A few quick notes on the murder of the US ambassador to Libya.

* In the wake of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other members of the embassy staff in Benghazi, it’s really, really important to note that, in the words of scholar Daniel Serwer, “It is not most Libyans who attacked the consulate in Benghazi (or the embassy in Egypt) yesterday.  It is a self-selected few.”

* Daniel Serwer’s comments are supported by Gallup Polls statistics out of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Libya has the highest approval rating for the United States in MENA, one of the highest approval rates ever recorded in the region, outside of Israel. Fifty-four percent of Libyans surveyed approved of the leadership of the US, up from 30% in 2011.

* Muslims around the world are very vocally condemning the attack, from US Congressman Keith Ellison, to American interfaith leaders, to Turkish and Syrian journalists, to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (which represents 57 different nations), on and on. Please feel free to leave more examples in the comments — while it is certainly true that the people who perpetrated this act were Muslim, and some Muslims support them, the more important truth is that they are a minority.

* Because it seems to me to be very important to stress this, a couple verses from the Qur’an, on hatred and violence:

Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune. (Qur’an 41:34-35)

Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. (Qur’an 5:32)

* As Secretary of State Clinton mentioned in her remarks this morning, “Libyans carried Chris’s body to the hospital and helped others to be rescued.” Surely they are no less Libyan than the people who did the killing. Update: Marc Lynch writes for Foreign Policy: “In short, the response from Libya  suggests a broad national rejection at both the governmental and societal level of the anti-American agitation.”

* Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham released a powerful statement about Amb. Stevens’ murder. It’s very that we on the left remember that there are people on the other side of the aisle — people with whom we may disagree more often than not — who have responded in a way in which all Americans can be proud:

Yesterday’s attack is a tragic and terrible reminder that – despite the hopes of the Arab Spring – the forces of violent extremism in the Middle East are far from defeated, and that the revolutions inspired by millions of people who dream of freedom and democracy can still be hijacked by small groups of violent extremists who are eager to kill to advance their evil ideology. 

Despite this horrific attack, we cannot give in to the temptation to believe that our support for the democratic aspirations of people in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere in the broader Middle East is naive or mistaken. We cannot resign ourselves to the false belief that the Arab Spring is doomed to be defined not by the desire for democracy and freedom that has inspired millions of people to peaceful action, but by the dark fanaticism of terrorists.

To follow this misguided path would not only be a victory for the extremists and their associates, but a betrayal of everything for which Chris Stevens and his colleagues stood and gave their lives…. (For the full statement, please click here).

* Finally, here’s the video that Amb. Stevens produced as he prepared to take on his position in Libya. It saddens me deeply that this man was stolen from America, and from the Libyan people he was so anxious to serve.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the foregoing is an excellent example of how helpful Twitter can be as news unfolds – h/t to @AdamSerwer, @NickKristof, @influxTR, @rezaaslan and others to whom I’ve linked throughout this post. 


  1. FYI, the first time you named Daniel Serwer, you made an unfortunate typo in his last name. I’m sure he’s not that stinky.

  2. ” It’s very [important] that we on the left remember that there are people on the other side of the aisle”

    Just as we remember GWBush set an example a few days after 9/11. (http://2believeornot2.blogspot.com/2008/11/george-bush-on-islam-and-quran.html)

    Give the man his props for this, at least.

    • I do, and have. He surely deserves it. My problem is the way the relationship between “Islam” and “the West” was framed by President Bush and his Administration all too soon thereafter.

  3. The actual circumstances surrounding the attack have become muddy in the last few hours. Reports say that the attack was pre-planned by an extremist group that used the protest for cover. I think it’s a little too convenient that Ambassador Stevens “just happened” to be there and a protest “just happened” to take place in order to allow the attack to be carried out, but we will have to wait for more information.

    The worst part of all of this is that the GOP is using this to make political hay. While the rank-and-file in the party have condemned the act in the strongest terms, Reince Priebus & Mitt Romney have decided to take the low road and use this as ammunition in an attack on the President. If you ever needed convincing that Romney is ill-suited to the Presidency, his remarks about President Obama and his response should convince you:

    “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,”

    Mr. Romney is clearly living in the alternate reality that Bill Clinton alluded to at the Democratic National Convention.

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