Ignorance is vicious and can kill.
The violent murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three of his colleagues on Tuesday at the U.S. consulate Tuesday in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, by a mob incensed by reports about a movie of unclear origin which has not yet been released is deeply disturbing and revolting.
UPDATE: It now appears [possibly even earlier than Oct-Nov 2012] that this initial report is untrue — as this report published on 10 November indicated: “The CIA ‘s reporting to Congress included a claim that protests over a YouTube video played a role in the attacks, thus allowing Obama to initially discount the possibility that the U.S. had suffered another terrorist attack just before the election”. This was published here.
UPDATE: U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told journalists at the regular daily briefing in Washington on Thursday, posted here, that: “we said that the circumstances surrounding the death of Ambassador Stevens included the fact that he and two other people – Sean Smith and a regional security officer – were in the main building in Benghazi when it was hit and caught on fire, but in – that the regional security officer attempted to lead the other two out, that he got separated from Ambassador Stevens, that he then got – but when he got to Sean Smith, he was already dead. He pulled him from the building. He went back into the building with additional security forces, but was unable to locate Ambassador Stevens before the fire overcame the building. We were then not able to locate Ambassador Stevens for many, many hours. We were later informed by some of our Libyan contacts that they understood he had been taken to a hospital in Benghazi. We were not able to confirm that, although there is a huge amount of reporting on it. And his body was later returned to us at the airport in Benghazi in the context of our evacuation of the rest of our people. So in response to Matt’s question, we don’t have any definitive information of our own as to exactly when he passed or what the precise causes of death were. I would guess that this is among the things that’ll become clearer as the Libyans work on their investigation with our support”.
About the film itself, Nuland said “I don’t want to get too much into this particular video, because it just gives it more credit than any of us want to. I think you heard the Secretary speak to this issue this morning and to make it clear that we absolutely reject both its message and its content, which we consider disgusting and reprehensible. She said it far better than I can here. The interesting thing about this, as I understand it, is that this had actually been circulating at a relatively low level for some months out there in cyberspace and that it only caught fire in the region on the day or just before the day that we began to see these various protests”.
For hours, nobody even knew what film had caused such a reaction.
AP this morning published a report here trying to identify those behind the film which caused this violence.
AP wrote this morning that:
“Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview outside Los Angeles that he was manager for the company that produced ‘Innocence of Muslims’, which mocked Muslims and the prophet Muhammad and may have caused inflamed mobs that attacked U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya. He provided the first details about a shadowy production group behind the film. Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cell phone number that AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Sam Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula. Federal court papers said Nakoula’s aliases included Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others. Nakoula told the AP that he was a Coptic Christian and said the film’s director supported the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims. Nakoula denied he had posed as Bacile. During a conversation outside his home, he offered his driver’s license to show his identity but kept his thumb over his middle name, Basseley. Records checks by the AP subsequently found it and other connections to the Bacile persona. The AP located Bacile after obtaining his cell phone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who had promoted the anti-Muslim film in recent days on his website. Egypt’s Christian Coptic population has long decried what they describe as a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the country’s Arab majority … The YouTube account, ‘Sam Bacile’, which was used to publish excerpts of the provocative movie in July, was used to post comments online as recently as Tuesday, including this defense of the film written in Arabic: ‘It is a 100 percent American movie, you cows”…
UPDATE: Reuters here on 7 November that: “The convicted California scam artist behind a crude anti-Islam film that stoked protests against the United States across the Muslim world was sent back to jail for a year on Wednesday over probation violations stemming from his role in the video. The Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, who has been publicly identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, but whose legal name is Mark Basseley Youssef, admitted to several probation violations during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. At least one violation involved his use of an alias, Sam Bacile, a name that several actors from the film said he used in producing the video, which was circulated on line under several titles, including ‘The Innocence of Muslims’.”
The AP report continued: “The actors in the film issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they were misled about the project and said some of their dialogue was crudely dubbed during post-production. In the English language version of the trailer, direct references to Muhammad appear to be the result of post-production changes to the movie. Either actors aren’t seen when the name ‘Muhammad’ is spoken in the overdubbed sound, or they appear to be mouthing something else as the name of the prophet is spoken. ‘The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer’, said the statement, obtained by the Los Angeles Times. ‘We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred’. The person who identified himself as Bacile and described himself as the film’s writer and director told the AP on Tuesday that he had gone into hiding. But doubts rose about the man’s identity amid a flurry of false claims about his background and role in the purported film. Bacile told the AP he was an Israeli-born, 56-year-old, Jewish writer and director. But a Christian activist involved in the film project, Steve Klein, told AP on Wednesday that Bacile was a pseudonym and that he was Christian. Klein had told the AP on Tuesday that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew who was concerned for family members who live in Egypt. Officials in Israel said there was no record of Bacile as an Israeli citizen…
“Klein said he didn’t know the real name of the man he called ‘Sam’, who came to him for advice on First Amendment issues.
About 15 key players from the Middle East — from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and a couple Coptic Christians from Egypt — worked on the film, Klein said. ‘Most of them won’t tell me their real names because they’re terrified’, Klein said.'”He was really scared and now he’s so nervous. He’s turned off his phone’. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. It quoted Klein as saying he believes that California is riddled with Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells ‘who are awaiting the trigger date and will begin randomly killing as many of us as they can’. In his brief interview with the AP, Bacile defiantly called Islam a cancer and said he intended the film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion…
“Hollywood and California film industry groups and permit agencies said they had no records of the project under the name ‘Innocence of Muslims’, but a Los Angeles film permit agency later found a record of a movie filmed in Los Angeles last year under the working title ‘Desert Warriors’. A man who answered a phone listed for the Vine Theater, a faded Hollywood movie house, confirmed that the film had run for a least a day, and possibly longer, several months ago, arranged by a customer known as ‘Sam’. Google Inc., which owns YouTube, pulled down the video Wednesday in Egypt, citing a legal complaint. It was still accessible in the U.S. and other countries”.
