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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » US diplomat killed in Benghazi attack (Page 1)

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Author Topic: US diplomat killed in Benghazi attack
James Tiberius Kirk
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19562692

quote:
An American has been killed and at least one other wounded after militiamen stormed the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, officials say.

It is believed the protest was held over a US-produced film that is said to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

The building was set on fire after armed men raided the compound with grenades.

And, Cairo too. I'll be honest - I don't think the embassy's statement will be received well here at home:

quote:
The US embassy earlier issued a statement condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions".

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Lyrhawn
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Romney and the right will portray it as "Obama apologizing for America" again.
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Rakeesh
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He'll be right to do so, too. Though somehow I doubt he'll reflect much on just how many other people go out of their way to apologize for criticisms of Islam, or even purported criticisms of Islam, when they're met with lethal reprisals.

Makes me pretty angry, really, to see our supposed ideals of freedom of speech so hastily disrespected and dismissed in the name of not hurting anyone's feelings. Frankly if speech-criticism of any aspect of any religion is likely to bring a violent response, then I want it criticized, I'm glad to see it criticized, and disgusted at even head fakes towards apologizing for it.

It'll be interesting to see what sort of response this draws in terms of media coverage, government statements, and religious figure statements. Thinking back to the words-met-with-force over the past decade in the field of religion (of which Islam has received the most publicity, I can't speak to the actual proportions), there's consistently been a lot of apologizing for the initial statements that drew offense. Rarely has there been things like, "Listen, you freaking lunatics, right now we're not talking about whether we condone the initial play or book or film you despised and felt was sacrilegious. Right now we're talking about not freaking killing people because you don't like what they say."

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Lyrhawn
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Am I condoning the violence? Of course not. It's counterproductive, immoral, and just plain wrong.

But this isn't criticism, it's an intentional provocation. It's poking the bear to elicit a response, and then criticizing the response. The two aren't quite the same.

I don't think violence is the right answer, but just because you have the right to say something doesn't mean you should. Islamists certainly don't have a monopoly on violence as a response to verbal provocation.

It was the same story when the US servicemembers burned a bunch of qurans. It was intentionally, inherently provocative. If a bunch if Muslims burned a pile of bibles in a public demonstration in America, the response would be insane. I'd almost like them to do it just to measure the hypocrisy of the response.

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Rakeesh
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Huh? Did I say or suggest you were, Lyrhawn? Nor do I think Islam has a monopoly on violence or suppression of freedom of speech, as we've seen with CFA and NFL players lately here in the States.

The thing is, I don't really care if it's intentionally provocative. Well, I do, but at a substantially lower intensity and later in time compared to the violent response to the provocation-because I don't care what some fanatic says, burning a Koran or claiming Jesus didn't exist or that Christopher Hitchens writhes in hellfire or Stalin is an illegitimate tyrant doesn't hurt anyone. Just because someone says, "I am hurt," doesn't make it true. Nor even, if you examine it closely, do the actual respective creeds in most cases. The book physical essence isn't infused with any of the religion's power, the figure's divinity isn't diminished by someone's non-belief, and the fellow citizen isn't injured by the act of the sounds of rebellious ideas impacting their eardrums.

It just pisses people off, that's all. So sure, have the 'dude, don't be a dick' discussion at some point, but that's a problem that pales in comparison. We've forgotten, if we ever knew, that we actually have a right to be offended and that in many ways that's critical to freedom of speech as well, not just the right to offend.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
He'll be right to do so, too.

+1

And when people start excusing Muslims by comparing them to *bears* of all things, well ... I think principles have been bent enough.

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Rakeesh
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There is, underlying this sort of statement by governments and spokespeople, a troubling whiff of an idea that's really unpleasant. Sometimes it's more than a whiff: the idea that people have a right, or rather that it is not morally objectionable, to get really viciously angry at someone if they espouse an idea you don't like.
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Blayne Bradley
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I would make a distinction between some dude trying to add extra citations for Jack Chick versus a dude who comes up with uncomfortable conclusions as a result of legitimate scholarly endeavors.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
The thing is, I don't really care if it's intentionally provocative.
I care. I don't care as much, but I care.

As an example: I have two daughters. They're lovely girls, and generally very kind, but sometimes one of them will get it in her head to start some trouble and will start poking the other one. Maybe it'll be literal poking; maybe it'll be some pushing of well-known emotional buttons. Either way, the goal will be to provoke the other one.

And then the other one lashes out, often after repeatedly asking her sister to stop, and somebody is struck and both of them start crying and I'm called in to intervene.

