for his movie in Egypt.  The American government did not fund or condone the creation of this movie mocking Islam, and the producer wasn’t even an American.  Thereby it seems the movie’s only real relationship to the United States—apart from the location where it was filmed--is the cherished American value that purports even offensive speech is free.

This creates a problem for the Obama presidency.

The Obama doctrine as demonstrated by multiple speeches and foreign policy initiatives is one that rests on the assumption that the animosity that has long radiated towards the United States was in large part a reaction to a lack of American humility, military posturing and interference in the affairs of other cultures.  

Yet after four years of a recalibrated relationship with the Middle East, a video has caused radical Islamists to yell such niceties as “Obama, we love Osama” and “Our dead are in paradise; your dead are in hell.” 

Were such things said in a remote outpost of the Hindu Kush where radicalized sheepherders with Internet access are unable to differentiate You Tube videos from American endorsed positions? 

Actually, the “Obama, we love Osama” folks were gathered in Sydney, Australia.  The Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, and ABC News Australia reported police used batons and dog squads to repel the five-hour long protest conducted by violent radicals wearing Arabic scripted headbands that read, “We are your soldiers, Mohammed.” 

In fact, while still in the “peaceful” stages of assembly, children were photographed holding signs that said, “Behead all those who insult the prophet.” 

This gives pause for reflection.

Let’s assume that all of these protests really are the result of a movie. 

Does Western culture condone the beheading of producers?  Obviously not, so what can the United States do to appease Islamic fascists?  Disavow such films?  Stop them from being made?

To think about what this really means in the context of our own values, put aside for the moment a silly film produced by a fringe Egyptian for nefarious purposes. 

If an author like Salman Rushdie is ever murdered and wider protests erupt around the globe because of his writing, should the United States respond by tweeting that Americans repudiate Rushdie’s highly acclaimed work? 

If not, one has to consider the broader implications of how the Obama administration has handled the violent—and not isolated—reactions to a remote film. 

Is it okay to continue to propagate the idea that insanely intolerant people have a reason to be mad?  How do Americans live peacefully with extremists who are alive, well, and so easily agitated despite President Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policies?  (This was the description an Obama adviser gave to The New Yorker of the president’s approach to the Arab Spring.) 

It would be refreshing if someone seemed even remotely interested in analyzing what this crisis actually says about American security around the globe. 

After all, the Commander-in-Chief’s primary duty is not to protect the feelings of fanatics.  It’s to engage in policies that protect the people of the United States. 

Comments
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B D Lane
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September 19, 2012
Wow. I really appreciate the fact that so many of you are thinking and commenting about what I wrote.

Lib in Cobb:

I appreciate your note, but see my response to Mr. Foley with quote. It was taken from a major speech given by Mr. Brennan laying out the administration's new approach to terrorism in 2009. If it is irresponsible to say that we are not in the midst of a "war on terror," you must look towards the White House. It defines its own terms.

Mr Palmer,

If you are correct, and this movie is more than an excuse, then it is even more important that we are a nation dedicated to our own security for we live in a country where South Park is funny. There are no limits on freedom of speech, so we will always invite attacks. Would you change our freedoms? This was a remote You Tube video. Do you think people who chant, "We love Osama" will appreciate the major Hollywood release of a movie that details his killing? A movie with which the White House has cooperated? While some of the mob is, as you say, easy to manipulate because of lack of education, I give the leaders of the mob more credit. And I notice that there are billions of Muslims who don't agitate in this way at all. Who aren't extreme. Do you paint them with the same brush with which you paint the extremists? How do you explain the women in Libya holding signs apologizing to the United States? Aren't they in the same restricted culture?

D. McDowell,

While a little off topic here, I believe that there is a horrible "war on women" in the countries where they are subordinated to violent men, stoned for their trespasses, and denied a voice over even the domestic sphere. I am not throwing stones, but a catchphrase that implies Republicans wish to harm women is hyperbole. Pro-Life or not, no one who is running for office in this election is attempting to remove adequate health care for women.
D.McDowell
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September 19, 2012


BD Lane

The War on Women is a political catchphrase used in United States politics to describe Republican Party initiatives in federal and state legislatures that are seen as restricting women's rights, especially with regard to reproductive rights.

