US Senator John F. Kerry and other Massachusetts politicians issued strong condemnations this morning of the killing of Americans, including the chief diplomat to Libya, in a new spate of violence in the Middle East.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats “heartbreaking.”
In an apparent reaction to criticism of President Obama from Republican Mitt Romney, he also called on Americans to unite and resist attempts to score political points. “It is exactly the wrong time to throw political punches,” he said in a statement. “It is a time to restore calm and proceed wisely.”
He called Stevens “a foreign service professional down to his toes, a guy who had served on the Foreign Relations Committee and embraced tough odds and tough assignments overseas.”
“It’s easy for a lot of people to forget that our diplomats are on the frontlines of the world’s most dangerous places and they’re there trying to make the world safer at great risk to themselves and their families,” he added. “He had the guts and grit to serve as our envoy during the rebellion, and his presence there reminded Libyans that America stood with them for freedom in the face of violence. He was continuing that noble work as ambassador with enormous skill. He was an important part of the work we are doing in Libya, and we will not let this deplorable violence turn back the progress he helped make possible.”
Kerry added that the violence in Cairo and Benghazi “is unacceptable and unjustifiable.”
Though Kerry criticized the filmmaker whose anti-Muslim movie was thought to provoke the attacks, he said the reaction was despicable.
“The stupidity of one filmmaker, no matter how offensive, is not now, and never, a rationale for violence,” Kerry said. “A despicable act like this hurts us all – Americans and peaceful people who aspire to build their own democracy.
Scott Brown, the junior senator from Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Warren, his Democratic challenger, also added their voices this morning.
“I am shocked and saddened by the attacks on our consulate in Libya and embassy in Egypt that resulted in the murder of four Americans including our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens,” Brown said in a statement.
“There is no justification for this cowardly act of violence,’’ Brown said. “My heart and prayers go out to the families of the victims.”
Brown, a Republican, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Warren said in a statement that “this senseless attack on our consulate in Libya is contemptible.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those whose lives were lost,” she added. “Right now, we should all honor the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans who gave their lives in the service of our country.”
So far, foreign policy has not figured prominently in the Brown-Warren campaign, which has been dominated by domestic economic issues.
A retired Boston University international relations professor who was a long-time US diplomat said today it was “a terrible loss” but he doesn’t expect the killing of the four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, will be the start of some kind of “conflagration” in that country.
“The Libyan people, in their overwhelming majority, are very, very sorry that this happened. There will be a great deal of sympathy for it,” said Professor Charles Dunbar, whose career included assignments as US ambassador in Qatar, Yemen, and charge d’affaires in Kabul, Afghanistan. “I spend a lot of time in the Arab world. Personalities matter a lot.”
Dunbar said Stevens, an Arabic speaker, was seen as a friend of the Libyan revolution and “very, very much believed in the country. ... This is not somebody who’s going to be easily replaced.”
Dunbar said that even though the revolution is over, Libyan society is still awash with weaponry — and disarming citizens has been a concern. “There are just a whole lot of different groups with a whole lot of different points of view that are armed and very difficult for the fledgling government to disarm,” he said.