Eleven years after the September 11th attacks, I woke up to an eerily similar day. Clear skies, nice weather, and, more or less, a noticeable amount of silence. I remember that day, first I heard the planes and then I watched the towers fall. I remember thinking how small the world had gotten, how actions elicit violent response and how this day should remind us that the world, not just Americans, must work more closely for less war and stronger relationships with, at the very least, mutual respect and understanding. Destiny sent us in an opposite direction. It sent the world toward conflict and war.
Some years later, I was in Afghanistan when pastor Terry Jones of Florida decided he was going to be the epitome of religious intolerance and burn some Korans, Islam’s holy book. To me this was an abomination. Not because I don’t believe in freedom of speech, but because it was completely irresponsible, insensitive and downright disrespectful. Here I was with countless other Americans and our allies trying to stabilize Afghanistan so our troops could come home and some American, pastor no less, was putting my life in danger. I knew that building strong relationships with Afghans would ensure trust and loyalty thus ensuring the likes of Al Qaeda would be kept at bay, but now my own intentions were being questioned.
Unfortunately for those of us in harms way, compatriots like Jones were the ones that made our safety and security much worse. The bottom line is that Americans have no idea how mindless actions like these jeopardize the safety of the rest of us.
The riots Jones incited in Afghanistan put my life and the lives of many Americans and their allies in grave danger. Apparently, the results of his careless actions were dismissed because he took it upon himself to inform the world about more senseless stupidity.
Now get ready because this is a soap opera. Supposedly an Israeli, living in the US, who is more probably a real estate developer, but calls himself a filmmaker, decided to make a “politically provocative” mockery of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad in and eight minute trailer and then past it on YouTube. In most countries he would be arrested for crimes against the state and inciting violence, but that’s another story. This person, supposedly named Sam Bacile, is spreading his own bigotry and intolerance caused more devastating international outrage than even Jones could muster. This time the insensitive provocation ended in the death of two US diplomats and the US Ambassador in Libya. The news now reports he unapologetically went into hiding while Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, his staff, their families and this country pay the price for his indiscretion and ignorance.
The incident in Libya was senseless. And, yes, the First Amendment exists, in the US that is, and you are more than welcome to through up any piece of garbage on the Internet. No problem. As long as you don’t bash my faith, you’re fine.
Honestly though, I’m getting really tired of the hypocrisy. People spewing hate when they know first hand what it is like to have hate spewed at them. They see no problem with insulting others despite the fact that they have had plenty of issues to face in their own lives. I bet Bacile, or who ever he/she is and if he is Jewish, is horrified every time someone questions the Jewish Holocaust though he will never make a satire about that. I haven’t heard one peep of protest from other religions. Christians who were incensed with Martin Scorsese’ Last Temptation of Christ or Jews who was thoroughly infuriated by Mel Gibson’s the Passion of the Christ are silent. Although none of these movies showed Jesus with his face in Mary Magdalene’s crotch, the one that is showing Mohammed between Khadeja's legs is ok. Really??
Republican candidate Mitt Romney, for his part, blamed Barack Obama. Just like everybody else he went straight to security instead of diplomacy. Romneywas right in one aspect - that it is never wrong for a President to come out and speak against despicable acts. He is wrong, and so was Obama, about criticizing (in Obama’s case ignoring) the statement coming out of the US Embassy in Egypt. The US, in this case especially, must trust and stand by their diplomats to do the right thing in the countries they serve. Only the staff of the US Embassy in Egypt actually got it and made a hasty statement that worked to quell the masses. It was not an apology Mitt, and heartbreak like this should not be political, it was a way to ensure that the incident in Egypt did not end in the same tragic way it did in Libya.
If the US would take a deep breath and realize that the real issue here is that lack of diplomatic power, it would be able to mitigate these types of problems. The US needs to get back to words and actions and away from endless war. It is time we learned the lessons from two decades of war. There is no military solution and the US must invest more consciously in its foreign service so they can engage in the countries where they serve. Currently, the military is training the warrior for the 21st Century; why is our government leaving the civilians out?
Becile, and Jones for that matter, knew what they were doing and our foreign service must be better prepared to respond. These actions have consequences and our civilian, like our military men and women must be engaged with the population. That, my friend, does not mean hunkering in the bunker. It means getting out there and building solid relationships so you're working with the people, for the people and by the people, with your eyes open and ear to the ground giving you plenty of heads up that things like this are coming. Only then can our diplomates help manage the anger before it spreads.
Follow Tricia on Twitter @Tricias_Take
9/11, Afghanistan, Diplomacy, internet, Islam, Libya