Protests by Muslims have spread around the world against the anti-Islamic propaganda film Innocence of Muslims.
In response to violent attacks on US embassies in Libya and Yemen, that killed for Americans including the ambassador, US President Barack Obama informed US Congress on September 14 that he had deployed US soldiers “equipped for combat” to the two Arab nations.
The situation exploded on September 11 with attacks on US consulates in both Egypt and Libya. In Egypt, about 3000 protesters climbed the walls of the embassy, tore down the US flag, which was at half mast to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and replaced it with a black flag, with text: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
The protest was linked to the release of the trailer for Innocence of Muslims. AlJazeera.net said Egyptian protesters called for the film to be taken out of circulation.
In Libya, the reasons for the attack were less clear. Subsequent developments have raised doubts as to whether it was caused by the film. The attack was much more sophisticated and violent than the one in Egypt.
In Benghazi, rocket propelled grenades and guns were fired at the consulate, which lead to a fire which killed US ambassador, a consulate employees and ten Libyan policeman.
After the attack, Reuters said: “A squad of U.S. troops despatched by helicopter across the Libyan desert to rescue besieged diplomats from Benghazi on Wednesday ran into a fierce overnight ambush that left a further two Americans dead.”
The Independent said on September 14: “According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and 'lockdown', under which movement is severely restricted.”
The article said: “The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the 'safe house' in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed 'safe'.”
As more details about the film come out, it seems it was made by an alliance of Christian fundamentalists with links to the far right and Egyptian exiles opposed to the revolution occurring there.
The Associated Press said on September 14: “Federal authorities have identified a Coptic Christian in southern California who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film.”
It has been established that the film has links with Islamophobic conspiracy theorist and far right activist Steve Klein. The Southern Poverty Law Center described Klein as a “marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church”.
Klein is also the founder of “Courageous Christians United”. AP said it “conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques”.
It seems clear the intent of the film was to spark violence and unrest to further the aims of its makers to provoke war. Klein told AP about the embassy attacks: “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney immediately joined calls for war, saying of the Obama administration that it “sympathize[s] with those who waged the attacks”.
In fact, the Times of India reported: “US President Barack Obama directed warships, drones, and marines towards the troubled Arab regions amid a developing US assessment that the Islamist assault [in Libya] … was a pre-planned assault to mark 9/11, and not a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam film.”
The military drive is less about finding killers and more about the US trying to re-assert control over a region that has slipped out of its control.
Protests outside US embassies began spreading. On September 14 protesters broke into the US consulate in Yemen. Demonstrations have been reported in countries including Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Mauritania and Britain.
There were also protests in Sydney on September 15, which met with violence from a heavy policy presence ― including the pepper-spraying of protesters.
The filmmakers may have “wanted this to happen”. But the protests have not just targetted the film, by the US role in the Middle East. The US intervening military is likely to fuel the fire that is burning in the region. The Arab Spring has established a reality that people will actively fight against dictatorships and foreign powers seeking to impose their will.