Romney's Libya Comments Kowtow to Anti-Muslim Bigots

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The Nation

Romney's Libya Comments Kowtow to Anti-Muslim Bigots

Mitt Romney has, for all intents and purposes, pretty much disqualified himself for the presidency by his intemperate comments in regard to the murder of the US ambassador in Libya. His bungling trip to Britain, Israel and Poland was bad enough, but his shocking remarks blasting President Obama and kowtowing to extremist, anti-Muslim Republican voters ought to be the final straw.

A quick summary of the facts: an extremist, Israeli-American’s film about Islam stirs up radical Muslims in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere. The US embassy in Cairo, obviously sensing that tension was building, condemns the propaganda film. Then, the embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Benghazi come under attack. When the American diplomats are killed, including the US ambassador, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton issue fierce condemnations. And Romney says this:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker [sic] 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.

Why did Romney issue the “disgraceful” comment? Because he’s seeking the votes of Islam-hating Christian extremist nutcases. Period.

Said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign: “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”

The issue isn’t that Romney is so callous that he’d make political hay out of a murder of a diplomat. The issue is why Romney would seek to paint the president as a sympathizer with extreme Islamists.

Reince Preibus, the Christian-right head of the Republican National Committee, tweeted, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

What’s sad and pathetic is that the Republicans don’t understand that when a hateful series of cartoons or a hateful film excite Muslim extremists, the US embassy always, always issues a calming statement. Obviously, the statement issued in Cairo preceded the attacks. The statement said:

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.

And correctly so. Would that Romney were intelligent enough to understand that statements like that often save lives.

For the record, here’s Obama’s full statement after the death of Chris Stevens and his colleagues:

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.

I didn’t notice an apology in there.

For more on the GOP’s irresponsible response to the attacks in Libya, read John Nichols on Reince Priebus’s posturing.

Bob Dreyfuss

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.

 

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