Intelligence Perspective on the Recent US Embassy Attacks

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.

You may contact them in blog comments, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or by email at BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

Speech, Religion, and Politics: Where is Our Red Line?

By Piper Bayard

My intelligence operative writing partner, Jay Holmes*, is not at liberty to issue a statement on the current “insult to Islam” situation, but thanks to Freedom of Speech, I am under no such restrictions.

The Muhammed Movie Trailer has stirred up quite a lot of passions in America and around the world. That’s because religion, like politics, is visceral and rational discussions of either are rare. Blame is flying in a chaotic whirlwind with nowhere stable to land. Let’s take a moment to calm our roiling viscera and look at some facts.

America has no established religion. America has Freedom of Speech. That’s what allows people of many religions to co-exist. Differing religions that produce violent conflict in other parts of the world co-exist peacefully here because Americans chose at the nation’s founding to value Freedom of Speech above the individual ability to do violence in the face of offense. It is part of the Social Contract, and it is based on the notion that human life and peace are more important and productive than any verbal insults.

Currently, Muslims are attacking our US embassies and consulates around the world because an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in America made a parody film of Muhammad and posted it on YouTube. The violence claimed the lives of four Americans, including the US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, image from US Dept. of State

Some Americans place the blame for those deaths squarely on the filmmaker and his backers. “He should have known Muslims would riot and kill people.” I would disagree for two primary reasons.

The Supreme Court has always had the right to regulate the time and place of speech. However, that is generally applied where speech is calculated to incite violence by Americans toward other Americans. A film parodying Muhammad that is rife with intentional religious insults is far more similar to the hateful speech of the Westboro Baptists, and the Westboro Baptist message of death to America and our soldiers has been deemed protected under the First Amendment.

The Westboro Baptists are every bit as offensive to Americans, to soldiers, and to actual Christians as the parody film of Muhammad is to Muslims. As a general rule though, Americans can count on each other to not riot and kill people, even in the face of grave and sacred insult. That is Freedom of Speech in practice. To hold the filmmaker responsible is to hold Muslims to a lower standard of civility and behavior than the average American.

This condones the idea that Muslims cannot reasonably be trusted to behave in a mature and civilized fashion. If I were a Muslim, I would be insulted by that notion. Also, by the same reasoning, shouldn’t the grieving soldiers’ families be excused if they decide to kill some Westboro Baptists? Is that the law we want in our land?

Speaking of the filmmaker, I’ve heard numerous theories about who was backing him. Was the Coptic Cigar just a Coptic Cigar? Were right-wing Republicans intending to highlight Obama’s weakness in foreign policy? Was this a plot by Israel? Was it sponsored by Iran as a way of inciting Muslims to violence to mask other, more insidious agendas on the part of that Shi’ite country?

Let’s look at Israel first. Israel certainly has plenty of schemes to go around, as do all countries, but this wouldn’t be a very smart plot for Israel. It had nothing to gain by simultaneously pissing off the entire Muslim world around it above and beyond what its mere existence already does. This chaos is a much more fruitful opportunity for so many other players.

So let’s turn to Libya. The vast majority of the Libyan people want America in their country. They are highly educated for the region with a literacy rate of over 70%, which is better than that of many American cities. With increased education comes awareness of the rest of the world and the ability to conceive of and participate in a nation rather than just a tribe. In other words, Libya has a chance at molding itself into nation of peace and prosperity.

Image from BuzzFeed: 15 Photos of Libyans Apologizing to Americans

There are many factions in Libya, some of them foreigners from other Middle Eastern countries, who want to see the new Libya fail. Those countries and organizations are always on the watch for some excuse to stir up hatred against the US and break our diplomatic ties.

Unorganized, spontaneous mobs in the Middle East generally throw rocks or shoot up the place a bit. They do not have mortars and rockets and do not perform organized attacks on US embassies and consulates. The nature of the attack on our US consulate in Benghazi would indicate that a foreign predatory country or organization like Al-Qaeda is behind it, and that Libya is as much a victim of that attack as the US is.

On Sunday, the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told Jake Tapper on ABC’s “This Week” that the Libyan protest was completely spontaneous and a copycat of Egyptian protests. However, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich), former FBI agent and House Intelligence Committee Chair, tactfully pointed out that there were too many coincidences to conclude the Benghazi attack hadn’t been planned in advance. Arizona Sen. John McCain, top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, added that, “Most people don’t bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to a demonstration.” I can only say that Rice will play this however the White House tells her to, and that this is the same UN that put Gadhafi in charge of Human Rights.

Iran, Yemen, and Egypt are another story. Unlike Libya, those countries are capitalizing on this moment.

Protests in Iran, image from news.kuwaittimes.net

The Iranian government is using this poorly-made parody film to incite Shi’ites around the world to violence, something their mullahs do at the drop of a Koran. Iran has openly declared in the past that it wants to turn all Muslim nations into its satellite states. It’s hardly a stretch to see Iran behind the attack in Libya, either as a well-laid plot or simply an opportunistic taking.

Another gem is Yemen. The Yemeni government didn’t simply fail to protect the US embassy. Yemeni security police were seen encouraging the few hundred protestors to pass through their check points to get to the embassy. These were the same police who were supposed to be protecting the embassy. In fact in some cases, they even joined the protestors.

These Yemeni security forces are still controlled by ex-Yemeni President Ali Saleh’s family. The Saleh faction wants Al-Qaeda defeated, but it also wants to generate anti-Western hysteria to help stall any democratic reforms in Yemen. It’s worth noting that over two million people did not protest in Sana’a in spite of the efforts of the Saleh-controlled security police.

Then there is Egypt. The Egyptian government, run by the duly elected Muslim Brotherhood, was too busy cashing our billions in aid money and begging Europe for more to bother to use its massive security forces to fulfill its diplomatic obligation to protect our embassy on their soil. In between panhandling in Europe and chumming with the wanted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is verbally condemning the violence. However, he also threatening America, saying that the Islamic prophet is “the red line.”

Egypt is demanding that America ignore her own laws and values of Freedom of Speech and punish the filmmaker who made this parody film. Questions hang in the air . . .

Will President Obama make it clear that America is a country that stands behind its Constitution and the Freedom of Speech guaranteed in it, even when people are insulted by that speech? Or will Obama compromise our First Amendment to appease the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and punish the filmmaker for his legal activities? Will America continue to aid and do business with countries that refuse to honor their duty to protect our embassies?

Where is America’s “red line”? I wish I knew.

In the meantime, I appreciate this rational appeal from Syed Mahmood, “A Muslim’s Reaction to Muhammad Movie Trailer.”

All the best to all of you for remaining rational in the face of visceral reactions.

© 2012 Piper Bayard. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.