Obama Condemns 'Crude' Video at UN, Tells World Body to Respect Free Speech
"Understand that America will never retreat from the world," Obama said. "We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends."
The president said it's important to remember that "Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism."
"On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than ten Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; and several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul," he said. "The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained."
"The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted 'Muslims, Christians, we are one.' The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons."
"The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam," Obama continued. "Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims."
Though not to the degree of his trash-talking Iranian counterpart, Obama stoked controversy before even setting foot at Turtle Bay.
The president was the second speech opening the United Nations General Assembly, following Brazilian President Dilma Rosseff, and has drawn fire for sitting down with the ladies of The View yesterday but not scheduling any bilateral face-to-face sit-downs with world leaders.
"Any bilats added to the president's schedule in New York?" one reporter prodded at Monday's daily White House briefing.
"The president looks forward very much to participating at the United Nations General Assembly," responded press secretary Jay Carney, who previewed Obama's remarks as "a real opportunity."
Carney promised that the president would also address "the most recent unrest, the fact that the United States government condemns and finds reprehensible the content of the video, the anti- Muslim video, but that the United States government was not responsible for it and it is absolutely our position that there is never justification for the kinds of violence, for any violence in response to a video."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton carried the heavy load at the UNGA, with a packed schedule of bilateral meetings including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Monday that Obama should use his speech to make clear to leaders and citizens of the Arab Spring countries "that they are facing a moment of truth."
"If they want America’s friendship and support in advancing the shared strategic goals of security and prosperity, they will need to act responsibly and speak consistently – in English and Arabic – about the true impediments to a better future," Rubio said, referencing the mixed messages -- literally -- tweeted by the Egyptian government in different languages.
“We need real leadership from the president on these issues, and he’s not providing it. He’s absent or stalling from the situations in Iran and Syria, doing his best to downplay the threats to U.S interests across the Middle East, hiding from our allies, and silent on the recently deteriorating situation in Afghanistan," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said this morning.
“When it comes to foreign policy, the president seems to be waiting out till the election," Portman added. "Unfortunately, the problems of the world don’t wait and almost four years of taking a backseat to many of these situations is catching up with us, as we’ve seen."