Passing the buck in dramatic fashion on the world stage, President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly this morning that the U.S. government was not responsible for the anti-Islam video that he once again blamed for recent attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East. He added that more guards at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi would not have helped save Ambassador Chris Stevens, and that the real problem was “deeper causes” such as religious intolerance.
“[I]t will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass,” Obama told the assembled diplomats and heads of state. “If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis….Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.”
While claiming that Al Qaeda had been weakened, Obama said that the attacks on U.S. embassies were in fact a natural outcome of misunderstandings on both sides–of “difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world.” He proceeded to attack the infamous anti-Islam video:
In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening. In every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others. And that is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, where a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well.
Obama added that the U.S. could not “ban” the video, because the “Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.” He did not mention that his administration’s policy is, in fact, that such speech can be restricted, and that the U.S. had co-sponsored a resolution with Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 that would allow Islamist governments to ban such videos and claim they had the full support of the United States.
“I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism,” Obama said, placing a filmmaker in the U.S. on equal footing with those who had attacked America. Obama also equated insulting Muhammad with denying the Holocaust:
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.
Again, Obama left out a key detail: that his appointed diplomats had sat and listened to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday while he defended Holocaust denial and said Israel would be “eliminated”–long after Israel’s representatives had left the hall in protest.
Obama left precious little time to address the civil war in Syria or the threat of a nuclear Iran. He gave several pages to assuaging the feelings of radical Muslims angry about a YouTube video; he provided a few sentences to the question of what to do about a nuclear-armed Iran, saying only that “time is not unlimited” for talks.
Watch the full speech below…