Israel -- the entire country -- operates at the emotional level of a giant, floundering, blubbery five-year-old. The Arab states are worse; they're like, three, because they haven't figured out sarcasm yet.

So here's my problem: yeah, free speech guarantees you the right to call your sister's favorite doll a doody-head. And if she lashes out and hits you, it's her fault. And then you say something like, "Sophie, it's never nice to hit anyone, no matter how mad their words make you." And then you say something like, "Haley, Sophie asked you to stop calling Mohammed (assuming that's the name of her favorite doll) a doody-head. Twice. And you knew it was going to make her mad. Tell her you're sorry."

And then maybe Haley responds with, "I'm not sorry! I did it just to demonstrate to the international community how irrational her response would be! And it's a shame my face hurts where she slapped me, but that was just acceptable and predictable collateral damage that I'm not responsible in the slightest for provoking!"

And then you'd send them both to sit in the corner in their naughty chairs, except it turns out that all the pizza is in that corner and you're really hungry.

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Rakeesh
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Where the comparison falls apart...more or less entirely...is in the idea that the 'offense' given was *only* intended to provoke a response. It was only, entirely designed to piss someone else off, and not also to convey a message 'this belief is bogus'.

Because this crap doesn't just happen when soldiers burn Korans, or call Mohammed a doody head. It also happens when novelists write books, when plays are staged, when a girl accidentally burns 'holy' pages, so on and so forth.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Huh? Did I say or suggest you were, Lyrhawn?
You didn't, sorry, the ordering of my paragraphs was perhaps confusing. I just meant that as a sort of disclaimer going into my post.

quote:
Where the comparison falls apart...more or less entirely...is in the idea that the 'offense' given was *only* intended to provoke a response. It was only, entirely designed to piss someone else off, and not also to convey a message 'this belief is bogus'.
In this particular instance, of the video in question that touched off today's actions, I'm leaning very heavily towards believing it was in fact intentionally provocative. Again, it doesn't excuse the violence, and I don't think that type of speech should be outlawed, but I think it's incredibly stupid.

Telling Muslims to simply get over it probably isn't going to work, it's simply going to take awhile. In the mean time, why try to make the situation worse? Have we forgotten in the last decade that Muslims around the world sometimes do incredibly irrational things in the name of their religion?

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SenojRetep
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One of the four victims of the Benghazi attack was the ambassador, Chris Stevens.
quote:
Stevens, 52, was a career diplomat who spoke Arabic and French and had already served two tours in Libya, including running the office in Benghazi during the revolt against Kadafi. He was confirmed as ambassador to Libya by the Senate earlier this year.

Before Tuesday, five U.S. ambassadors had been killed in the line of duty, the last being Adolph Dubs in Afghanistan in 1979, according to the State Department historian's office.


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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Where the comparison falls apart...more or less entirely...is in the idea that the 'offense' given was *only* intended to provoke a response. It was only, entirely designed to piss someone else off, and not also to convey a message 'this belief is bogus'.

Because this crap doesn't just happen when soldiers burn Korans, or call Mohammed a doody head. It also happens when novelists write books, when plays are staged, when a girl accidentally burns 'holy' pages, so on and so forth.

That there are folks who drum up those same emotions in neutral situations isn't something we can control.

I mean have you *read* what the film "Innocence of Muslims" is about? Freaking Terry Jones (Mr. "Lets have Koran bonfire!") is super psyched about this movie, and intends to promote it.

It's clearly a movie designed to play on the fact Muslims don't like having Mohammad depicted in art, and says, "How about we show Mohammad doing just about every despicable thing we can imagine, lets see them stick that in their pipe and smoke it."

When you are making a movie, and you know there is a very good chance it's going to invoke that rage we've seen so many times that people *die*, that needs to enter your moral calculus when you decide to make a movie, and that it must be about that.

We shouldn't censor free speech here, we shouldn't censor the criticism of people who are in the know, and use that freedom immorally.

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AchillesHeel
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Killing in the name of your favorite character in a particular book is disgusting.

Two years ago Terry Jones caused riots over his intent to burn someone elses magic book, in the name of his magic book. He also promoted the video that incited these new riots and deaths. This is also disgusting.

I am sick of seeing people throw these destructive tantrums, but be treated as more than fitful children because they attach mysticism to it all.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I am sick of seeing people throw these destructive tantrums, but be treated as more than fitful children...
*points back to his analogy*
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by AchillesHeel:
Killing in the name of your favorite character in a particular book is disgusting.

Two years ago Terry Jones caused riots over his intent to burn someone elses magic book, in the name of his magic book. He also promoted the video that incited these new riots and deaths. This is also disgusting.

