Libya: The Killing of the U.S. Ambassador Highlights the Country’s Post-Gaddafi Struggles

  • Share
  • Read Later
Esam Al-Fetori — Reuters

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting a film being produced in the United States Sept. 11, 2012.

In an attack sure to have an explosive impact on U.S. relations with Libya, Chris Stevens, the newly installed U.S. ambassador to Libya, died after protesters attacked the U.S. consulate building in Benghazi on Sept. 11, apparently in protest at an anti-Islam film produced by a little-known Israeli-American called Sam Bacile and promoted by the rather more infamous Florida preacher, Terry Jones. Suleiman El Dressi, a producer for the Al Jazeera TV network, reported in a broadcast from Benghazi that the conflagration started  after “a group of people calling themselves ‘Islamic law supporters’ heard the news that there was an American movie involving the Prophet Mohammed. Once they heard this news they came out of their military garrison and they went into the streets calling on people to go ahead and attack the American consulate.” Three other U.S. personnel also died in the violence, including a Foreign Service official called Sean Smith. The victims “exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives,” said President Obama in a statement released soon after the deaths were verified.

U.S. State Department

Reports had begun to filter out early Wednesday morning that Stevens had died of smoke inhalation during the attacks, after protesters lobbed grenades at the compound. Footage showed the consulate grounds ablaze in the late-night darkness. The U.S. does not maintain a permanent presence in Benghazi, and embassy staff travel with the ambassador. Sources in Benghazi told TIME’s Steven Sotloff that the Libyan security forces battled to secure the compound for two hours and also tried to rescue the ambassador, who had survived the brutal war last year as the U.S. wartime envoy to the rebels’ Transitional National Council, arriving after a lethally dangerous boat journey in April last year, a month after NATO began its bombing campaign against Gaddafi forces. The ambassador quickly formed close ties to the rebels’ council members, who would finally emerge as the new post-war government. At the liberation ceremony last October in Benghazi’s stadium grounds, Stevens was seated on stage alongside the new leaders.

(PHOTOS: Protesters Scale U.S. Embassy Walls, Tear Down American Flag)

Libyans who have spent years forging ties with U.S. officials fear that the deaths could have a major impact on their country as it works to recover after decades of dictatorship and economic underdevelopment under Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship. “This is a major disaster, really,” says Sami Zaptia, co-editor of the English-language online Libya Herald. Zaptia, who also acts as a regular consultant to NGOs and visiting Western trade missions, held several recent meetings with Stevens, and was impressed by the ambassador’s easy ability to connect with Libyans. “He spoke really nice Arabic,” he says. “He was a very gentle, affable man. He was very approachable. He got into his job full-heartedly.”

Stevens had spent years as a North Africa expert. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in a small mountain town in Morocco, where he taught English after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley. A tall, lean native Californian, Stevens recorded a video before he began as ambassador, introducing himself to Libyans with the Arabic greeting, “Salam wa aleikum ,” and explaining that he spoke Arabic, and was thrilled to be heading to the country. ““I quickly grew to love this part of the world,” he said. “I’ve spent almost my entire career in the Middle East.”

(MORE: Cairo and Benghazi’s Anti-America Attacks: Two Sets of Fundamentalisms Unleash Havoc)

In Washington, shock is mixed with fury over Libya’s failure to act against violent Islamic militants, despite recent attacks against aid agencies there, and warnings from NGOs and Western governments over the rising threat of violence. After Salafist militants recently attacked a Sufi shrine, Libya’s Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelali was quoted as saying he did not want to not risk the lives of his personnel in order to apprehend the culprits. He subsequently resigned. “The Libyan authorities have been irresponsibly lazy in confronting this threat,” says Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “They have a choice to make: Are they going to be a country connected to the outside world, or are they going to allow a small number of people in their midst make that impossible.”

Malinowski, who had met with Stevens several times in Libya and Washington, says the ambassador had a “very strong feeling for Libya, forged during tough months in Benghazi last year. He was virtually alone from the early days of the revolution. Libyans have to wake up and realize someone in their midst just killed one of their greatest friends.”

