American elected officials are expressing outrage and concern over this week’s violent protests against the U.S. in Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
The anti-American violence ramped up in part from furor over a film protestors consider offensive to Islam. The protests began in Egypt on Tuesday when demonstrators scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag. Violence continued Thursday with multiple reports of demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.
The U.S. military has also ordered two Navy destroyers toward the Libyan coast two days after Islamist gunmen attacked the U.S. consulate and a safe house refuge in Benghazi, which led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed by terrorists since 1979. There are reports that this attack may have been in the works for weeks and may have nothing to do with the purported film.
“As Americans, we support the universal human rights of all to hold and express their religious beliefs, but we cannot tolerate the acts of those who exploit religion to promote violence,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement. “Let the legacy of these lives lost be a redoubling of our efforts to support our Americans working to assist democratic transition and consolidation around the world, so that others may live freely.”
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2), the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, condemned the attacks and said the deaths in Libya provide Americans with a harsh reminder of the dangers that face American diplomats in many parts of the world.
“I stand with the other American leaders who say we will not rest until those responsible for this deadly attack are tracked down and brought to justice,” Ruppersberger said in a statement.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said she is at a loss for words over the violence that led to Stevens’ death as he was there to help the war-torn country rebuild following the overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year.
“These men and women are serving the United States of America,” Mikulski said in a statement. “They were at their duty stations. They were trying to help Libya rise up to be able to create a government and be able to create opportunity for its own people, and they gave their lives.
President Barack Obama has said security has been increased at diplomatic posts around the world and vowed to take action for those responsible for the deaths in Libya.
“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” Obama said.
Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney called the attack in Libya “outrageous” and “disgusting” and said strong American leadership is needed in response to the violence.
“The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed,” Romney said in a statement. “In the face of this violence, America cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control.”
The most recent violence in Africa and the Middle East has also garnered the attention on Jewish groups, who have also condemned the attacks.
“We call for leaders of all nations and of all faiths to condemn and reject this tragedy which cannot be justified for religious or any other reasons,” said Ronald S. Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress in a statement. “It is all the more tragic because it took the innocent lives of those who were clearly intent on bringing aid and hope to a country seeking to rebuild after ending a long period of tyranny and dictatorship.”
The Anti-Defamation League shared a similar sentiment.
“Whether this murderous attack was premeditated or in reaction to a profoundly offensive anti-Islam film, nothing justifies the violence and killings of an innocent U.S. diplomat and embassy personnel,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, in a statement.
“We strongly condemn the hateful anti-Islam message of the film. Still, it is not even clear that the attacks were prompted by the film, and we are deeply troubled at reports that the attacks on the embassies in Libya and Cairo may have been premeditated.”