Rock Center | September 13, 2012
>>> have done some rearranging on our broadcast tonight because of news that broke over the last 48 hours . attacks on american facilities overseas, some of chem in so-called friendly nations and the murder of four americans including our u.s. ambassador in libya. today there were protests in no fewer than 11 different countries. there are concerns that when friday dawns in the middle east there could be more trouble. more on that in a moment. tonight we want to begin with our chief foreign correspondent richard engel , who tonight will try to show us why in some many places so many of the gains of the arab spring are now coming under attack.
>> reporter: in tunisia where it all began, they're burning american flags . in yemen the strong man is gone but the american embassy is under attack. in libya where the u.s. led a costly nato war to topple gadhafi, militants torched the complex and killed the first american ambassador is over 30 years.
>> how could this happen in a country we helped liberate in a city we helped save from destruction?
>> as the libyan president flew to benghazi to visit the destroyed consulate today, he said he deeply regretted the loss of life.
>> we're doing our best to bring them to justice.
>> the attack showed he does not have complete control of his country. in cairo where the united states turned its back on its old friend hosni mubarak , radicals are troying to destroy the embassy with running battles with riot police in tahrir square, tear gas and stones. it's ironic that with american diplomats inside the embassy who helped to give these demonstrators, these protestors a voice and allowed them to actually carry out this anti-american clashes that we're seeing right now. so what did washington think would happen if he won? as the new egyptian president morsi was campaigning to lead the world's biggest arab country in elections the u.s. supported, he used radical creatures to stump for him.
>> without a doubt he doesn't support the violence.
>> ed hussein, a former muslim extremist is now with the council on foreign relations .
>> what motivates them is the perception that islam and muslims have been insulted, and there needs to be a response to that. it's where his instincts are. he can't see why this would be wrong, and i think the evidence for na is he called for the u.s. government to prosecute the filmmakers.
>> now president obama says he's not sure where the relationship with egypt stands.
>> i don't think that we would consider them an ally but don't consider them an enemy.
>> why does the air rib spring look like a winter. it has little to do with the internet video . that was just a trigger.
>> this is a photo opportunity .
>> the problem goes back to the men the u.s. relied on to keep order. for decades they fed their people a diet of lies, hate and half-truths that boiled down to two concepts. the united states and israel are fighting a war against islam . and the war is hidden in secret conspiracies. the goal was to keep the people's anger focused elsewhere, not on the regime's corruption and inability to produce jobs and basic services. by now those sentiments are deeply engrained.
>> the perception in the muslim countries is that the whole world is at war with islam .
>> oxford university professor ramadan is the grandson of the founder of egypt 's muslim brotherhood and explains each world, islam and the west , to the other.
>> we shouldn't forget that even in egypt or in tunisia "the dictator"s were supported by the americans , to there is a perception at the end of the day what matters for the americans is not the dignity of people. it's their interest in the region.
>> the other major bone of contention, u.s. support for israel and so just weeks after mubarak was overthrown, one of the first things the newly empowered egyptians decided to do was ransack the israeli embassy. democracy wasn't winning, but an ugly form of populism was. now the u.s. is running out of friends in the region. this wave of chaos was triggered by a relatively minor provocation, a blip, but it's a signal that the united states may have helped unleash sentiments it can't control. even if it's still unclear where all this is heading.
>> it's worth remembering that egypt is a country of 90 million people, and we're seeing at the most 2,000 to 3,000 people there. so the vast majority of the arab world , you know, is not on the streets protesting against america, and it's also got to remember that the libyan government has gone out of its way to issue apologies to the u.s.
>> maybe moderates will win over time , but they're not winning now. and that could not have been the hope when the arab spring began.
>> richard is with us live tonight just above tahrir square in cairo . richard, i remember you and i were walking through there at the very start and at the very height of the protests. you were saying we'd be back, and you didn't know about whby what consequences. how does it feel different this return trip for you?
>> reporter: well, i think i was concerned we'd be back, because i knew when the lid was torn off this region, for probably very good reasons, the people here were suffering. the economies were terrible. the regimes were corrupt. it wasn't working before, to things had to change. but when they had this abrupt change, i was very worried about what would bubble up to the surface. when you have miseducation, delivering the conspiracy theories for decades after decades, and this consistent mindset driven into people that the west is against islam and everything is a u.s./israeli con sphere s spear see to bring down the middle east , and when you elevate that to the position of power, good things don't happen. this is a blip in the road, and this period will end. i think there will be many more periods like this when we realize that there is a new power structure at play, a new mentality governing this region that the u.s. is going to find very uncomfortable.
>> for our viewers who don't know, you got out of college at the states to stanford and you learned over to cairo to learn journalism and arabic at the same time. this is a city and culture you know well. tomorrow is friday prayers, and the eyes of a lot of people are focused on that place tomorrow. what's your prediction?
>> reporter: i think it should be fairly calm tomorrow. people are going out to demonstrate, but they are not demonstrating right in front of the u.s. embassy . even people who support the protests against the islamic offensive, movement against islam do not support what is happening in front of the u.s. embassy right now. those people who are out there, some of them are hooligans and some are street thugs, unemployed people. i think you'll see protests, but not like the ones we see right now.
>> richard engel back in kcairo tonight. thank you. we're go to tripoli. he made a long and harrowing journey there, and i want to talk to you about the afak in benghazi. i heard it described that security outside that villa, our kouns late where we lost four americans was fairly light. there were four local libyans with aks. we know that the ambassador had a security detail . the question is was it connectsed with this it overall protest over the movie's depiction of islam ? could it have been an actual what's left of al qaeda attack?
>> reporter: brian, it seems according to libyan officials it's a hybrid of both. there was a spontaneous protest in anger over the film, but local officials believe that a militant group perhaps affiliated with al qaeda exploited that opportunity to attack the elm bass yes. there's evidence to suggest the way the firefight broke out and lasted after americans were evacuated to a nearby safehouse and were subsequently followed that the sophistication of the attack, the weapons used, the nature of the ambush suggest it was more than just a spontaneous outburst of violence and anger. that, in fact, it was planned. there is evidence this evening suggesting among those that have been arrested by libyan officials that was the case. in the next 24 hours we are expecting u.s. investigators to arrive here, and that will certainly shed more light onto what exactly drove these protestors into this deadly assault on the u.s. consulate. brian.
>> okay. back in tripoli to begin reporting for us as the bodies of those americans come back to this country.