(PHOTOS: Libya Celebrates Liberation)

Stevens inaugurated the new embassy in the capital Tripoli just three weeks ago, on Aug. 28, telling Libyans at the opening ceremony what many had waited years to hear: That they would finally be welcome to visit the U.S., and that Washington would begin long-awaited exchange programs for Libyans. “Since returning to Libya as ambassador in May, the one question I have heard almost every day from Libyans is: when are you going to start issuing visas again?” Stevens told the embassy guests. “Now, at last, you have your answer: Tomorrow.”

“We are heartbroken by this terrible loss,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement. The new Libyan government, installed only last month, is struggling to restore security over the vast, oil-rich nation. Months of war last year left militia groups in effective control over bits of turf, protected by mountains of weapons left abandoned by Gaddafi’s regime. Bringing those weapons under government control has proved a daunting task since Gaddafi’s death last Oct. 20. Now, that task has become even more urgent.

PHOTOS: The Final Moments of Muammar Gaddafi

68 comments
Anthony McMillan
Anthony McMillan

I was once attacked by several black men in Grand Rapids where I went to college. However, I didnt hold the whole african american race to blame for the attacks of a few idiots who are beneath contempt. To kill someone who was a ally of their country over a film that he wasnt even involved with, just adds more fuel to the fire that is raging due to religious intolerance. Muslims often talk about Islam being a relgion of love...........you don't prove that by mudering someone....Extremists of all religions have murdered without justification for centuries....Fools and religious hatred...the worst cancer that ever existed.

mboaz8
mboaz8

First, Jews, Israelis and Zionists had nothing to do with the film, but @vivwalt blames a "little known Israeli-American."  Isn't it the journalist's  job to get the basic facts straight?  Especially when misreporting can be inflammatory?  BTW, nice blood libel, @GregAbdul.  You rightly condem that hateful film but spew your own racism, shame on you.  Despite your antisemitism, I doubt anybody's going to attack an embassy anywhere.  The film was unnecessary and offensive.  But people have the right to be offensive.  Nothing justifies the magnitude of response observed.  It appears that whoever launched the rocket used the mayhem as a cover for the attack, and that, of course, led to the senseless loss of precious human life.

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Instead of condemning criminals and thugs who killed the Ambassador and others. why the apologetic statement of the Obama administration attacking intellectuals, including the Danish cartoonist?  Dan Brown wrote a book scandalizing Jesus,

linking him to Mary Magdalene. Jesus was born in 1st century AD and he was a

Palestinian. Leonardo da Vinci was born in the 15 th century and he was an

Italian. How could da Vinci know the secret life of Jesus since he was not his

contemporary? Jesus led a life of moral purity and he even said that if a man

looks at a woman with sexual intent his eyes are to be extracted and thrown

out. And yet, Dan Brown wrote the book out of his fancy and showing Jesus in a

bad light.  A movie based on Dan Brown’s book was screened worldwide. But there were no riots by Christians. Life of Mohammed the Prophet is known to all. Students have to study about him from text books. Then why these murders and violence?

truthfuloneone
truthfuloneone

As you sow, so you reap the fruit - goes the proverb. US amp; Western Powers were busy taking chance to up root Qaddafi amp; his regime to grab oil wealth of Libya. In every nook and corner of the globe there is American hand in cultivating extremism. All fanatics creating havoc worldwide have their root in Bin Laden, a US creation. US other arm West Europe mainly France was in the forefront of establishing the Salafist extremists in Libya. Western Government stood like silent spectators when  these criminals were destroying invaluable heritage of Libya one after other. Now, US has given a price unthinkable. Our condolences amp; feeling go to the families of the late Ambassador amp; his colleagues. It was one of the cowardice attacks carried out by criminals claiming to be 'orthodox Muslims'. But, above all responsibility lies with the criminals Sam Bacile amp; Terry Zones. 

18235
18235

the movie is an excuse, maybe even from the liberal media.

THE MURDER...JUST HAPPENED...ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF 911!

dont blame the movie!

libya has lots of fans of bin laden!

dimukh
dimukh

America must have realized now that its bonhomie with the Arab world is nothing more than wishful thinking. Arab Springs disappeared like amorphous cloud and as expected America has to face the 'Desert Storm' now which would always sweep the Arab world with religious bigotry, hatred and intolerance. American largesse to the Arab world has got to be stopped immediately.

