Pakistani TV stations air a real 'Made in USA' video. Will it calm violence?

Seeking to stem a wave of anti-American violence, the US Embassy in Pakistan gave TV stations there a public service announcement featuring President Obama and Secretary Clinton.

Muhammed Muheisen/AP
A Pakistani protester reacts to tear gas fired by police, while clashes erupted as protesters tried to approach the US embassy, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Sept. 20.

The United States is taking steps to head off new rounds of anti-American violence in some Muslim countries, even as it moves to get to the bottom of last week’s violent attacks against US interests.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Thursday the creation of an investigative board to study last week’s deadly attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of four diplomats, including US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

But even as Secretary Clinton was testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill on security breaches at a number of US diplomatic missions last week, at least one US embassy was moving to calm Muslim fury by taking the battle over America’s image to the airwaves.

The US Embassy in Islamabad made available to Pakistani television stations a “Made in USA” public service announcement that features President Obama and Clinton disassociating America and Americans from the anti-Islam video that sparked anti-US violence in Muslim countries beginning last week. 

As protesters chanted outside the walled US mission in Islamabad and burned the US president in effigy, numerous Pakistani TV stations were running the PSAs in which Mr. Obama and Clinton are quoted making the two-part point they have emphasized since the violence first struck the US Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11: The US government condemns the amateurish video’s message, even as it rejects using the video to justify violence.

“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths,” Obama says in the video. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

Clinton says: "Let me state very clearly, the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video,” before adding: “We absolutely reject its contents.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday that embassy officials in Islamabad came up with the idea for the TV announcements after determining that the Pakistani media were not debunking the common thinking that the US government was behind the made-in-California video that denigrates the Prophet Mohammed.

“As you know, after the video came out, there was concern in lots of [countries] including Pakistan as to whether this represented the views of the US government,” she said.

Some Pakistani TV stations ran the announcement as a free public-service message, while others were paid to run it. The US spent $70,000 to run the 30-second spots on seven stations, according to Ms. Nuland.

The first opportunity to gauge the effectiveness of the US announcements may come Friday, when the Pakistani government has called a national holiday to allow citizens to demonstrate peacefully against the video.

Local officials and staffs of US and other Western embassies in numerous Muslim countries will be on alert Friday for any signs of a resurgence of violence following Friday prayers. 

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