Mrs. Clinton and American Sensibilities
In an effort to protect the delicate sensibilities of Egyptian rioters who invaded the American Embassy and tore down the American flag, Secretary of State Clinton accepted at face value the claim that the rioters were just so outraged and horrified by an anti-Muslim movie that they couldn't control themselves. While rejecting violence in a pro forma way ("There is never any justification..."), she went on to apologize for her nasty countrymen and to deplore them. "We condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Later, on the State Department Twitter feed, "The U.S. deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others." And, "Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."
As does our Constitutional commitment to free speech, including and especially speech that offends someone. Americans should have two words for Secretary Clinton: "Piss Christ." If you can't make yourself say them, try "Skokie."
In 1987, American Andres Serranno produced a photograph of a plastic crucifix in a glass of his own urine. His work was funded in part by the U.S. Government's National Endowment for the Arts.
A decade earlier, members of the National Socialist Party wanted to march in full Nazi regalia in Skokie, IL -- home to a large number of Holocaust survivors. In a series of court actions, Skokie lawyers argued that, for Holocaust survivors, seeing a swastika was the equivalent of a physical attack. The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed, calling the swastika a symbolic form of free speech entitled to the protection of the First Amendment.
"Piss Christ" and Skokie are metaphors for the First Amendment right to hurt people's feelings. Americans are told to suck it up and shut up. "Sticks and stones," "If you don't like it, lump it," and all that.
As a practical matter, Secretary Clinton's acceptance of the movie as instigator of the riots reeks of naiveté. Did it not occur to her that a purported offense against Islam might be a smoke screen for well-planned violence? Later press reports suggest that to be the case. Did she think radical Muslims don't know that Americans generally hasten to be seen as sensitive to the feelings of others? The best defense is a good offense -- "You Americans insulted us." They read her like a book.
Did it not occur to her that the anniversary of 9-11 would be a great time for Islamic enemies of the United States to launch another attack on a symbolic American target? They can't reach New York perhaps (thank you, NYPD and the Patriot Act), but an American Embassy is sovereign American soil.
Of the killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans, she said, "This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world." Muslims included, no doubt, but why only "people of faith?" Can't an ethical atheist be horrified?
Ambassador Stevens' murder should infuriate Americans, who must at a minimum be wondering why U.S. Embassies in post-revolutionary Muslim countries were not better protected. The last time we were in that situation, 52 Americans spent more than a year imprisoned in the Embassy in Iran. What rules of engagement did the Marines guards have?
Secretary Clinton has an unfortunate habit of trying to ingratiate herself with Muslims who can't seem to control themselves. In one of her earliest trips in 2009, she told an audience in Indonesia, "I am a Christian... Through the centuries we have had many people who have done terrible things in the name of Christianity. They have perverted the religion."
It was a rookie mistake -- her religion and her opinion of its behavior are irrelevant. The government she represents is as deeply grounded in the separation of Church and State as it is in freedom of speech. Just as her religion is officially irrelevant, so is the religion of those with whom she interacts on behalf of the government. When mobs invade the sovereign territory of the U.S. abroad, when they tear down our flag and replace it with the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood, when they murder an American Ambassador and members of the Embassy staff, they are our enemies.
If they are Muslim, so be it Mrs. Clinton.
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center. She was previously senior director for security policy at JINSA and author of JINSA Reports from 1995-2011.