J. Christoper Stevens, the United States Ambassador to Libya, has been killed in a rocket attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Three other consulate officials were also killed. Angry protests have occurred over the last two days at the U.S. missions in Libya and Egypt, supposedly due to the content of an online film called Innocence of Muslims that is said to be offensive to Islam.
During the attack in Cairo, Egypt, men scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy, tore down the American flag, and raised a black flag with the white Arabic text of the Islamic Kalma prayer, which can be translated into English as, ‘There is no God but Allah, and the Prophet Mohammed is his messenger.’ The Benghazi attack left our mission there in shambles; attackers stormed the consulate then looted and burned it, leaving the bodies of the four murdered American officials in the street outside.
These attacks have been strongly condemned by President Barack Obama (D) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D). However, Clinton has been criticized by former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA)—the Republican presidential nominee—for saying in her initial statement regarding the Cairo attacks that, ‘The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.’ Romney said that, “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 [them].”
In an official statement released via Libya’s official news agency, the governing party condemned the attacks and promised to “track down the perpetrators and to maintain the country’s security and the safety and security of its guests.” A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry also said that, “This is an expression of a feeling that is thought to be an insult, but events like this are extremely deplorable. And we have to work to get things under control.”
Under long-standing international laws governing diplomatic relations, embassies and consulates are considered to be extraterritorial, and may not be entered without the permission of the guest nation. As such, these attacks should be considered a direct assault on U.S. citizens in U.S. territory. The host nations—Egypt and Libya, in this case—have a duty to protect the territorial integrity and safety of all foreign diplomatic missions in their countries.
Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed by violence in the line of duty since 1979, and only the sixth in all of U.S. history.