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Romney, Obama Trade Political Jabs After Embassy Attacks

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
Late U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Credit: U.S. State Department

In the wake of tragic events overseas that resulted in the deaths of four American diplomats, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, some have used the deplorable acts of violence against American consulates in North Africa as an opportunity to score political points. These partisan swipes have distracted from where the focus should be.

On Tuesday, U.S. embassies were attacked in Egypt and Libya. The attacks came on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took the lives of roughly 3,000 U.S. citizens.

The actions taken against sovereign U.S. territories were a response to a trailer for a low quality video that many people in the region took offense too. Scenes from the video, “Innocence of Muslims,” have been online since July. The movie depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual who advocates adultery, pedophilia, and deviant behavior.

The content of the video didn’t spark outrage in the region until portions of the trailer were translated into Arabic and aired by local media. Protesters considered it an affront on the Islamic faith.

The worst attack was a rocket launched at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. It killed U.S. Ambassador Stevens, and three other diplomats who were reportedly attempting to escape the consulate as protests intensified. U.S. Sources say that the attack was planned well in advanced by an extremist group who used the protests as a diversion.

Chris Stevens, 52, had 21-years of experience in foreign service. He was sworn in as Ambassador to Libya only a few months ago by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Stevens loved the years he spent working in the Middle East and North Africa. He was, as Secretary Clinton mentioned in a statement, passionate about his diplomatic assignments and dedicated to the Libyan people.

"As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started. Chris was committed to advancing America's values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger."

Ambassador Stevens served his country proudly, but many people are not talking about Chris Stevens or the three other Americans who lost their lives. Very few are actually talking about the attacks and what our response should be. Instead, we are distracted by back-and-forth attacks going on between the Mitt Romney and Barack Obama campaigns.

Romney came out swinging, criticizing the Obama administration for their response to the radical reaction from some groups in the region.

"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 in a statement released late Tuesday. “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."

The ‘first response’ Romney is referring to is a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. In it, the embassy condemned religious incitement, referring to the 'Innocence of Muslims' video, and calls the respect of religious beliefs a “cornerstone of American democracy.” The consulate released these remarks before any violence in the region began, but the statement did not stop protesters from breaching the walls of the embassy in Cairo and tearing its American flag down.

The Obama administration disavowed the remarks from its Cairo consulate, claiming that it was not cleared by Washington and does not “reflect the views of the United States government.” In an official statement from the State Department, Hillary Clinton said:

"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But, let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The Romney campaign accused the White House of apologizing to the protesters and sympathizing with the people who are hostile to Americans in the region. The Obama campaign hit back by accusing Mitt Romney of using the tragedy in Benghazi to score political points.

“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” said Ben LaBolt, spokesman for Barack Obama’s campaign.

The politically driven back-and-forth spats between the campaigns, and supporters of both candidates, have turned ugly very fast. It has, unfortunately, become the focus in public discourse over the attacks overseas. The American people want to know why this happened and what measures the government plans to implement to help prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. However, pointless and inappropriately timed partisan attacks don't get us closer to these answers.

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