AnonymousViews
AnonymousViews

I don't condone violence and what happened is wrong.  We all are reasoning that some unknown guy making a foolish film should not have led to this violence. How many times have you ever heard mid-east or the countries with Muslim population making movies or cartoons (happened in Denmark) depicting Christ negatively. It's not just Islam but there have been cases of Gods of other religion being depicted negatively. It seems to be some sort of western countries past time that without learning about other religions we tend to use images of their God in the whatever way we feel like it. People of Libya know America as a country.  They cant decide they some fringe guy made that film and it does not represent the majority of people in US. Just as we seem to blame all the people there. Maybe it was a fringe mob who did this act. A mob has it's own dynamics. Haven't we seen senseless violence of a mob when some game is won or lost. What needs to be done is to get that guy and prosecute him. 

Free speech does not mean freedom to insult. Period.  That sends a message across the world that people in US will not stand for someone insulting their religious belief's. Everything else is just bs or talk.

AnonymousViews
AnonymousViews

@18235:disqus18235 you are a troll. All caps and shouting will get you no where. Stop screaming and write good reasoning.

18235
18235

the mafia regarded THE GODFATHER as a foolish film----the word mafia was taken out of the godfather movie, in order to apeaze usa's italian minority.

AnonymousViews
AnonymousViews

Good. Its not appeasement, its being sensitive to a minority community. How would you like your community being labelled something downright insulting and everyone talking about your community using that name. 

18235
18235

it happens every day of the week to me---cause i live outside nyc and los angeles, with nyc/l.a. liberal media 4ever bad mouthing people who live outside their inbred, liberal, world.

there is at least one new yorker cartoon in which a map of the usa shows nyc dwarfing the rest of the usa.

sarah palin's accent made fun of; the kennedys made fun of lbj's accent; southern accents made fun of; the rust belt; flyover states; the beverly hillbillies....on and on.

Heterotic
Heterotic

 You are ignorant and clearly do not understand free speech.

AnonymousViews
AnonymousViews

No. You don't understand free speech. Free speech does not mean you puke on someone else religion. If you wanna puke on a religion go and do it on your own. Leave the other religion alone. 

18235
18235

ever hear of the liberal movie, LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST?

how about the anti-bush movie, DEATH OF A PRESIDENT?

AnonymousViews
AnonymousViews

No you are ignorant. I understand free speech. What I don't like is someone pissing on someone else specially their religious beliefs in name of free speech. Piss on your own beliefs in name of free speech and not someone else. 

Yeshuratnam
Yeshuratnam

Dan Brown wrote a book scandalizing Jesus, linking him to Mary Magdalene. Jesus was born in 1sr century AD and he was a Palestinian. Leonardo da Vinci was born in the 15 th century and he was an Italian. How could da Vinci know the secret life of Jesus since he was not his contemporary? Jesus led a life of moral purity and he even said that if a man looks at a woman with sexual intent his eyes are to be extracted and thrown out. And yet, Dan Brown wrote the book out of his fancy and showing Jesus in a bad light. A movie based on Dan Brown’s book was screened worldwide. But there were no riots by Christians. Life of Mohammed the Prophet is known to all. Sam Bacile's movie is based on historical facts, unlike Dan Brown's imaginary version of Jesus.Students have studied about the Prophet in text books. Then why this violence and murders?

Dan England
Dan England

If there was any decency in that Muslim nation then they would hunt down the terrorists and bring them to justice. To hide behind supposed outrage over a movie as justification to kill someone who had absolutely nothing to do with the film is evil. Shame on those who stand with the murderers of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his fellow diplomats.

Heterotic
Heterotic

This is what happens when the West makes the mistake of thinking that islam is anything other than a cancer and a threat to civilization. Stay away from muslims, keep muslims away from humans.

akpat
akpat

It seems that in most cases of strife a small band of religious fanatics can really do a lot of harm well beyond their standing percentage of the population.

Its good not to over react to these things but quietly under the table track these people down and have them disappear.

As for Romneys comments and those who demand gun boat diplomacy, it doesn't work.

FLGyant
FLGyant

I think blame clearly lies at the feet of both sides.  The idiot that created the film which incited the morons that cannot distinguish between a private citizen who holds those views and American policy.  After all we supported Libyan liberation as a matter of American foreign policy.  How is that anti-muslim?  Enough is said on that...

