Updated Sep 14, 2012 - 9:34 am
John McCain releases statement on murder of American ambassador
Editor's Note: In the wake of the murder of Chris Stevens, American Ambassador to Libya, along with three other U.S. citizens at the hands of enraged Islamists, Arizona. Sen. John McCain released the following statement. It has not been altered in any way.
"It is with a heavy heart that I rise today to speak about the horrific attack yesterday on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans. The two confirmed thus far to be among the dead are Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran turned State Department Information Management Officer - and Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of America's finest and bravest Foreign Service Officers.
"I did not know Sean Smith, but I had gotten to know Chris Stevens quite well. And in Chris's death, the Libyan people have lost a great champion and believer in the peaceful aspirations of their democratic revolution. The American people have lost a selfless and dedicated servant of our interests and values. And I have lost a friend. My thoughts and prayers today are with Chris's family and the loved ones of his fallen colleagues. May God grant them comfort in their time of grief.
"Our most urgent order of business now is to make sure that our citizens still living and serving in Libya, and Egypt, and elsewhere across the region and the world are safe. Americans look to the governments in Libya and Egypt and elsewhere to meet their responsibilities in this regard. We also look to the Libyan government to ensure that those responsible for yesterday's attack in Benghazi are swiftly brought to justice. In all of these critical tasks, we are confident that our government will provide all necessary assistance and support. Yesterday's attacks are an important reminder that so many of America's civilians, and diplomats, and development professionals are risking everything to advance our nation's interests and values abroad. We must do everything in our power to ensure their security.
"At the same time, our thoughts turn to broader concerns - the mourning of our fallen friends, and how we as a nation should respond to these tragic events.
"One of my most memorable meetings with Chris Stevens was last April in Benghazi. As the U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition, Chris had traveled to Benghazi at great personal risk to represent the country he loved so much while Libya was still gripped in a brutal fight for freedom. It was clear there was nowhere that Chris would rather have been than Libya. We spent the day together, meeting Libyan opposition leaders and many ordinary citizens, who spoke movingly about how much the opportunity to finally live in freedom meant to them, and how grateful they were for America's support. Chris embodied that support, and his passion for his mission was infectious.
"I kept in touch with Chris after my visit, and I was very happy when President Obama nominated him to be America's Ambassador to the new Libya. The last time I saw Chris was shortly after he had taken up his post, during my most recent visit to Tripoli. I especially remember the lighter moments we spent together, including when Chris insisted on personally making me a cappuccino, a task that he carried out with as much pride and proficiency as his diplomatic mission.
"That was on the morning of July 7 - the day Libyans voted in their first election in half a century. Chris and I spent the day together again, traveling around Tripoli, visiting polling places, and speaking with Libyan voters. We met a man whose father had been murdered by Qaddafi's henchmen. We met a woman whose brothers had recently given their lives fighting for their country's liberation. We met countless others, including many older Libyans, who were voting for the first time in their lives. And everywhere we went, we were greeted by crowds of cheering Libyans, bursting with pride and eager to shake our hands and express their gratitude for America's support. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, and it was only made better by the fact that I got to share it with Chris.
"What we saw together on that day was the real Libya - the peaceful desire of millions of people to live in freedom and democracy, the immense gratitude they felt for America's support for them, and their strong desire to build a new partnership between our nations. That is why I am not surprised that senior Libyan leaders were among the first to condemn the horrific attack that killed Chris and his colleagues. And that is why I was not surprised to learn from our Secretary of State that many Libyans fought to defend our people and our consulate in Benghazi when they came under attack, that some were wounded while doing so, and that it was Libyans who sought to get Chris and his colleagues to the hospital. This is the spirit of the Libyan people that I have come to know and admire. And that is why we cannot afford to view the despicable acts of violence perpetrated yesterday by a small group of fanatics as in any way representative of the country and the people of Libya. They are not the real Libya - the Libya that Chris Stevens knew so well.
"After such a heartbreaking loss for our nation, I know many Americans are asking whether the United States was na´ve or mistaken to support the vast movement for change known as the Arab Spring. I know many Americans may feel a temptation, especially with so many domestic and economic challenges facing us here at home, to distance ourselves from people and events in Libya, and Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East. We cannot afford to go down that path.
"Yesterday's attack in Benghazi was the work of a small group of violent extremists, whose goals and actions could not be more at odds with those of the people and government of Libya. The Libyan revolution began peacefully and was dedicated throughout to the ideals of freedom, and justice, and democratic change. And when Libyans turned out by the millions to elect a new government in July, they gave the plurality of their vote not to religious fanatics, but to a political party led by a moderate technocrat and committed friend of the United States.
"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."