A team of American diplomats in Libya is dead at the hands of a pack of ruthless thugs whose rage against Americans is far from sated.
One year ago, Ambassador Chris Stevens was a hero of the Libyan insurgency that toppled Moammar Gadhafi. The ambassador died Tuesday at the hands of insurgents unable to comprehend his important contribution to their nation’s liberation. He and three colleagues were killed by zealots eager to execute any American over a YouTube video Stevens had nothing to do with and likely, never saw.
Leaders of Libya’s new government apologized profusely and, we assume, genuinely, over the mob attack that took the life of Stevens and three in his diplomatic corps. No matter. This fledgling regime seems powerless against a fractured populace and disbanded military that left this nation conflicted, lawless and heavily armed.
Scarier still? Libya may not be America’s biggest problem right now.
The YouTube video — a
10-minute trailer promoting a feature film depicting the prophet Muhammed as a lascivious thug — is comically bad. American actors ham it up with phony Arab accents and pose in studio scenes blended in front of filmed desert backdrops purporting to be 7th century Medina. In one scene, camels race across a desert criss-crossed with tire tracks.
This film’s only threat is to the craft of filmmaking.
Still, the video excerpts sparked demonstrations throughout the Arab world, including a rabble pressing on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. A representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo immediately called for the U.S. government to condemn and prosecute the filmmakers, whom they refer to in a statement as “madmen.”
The Muslim Brotherhood sponsored Mohamed Morsi’s candidacy to become the first democratically elected Egyptian president after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. A Brotherhood representative told a New York Times reporter that Egyptians should respond to the film with “civilized demonstrations.” But the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the film, not the violent protests.
The vicious attack in Libya and growing protests in Egypt reveal a threat emerging from an Arab spring Americans hoped would bring democracy. Democracy requires tolerance of dissent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the slain ambassador, “risked his life to stop a tyrant and gave his life trying to build a better Libya.”
The mobs in Libya foolishly seem to elevate a dull depiction of their prophet by a private filmmaker over our entire nation’s humanitarian and military support that liberated their nation just one year ago.
Libyan leaders blame the violence on a small group, perhaps fueled by resentful Gadhafi loyalists. That’s a small comfort. Portions of the Arab world remain rife with lawless, armed, uneducated zealots prepared to lash out in defense of a faith they flout every time they plunder, maim and kill.
Libya’s new leaders seem to understand that as they apologize profusely and hope to mend diplomatic relations. But in Egypt, a nation of 82.5 million people — 13 times bigger than Libya — the ruling Muslim Brotherhood expects the U.S. to condemn, prosecute and jail the filmmakers.