Former deputy national security adviser: US response to embassy attack ‘bizarre and unacceptable’

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Former deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams and renowned Middle East scholar Barry Rubin lambasted the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s response to Tuesday’s attack on it by Egyptian protesters.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was attacked by an Egyptian mob to protest an obscure and almost entirely unheard of American film being made that supposedly depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammad in a negative light. According to Reuters, some of the Egyptian vigilantes scaled the embassy walls, pulled down the American flag and burned it, and attempted to raise a black jihadi flag with the inscription, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

In response to the brazen attack, the American embassy in Cairo released a statement to criticize the film — not the protesters committing violence.

“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,” the embassy in Cairo said in a statement.

“Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. 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.”

Abrams, who advised President George W. Bush and is a senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The Daily Caller that he found the embassy’s statement “bizarre and unacceptable.”

“[I]nstead of a protest the embassy has responded with a statement that says nothing about this failure by the government of Egypt to protect our people and property,” he wrote in an email. “Instead it criticized those who say mean things about Islam, when in fact in Egypt today it is non-Muslims, and Christians in particular, who feel threatened. So I find the embassy statement untimely on 9/11, bizarre and unacceptable.”

Rubin, who directs the The Global Research in International Affairs in Israel, found the embassy’s statement baffling.

“The response to an attack on the U.S. embassy by several revolutionary Islamist groups — one of which is the Egyptian affiliate of al-Qaida — is to apologize for hurting Muslim feelings!” he exclaimed in an email. “Yet the problem is not the production of some obscure film that no American knows anything about but the political program of the jihadists, Salafists, and Muslim Brotherhood to destroy U.S interests in the region.”

“And the administration doesn’t seem to notice that the new regime’s media and institutions are promoting anti-American incitement despite all the nice things Obama is doing for it,” Rubin added. “And all this on the anniversary of September 11!”

Abrams questioned why the Egyptian government didn’t do a better job protecting the embassy.

“On the anniversary of 9/11, thousands of Egyptians chose to protest at the U.S. Embassy, in essence making common cause not with the victims of 9/11 but with its perpetrators,” he said. “First, the United States embassy ought to be protesting the lack of police protection. The demonstration was planned, and known in advance.  Why did police not protect the embassy? Why did they permit protesters to scale the walls?”

Late Tuesday evening, the Obama administration disavowed the embassy’s statement.

“The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government,” a senior White House official told Politico.

No embassy staff were reported to have been hurt in the attack in Cairo.

Gunmen also attacked the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya Tuesday. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff were killed in the attack.

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Jamie Weinstein