Tuesday's killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans is an outrage. The three died during an attack on the American consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi by rioters supposedly angry over an anti-Muslim film made in the United States and recently shown on the Internet in several Arab countries.
A separate attack was made on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, the same day. Fortunately, no one was injured there.
Some terrorism experts suggest the date of the violent protests-on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the U.S.-was no coincidence. The embassy attack came following an al-Qaeda call to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network and was carried out by protesters using rocket-propelled grenades-weapons seemingly not readily available to people taking part in a supposedly spontaneous flash mob.
The Defense Department quickly dispatched two Marine anti-terrorism security teams to Libya, and President Obama ordered an increase in security at all U.S. consulates in the Middle East. Both facilities attacked were guarded by local security forces and not by U.S. Marines. This is an oversight that should not have happened and should be corrected immediately.
Many members of Congress claim this is an act of war. It was an attack upon U.S. soil, but the sincere shock and outrage to Stevens' death by both ordinary Libyans and their government, which promised to conduct a thorough search for the people responsible, indicate this was not a countrywide conspiracy and should not be treated as such. This type of attitude by U.S. politicians will only serve to silence the voices beginning to speak in the Arab world who do wish for better relations with the West.
The Libyan people lost a good friend in Chris Stevens. He had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Libyan people in the recent revolution that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi by acting as the American liaison to the rebel military. He will be missed in that country as much as he will be missed here.
Anti-American sentiment and religious fundamentalism will always be present in the Arab world. It will take time to build up trust between the U.S. and Arab countries, many experiencing democratic elections for the first time. However, rejecting terrorism and standing arm-in-arm with the U.S. in tracking down and bringing these killers to justice would be a good way for Libya to show it is serious about changing its role in the world.