Perspective on the Recent US Embassy Attacks
By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes*
American news followers of the USA type have spent the last week watching, reading, and hearing reports of protests and attacks against US diplomatic compounds in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Tunisia.
At the US consulate in Benghazi, well-armed attackers murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. We extend our sincere condolences to the family of Ambassador Stevens and to the families of other Americans and Libyans who were also murdered in the attack.
Libyans objecting to embassy attack, image from cnn.com
These attacks naturally have stirred up anger in many Americans and Westerners. What is less visible in the news is that many Libyans are also outraged by the attack. Responses in the USA vary with political persuasion and with individual interpretations.
Violent protests and attacks on embassies have become a common marketing tactic of groups selling various anti-American agendas around the world. To put this current wave of attacks into perspective, let’s review two glaring examples of diplomatic conduct involving US embassies.
On December 8, 1941, the Japanese sneak attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was celebrated in Japan as a great feat of arms and a fantastic victory for the Japanese war machine. In the US, the attack stirred anger and a grim resolve to do all that was necessary to defeat Japan. In fact, when journalists asked US Admiral William Halsey what would happen in response to the Japanese, Halsey said “When we’re through with them, Japanese will be a language spoken only in hell.”
At that time, the Japanese had been at war in Asia for decades and had inflicted a level of brutality on the peoples of China and Korea that the Japanese history book writers are still too ashamed to admit to today. So then, in those violent and brutal times, what happened to the US diplomatic staff and their families at the US embassy and consulates in Japan? What happened to the Japanese embassy staff and their families in the USA?
Nothing. The Japanese temporarily confined all US embassy staff to the embassy grounds, and then shipped them to a neutral port in a Portuguese African colony for repatriation. We did the same thing with their embassy staff. There were no riots or threatening mobs. Even in the midst of a war, both nations respected their diplomatic agreements concerning embassies.
At the opposite extreme is the infamous Iranian attack on the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. By attacking the US embassy and taking the residents hostage, the ignorant mullahs running the Iranian government wanted to humiliate the USA. To a degree they did that, but they also unwittingly exposed themselves as being more barbaric than the Japanese war criminal Tojo had shown himself to be in handling the US embassy in 1941. Iran has yet to recover its credibility in the community of civilized nations since that ill-advised attack.
Students attack US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, 1979
When trying to understand the current wave of protests, it helps to consider them in a broad context across time and space. Personally, in the case of Libya, I will wait for US investigators, including an FBI forensic team, to conclude its investigation before making any general assumptions.
We should note that many Libyans are bluntly condemning the murder of the US ambassador. While thugs posing as “religious leaders” may be at play in Libya, the majority of the Libyan people are too sophisticated to accept a diet of Death to America Soup in lieu of the human rights and freedom that most of them were seeking when they ran down Qaddafi and executed him.
On the other hand, the Egyptian security forces have suffered no great upheaval in recent times. They are a well-funded, large system with plenty of experience handling protesters, and the protesters are well-riddled with police informants. The Egyptian government has chosen to allow the attack on the US embassy in Cairo to occur.
The Egyptian government could have intervened more effectively and much sooner. It didn’t. This begs a question. Why are taxpayers in the USA financing the Egyptian military and security forces?
Now that the US embassy in Cairo has been tidied up, and Egyptian President Morsi has returned to Egypt from his begging tour of Western nations, it might be a great time to ask him that particular question. If he actually is presiding over a government that is incapable of protecting a foreign embassy, then we need to ask ourselves what precisely we are investing in in Egypt.
Just as interesting as the foreign governments’ responses to the attacks on US diplomatic locations on their soil are the responses by the Western media and politicians. The basic party lines are so far playing out in predictable fashion. The Democratic party line is that this was all caused by a nasty little amateur film maker with bad taste and is in no way connected to President Obama’s foreign policies or lack thereof and likely had nothing to do with any terrorist groups. The Republican party line is equally predictable. “Yet another foreign policy debacle by that apologetic fool Obama.”
As for the filmmaker, I have not bothered to view the video. The net is filled with amateur video makers flinging unsophisticated insults across any and every political and religious chasm in the world today. I don’t bother watching them.
The suggestion by some that we should surrender yet more of our fundamental rights and place controls on our free speech to avoid angering the ever-so-sensitive minority of violent protesters in Islamic nations strikes me as a childish response. If anyone sincerely feels that such controls are healthy and proper for a society, then I suggest that they waste no further time suffering in the Land of the Free and quickly make their escape to North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, or some other suitable controlled-speech environment where they won’t have to fret about anyone publicizing anything annoying to those governments.
For those of us who enjoy free speech and are honest enough to afford it to others, we will have to settle for less radical responses to the current protests.
The best foreign policy comes from contemplating as many verifiable facts as can be ascertained and then calmly formulating a clear, rational, and effective response in support of our foreign policy goals. Let’s hope that everyone in Washington can take a break from the campaigning long enough to remember their duty to the American people and do just that.
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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.
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