I don’t see anything laughable in this catchphrase. Might I add that a lot of women are of the Pro-Life mindset until they, or a loved one, a relative or a friend need medical attention for a pregnancy gone wrong. Perhaps many of the “Pro-Life” women are not old enough to remember when there was no choice for women, young, middle or old for adequate health care. I caution all women to think twice before they cast the first stone.

D. McDowell

Off Balance
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September 18, 2012
Ms Lane,

A very good article, per usual.

I submit that security around the world is too large a task for Americans to handle by them selves. In days past, it was the power and strength of America and he willingness to mete justice when harmed that caused the rest of the world to give pause before they attacked us or our officials.

I greatly admire Reagan and I felt he reflected the strength of America in most cases. Roosevelt did also.

Jim Croce wrote a song that is an example:

You don't tug on Superman's cape

You don't spit into the wind

You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger

And you don't mess around with (Jim), the USA

With all his bowing and scraping, toadying to Muslim emirs and sheiks, Obama has managed in three years to project an image of weakness.Now people tug on Superman;s cape with little fear. They goad the bull because his owner has removed the bull's horns.

While I understand and agree with some of Obama's opinions about us being the "Ugly American", his way of trying to change that image has been a complete failure. We succeed through strength in the world arena, not through appeasement.

"The Obama doctrine as demonstrated by multiple speeches and foreign policy initiatives is one that rests on the assumption that the animosity that has long radiated towards the United States was in large part a reaction to a lack of American humility, military posturing and interference in the affairs of other cultures."

You are correct, the Obama approach does not work. We, or any country that is a "have" country will always be envied and hated too, by the "have nots". Generosity, throughout history, globally or personally, is often met with resentment by many. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the being known a man.

Jason Palmer
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September 18, 2012
I think you may be missing a crucial point when you say that "They are really angry at the American policy of freedom."

Muslim extremists do not typically come from free countries (Australia being an exception), so how do you expect them to understand, let alone hate, America's policy of freedom? Most of these extremists come from countries where the government filters and approves all media. Therefore, they inductively reason that our government must also do the same, and since the anti-Islamic film came out of America, it must be government approved/sponsored.

You really seem to be downplaying the effect that this movie is having, and I just do not understand why. There are obviously long standing tensions, but this movie has been the proverbial kicking of a hornets nest.



Lib in Cobb
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September 18, 2012
Ms. Lane: When I mentioned placing blame on President Obama I was not pointing a finger at you. There are many in the "red states" who do and have blamed our president for most everything they can. Suggesting that our president is unaware of the war on terror is irresponsible, now I am finger pointing.
misterbill
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September 18, 2012
Another fine article Ms Lane. It is sad that you have to reply to some readers who see things in your article that are not there. It truly shows , just as the irate, unthinking, savage radical Muslims who committed acts of murder, reportedly over this film, that there are readers of your column who, in order to protect their Messiah, will stretch truth to the breaking level to disprove your statements.

The rest of the world is laughing at the weak sister in the White House. They hold no fear of reprisal as Foley would suggest in airing out the attack on Osama, which actually had been laid out by the true defenders of our country and stifled by Obama until he was finally heavily influenced to make it happen.

I believe time will show and prove that Obama's strongest interest is his belief that he can make a better world by bringing everyone down to an"equal" level. When he has the power to turn water to wine and multiply loaves and fish then and only then will he realize his dream.
B D Lane
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September 18, 2012
"This leads directly to the second element of the president's approach-- a clear, a more precise definition of the challenge. This is critically important. How you define a problem shapes how you address it. As many have noted, the president does not describe this as a 'war on terrorism.'"

John Brennan (chief counter terrorism advisor for the Obama administration), August 6, 2009

As Mr. Brennan points out at the beginning of a major shift in how we addressed terrorism, when talking about foreign policy semantics always mean something.