I am sick of seeing people throw these destructive tantrums, but be treated as more than fitful children because they attach mysticism to it all.

So what do you think that we should do instead?
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AchillesHeel
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If I knew I would have been extremely vocal about it before now.

For now the best I can offer is contempt for such horrible acts and sympathy for innocent people and those who love and miss them.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
So what do you think that we should do instead?

Pour la canaille, la mitrailleuse.

No, seriously. Mob violence in the streets happens because the rioters think they can get away with it, and because someone thinks it's useful. Establish, once or twice, that the side with the near-monopoly on actual military force is not going to put up with it, and it'll end. Then we can have a nice poo-flinging contest like civilised monkeys. Yes, this requires carpeting a street, probably outside a US embassy, in bodies; it will not be nice. That will still mean fewer dead than will occur from having a riot every few months for years and decades on end. Plus, of course, we won't have to censor our local dickheads and assholes, which is fortunate, since most of them have guns and votes.

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kmbboots
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What level of atrocity should we commit? "Proportional" reprisals haven't been a deterrent.
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ricree101
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To those who are at all familiar with Eve online, one of the other casualties in the attack was Vile_Rat, a fairly prominent player.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
What level of atrocity should we commit? "Proportional" reprisals haven't been a deterrent.

Where have they been tried?

You are probably aware of the origin of the phrase "read the Riot Act"? I am suggesting that any crowd threatening a western embassy should be warned three times to disperse, and if they fail to do so, whatever troops are available should open fire, aiming to kill. Depending on the layout of the streets and the determination of the leaders, this should cause between a few dozen and a few hundred dead, and twice or three times that number of wounded.

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Szymon
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I don't quite understand. When you have a crowd of people outside your embassy and some of them have weapons you shout "disperse!" three times and open fire? I mean Americans shouting and Americans opening fire?
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kmbboots
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Worked at Lexington?
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King of Men
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I was thinking more of a crowd shooting or throwing rocks, and trying to climb over the walls. But otherwise, yes. I observe that embassies are national territory; international law allows deadly force in defense of national borders, including shooting back out at people who are standing outside your borders and shooting in.

If there are riots in an area of the town not close to the embassy, oh well. That's an internal matter for the host country to deal with. Any nation should be welcome to blow up and burn down its own stuff.

Bombings, admittedly, are harder to deal with in this way. There's no obvious target.

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Mucus
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Let's not forget that the riots aren't happening because of cartoons and Koran burnings, full stop. It is not as if there is a lack of Muslim mocking and Muslim cartooning in say, China, but we aren't seeing a whole lot of Chinese embassies being blown up.

Especially in the case of the soldiers burning Korans in Afghanistan, there are larger issues such as the actual occupation, the drone attacks on civilians, the American support of Israel, etc. The Koran burning and film are probably better viewed as convenient triggers for getting people riled up all at once but if they didn't exist, I wouldn't be surprised if some other reason came up.

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Mucus
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As for large scale military defence of embassies, the first example that comes to mind would be the Boxer Rebellion. However, between the two or three following revolutions, I'm not sure it is easy to draw any simple conclusions about cause and effect.
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King of Men
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The Boxer Rebellion was a formal civil war fought by large-scale militias and regular armies. It does not compare to mobs of random street people armed with whatever comes to hand. What's more, the difference between even a well-armed rioter, ie someone with an ancient Kalashnikov, and a soldier of the modern US military (including the heavy weapons backing him up), is much larger than the difference between a Chinese conscript with a muzzle loader and a German conscript with a bolt-action rifle. The small arms are more similar but the coordination, training, and backup are not.

If you have a real siege of the embassy, especially if it's by forces loyal to or at least tacitly winked at by the host country, that's a completely different situation. In that case it's time to call for an evacuation and consider sending in the gunboats. The amount of violence required to suppress rioting in the streets by lightly-armed or unarmed civilians should not be beyond an embassy guard force.

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Szymon
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I guess it's a complex international law problem. The embassy is a US territory, but I don't think it's possible fot the US personnel to shoot someone outside the embassy if they hadn't been shot at first. Then it would be self-defence probably allowed by Libyan law and embassy or not everyone could shoot. American law ends at the gates. The Riot Act does not apply.
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kmbboots
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We condemn oppressive regimes for firing on their own protesters - as we should. A bit harder to do once we fire on their protesters.

[ September 12, 2012, 03:45 PM: Message edited by: kmbboots ]

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Rakeesh
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Without endorsing KoM's idea, I suspect you're aware he set the bar for retaliation higher than 'protesters'.

