Saturday, September 15, 2012

Criticism all around








Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:  We are closely watching what is happening in Yemen and elsewhere, and we certainly hope and expect that there will be steps taken to avoid violence and prevent the escalation of protests into violence.
I also want to take a moment to address the video circulating on the Internet that has led to these protests in a number of countries. Let me state very clearly -- and I hope it is obvious -- that the United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. And as you know, we are home to people of all religions, many of whom came to this country seeking the right to exercise their own religion, including, of course, millions of Muslims. And we have the greatest respect for people of faith.
To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage. But as I said yesterday, there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence. We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms, and we greatly appreciate that many Muslims in the United States and around the world have spoken out on this issue.
Violence, we believe, has no place in religion and is no way to honor religion. Islam, like other religions, respects the fundamental dignity of human beings, and it is a violation of that fundamental dignity to wage attacks on innocents. As long as there are those who are willing to shed blood and take innocent life in the name of religion, the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace. It is especially wrong for violence to be directed against diplomatic missions. These are places whose very purpose is peaceful: to promote better understanding across countries and cultures. All governments have a responsibility to protect those spaces and people, because to attack an embassy is to attack the idea that we can work together to build understanding and a better future.
Now, I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day. Now, I would note that in today's world with today's technologies, that is impossible. But even if it were possible, our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our Constitution and our law, and we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.
There are, of course, different views around the world about the outer limits of free speech and free expression, but there should be no debate about the simple proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable. We all -- whether we are leaders in government, leaders in civil society or religious leaders -- must draw the line at violence. And any responsible leader should be standing up now and drawing that line.
Protests have taken place around the region all week including today.  Reem Abdellatif, Ned Parker, Laura King, Hashmat Baktash, Alex Rodriguez, Emily Alpert and staff in Beirut and Khartoum (Los Angeles Times) report, "Infuriated protesters in Tunisia stormed the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Tunis, and tore down the American flag, state media reported.  Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas to try to scatter the crowd, the official Tunisian News Agency reported.  Black smoke was seen rising around the embassy compound amid reports that an American school nearby had been set on fire. In Sudan, hundreds of riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used batons to prevent a wall of hundreds of protesters reaching the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Khartoum, but a grop managed to break through, breach the wall of the embassy and raise a black Islamic flag."
Protests took place in Iraq today as well.  All Iraq News reports a protest was held today in Samarra following morning prayers and that protests also took place today in Wasit, Najaf, Missan and Basra.  All Iraq News notes that the Najaf protest saw the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (Ammar al-Hakim's political group) read out a statement denouncing the video and insisting it did serious harm to Muhammed.  AFP reports:
In Karbala, Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalai, the representative in the city of top Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said during his Friday sermon that "these repeated abuses could threaten peaceful life, especially among (religiously) mixed peoples."
He also condemned violence in response to the film, which portrays the Prophet Mohammed and Islam in a negative light, and sparked deadly fury in Libya, where four Americans including the ambassador were killed on Tuesday in a mob attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
In Sunni-majority Ramadi, west of Baghdad, hundreds of people demonstrated against the film.
Hamid al-Fahdawi, one of the protest organisers, told AFP that demonstrators want the Iraqi government to dismiss the US ambassador and cut economic ties with the US.
When compiling a list of demands, it's probably a good idea to leave unicorns and other myths off the list.  There is no US Ambassador to Iraq currently.  The most recent, James Jeffrey, left Iraq months ago. 
Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) quotes Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee speaking about the possibility that Barack's latest nominee might be placed on hold after his confirmation hearing:

Make no mistake: Our embassy in Baghdad is one of our most important and what happens there is key to our bilateral relationship and our work in the Middle East. By all accounts, Steve Beecroft is a highly capable career Foreign Service officer who has ambassadorial experience, and it is in America's best interest to get him on the ground as quickly as possible.

If the concern is over the empty post of US Ambassador to Iraq, well the administration should have done a better job vetting and never nominated Brett McGurk.  Married and sleeping with another married person in Iraq while working for the US government in Iraq?  It doesn't matter that he married Gina Chon eventually (after both their divorces -- it does matter that she allowed him to vet her copy, which is why her paper fired her), it matters that he had a reputation for disrespecting marriage in Iraq which meant that any Iraqi woman visiting the US embassy was going to be suspect which really matters in a country that practices so-called 'honor' killings.  They never should have nominated him.  His prior behavior in Iraq would have made his appointment an insult to the host country.

There should be an ambassador to Iraq.  But no one forced the White House to nominate the insulting Brett McGurk and no one forced the White House to wait so long to name a new nominee after McGurk's name was withdrawn.  I remember the Attorney General nominations of 1993.  That was rough and Republicans were determined to defeat the nominees.  Plural. Bill Clinton nominated Zoe Baird for the post.  Her nomination was derailed and she withdrew her name January 22, 1993.  Clinton goes on to announce a new nominee: Kimba Wood.  Kimba Wood withdraws her name February 5, 1993.  Clinton then nominated Janet Reno who was confirmed March 11, 1993 on a 98 to zero vote in the Senate.  January 20, 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as President of the United States.  March 11th, Reno -- his third nominee -- was confirmed as Attorney General. That's moving quickly.

By contrast?  June 18th McGurk's name is withdrawnLate  September 10th word leaks out that Beecroft is Barack's new nominee and it's made official with an announcement September 11th.  In less than two months, President Bill Clinton names 3 different nominees for Attorney General and gets one confirmed.  Eight days shy of three months after McGurk's name is withdrawn, President Barack Obama is finally able to find someone to nominate for the post (Beecroft, the person who's been doing the work all that time).  If Senate Dems want to whine that Paul's creating a delay on that nomination, Barack's the one who created the delay and dragged his feet.

The average time between confirmation hearings and a vote is said to be ten days.  That would be September 28th and that's awfully close to when senators facing re-election battles have tor return home.  That was also foot dragging by the administration which should have planned it much better.

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