When the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked, Chris Stevens, the American Ambassador to Libya, Sean Smith, Foreign Service Information Management Officer and two other U.S. citizens gave their lives as surely as any soldier who has ever died in combat.
The mission that drew Chris and Sean and their colleagues to Libya is both noble and necessary, and we and the people of Libya honor their memory by carrying it forward. This is not easy. Today, many Americans are asking – indeed, I asked myself – how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be.
I am grateful to him and to all of our embassy personnel serving around the world. They are common citizens and quiet heroes. They represent the best of our values in often hostile locations and risk their lives in the service of our country and our values, because they believe that the United States must be a force for peace and progress in the world, that these aspirations are worth the sacrifice.
I met quite a few of these career diplomats, Foreign Service officers and civilian support staff when I was in college. My Dad was attached to the embassy in Greece. He had to begin his assignment to JUSMAG [Joint United States Military Advisory Group] early (and before he had finished his language course) after his predecessor was blown up by the November 17 terrorist organization.
Despite elaborate security measures and the very real fears of my Mom, he went to work each day in his Kevlar trenchcoat and armored car to do his job. Like his coworkers and despite the risks, he went because what he was doing was vital to our national security. By engaging in diplomacy around the world and not isolating ourselves, we make the world safer and smaller.
As Arizona Senator John McCain said in his statement:
Libyans rose up last year to free themselves from exactly the kinds of murderers and terrorists who killed our people yesterday in Benghazi. Their enemies are our enemies, and they remain as committed as ever to imposing their evil ideology through violence on people in Libya and the Middle East, and ultimately on us. They want to hijack the Arab Spring for their own insidious purposes. And if we turn our backs now on the millions of people in Libya, and Egypt, and Syria, and other countries across the Middle East – people who share so many of our values and interests, people who are true authors of the Arab Spring – we will hand our common enemies, the terrorists and extremists, the very victory they seek.
We were right to take the side of the Libyan people, and others in the region who share their peaceful aspirations. And we would be gravely mistaken to walk away from them now. To do so would only be a betrayal of everything that Chris Stevens and his colleagues believed in and ultimately gave their lives for, but it would also be a betrayal of America’s highest values and our own enduring national interest in supporting people in the Middle East who want to live in peace and freedom.
The mission statement of the State Department is to “shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.”
From all I’ve read, Chris Stevens and his staff exemplified that mission and I am proud people like him are standing between us and harm.