U.S. Ambassador to Libya killed during consulate attack
Update: I’m hearing conflicting reports that Ambassador Stevens’ body actually is in the hands of a mob, and earlier reports of benevolent intention in the photo of Stevens taken after the attack may have been mistaken.
The “Islamic rage” over a movie deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed spread from Egypt to Libya on September 11, resulting in a rocket grenade attack on the American consulate, followed by an attack on the U.S. Ambassador’s car as he was being evacuated from the compound. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in these attacks.
Stevens is said to have suffocated in his burning car. An image of the dead or dying ambassador being dragged away by a crowd has been flying around the Internet. Based on reports I’m seeing this morning, the people in this photo were trying to help get Stevens to safety, and were not associated with the attackers. CBS News reports two of the dead were United States Marines, shot during a gun battle with heavily armed “protestors.”
The fourth murdered man was consular official Sean Smith, who in his spare time was said to have been an avid player of the computer game called Eve Online. An article at Eurogamer.net says Smith was discussing future game sessions with his online buddies when he added, “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” It sounds like Smith correctly assumed he was witnessing the setup for an assault on the consulate.
The Libyan government has been, to date, much more cooperative than Egypt’s in responding to the attacks. The deputy Prime Minister of Libya said via Twitter, “Amb. Stevens was a friend of Libya and we are shocked at the attacks on the U.S. consulate.”
The BBC relays reports that a militia linked to al-Qaeda, the Ansar al-Sharia Brigade, was involved in the Libyan attack, although spokesmen for the group denied this. The September 11 incidents were not an entirely isolated outbreak of violence; CBS News notes that Libyan Interior Ministry official Wanis al-Sharef “said there had been threats that Islamic militants might try to take revenge for the death of al Qaeda’s No. 2 commander Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in June, and he said the U.S. consulate should have been better protected.” (Emphasis mine.)
The response of the Obama Administration to the September 11 embassy attacks has been an absolute disgrace. First, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a now-infamous statement, the morning before the embassy grounds were violated, condemning the “abuse of free speech” by the creators of the film that “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims”:
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
This groveling submission of American principles – nothing about the freedom to practice religion guarantees its insulation from criticism, or even mockery, through the exercise of individual free speech – did not placate the mob, which proceeded to assault the embassy and tear down the American flag, replacing it with an al-Qaeda-style banner containing one of Islam’s most recognizable phrases: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is His prophet.” Doesn’t that offend the religious sensibilities of others? Or does it matter that the people offended by declarations of Islamic supremacy aren’t likely to respond with violence?
The Cairo embassy went on to condemn the “unjustified breach” of their grounds, but made a point of declaring they stood by their original statement. Reminder to anyone trying to spin all this away: while the original “hurt feelings” apology was issued before violence erupted, the embassy doubled down on its apology after the attack. “This morning’s condemnation (issued before the protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of the unjustified breach of the Embassy,” one of their Twitter messages read.
The White House claimed the apology to Islamists was not “cleared by Washington,” but then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went on to repeat the apology in an official statement. After hours of withering criticism on Twitter, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo proceeded to delete its Twitter messages, which is both laughably ineffective as a means of posterior coverage – the Internet never forgets! – and possibly illegal, as it constitutes the destruction of public records.
While President Obama dithered in silence, presidential candidate Mitt Romney stepped up with a bold statement: “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks. I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.” The death of Ambassador Stevens had not yet been reported at the time of this statement.
Incredibly, Obama condemned Romney before saying anything about the attack on the Libyan consulate. As noted at Breitbart.com, Obama’s campaign press secretary, Ben LaBolt, raced out to say “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”
But it took eight more hours for President Obama to find his voice and issue a statement condemning the murder of American diplomatic officials in Libya. The President starts off well enough: “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”
And Obama offers a fine tribute to the slain ambassador: “On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.”
But in the middle of the President’s statement, we get another apologetic – worded more carefully than the Cairo embassy’s outrageous message, but similar in substance: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.”
It’s an “unequivocal” statement that equivocates, and it equivocates before it gets around to being unequivocal. There is no reason for anyone to make the slightest concession to hurt feelings or offended sensibilities while denouncing cold-blooded terrorism and murder. The American ideal of free speech does not mean “saying anything you want, unless it offends people prone to violence.” And Obama’s official rejection of “efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others” abruptly reaches its limits when it’s time to force Catholics to buy other people’s birth control.
There has been a sustained global push by Islamists – sometimes conducted carefully, other times with violent outbursts – to write the basic tenets of their religious laws into Western codes of civilization. They’re starting small enough, with the notion that free speech doesn’t quite cover what sharia law finds offensive. Westerners are required to concoct whatever sanctimonious excuses they require to justify accepting this revised free speech principle. That’s how leftists who normally have trouble concealing their contempt for organized religion – especially when religious beliefs conflict with the agenda of the State – can turn on a dime and profess righteous outrage over unacceptable cartoon or film depictions of Mohammed.
They couldn’t care less when Jesus gets similar treatment. But the first line of foreign code has been successfully inserted into their ethical programming: Islam Is Different. Western politicians aren’t quite ready to say that Islamist outrage justifies murder… but they do feel a remarkably consistent necessity to express agreement and understanding of the impulses that lead to such murders, while denouncing the grisly acts themselves. The Islamist leaders orchestrating these events know exactly what they’re doing.
Civilized people believe respect must be earned. Barbarians think it can be compelled. This is not a principle that civilization should be willing to concede, not even a tiny bit.