(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/09/libya-embassy-attack.gif)“As-Salamu Alaykum. My name is Chris Stevens, and I am the new U.S. ambassador to Libya. I had the honor to serve as the U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition during the revolution, and I was thrilled to watch the Libyan people stand up and demand their rights. Now I’m excited to return to Libya to continue the great work we’ve started.”
Thus begins a State Department propaganda video, complete with Middle Eastern music and Arabic subtitles, aimed at establishing that the U.S. government holds a friendly disposition toward the Libyan people. The feeling isn’t mutual.
Tuesday, on the 11th anniversary of 9⁄11, Middle Easterners outraged by the existence of an obscure anti-Islamic film called “Innocence of Muslims,” stormed the American embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Benghazi. The man behind the movie, identifying himself as Sam Bacile, told the Wall Street Journal that he hoped his film would show “Islam as a hateful religion.” Muslims rebutted this portrayal by attacking foreigners who had nothing to do with the motion picture. In Libya, a mob armed with guns but not a sense of self-irony killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, an idealistic Berkeley grad who fell in love with North Africa after an ’80s stint in the Peace Corps. The Barbary Coast-barbarians parading the American ambassador’s corpse around like a trophy are the people the American government aided to overthrow their government.
This is what democracy looks like?
In the Middle East, the enemy of our enemy isn’t necessarily our friend. But the State Department occasionally regards the enemy of our allies as our friends. As the Ayatollah Khomeini engineered the ouster of the Shah in the late 1970s, the U.S. ambassador to Iran helped the unholy man’s ascension, which Jimmy Carter reflected bitterly upon in his memoirs. William Sullivan, hired by Carter after showing insolence to the Johnson administration as ambassador to Laos during the Vietnam War, apparently surprised the president by treating him as he had treated his Democratic predecessor. The 39th president noted that Ambassador Sullivan “had been carrying out some of my directives half-heartedly, if at all,” and that “Sullivan thought we should not oppose Khomeini’s take-over because his rule would lead to democracy.” More than three decades after the Islamic Revolution dashed the hopes of Western leftists such as Sullivan, a similar mindset, immersed in the hype and hope of the Arab Spring, swept the Obama administration, which apparently left the outposts in Cairo and Benghazi lightly defended.
So, too, are American principles. “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” began a statement from the American embassy in Cairo. The statement continued, “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.”
Religious freedom is certainly a cornerstone of American democracy. But so is freedom of speech. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked up on the outrageousness of such a statement. “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,” the presidential aspirant pronounced Tuesday night. Alas, both major presidential candidates supported the intervention in Libya.
So did the American ambassador who died as a result of it. Before he gave his life evacuating the consulate in Benghazi, Chris Stevens risked his life to help Libyans overthrow the regime of the brutal dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The ingratitude extended to Stevens by the beneficiaries of his diplomatic work should serve as a cautionary tale about the futility of extending good deeds to bad people.
Why pick a winner in a contest of losers?
Whether his actual outlook or diplomatic nicety, Stevens himself had publically contended that Libya headed in the right direction. “One of the things that impressed me when I was last in Libya was listening to stories from the people who are old enough to have travelled and studied in the United States back when we had closer relations,” the slain public servant announced on the State Department video. “Those days are back.” No, they’re not.
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