Today is Constitution Day. I was planning to write today about the 225th anniversary of the signing of our nation’s foundational document. About the importance of the Constitution to you and me, now, in the 21st century.
So I will.
In an address last week commemorating 9/11, the President said that, in the 11 years since 9/11:
we’ve strengthened our alliances while improving our security here at home. . . . [O]ur country is stronger, safer and more respected in the world.
But he forgot to tell the world
Three days later, on 9/11, a mob stormed our embassy in Cairo, allegedly in protest of an amateur movie made in this country and entitled The Innocence of Muslims.
That same day our consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by people with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The consulate was torched in what the president of Libya’s National Congress calls a “preplanned, predetermined” attack.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. And Kyle Pratt at Ruminations notes that Lebanese news agency Tayyar is reporting that Ambassador Stevens was raped before he was killed.
Dozens of other attacks and demonstrations have been and are taking place from Britain through Europe, North Africa and the Middle East all the way to Australia. (The Atlantic provides an interactive map of them here.)
Iran has vowed to “search for, track and pursue” the makers of the movie. (But probably they’ll just slap their hands when they find them.)
Pakistan’s Interior Minister is asking Interpol to enact an international law to stop anti-Islamic material from being posted on the internet. As a police organization, Interpol doesn’t have any legal authority to enact law. But the request gives a startling glimpse of the mindset of a progressive, centrist politician in the Muslim world.One of his tweets reads:
“Violence explodes as Muslims protest anti-Islam film.” Anti-Islam element must stop to hurt muslims.
His solution is not to rein in lawbreakers in his own country, but to destroy the First Amendment in ours.
And Saturday, according to Reuters, Sudan rejected a US request to send Marines to guard our Embassy in Khartoum. Friday, crowds had stormed the German embassy and burned it. They had also attacked the British and American embassies. But Sudan won’t let us–won’t let us!–protect our own citizens on our own soil.
Our government’s response
Our government’s response to all this has been outrageous.
- We just contritely tucked our tail between our legs and sent Vice President Biden to beg Sudan to protect our diplomats. [Update: We've now ordered all non-essential embassy personnel to leave the country, both in Sudan and in Tunisia.]
- We publicly identified (remember, this is an American citizen that the Iranian government has promised to track down) and later detained Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man alleged to have made the film. He was taken away for questioning just after midnight Saturday morning by a crowd of sheriff’s deputies. (He’s on probation for bank fraud, and uploading the video to the internet may constitute a parole violation.) It was all voluntary, of course. Don’t let the fact that the police came for him at midnight bother you in the least. But do read what University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse has to say about it:
[T]he photograph at the link [of Nakoula Nakoula being hustled away by brown-shirted deputies] is chilling.
Gaze on that picture and see our government in a sad, shameful display, staged — presumably — to cajole the enemies of free speech into blaming a private individual instead of our country — our country, the caretaker of the freedom that allowed him to speak.
But I think our government is delusional if it thinks the people who are rioting in Africa and killing our diplomats would — if they knew the facts — see individuals like Nakoula as the proper focus of their rage. They don’t believe the necessary premise: freedom as the superior value. As long as they favor a system in which blasphemy is outlawed and severely punished, they will continue to blame the American government for standing back and allowing blasphemy to flourish and flow everywhere. What good does it do to ask them to please understand our system? They hate this system.
Meanwhile, our government would scapegoat a free citizen. It’s not even effectual scapegoating.
- And White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday:
[The violence] is in response to a video, a film, that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protest directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy.
Which brings us back, at long last, to Constitution Day. What is Carney smoking that makes him think this isn’t a protest directed at U.S. policy? Of course it is. As I said last Wednesday:
[W]e have a little something called the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and expression even when it’s offensive to other people.
The First Amendment has always been about protecting offensive speech. Nice little notes from grandma have never needed protection.