Egypt, Libya, Romney and Obama, How the Internet Played a Role in it All

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U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was one of several Americans killed during attacks on the US embassy in Libya, after protesters and armed men stormed the embassy. It appears that the Internet, namely Twitter and online statements, may have been a large factor in all of this. A string of Internet events appear to have led up to the disruption, which killed a total of four Americans, including the Ambassador.

It all started in early July, when Israeli Jew, Sam Bacile, released an extended trailer for a movie called, “The Real Life of Muhammad.” The movie is an amateur film that is anti-Islam, and prompted the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, to condemn the film. He called the film offensive to the Prophet, and blamed an extremist branch of a minority Christian group in Egypt for the film’s production.

Fast forward to just a few days ago, September 10th, a reverend in Florida by the name of Terry Jones posted a YouTube video announcing that he will screen this movie trailer in an effort to turn September 11th into “International Judge Mohammad ‘Mo’ Day.” If the name “Terry Jones” rings a bell, it is because he made headlines when he decided that he was going to burn Korans to commemorate the anniversary of September 11th. This past June, Jones was investigated by the Secret Service after a threatening Obama effigy to his congregation at the Dove World Outreach Center.

Fast forward to yesterday, the anniversary of September 11th. The US Embassy in Cairo tweeted twice in a half hour span yesterday morning:

@USEmbassyCairo Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy.

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The second tweet was a link to this statement, their response to accounts of the film as covered by the Egyptian media:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

At 5pm in Cairo, on yesterday, September 11th, 2000 Salafist activists turned out after a call by Salafist leader and president of Egypt’s Hekma television channel, Wesam Abdel-Wareth, to protest US-made film, “Muhammad’s Trial.” The film has drawn widespread criticism for what many say insult the Prophet Mohammed. The protests began and, by night, some protesters climbed over the embassy wall and destroyed the American flag inside, replacing it with the black flag used by extreme conservatives and militants, which is emblazoned with the phrase, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” The crowd was unarmed and, while shots were fired in the air by embassy guards, no weapons were used against the crowd.

And in about a half hour span, two things happened simultaneously: Stand Up America Now, the group led by Terry Jones, began a livestream of Jones’ anti-Muslim presentation, and the US Embassy in Cairo released a series of tweets:

@USEmbassyCairo As Spokesperson Nuland said, protesters breached our wall and took down flag. Thanks for your concern and kind wishes.

@USEmbassyCairo Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

@USEmbassyCairo Of course we condemn breaches of our compound, we’re the ones actually living through this.

@USEmbassyCairo Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry.

@USEmbassyCairo This morning’s condemnation (issued before protests began) still stands. As does condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy. (This tweet ended up getting deleted)

Several hours later, the Romney campaign releases an embargoed statement, with the embargo being lifted about twenty minutes later. The full statement read, “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. 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.”  Politico later quoted an administration official as saying, “The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.”

Then news of the attacks broke, and a new succession of tweets began:

@StateDept #SecClinton: I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. #Libya

@StateDept #SecClinton: We have confirmed one @StateDept officer was killed in #Libya. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss.

After this, the tweets sent out by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were deleted.

Hillary Clinton later issued a formal statement, condemning the attacks:

“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.” She adds: “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.”

President Obama also issued a statement:

“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.

The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.”

On the other side, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, waiting until exactly one minute after midnight on September 11th, tweeted:

@Reince Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and Pathetic.

Hillary Clinton later said that we must be clear in our grief, saying, “This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.” Mitt Romney spoke out again, saying that the the Obama administration’s statement about the attacks in Libya, saying that it was sending mixed messages to the world and that it looks as though we are apologizing for our values. From Washington, Obama and Clinton appeared to further comment on the issue, with Obama saying,  “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.”

There is no denying that revolutions have started over the Internet (link to our article), will wars be next?

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