WHAT OTHERS SAY: Tragic American losses show security lapses

Thursday, September 13, 2012 | 1:05 p.m. CDT; updated 12:11 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The protests that swept the Middle East last year were dubbed the “Arab Spring” and while they began in hope, they have unleashed forces of chaos and instability likely to dog the region indefinitely. The Obama administration has rightly condemned the attacks on our embassy in Cairo and especially the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where the U.S. ambassador and three other U.S. personnel were killed.

The attacks were said to arise from a despicable low-budget YouTube film depicting the prophet Mohammed as a womanizer. But it might take time to sort out many of the facts surrounding these incidents and their origins.

The consulate assault in Libya, which included rockets and bombs, might have been planned. Deputy Interior Minister Wanis El-Sharif blamed die-hard supporters of deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who may have been waiting for the opportunity presented by the film. This attack killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

President Barack Obama praised Stevens and the other slain Americans. He condemned both attacks “in the strongest terms,” and praised Libyan authorities for helping protect Americans in the consulate, fighting back against the attackers and conveying Stevens’ body to a hospital. “This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” he said.

As for Egypt, Washington should demand an accounting. Several hundred security personnel were deployed to protect the embassy Wednesday, but the day before security was obviously inadequate — a mob stormed the facility, tore down the American flag and replaced it with a banner said to be that of al-Qaida. On the anniversary of Sept. 11, it should be expected that security of U.S. embassies would be particularly high.

The anti-Islam film was clearly provocative, but every host country has a duty to protect embassies and diplomatic facilities on its territory. Moreover, Egypt may have earlier signaled that such attacks would be winked at, given the light punishments handed out to several dozen people charged with storming and looting the Israeli embassy a year ago. Obama should insist that those involved in the Tuesday attack be apprehended and brought to justice.

The incidents quickly became fodder for the U.S. presidential campaign. Republican Mitt Romney issued a hasty statement condemning a release in which the Cairo embassy said it “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” That language, Romney suggested, appeared to sympathize with the mob. “An apology for America’s values is never the right course,” he said.

But Romney deserves criticism for acting too impulsively. The embassy release was issued before the mob attack, not after. It was an apparent and unsuccessful attempt to mollify rapidly increasing tensions. Romney’s inflammatory foreign policy accusations — reiterated Wednesday — serve no one, especially in light of the tragic deaths.

Obama has ordered increased security at U.S. diplomatic facilities. The administration should make it clear to host countries that Washington expects adequate security for U.S. diplomats and installations, just as other nations expect the same of us.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.


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Michael Williams September 13, 2012 | 3:30 p.m.

Holy "Jimmy Carter", Batman!

I sure hope that our soldiers are carrying live ammunition, have quick access to some heavy munitions, and that someone is paying close attention to the "rules of engagement."

If not, there should be hell to pay back home.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush September 13, 2012 | 6:48 p.m.

Marines deployed with
No live ammo was Reagan -
If facts still matter.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 14, 2012 | 8:57 a.m.

So what? It was stupid then, and it's stupid now.

What is your point, Gregg?

(Report Comment)
Tony Black September 14, 2012 | 10:15 a.m.

Michael, I believe his point is that you are blaming the wrong president. But as he questions, do facts matter any more? With statements like "not intended to be a factual statement" and "we won't let facts dictate our campaign", I don't think so.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 14, 2012 | 11:09 a.m.

Tony: Ah, I see the problem now.

You and Greg think my Jimmy Carter comment was related to my subsequent unloaded guns comment.

Not so.

I first referred to Jimmy Carter because of the many similarities I see between his "embassy problems" and the current President's. Indeed, the parallels between Carter and Hussein Obama administrations are quite striking, a comparison I've discussed with friends (and maybe even here) for a couple of years now. Basically, Obama conducts foreign policy like he looks when he bicycles.

My comment on unloaded guns, heavy munitions, and the rules of engagement was generic, based mainly upon the notion that asking a soldier to guard US embassies with an unloaded gun is about as sensible as a lazy haiku. I don't care who's in put a man/woman in that situation, you better give them the proper tools. An unloaded rifle is useful only for hanging a dead soldier's helmet. If the responsible "entity" is the Pentagon or the CO or the chief of station or SecState or ambassador, then let's yell at them. If it's the President, then yell at him.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black September 14, 2012 | 11:54 a.m.

Diversion. Works every time, eh Michael?

(Report Comment)
Tony Black September 14, 2012 | 11:56 a.m.

Who is asking troops to guard an embassy with unloaded guns? Delusional much?

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote September 14, 2012 | 12:24 p.m.

Do you have a cogent critique vis a vis Obama's "embassy problem", i.e a specific complaint? I would guess your problem is more on the information side (your lack thereof) in contrast to an actual complaint with respect to this administration's foreign policy objectives in Libya. Or do you think Gadaffi should still be in power? It is the power vacuum inherent to regime change that leads to these events. Out of power factions use violence to achieve political ends. It has been occurring for a very long time. Note that the day before these attacks, U.S. educated Abu Shagour became Libya's first democratically elected Prime Minister. Do regional attacks against a just formed central government (or their perceived proxy, the U.S.) sound like a policy outcome unique to Obama?
Here's what Mitt should have said:
"This is a difficult day for all of us Americans. It is time for us to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection…"


"I unequivocally support the president of the United States — no ifs, ands or buts — and it certainly is not a time to try to go one-up politically. "

(Report Comment)

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