This past week, the United States commemorated the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With those memories fresh in our mind we were confronted with the news that our sovereign embassy in Egypt and consulate in Libya were attacked on the very day of one of America's greatest tragedies.
The morning following the attack, President Barack Obama made a remarkable statement that has gone largely unexamined. Buried within his initial comments, Obama said the following: "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."
The president's statement is remarkable for both the sequence of the thoughts expressed and the careful wording of the remarks. Why does the president feel the obligation to soothe the feelings of the offended religious groups in the context of expressing condolences to the families of the individuals who have been killed?
There is no moral equivalency between an alleged offense to religious sensibility and the murder of a U.S. diplomat. Our sovereign embassy and consulate were attacked on the anniversary of 9/11, and a U.S. ambassador and several staff members were executed. Neither the United States nor its diplomatic staff had anything to do with the alleged religious insult, and our outrage at the actions of the murderers should trump any effort to placate a religious insult committed by an amateurish film.
While the sequencing of the president's thoughts is concerning, his remarks are more troubling when one pauses to examine how carefully they were worded. If one reads his comments more closely, the president does not actually condemn anyone for the ambassador's murder -- nor does he even call it "murder." The president blames the attack on the ambiguous and impersonal notion of "senseless violence" that somehow "took the lives" of our countrymen. Whom is Obama talking to? Does he believe that the American people accept the fact that the murder of an ambassador, a Foreign Service officer, and two U.S. security personnel on the anniversary of 9/11 were merely acts of "senseless violence"?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the following statement shortly after the president's: "We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence, and we send our prayers to the families, friends, and colleagues of those we've lost."
There it is again. The culprit in this tragedy is not a radical terrorist ideology that seeks to harm America, but instead the soft, ambiguous villain of "senseless violence." The use of this phrase by both the president and secretary of state is not accidental -- it's a reflection of the unwillingness of the administration to name our enemies.
It is important to understand the context of how we have arrived at the current crossroads.
Obama undertook a world peace tour before he was elected, and we were assured that his rhetorical skills would convince radicals of various stripes to lay down their arms -- North Korea, Iran, Libya, Syria, and the like. President George W. Bush was, after all, a warmonger. Obama would be able to persuade Pyongyang and Tehran to abandon their nuclear ambitions once he was able to convince them that he appreciated the fact that it was U.S. aggression that had forced these countries to acquire such weapons in the first place.
Has the president's rhetoric convinced these regimes to abandon their weapons programs?