18235
18235

the so called idiot made a serious movie.....vs scumbag chester the molester publisher larry flynt being idolized by producer  oliver stupid and his oscar-nominated biography about him.

THE MAFIA DIDNT LIKE THE GODFATHER---the word mafia was censored out of that movie....no difference.

FLGyant
FLGyant

Whether its serious or not...the film maker clearly has a right to free speech.  But we cannot jump to the conclusion that the position held by the film maker is the equivalent of the american people or our foriegn policy for that matter.   That is where the rioters erred.  Obviously they murdered innocent people. 

This is where we should have a class on civics. With rights come responsiblity. Just becuase we have a right to free speach does't mean we should utter at will without refrain for consequences.   That filmaker has blood on his hands.  There is a time and place for everything.   That is consequential thinking my friend.

How is oliver stone and larry flynt in this conversation?

18235
18235

liberals certainly defended LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, DEATH OF A PRESIDENT (phoney documentary type movie of president bush being killed), PEOPLE VS LARRY FLYNT (in 1970s hustler had chester the molester cartoon).

no reason for rap music----get rid of that.  no reason for porn---ban all porn.  violent video games should be banned.  people should be jailed for burning USA flag.  1960s beatles music encouraged drug use.  speaking spanish in an english language nation is also offensive.

and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES caused a slaughter in a colorado movie theater---the makers of that batman movie have blood on their hands.

TimothyLoftin
TimothyLoftin

I hope people don't mistake this act as a riot by pious Muslims in response to an offensive video on YouTube.

The video has been on YouTube for months.  The fact that the killings fell on 9/11 must tell you that this was organized by militants as an act celebrating the 9/11 attacks.  The video and  moral outrage over the insult to the prophet are the attempts of the attackers to raise a smoke screen into which they can disappear. 

FLGyant
FLGyant

There is more than mere coincidence that all of this is occurring on 9/11.  Clearly there are those in institutions (religious figures and media) and a like that have incited this riot to coincide at the anniversary of 9/11.  Its been reported by various news outlets that this video trailer has been on you tube for quite some time.  This was a staged event.

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

This is the time that we should petition the US Army / Seal Team 6 to hunt those people down who would dare attack and kill an American Ambassador that has helped them in their time of need.....

Especially those who were stupid enough to take a picture of themselves, showing that their proud and happy of killing innocent lives... for what? somebody else mistakes..... I would like to see their faces when they are hunted down as vermin.

18235
18235

thankfully, time magazine allows posts about the rabid muslims who killed the USA ambassador

tina brown's daily beast/newsweek, the atlantic, new yorker and other rabid left wing sites would CENSOR/flag posts that note that the ambassador's killers with rabid muslims.

Suzi Saul
Suzi Saul

We used to like Egyptians...now, not so much. Forget our tourist dollars coming there, or kind regards. Libya is having an al qaeda problem, as we all know. What is Egypt's excuse? Al qaeda strikes again, and hopefully the Libyan people will continue to fight, and fight hard, against these savages.  While I am devastated by the loss of our Ambassador (why were there no marines there for protection, Mr. President???), I am more concerned with the people in Egypt placing an al bite-me flag on our embassy.  Libya has spoken out against these terrorists....where are Mr. Morsi's comments? Why is he silent? Can we put a stop payment on the check we just handed him, please?

Leonard Goveia
Leonard Goveia

approved by a moderator,I did not know I had to be moderate to write ..and what amendment do you all cry about.......oh how things change when the perverbial shoe is on the other foot, uh...I am sure you all know IRAN approves everything thats printed also....only in america

6thangle
6thangle

So Libyans love US a lot! Are Libyans are better off now after the devastating war? You should listen to the wise guy name Ron Paul!!

Leonard Goveia
Leonard Goveia

The man should have had more sense,this is not america,,,american go all over the world and think they have some God givin right to piss people off....Get it through your thick skulls because of this we are not liked very well anywhere....they will sure take our $ but hate us.....simply put ,WAKE UP PEOPLE OR DIE

Ali_Turkiye
Ali_Turkiye

CONDEMN TERROR AND PROVOCATORS GOOD SMART SUPERIOR PEOPLE!

