Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney campaigns at Van Dyck park in Fairfax, Virginia, Thursday, September 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
On the opening night of the Republican National Convention, the cameras caught former UN ambassador John Bolton in the Romney family box, chatting amiably with Romney’s son Tagg. Shortly before the convention, Bolton, an unpaid foreign policy advisor to Romney, rushed to the defense of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whose attempts to tie Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood were widely denounced, even by Republicans like John McCain. Several weeks before the convention, Romney met in Denver with former Army lieutenant general Jerry Boykin, who was rebuked by President Bush in 2003 for his anti-Muslim, Crusade-like statements while still in uniform and subsequently found by the Pentagon Inspector General to have violated three internal rules when he delivered these speeches without clarifying that he was speaking in his private capacity. Boykin’s war cry of “no mosques in America” and rejection of First Amendment rights for statements in support of Islam led to his withdrawal as a West Point speaker this year, after protests by Iraq and Afghanistan vet groups. Boykin recently became executive vice president of the Family Research Council, a measure of how Islamophobia has become an integral part of the hard-right agenda.
The Romney campaign’s foreign policy team of advisers is flooded with neocons from the Bush era, including Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who, as Ari Berman reported in The Nation, inserted the famous “sixteen words” in Bush’s State of the Union address in 2003 claiming that Iraq tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger. Romney’s top national security adviser since 2007 is Cofer Black, the former Blackwater executive and CIA official who ran the “extraordinary rendition” torture program. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Super PAC donor for Romney, says “all the terrorists are Islamists,” Gingrich’s declaration that the Palestinians are “an invented people.”
This is the context surrounding Romney’s most recent expedition into Middle East policy. A Washington Post editorial echoed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pointedly raised the question of why Romney failed to condemn the fourteen-minute trailer, “Innocence of Muslims,” during his Wednesday press conference, though it ostensibly triggered the embassy attacks in Egypt and elsewhere. His campaign later issued a muted criticism of “the reported message of the movie.” Finally, this morning, he said the “whole film is a terrible idea,” and that “making it, promoting it, showing it, is disrespectful to people of other faiths,” a statement it took him four days after the furor began to make.
The fact is that the film emerged from the same Islamophobic circles that celebrate Bolton and Boykin, and are now backing Romney. The 2011 permit to make the movie was granted to Media for Christ, a nonprofit that shares space with The Way TV, and both are headed by an Egyptian Christian named Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih.
Nassralla was a celebrated speaker at the September 11, 2010, and September 11, 2011, rallies in New York to oppose the Park51 Islamic center (the so-called “Ground Zero mosque”) that were organized by renowned anti-Muslim bloggers Pam Geller and Robert Spencer, who even the Anti-Defamation League has accused of “promoting a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the pretext of fighting radical Islam.” Bolton delivered a ten-minute videotaped address at the 2010 rally, introduced by Geller as her candidate for president in 2012. Nassralla declared that they would build the mosque “on my dead body,” derided the Koran as “not holy” and raised over his head a picture of the bloody corpse of a Coptic Christian friend of his who he said was killed by Muslims, telling the audience “you don’t have to be like this.”