The news today has been filled with reports about the tragic events that occurred yesterday at the US Embassy in Cairo and a US Consulate building in Benghazi, Libya. There has been a great deal of confusion about yesterday's events and after a bit of independent research I have come up with some of the main points that I hope will help to clear that up a bit.
But before I get to that, I want to give my heartfelt condolences to the families of the US Consulate personnel that lost their lives in the attack in Benghazi yesterday. Sadly we only know the identify of the two of the four lives lost, and one of them was the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. Honestly I don't know if I can give Mr. Stevens the due he is greatly deserved for his many years of service with the US Foreign Service and his amazing efforts during the Libyan Revolution. You see, he was one of the first American officials on the ground in Libya during the revolution that eventually "ended" with the death of the dictator Ghaddafi. His tireless work in those early days earned him the position of US Ambassador to Libya just this past May. The man is a credit to the entire US Foreign..
For those who may still be confused about what exactly happened in North Africa yesterday, here is what has been verified to date:
Some months back, an anti-Muslim person in California (I say person because his exact identity and citizenship hasn't been confirmed and has been subject to conflicting reports) made a short film portraying the Prophet Muhammed (found of the Muslim faith), in a rather..unflattering light. From all reports, this film is actually quite horrible and its exact purpose is not entirely known. Needless to say, as such similar events in the past have shown, reaction to such a film was rather..angry (to put it mildly). (1)
The first major event that was spawned by this STUPID film was a large number of protesters began protesting outside the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt denouncing this film. Here where the story got a big mixed up. They protesters at some point actually scaled the walls of the embassy and took down the American flag and tore it up (after failing to burn it), replacing with a black flag that is often used by ultra-conservative Muslims (and very similar to the flag of Al Qaeda). This was the extant of the violence there; largely thanks to the fact the embassy apparently had evacuated most of its personnel ahead of time. Sometime after the first reports came in here in the US of this many looked to the US Embassy's website for more information and found that rather bland statement I referred to last night that mainly just talked about how the US doesn't support such blatant acts of intolerance towards another religion. I, like many others on the net, was shocked that the statement made ZERO mention of the protesters scaling the walls and taking down our flag and for this many have taken it as a chance to denounce the President because it's HIS State Department that's ultimately responsible for all the US embassies around the world. Here's the rather embarrassing problem with that claim: That much talked about statement from the embassy was issued BEFORE the protesters scaled the walls. So for all of those who think that statement was disgraceful, keep that in mind that it was issued when the protesters outside the embassy were doing just that, protesting (nothing new for US embassies the world over). (1)
Then there are the tragic events that according hours later in Benghazi, Libya. Much of what happened is still rather murky but I suggest you read WIRED.com's post on what happened since it is the best summary I have seen yet:
What Happened in Benghazi Was a Battle
As of right now, there are apparently strong indications this attack on our consulate in Benghazi was actually the work of a Al-Qaeda-linked group that likely took advantage of the reaction to the aforementioned film and used it as a way to carry out their attack. As the WIRED post points out, the consulate building in Benghazi was something of an interim location with none of the safety or security of a proper embassy/consulate (Marines for security for example). There are also conflict reports that at least some members of Libyan security forces may have pointed out the consulate's location to the mob (and in turn the possible terrorists). On the other hand there are also reports that it was Libyan security forces and a sympathetic local militia that aided in not only getting many of the injured consulate staff to the nearest hospital but also helping to "liberate" the consulate itself. Sadly this was all too late for those who needlessly lost their lives..
I, like many others this morning, watched the President's official press conference on the events of yesterday and to say that many were underwhelmed by it would be a rather large understatement. Many across the country (including at least one reporter at said press conference) openly asked if these attacks were acts of war and if so they should be dealt with as such. Well, on this particular occasion I am giving the President a break because considering how complicated the situation is on the ground in Libya (something most Americans sadly know little or anything about), there isn't much else he could have said in that speech that would make anyone really feel better or change our reaction to it. So far by my count he has done about everything I would do in his place: beef-up security at embassies and consulates all over the world, deploying two destroyers to Libya (2), and there are rumors of US forces already in Africa are preparing to hunt down the perpetrators of this disgusting and cowardly attack. Honestly, I don't see what else the President could honestly do to handle the situation any better. Could the President have been a bit more forceful and anger-sounding when you made his statement? Sure, but for now his actions are speaking loud enough for me. I will say this though, he didn't exactly convene a great deal of strength with his speech today..And I'll just leave it at that for now.
I do however have a grievance with the Egyptian and Libyan governments. I understand both nations have gone through very recent upheavals that have radically changed their respective nations, but they still have a responsibility under international law to protect the embassies on their soil and both governments utterly failed in that task. I'm sure we will hear plenty of excuses of the next few days from these two governments about why they failed but that will be of little comfort to the American people, let alone the families of those lost in Benghazi.
Which finally brings me to Mitt Romney and his wonderful contribution to all the confusion going on today. Personally HIS actions since this all started strikes me as rather pathetic. You want to criticize the President for his foreign policy? Fine, but maybe you should get at least SOME of the facts before you go denouncing him for something, like the exact context of a statement you so strongly criticized maybe? Because his first comments of criticism late last night just struck me (and apparently some conservatives as well) as desperate and very much a case of "X happened, must be Obama's fault". I've got news for folks who believe that whole heartedly; as you all so often tell us the world doesn't revolve around the President and there are just some things out of his control (so just for example, an incredibly angry reaction to some idiotic and hateful film made by some mystery man in California). Sadly, there is a rather large audience for that kind of idiotic and blind criticism that are just eating this all up I'm sure..Sadly such things are just "politics as usual", which is probably why it aggravates me so much..
In closing, I hope this piece has helped to clear up at least some of the confusion concerning yesterday's tragic events. Again, my prayers go out to the families of the victims of yesterday's attack on the consulate. Their loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice for simply doing their jobs in a dangerous part of the world and such loss should not be forgotten.
Any opinions and/or views expressed in the above piece are purely those of the author and not of any political or non-political organization. Any re-posting of this work MUST include this disclaimer.