Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Killers in Libya Must be Served Justice

The death of J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, at the hands of extremists has shocked civilized people everywhere. Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim Keib declared: "This is a criminal act that will not go unpunished. This is part of a series of cowardice acts by supporters of the former regime who want to undermine Libya's revolution.” Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. "We refuse that our nation's lands be used for cowardice and revengeful acts. It is not a victory for God's Sharia or His prophet for such disgusting acts to take place," he said. "We apologize to the United States, the people of America, and the entire world. We and the American government are standing on the same side. We stand on the same side against outlaws."

The deaths of embassy officials in Libya and Egypt came about because of a crude video posted on the Internet that depicted Islam and Prophet Muhammad (saw) in a negative light. There are fringe groups in Muslim countries waiting to exploit things like this for political gain, always in the name of Islam. Because they have no political legitimacy, they resort to murder and mayhem to convince Muslims that they are acting to protect the honor and dignity of Islam. The majority of Muslims have rejected them again and again and stand united today in unequivocally condemning them. 

Mitt Romney, Republican nominee for the President of the United States, is already politicizing the crisis. “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,” he said. “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.”

Fact is, the Obama administration did no such thing. As soon as the news of the deaths came to light, both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks on the embassies in unambiguous terms. This will not stop the Republicans, however, from escalating their baseless attacks on President Obama in the coming days.  Party stalwarts are already calling Obama a coward for not standing up to the threats posed by “Muslims” against America. Whatever it takes – lies, distortions – to win the election is game for the Republicans.

President Obama must not allow the exigencies of the election to define his response to the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt. So far, he has not and it is unlikely that he will in the future. But politics is a strange profession and the pull of power can distort anyone’s perspective. It remains to be seen how the President walks this minefield as the November election draws near.

But the bigger question is how to contain and defeat extremists who claim to act in the name of Islam but whose only aim is to seize power so that they can practice their savage ideologies. Almost always, their first victims are women. They want women to be confined to homes, remain illiterate, serve their desires and receive rigorous punishment and even death for what they alone define to be moral infractions. These self-styled custodians of “virtues” are corrupt to the core. They are nihilists whose only signature mark is destruction.

As the New York Times reported, President Obama said of the Americans murdered in Libya: “These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity. Make no mistake: we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” He praised the Libyan government, noting that Libyan security forces fought back against the mob, helped protect American diplomats and took Mr. Stevens’s body to the hospital. “This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” he said.

Ambassador Stevens taught English as a Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco from 1983 to 1985. He worked tirelessly with Libyan rebels in overthrowing the regime of Dictator Muammar Gadhafi last year. He had nothing to do with the hate video posted by an American Islam-hater. Yet he and three of his staff paid the ultimate price at the hands of a band of fanatics. We must do whatever we can - even if it is as minimal as protesting - to thwart the extremists.


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