Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tragic Violence in Libya: No Excuse for Perpetrators—or for Provocateurs

By Haroon Moghul
Originally posted 9/12/12 at Religion Dispatches

With the tragic killing of the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and several of his staff as a consequence of an attack on a US consulate in Benghazi (where the Libyan revolution, that we supported, began, I might add), and the nearly simultaneous storming of the US embassy in Cairo, maybe we’re now thinking: is it Iran all over again? Has the Arab Spring turned into an anti-American winter?

I remember thinking, about Western intervention in Libya, that this all had a familiar ring to it. But perhaps this time would be different, many of us hoped. How, though, one conflict can escape the reality of its conditions and not realize certain consequences is beyond me. If you overthrow a dictatorship that has suffocated the political, social, and cultural life of a country for decades you invite some measure of anarchy, especially when the forces that overthrow that dictatorship are divided amongst themselves.

Certainly, the New York Times is correct to point out that such violence only indicates the continuing unpopularity of America in much of the Middle East—we would do well to consider how America’s government’s policies become hopelessly imbricated in the actions of anti-Muslim bigots here and in Europe. But this violence isn’t a simple response to American policies (nor is this evidence of a congenitally Islamic inability to accept criticism), and cannot be dismissed as such.

There are a few points to keep in mind as we try to understand how an amateurish fourteen-minute film produces such a dramatically disproportionate and wholly offensive counter-reaction.

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