That said, you are right. President Obama has taken out many leaders of terrorist groups. I have never faulted him for this.
Kevin Foley
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September 18, 2012
Uh, Ms. Lane? Obama ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden and dozens of other AQ terrorist leaders so I think he "knows" there's a war on terror.
B D Lane
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September 18, 2012
Mr. Palmer,

As stated, my source for the producer's nationality is ABC News though he's called "Egyptian" in multiple media outlets. The nationality matters only to underscore that condemning the United States as responsible for this movie when it wasn't even produced by an American is doubly ridiculous. It's not to blast immigrants whom I view as valuable contributors to American society.

However, if the producer was funded by John Smith who grew up in Davenport, Iowa, I would feel the same about the indignation of militant Islamists. Their problem is with the American value of free speech, and their reactions to this new, kinder era of President Obama has been no less violent--their outrage no less consuming--than it would have been under President Bush. They are really angry at the American policy of freedom, and we should recognize this if we really want to protect our outposts in far-flung places like, you know, Australia. We should not say it's just about a movie.

Is that fair?

Thank you all for reading.
B D Lane
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September 18, 2012
For the record, I am not blaming President Obama's policies for causing unrest in the Middle East. I am blaming President Obama for believing there is no longer a "war on terror." I am saying his approach did not remove the threat. In this way, his policies are failures. And wince we are unwilling to change our values--I hope--I am also suggesting that President Obama should rethink his approach to security because denying militants are angry at Americans--whether it's because we won't behead a producer or we have a free speech society or we killed Osama Bin Laden--is simply closing one's eyes to reality.

Anyway, in this context, I think the Egyptian's religion is mostly irrelevant. But Mr. Foley is right that he is a Coptic Christian who is not an American. Yet American flags are the ones that are burning, and the unrest continues to escalate around American embassies, even in Western locations as demonstrated by the protests in Sydney. The anger is not directed at Coptic Christians or Egyptians but at the United States. Therefore, I think it's about more than a movie.

Thank you both for reading the column and weighing in with what you think.
Jason Palmer
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September 18, 2012
I am curious to know what source shows Nakoula is not an American. I have not been able to find anything that says he is anything other than an Egyptian-American. It may seem like a small point to pick at, but the attitude of many people in this country is one of intolerance for immigrants (illegal or legal). Claiming Nakoula is not an American may help relieve some people of an irrational guilt stemming from the protected hate speech allowed in America, but it is still very irresponsible.
Hurts country
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September 18, 2012
The libs can spin all they want. We, the people who are lied to constantly by Obama, can see that he has weakened us in the eyes of the world. And if China calls in their money, we are done for. So people better enjoy all that free stuff O. is giving away. There ain't a lot of it left.
Kevin Foley
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September 18, 2012
Obama didn't produce the anti-Muslim film.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula did and you failed to make mention of one very important fact about him:

He is a Coptic Christian.

You probably are unaware that Coptic Christians are persecuted in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, hence Nakoula's desire to insult and anger Muslims. And, boy, did he accomplish what he set out to do.

So this has nothing whatever to do with Obama's foreign policy and everything to do with religous warfare.
Lib in Cobb
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September 18, 2012
It's very easy to sit in Cobb county or any other locale and place blame on any sitting president for what appears or even doesn't appear to be spontaneous unrest. The middle east has been a hot bed of militant discontent for hundreds of years. That unrest has been present during the current campaign and the campaign of many presidents. Militant extremists are constantly searching for anything to fan the fires of discontent and this "knuckleheaded" movie was enough to cause the current unrest as well as the burning of the Koran in Florida a year ago by another militant, this one is a Christian minister, Terry Jones.

Barry Goldwater said it best many years ago, "Negotiating with militants is impossible". Goldwater was not describing Islamic militants, he was describing Christian militants.

Terry Jones was asked by representatives from the White House not to burn the Koran, he wouldn't listen and people died. If the existence of this movie was common knowledge, measures could have been taken to hopefully prevent its release.

To place blame on President Obama for the current unrest in the middle east is both short sighted and incorrect.
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