I am warning you O Humanity!... Otherwise smart animals without conscience are coming brutally from the West and the East; and in 21st Century the darkness will fall down over daylights!... 

I am warning you O my brothers! Before loosing my mind, passing away or giving up...   GOOD SUPERIOR HUMANS OF EAST AND WEST! 

CRY OUT IN A POWERFUL WAY: FREEDOM! 

OTHERWISE AGAIN THERE IS THE EXTINCTION!...   THE END...

Ali_Turkiye
Ali_Turkiye

CONDEMN TERROR AND PROVOCATORS GOOD SMART SUPERIOR PEOPLE!

I am warning you O Humanity!... Otherwise smart animals without conscience are coming brutally from the West and the East; and in 21st Century the darkness will fall down over daylights!... 

I am warning you O my brothers! Before loosing my mind, passing away or giving up...   GOOD SUPERIOR HUMANS OF EAST AND WEST! 

CRY OUT IN A POWERFUL WAY: FREEDOM! 

OTHERWISE AGAIN THERE IS THE EXTINCTION!...   THE END...

Gregory Glass
Gregory Glass

This is what islam is. And not just a "few radicals", but 99% of them.

They are worthless as human beings, and have no place in a civilized society.

They put no value on human life, including their own. They get "offended" by everything, real or imagined.

It is time the islamic world was encircled, and none allowed to leave. They try to leave, shoot them.

If they want to kill people for stupid things, let them kill their own.

Leave the rest of us alone.

GregAbdul
GregAbdul

You do realize you are engaged in racist, knuckle-dragging speech in public don't you? 

...I miss the good old days before the internet when bigots knew to keep quiet because everyone knew in an instant who was saying the stupid thing.

Suzi Saul
Suzi Saul

Sorry, call me racist, but we need to stop importing Islam into the western world until they get rid of their terrorist faction. No more immigration from these countries until this is stopped by the people in the Middle East...NOT us.

kms123
kms123

Radicals are having a field day while innocent people are getting killed. We need to take strong action to bring to justice those who skilled the diplomats and also against the person(s) in our country who caused the problem.

Andy Wisniewski
Andy Wisniewski

since when do PROTESTERS lob grenades, protesters lob rocks, terrorists lob grenades. The press is subtlely legitimizing this sensles act of violence by calling them "protesters"

Daniel Garigan
Daniel Garigan

I would support your comment. So then where did they get the grenades?  Made in USA, Teran, or ...USSR? it may make more sense that most would tend to think.  It would not be the first time.

MYusuf Advani
MYusuf Advani

Films should be strictly censored in sensitive areas like this.The rpoducer may be Israeli or American. One should hurt the sentiments of specific religion or country.Innocent head of the state withplenipotentiary powers.   and other staffers became victims.Condolences to the breaved families, and US should take appropirate stern action against this.

18235
18235

liberal hollywood already CENSORS lots of stuff----which is why movies now days stink and are totally forgettable.

radical muslims also dont like porn, most tv  cartoons, rock music, newspaper cartoons----and people who post on the internet.

MOST MUSLIM COUNTRIES MAKE SURE TO CRACK DOWN ON THE INTERNET WHENEVER THE MOOD HITS THEM....so throw away your computer.

Byst1nder
Byst1nder

And yet, we have politicians who still wish for us to immerse ourselves in the Syrian conflict / revolt. Should we spend our needed dollars to defend people, who at a toss of a coin, bites the hand that would and have supported them?  See what has happened to Iraq, what will happen in Afghanistan, and what would happened even if we used our resources to fight against Bashar in Syria...

We lost a very good man.... for nothing....

swift2010
swift2010

if it was not for US air power Gaddafi would still be in power 

how ungratefull to turn on the US like this

6thangle
6thangle

Why they have to be grateful when they are not better off after a war that was manufactured by NATO.

Saud Aziz
Saud Aziz

nato airpower. americans dont do everything

TheGreatLeader
TheGreatLeader

Wrong...USA provided more than than 99 of every 100 missiles fired at Gaddafi!

JustAboutRight
JustAboutRight

You do understand that the USA has committed more troops and money to NATO than another other nation?

JustAboutRight
JustAboutRight

You need to look up what nation commits the most troops and money to NATO. The answer is USA