The cold-blooded slaying of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in diplomatic service in Libya, along with the assault on the US embassy in Cairo, afforded the two presidential candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their approach to foreign policy. Much of what they had in their respective statements the following day was similar- honoring the victims for their service, condemning the violence, and even pointing ahead toward justice. Still, much of the press took great efforts to distinguish the two by painting Romney as one who took an inappropriate (foolish, ruthless…) swipe at Obama at a time of attack against the U.S..
There was, however, a crucial difference between the two statements the media ignored which reveals the truly vast difference in vision between the candidates. Most of the media coverage during the time of the attacks repeated the critical claim that the violence was caused by the internet display of a film trailer that mocks the prophet Mohammad. Governor Romney’s statement, however, avoided any reference to this notion of causation. His was a clear statement that simply seeks to defend our Constitution:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend, also, our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion. We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our constitution. We stand for the principles our constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our constitution. Because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world….It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.
The proposition is simple. U.S. rights were violated and, if any justice is to be sought, it is solely against the perpetrators. Romney did not link causation for the killing of Americans to the use of our Freedom of Speech, or give any indication that curbing this right in anyway, is the answer to prevent these actions.
President Obama, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, took a different tack. Their responses gave a nod to the premise that something improper was done to cause the violent outbreak. They both paired the violence with the notion of religious tolerance. Obama stated, “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But (emphasis added) there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence.”
Similarly, Clinton said, “America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But (emphasis added) let me be clear, there is no justification for this. None. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.”
In essence, the administration position is that while we value religious tolerance, we will not do so at the cost of violence. While Clinton went out of her way to say they are still assessing the motivations (presumably the “cause”) of the acts, her message implicitly embodies the presumption that the film (or some other act of non-Muslims) caused the violence. The constitutional right, if any, which they are both defending, is the concept of religious tolerance, not free speech. This is the difference between the candidates’ views.
The causation premise serves a great function for many Americans. By taking on for ourselves the responsibility of causing Muslim rage we secretly comfort ourselves that we are in control of the very behavior that so deeply frightens us. The buried hope is that if we can “cause” such behavior, it is within our power to stop it. This process is the function of the “Control Factor,” that active and continuous part of our minds that is charged with arranging our perceptions so that we feel as if we are in control of something that we are clearly not. The reality- that there is a true force acting under the banner of radical Islam that has the singular purpose of fundamentally transforming or destroying our way of life- is simply too unsettling for the American mind to sustain.
The Obama-Clinton construct flows straight from the Control Factor. Romney’s view, on the other hand, addresses the threat for simply for what it is.
The trick here that needs to be addressed goes beyond an act of unacceptable violence. Underlying all of this is the attempt by Islamic forces to pressure the US to adopt laws that will curtail US citizens’ rights to speak critically about Islam.
Let’s step back. The threat from radical Islam that challenges the U.S. comes on three different levels. The first with which we are most acquainted is the “Violent Jihad.” From al-Qaeda to homegrown groups through a variety of other forms of terror, violent acts are committed to extract concessions and advance Islamic supremacist goals.
The second level is alternately called the “Stealth Jihad,” “Pre-violent Jihad,” or in the Muslim Brotherhood’s own words, the “Civilization Jihad.” It is the effort to non-violently infiltrate all levels of American society including the government, the legal system, the military, the culture etc. in order to “sabotage” the civilization “by its own hand.” Essentially, it involves working non-violently from the inside of the borders until enough power has been accumulated to force change.
The third level could be called the “International Institutional Jihad.” It involves the operations of international institutions such as the UN and its largest voting bloc, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (the largest global Muslim entity) toward forcing from the outside, changes into America.
For years, our Islamist enemies have utilized all three levels toward their objective to eventually restrict the valuable U.S. right to speak freely about Islam. The strategy is historically familiar to Islamists: stop the ability to criticize Islam so that Islam can take over. In this event alone (as with the slaying of Theo Van Gogh, the months delayed riots over Mohammad cartoons, etc.) there are acts of Violent Jihad to stir fear and provide a forum for the issue of free speech. Just as the Muslim Brotherhood has worked hard with Obama and Clinton to ensure that only its associates are advising upon and interpreting Islamic matters for our government, it has long sought to shift our First Amendment rights as part of its Civilization Jihad. Its success is self-evident in the administration’s responses.
Finally, it is time for the International Institutional Jihadists to advance the ball. This obviously planned act was timed not just for 9/11 but to also set the ground for the upcoming September UN meetings. Nor is this news to Obama and Clinton. At the recent Istanbul Process Conference, the Secretary backed United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 which will lead to substantial restrictions on free speech under the rubric of “blasphemy.” What can not be fully accomplished through our domestic legislative process is set to be externally forced upon us.
Consequently, the Obama and Clinton statements were more than mere responses to a national horror; they were a set-up to further this process. The disjunctive language means “while we honor religious tolerance (read “your wish to restrict our right to criticize Islam"), it will not be obtained through violence.” Implicit is the additional notion that it can be obtained through peaceful diplomacy.
It is only a matter of time before Obama and Clinton both reappear with some speech about how justice will be sought against those who committed violence but we, America, hear your sensitivities to blasphemy and we will work to insure that your wishes are addressed. While the words that Obama and Clinton use state they have no tolerance for violence, the violence will, in fact, have extorted its critical objective. This typical display of appearing “reasonable” and “civilized” by caring for both sides is typical of Obama but deleterious to our national identity. It is, instead, the age old mark of submission to radical Islam.
If any difference is to be gauged from the statements made by the candidates, it is that a re-elected Obama will likely bring about a deliberate dilution of our sacred right to free speech. Governor Romney’s words, in contrast, forecast a clear intention to protect that fundamental privilege. That is the stark difference a responsible media would be emphasizing.
Bill Siegel is the author of "The Control Factor- Our Struggle to See the True Threat" published by Hamilton Books.