Ten years ago most left-thinking liberals were constantly worried about the erosion of civil liberties under the War on Terror though they could rarely name an instance where an American citizen had actually experienced such an erosion.
This was after all before the days when naked scanners and drone strikes had entered the vocabulary and the best they could do was to haul out Jose Padilla, aka Abdullah al-Muhajir, ACLU’s choirboy of the month, a Brooklyn-born convert to Islam who was being held in jail for no reason at all except aiding terrorists and plotting to build a dirty bomb.
Ten years later the lefty civil liberties types were proven right. The War on Terror did erode our civil liberties and America’s first political prisoner in generations has spent a month in jail for making an inconvenient movie at an inconvenient time.
When Charles Woods, the father of Tyrone Woods, one of the Navy SEALS who died fighting in Benghazi, met with Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State assured him that, “We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.” And they got him, officially on charges of violating parole, unofficially on charges of violently offending violent Muslims.
The woman whose policy had overthrown the Libyan government and then placed a barely defended consulate in the middle of a city of Jihadists, did not promise the grieving father that his son’s killers would pay. She promised him that the man who offended his son’s killers would pay. Not only would his son be the first casualty of that appeasement policy, but the Constitution that his son had sworn to support and defend would be the second casualty.
Mark Basseley Youssef is not the first filmmaker sent to prison by a Democrat in the White House for making the wrong kind of movie and interfering with his foreign policy. That would be Robert Goldstein who made the The Spirit of ’76, a movie about the American Revolution, at a time when Woodrow Wilson was trying to get Americans deeper into World War I.
Wilson’s Justice Department directed Chicago Police Deputy Superintendent Metellus Lucullus Cicero Funkhouser to confiscate The Spirit of ’76 and Goldstein spent three years in prison and eventually died in a Nazi concentration camp. Both Youssef and Goldstein made two bad movies that were politically inconvenient. The Spirit of ’76 was not welcome in 1917 and the origin of Muslim violence is not an appropriate topic for 2012. “History is history and fact is fact”, Judge Bledsoe conceded and went ahead with his ruling anyway.
Goldstein’s Federal trial took place in the Southern District of California. Mark Basseley Youssef’s trial will take place in the Central District of California. Goldstein was convicted of creating a movie was calculated to arouse antagonism and enmity. That is the unofficial charge that has been brought against Youssef. Goldstein was convicted of reminding Americans of the origin of their country and Youssef is guilty of reminding them of the origin of Islam.
The strange confluence of using Chicago politics and California Federal courtrooms to cover up the nakedness of a progressive president’s policies has a certain resonance less than one hundred years later. Youssef and his video trailer made a convenient scapegoat so that progressive politicians could avoid talking about the collapse of Libya into roving bands of Islamist militias and the triumph of Al Qaeda in North Africa.
After Obama had denounced Youssef in every forum from 60 Minutes to the United Nations to Pakistani TV, he was arrested, not to protect the Innocence of Muslims, but to protect the Innocence of Obama.
Blaming the Innocence of Muslims briefly silenced the more dangerous questions about what had gone wrong in Benghazi and the even more dangerous questions about what had gone wrong with the Arab Spring. Youssef, like Goldstein, was a foreigner, and an excellent choice as a scapegoat. And for weeks people focused on Youssef and his many aliases, and not on the question of why Americans died in Benghazi.
Americans died in Benghazi for the same reason that American hostages had been taken in Iran and for the same reason that Leon Klinghoffer had been murdered on the Achille Lauro and US Marines had died in Beirut. They died because their government had appeased Muslims, had given their terrorist groups hope that they could achieve their aims if they killed enough people, had saved them at the moment of their greatest weakness and had elevated them to power.