A Reuters report says that “The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on Tuesday in the Libyan city of Benghazi” citing “a Libyan official”.
It was not clear if the ambassador was in his car or the Libyan consulate when the attack occurred. “The Libyan ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them,” the official in Benghazi told Reuters.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission,” Clinton said in a statement last night. ‘We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.’” However she did not confirm that the ambassador has died. Al Jazeera says the body of the ambassador and his staff are now being flown to Germany. The picture below, taken from Twitter is allegedly that of the ambassador, but this is unconfirmed. Syrian media has a high quality photo at this link.
Earlier in the day the US Embassy in Cairo reacted to the storming of the embassy in Egypt by condemning “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.”
The apologia was disavowed by the White House. But the first, candid and groveling reaction of the diplomatic establishment to an attack on their own premises appears all the more unfortunate in light of the news from Libya. It appears to be naive as well. The simultaneous attack on the Libyan embassy and the power of the weapons employed [if the assault on the ambassador is a true one] suggests that the attacks on the US missions might be more than just a spontaneous expression of outrage by ordinary Muslims over an obscure video released on Youtube.
They are more reminiscent of the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Africa. Like the present attacks on the anniversary of September 11, the 1998 “bombings marked the eighth anniversary of the arrival of American forces in Saudi Arabia”, symbolic as well as operational in value.
The bombings on the embassies are now seen as a precursor to the September 11 attacks themselves. Events in Egypt in Libya will call into question two major claims of the Obama administration. First, whether it is true that they have won or are winning the War on Terror — a term they no longer use. Second, it will rekindle the debate over whether the United States, in acquiescing to the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in the “Arab Spring” has not in fact been breeding a nest of serpents.
The former regimes in Libya and Egypt were overthrown with the help or tacit permission of the United States. It does not seem as if there is much gratitude for it. More broadly, it raises the question of what the correct approach toward a region in turmoil should be. During his trip to Turkey in 2009 President Obama declared that the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam.” While that may be true it does not necessarily mean that Islam is not and will never be at war with the United States. In the words of Leon Trotsky, ‘you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you’.
Although the answers to those puzzles are far from clear one thing appears certain: the election of Barack Obama did not end nor even slow the march of events in the region. It goes on. Are the new attacks a precursor to a second catastrophic attempt on the West? At least, the nation is in good hands.
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