It's a strange world where the idea of forcible defense of an embassy literally being attacked with force is met with squeamishness.

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Szymon
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Well, better this way than the other way around.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Without endorsing KoM's idea, I suspect you're aware he set the bar for retaliation higher than 'protesters'.

It's a strange world where the idea of forcible defense of an embassy literally being attacked with force is met with squeamishness.

I would agree except that it can be really difficult to distinguish between peaceful protestors, not-so-peaceful protestors, rioters, angry mobs, and people trying to commit violence. In fact, there are often elements of all of the above in those situations. Those lines are really thin and often blurry even at something as tame as NATO protests.
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Szymon
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And weapons in Libya were pretty easy to come by, I guess...
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Rakeesh
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Hold on a second. Rioters and angry mobs are people trying to commit violence, in the first case by definition and in the second almost but certainly by its tone. Anyway, you've shifted the grounds of your statement now. Is lethal force in defense of an embassy to be objected to because we don't want to appear hypocritical by firing on 'protesters', or because it's difficult to tell the difference between protesters and an angry mob?

I submit that it's actually not that hard at all to tell the difference between a protest rally and an angry mob threatening violence. Angry mobs threatening violence don't often just shift abruptly from sitting with candles in their hands to firing rifles and climbing walls, after all.

quote:
Let's not forget that the riots aren't happening because of cartoons and Koran burnings, full stop. It is not as if there is a lack of Muslim mocking and Muslim cartooning in say, China, but we aren't seeing a whole lot of Chinese embassies being blown up.
Well, but let's examine this for a moment, Mucus. Do you think that's entirely to do with (compared to the US, at least) China's minimal involvement in the Arab world? Because I think you know as well as I do that there are more than a few Muslims pretty pissed at China, in China. Or does it also have something to do with the belief-the certainty, really-that if a Chinese embassy were blown up or attacked, the consequences would shall we say be bad?

-------

It's still strange to me, a perverse sort of discrimination or prejudice against religious people, by religious people: it is to be expected that if you publish caricatures of a given religion's prophet, you and people near you or who look like you or who come from your home town will be threatened with violence and death. Everyone knows this...and you did too when you published it, so you need to show some 'responsibility'.

What happens if atheists, agnostics, or hell, Mongolian Jainists just for fun, decide that they're going to consider it an unbearable sacrilige for Jesus to be proclaimed as God in any land where they're the majority? They get a reputation for it, in fact, responding with violence reliably when it's done. Are we going to be beating around the bush talking about how Christians need to show some responsibility and awareness of how their speech will be received?

No, and not just because Islam has been grandfathered in and those atheists, agnostics, and Jainists would need to have a few centuries worth of staying power before they accrued that sort of fawning respect. But also because we would say, "Well we're sorry you feel that way, but if our citizens wish to say Jesus is God, we're legally and morally bound to let them do so, and that's really all there is to it."

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kmbboots
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Rakeesh, even in my tame, fairly boring life, I have been in crowds that contained peaceful protestors, not-so-peaceful protestors, rioters, and innocent bystanders all at the same time.
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Rakeesh
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You're probably right. It is too hard to tell the difference between a rally that is angrily protesting at the gates of an embassy, and a mob which is trying to break them down and attack it.
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Blayne Bradley
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You can also fire white phosphorous to disperse crowds.
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Orincoro
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A friend of a friend was killed in Benghazi. My heart goes out to the families, and to people who serve dangerous missions abroad.
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Stone_Wolf_
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boots: Protesters ≠ armed rioters.

Lyr: The VAST majority of Muslims are as peaceful as the VAST majority of Christians, it is not the Muslims who should be singled out for violence, it is the extremists...of ANY creed.

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
You can also fire white phosphorous to disperse crowds.

Maybe you are talking about smoke grenades made of white phosphorus...because otherwise...

quote:
As an incendiary weapon, white phosphorus burns fiercely and can set cloth, fuel, ammunition and other combustibles on fire, and cause serious burns or death.
Source

...you are out of your freaking mind.

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Godric 2.0
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I became aware of this event through images - namely ones of the dead body of ambassador Stevens on my Facebook feed. So I want to respond with some other images I found:

15 Photos Of Libyans Apologizing To Americans

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
You're probably right. It is too hard to tell the difference between a rally that is angrily protesting at the gates of an embassy, and a mob which is trying to break them down and attack it.

