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Events In Libya Contrast Sharply With Obama's Acceptance Speech

Analysis: Despite the scandalized response of the Obama campaign, Mitt Romney is correct to criticize Obama on Libya.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 9/12/2012, 9:42 PM

Remains of Benghazi Consulate
Remains of Benghazi Consulate
Reuters

In August, a Cairo court convicted 76 Egyptians who scaled the walls of the Israeli Embassy compound in Cairo and proceeded to thoroughly trash it.

It was only in the 11th hour, at the intercession of President Barack Obama, that those Israelis who had barricaded themselves in a secure room were saved by the belated intervention of Egyptian security forces - who had hitherto remained passive. 75 of the defendants received a suspended one-year sentence. One defendant actually received a five-year sentence, but as he was tried in absentia, don't expect to see him behind bars soon.

The events unfolded on a Friday night and I became dimly aware that something had happened the next day during the Sabbath service when Michael, whom I generally see in the synagogue only on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, was called to the Torah and recited the blessing of Hagomel giving thanks for having escaped a close brush with death.

When I asked him what he had escaped, he replied "The Exodus from Egypt, and you'll see it on the news tonight". Michael had been one of the trapped guards inside the embassy.

While President Obama deserves thanks for helping Michael and his friends escape, there was no serious protest about those events, even though they made a mockery of the Vienna convention that protects international diplomats. Nor was there an outcry when the perpetrators were led off with hardly a slap on the wrist.

It was inevitable that such problems would not stop with the Israeli Embassy.

Despite complaints by Barack Obama's surrogates that Republican candidate Mitt Romney was "scandalously politicizing" the tragedy of the martyred US diplomatic personnel in the Libyan city of Benghazi, the president made himself fair game.

In his acceptance speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, Barack Obama proclaimed "From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings — (cheers) — men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews. (Cheers, applause.)"

It was strange that the industrious fact-checkers in the press had no complaints about the extravagance of such a statement. While the Libyan regime of Colonel Qaddafi was odious, an attempt by a Jew originally from Libya to test the waters in the newly established bastion of rights and dignity for all human beings was decisively rebuffed. No Jews are welcome in Libya.

And now - the murders in Libya provide a reality check to Obama's rose-colored appraisal.

The Obama administration has scrambled to disassociate itself from the original reaction put out by the US Embassy in Cairo criticizing an obscure film that was extremely disrespectful to the prophet Mohammed, while glossing over  the attack on the US embassy itself. It also denigrated the abuse of free speech to attack religion.

Technically, the administration is correct; the self-abasement issued from the embassy and not from the White House. However, this is no longer the 18th and 19th centuries when diplomats posted abroad occasionally had to use their own judgment. In the age of instant communications, diplomats do not make policy but can easily consult their superiors before issuing a statement.

What is damning about the entire affair is that the Cairo diplomats were quite certain that they were correctly interpreting what is called in Hebrew ruah hamefaked-- literally, "the spirit of the commander" - U.S. policy under Obama. They were so convinced of the direction desired by their commander's spirit that they didn't invest in an e-mail or a secure conversation.

This is how the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood interpreted the spirit of the American "commander" when he demanded an American apology for the film and prosecution of the "mad men" responsible for the insulting video.

The Obama campaign has touted the candidate as thoroughly tested in foreign policy as compared with his neophyte opponent. His record, however, when crosschecked against its results in Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan is a legitimate campaign issue.