No question there are angry Muslims in North Africa and the Persian Gulf region who vent their rage at the United States. Some of those who have rioted this week were motivated at least in part by a video insulting to Islam. For other protesters, however, the timing of the video’s release may have been coincidental.
The storming of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, originally believed to have been associated with the anti-Muslim film, also is being investigated as an attack planned by Islamic radicals to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.
Tuesday’s attack, which led to the deaths of the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff, stunned U.S. officials largely because of the role the United States played in liberating Libya and supporting democracy there. The efforts of Ambassador Stevens, unknown to most Americans until this week, have been truly remarkable.
What struck us this morning watching network TV footage of the aftermath of the attack in Libya wasn’t radicals’ lingering anger. Nor was it the comments from President Barack Obama and other administration officials or the debate sparked by the politically motivated comments by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney about the tone of the U.S. response.
Rather, what struck us were images of ordinary Libyans holding signs bearing messages that were as touching as they were unexpected. The messages expressed grief at the death of Ambassador Stevens, whose actions had earned the admiration and respect of countless Libyans.
Also, in stark contrast with the “We hate America” chant in Egypt that made for a jarring headline in this morning’s USA Today, some of the messages also sought to reassure Americans that our nation’s values and the efforts of our diplomats and military personnel are appreciated. Importantly, given the role of religion in our difficulties with many Muslim lands, some of the messages also made a point of declaring that the terrorists don’t represent either the people of Libya or of Muslims in general.
Those messages won’t bring the fallen diplomats back to life, but the least they do is suggest that amid the violent contingent that wants to see America destroyed, there are Libyans who want peace, prosperity and stability and who recognize that the United States can provide vital help, ideas and leadership.