The Times of Israel wrote yesterday, here, that:
“The footage, which depicts the Islamic Prophet Muhammad as a womanizing fraud, was posted on YouTube in early July under the user name Sam Bacile. In a telephone interview Tuesday with The Wall Street Journal, a man identifying himself as Mr. Bacile said he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real-estate developer in California who raised $5 million from 100 Jewish donors … whom he declined to identify. Working with about 60 actors and 45 crew members, he said he made the two-hour movie in three months last year in California”
The WSJ said Bacile “characterized the film as a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam. It has been promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans previously sparked deadly riots around the world”.
According to the WSJ, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked “with rocket-propelled grenades”…
The WSJ said that portions of the film have in recent days “been circulating on the Internet. Contravening the Islamic prohibition of portraying the prophet [Mohammed], clips from the film show him not only as flesh and blood—but as a homosexual son of undetermined patrimony, who rises to advocate child slavery and extramarital sex, for himself, in the name of religion. ‘The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others’, Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday night”.
The WSJ also reported that “Dr. Jones…said Tuesday that he planned to show a 13-minute trailer that night at his church in Gainesville, Fla. ‘It is an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam’, he said in a statement. ‘The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad’. In the hours leading up to the rally in Cairo, the U.S. Embassy there invoked the First Amendment rights to free speech, but said the film constituted an abuse of those rights. ‘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’, it said in a statement. ‘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’.”
According to the WSJ, “Bacile, the filmmaker, said he posted the trailer for his film on YouTube in early July. But it had largely escaped attention until recent days, when activists on Twitter pointed to clips that included actors in anachronistic costumes, near flimsy sets and often stumbling through lines. Egyptian clerics began widely condemning the footage. In Cairo, protesters said they rallied to the embassy at the prompting of Islamist Facebook groups and hard-line Salafi preachers who frequently preach on Islamist satellite channels. Early Tuesday evening in Cairo, the crowd of mostly male Islamists converged outside the heavily guarded U.S. mission. Some scaled the embassy’s concrete walls but were met by rubber bullets fired by embassy guards, some witnesses reported. A U.S. Embassy official denied that embassy guards had fired on the protesters.
There is a [also? is it different film?] film about the life of the Prophet Mohammed in production, reporters in Jerusalem were told months ago at a news conference called by Media Central, in which the “defected” son of a Hamas official who worked for nearly a decade for Israeli Shabak secret services before moving to the U.S. This son of a Hamas official is reported to have converted to Christianity, but he avoided confirming this during the press conference, at which he was accompanied by an Israeli film maker living in California who was supposedly producing this film on the Prophet Mohammed, as well as a feature on the life of this son-of-Hamas defector.
Riots overwhelmed U.S. and host country security in both Libya and in Cairo on Tuesday — it was September 11, and this year was the 11th anniversary of the infamous 9/11 attacks, by hijacked airliners used as weapons, on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City as well as the Pentagon in Washington D.C.
In Libya, the U.S. Ambassador was killed [alongside three staff] by an ignorant and vicious mob who claimed to be defending a prophet who never described himself as anything other than a human being, who served as the all-too-human vehicle for a divine revelation, and would never have allowed or approved the murderous ignorance that has grown among many of his billion followers worldwide.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Washington that the murdered U.S. Ambassador had “made other people’s hopes his own”:
“Chris Stevens fell in love with the Middle East as a young Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Morocco. He joined the Foreign Service, learned languages, won friends for America in distant places, and made other people’s hopes his own.
In the early days of the Libyan revolution, I asked Chris to be our envoy to the rebel opposition. He arrived on a cargo ship in the port of Benghazi and began building our relationships with Libya’s revolutionaries. He risked his life to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses. I spoke with his sister, Ann, this morning, and told her that he will be remembered as a hero by many nations.
But we must be clear-eyed, even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Libyans carried Chris’ body to the hospital, and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety…”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks are posted here.
She also spoke of Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith, who was also killed in the attack, and said that “We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals”.
“Sean Smith was an Air Force veteran. He spent 10 years as an management officer in the State Department, he was posted at The Hague, and was in Libya on a brief temporary assignment. He was a husband to his wife Heather, with whom I spoke this morning. He was a father to two young children, Samantha and Nathan. They will grow up being proud of the service their father gave to our country, service that took him from Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi. The mission that drew Chris and Sean and their colleagues to Libya is both noble and necessary, and we and the people of Libya honor their memory by carrying it forward. This is not easy. Today, many Americans are asking – indeed, I asked myself – how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?”
The answer to that question is more complicated than any one person could ever hope to address.
But, one way might be to stop an ill-conceived and badly-framed “war” to try to “put an end to violent extremism” — and focus instead on the question of ignorance, and how it can be countered if professed values are violated by extra-judicial targeted killings renditions and torture and deprivations of human rights, “black holes” and Guantanamo Bay detention center…
UPDATE: As to which person or group of people were responsible for the attack in Benghazi and the death of the American Ambassador and his three colleagues, State Department Spokesperson Nuland said “we are very cautious about drawing any conclusions with regard to who the perpetrators were, what their motivations were, whether it was premeditated, whether they had any external contacts, whether there was any link, until we have a chance to investigate along with the Libyans. So I know that’s going to be frustrating for you, but we really want to make sure that we do this right and we don’t jump to conclusions. “That said, obviously, there are plenty of people around the region citing this disgusting video as something that has been motivating. As the Secretary said this morning, while we as Americans, of course, respect free speech, respect free expression, there’s never an excuse for it to become violent.