Right-wing extremism at heart of Libya envoy slaying

The killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya on Tuesday shows the linkage between right-wing extremism in the U.S and elsewhere.

U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, a career diplomat and former Peace Corps volunteer, and three embassy staffers were killed in the eastern Libya city of Benghazi. Reports say the four were killed when people armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the U.S. consulate there. Stevens is said to have died of smoke inhalation after the building was set on fire.

Earlier the same day, protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, scaling the walls and pulling down and burning the American flag, reportedly replacing it with an Islamic banner.

The violence was spurred by Egyptian media reports about a 14-minute video posted on YouTube by an American right-wing extremist.

The American-made video was a trailer for a highly offensive anti-Islam film titled “Innocence of Muslims.” The trailer includes scenes of Muslims pillaging and burning the homes of Egyptian Christians, and insulting depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a violent, degraded thug.

The trailer was posted online by Sam Bacile, the film’s creator, who has been identified as a 52- or 56-year old Israeli-American real estate developer in California. He has told reporters that “Islam is a cancer” and that he “intended his film to be a provocative political statement.” The Israeli government says it has no information about Bacile and no record of his citizenship.

The video has been promoted by far-right Gainesville, Florida, pastor Terry Jones. Jones inspired deadly riots in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011 by organizing an “International Burn a Koran Day” scheduled for Sept. 11, 2010, which was eventually canceled, and then burning a Quran at his church in 2011.

Jones defiantly posted a statement after Tuesday’s violence in Libya and Egypt, saying, “Tonight after International Judge Mohammad Day we will be showing the Mohammad Movie Trailer, a video promoting the movie, Innocence of Muslims. It is an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam. The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad.” Jones called Islam “totally incompatible with Western free society” and “a total deception.”

A prestigious mosque in Egypt on Tuesday condemned a symbolic “trial” of the Prophet Muhammad scheduled for that day by Jones’ group, Stand Up America. The group’s website features an extremely offensive statement and video of Jones announcing a “trial and execution” of the Prophet Mohammed on the 2012 anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which the group has labeled “International Judge Muhammad Day.” It displays a photo of a hideous hanging Muhammad effigy. The video includes an offensive reference to the president as “Hussein Obama.”

Jones’ website also lists an announcement of a forthcoming “International Judge Barack Hussein Obama (Barry Soetoro?) Day.” It includes a June 2012 photo of an Obama effigy hanging from a post, evoking imagery of lynchings from days thankfully past. Jones boasts that he was questioned by the Secret Service over this incident. The site also lists videos titled “Dr. Terry Jones says Obama Dead in 2012” and “Terry Jones on Obama: Hang ‘Em High.” The website is filled with attacks on immigrants, gay and lesbian rights, abortion, the Rio environmental summit and Obama’s health care reform and economic policies.

Earlier Tuesday, before the attacks on the U.S. consulate and embassy, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement that, the Times said, “appeared to refer to Mr. Jones.” The embassy said it “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” After the attacks, President Obama assailed the killings and ordered strengthened security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world. “Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths,” Obama said. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, sounding somewhat like Terry Jones, said on Tuesday, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

In fact, since the election of Obama in 2008, the Republican Party and its dominant tea party element has increasingly relied on a toxic mix of xenophobia, racism, homophobia and Christian fundamentalism to energize its extremist base. Terry Jones was briefly a write-in Republican presidential candidate, and his website contains many of the Romney-Ryan hot button issues.

This ideology meshes well with the right-wing fanaticism of Islamic, Jewish and other extreme religious fundamentalists, as well as neo-Nazism. One plays off of and fuels the other. In all these cases, right-wing corporate and political interests hide behind and exploit them to advance a reactionary political-economic agenda. Whether it’s sectors of the U.S. oil industry, the Koch brothers,Halliburton, or the Saudi feudal oil monarchy, the result is ugly and dangerous.

Photo: Far-right extremist minister Terry Jones is a factor in the violence that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya. M.V. Jantzen CC 2.0


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.