Crowds are not homogeneous, Rakeesh. That is my point. The crowd is not one thing. It is many different people doing different things and, in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to tell the 14 year-old yelling and waving arms from the 17 year-old next to him who may have just thrown a rock, or a bottle, or a grenade. Or the idiot protestor shooting in the air (not uncommon) from the ones shooting at the embassy. Especially as they are likely (at least to Western eyes) to look similar and be wearing similar clothing.

Take a look at Bloody Sunday in Derry if you want an example of what can happen when you send soldiers against civilians who may or may not be armed. And it was super effective at preventing further violence, too.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Godric 2.0:
I became aware of this event through images - namely ones of the dead body of ambassador Stevens on my Facebook feed. So I want to respond with some other images I found:

15 Photos Of Libyans Apologizing To Americans

Thanks for posting those.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by Godric 2.0:
I became aware of this event through images - namely ones of the dead body of ambassador Stevens on my Facebook feed. So I want to respond with some other images I found:

15 Photos Of Libyans Apologizing To Americans

Thanks for posting those.
Ditto.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
boots: Protesters ≠ armed rioters.

Lyr: The VAST majority of Muslims are as peaceful as the VAST majority of Christians, it is not the Muslims who should be singled out for violence, it is the extremists...of ANY creed.

No. But they could be standing right next to each other.
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King of Men
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Protests used to be called 'demonstrations'. That is an interesting word. For example, I may demonstrate a gun by firing at a pumpkin. The idea being that the pumpkin, now splattered all over the wall, could just as easily have been someone's head. That's what guns do, after all. A demonstration, in a similar vein, shows that a lot of people are angry about whatever it is they are protesting; angry enough at any rate to come out into the streets and shout about it. The point being 'demonstrated' is that "the placards they are waving could just as easily be clubs". (Indeed a properly constructed placard is made with a stick much heavier than it needs to be, for the possibility of instant conversion into a weapon.) A protest is at least an implicit threat of violence, or it is useless. Which is why demonstrations are now rare in the West; the threat is no longer credible. When demonstrations were a real tool of political power, it was because people believed that they could turn into mob violence. And indeed, sometimes they did, at least as late as the seventies.

My point: You can't add your body weight to a protest, and then claim to be completely innocent when someone else takes the violence further than you were personally prepared for. You were both there to make a threat. If you didn't mean it seriously you should have stayed home.

It is true that many teenagers are thick as two short bricks and too full of hormones to think this through. If my recommendation is adopted, several dozen such teenagers will die, which will suck. What sucks even more is that the threat of mob violence, inevitably shading into real violence every so often, is considered a reasonable and viable means of political pressure. I'd rather have a violent end than unending violence.

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kmbboots
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Those needn't be the only choices. It does help to refrain thinking of them uniformly as "rabble" though.
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James Tiberius Kirk
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Backlash to the Embassy statement
quote:
The original Cairo Embassy statement — issued before the attacks on the diplomatic missions occurred — clearly struck a chord with Romney. His initial statement and his decision to stand by it today speak to an idea that forms the central theme of his 2010 book and it’s a talking point he uses almost every day on the campaign trail: “No apology.”

As Romney said on Wednesday at his news conference in Jacksonville, Fla.: “I think it’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values, that instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. An apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

Romney after his statement

And the backlash to the backlash:

quote:
Romney keyed his statement to the American Embassy in Cairo's condemnation of an anti-Muslim video that served as the trigger for the latest in a series of regional riots over obscure perceived slights to the faith. But his statement — initially embargoed to avoid release on September 11, then released yesterday evening anyway — came just before news that the American Ambassador to Libya had been killed and broke with a tradition of unity around national tragedies, and of avoiding hasty statements on foreign policy. It was the second time Romney has been burned by an early statement on a complex crisis: Romney denounced the Obama Administration's handling of a Chinese dissident's escape just as the Administration negotiated behind the scenes for his departure from the country.

"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.

He and other members of both parties cited the Romney campaign's recent dismissals of foreign policy's relevance. One adviser dismissed the subject to BuzzFeed as a "shiny object," while another told Politico that the subject was the "president's turf," drawing a rebuke from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.


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Lyrhawn
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Romney's timing is a little off. When the "apology" statement came out, the actual attacks hadn't occurred yet.

Once they did, there was nothing from the Administration but condemnation from Obama.

This is a stupid issue for Romney to get caught up in. While this plays into his foreign policy narrative, it opens him up to a host of questions that he's avoided for more than a year. I think he's overreacting to the criticism that his RNC speech didn't mention the troops.

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Thesifer
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His advisers are horrible if this is how they're telling him to play it. Possibly he's just going rogue, and they'll be stuck picking up the pieces. That's what its seemed like for a while.
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