Senate, Congress candidates react to Mideast unrest
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 10:27

Deadly protests at foreign posts take spotlight

by Steve Matrazzo

    In the wake of the deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya and other – sometimes violent – protests at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Muslim countries and elsewhere, candidates for U.S. Senate from Maryland and for the 2nd District congressional seat have issued statements.
    The protests came in reaction to the appearance on YouTube of a low-budget film made in the U.S. that characterizes the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and a pedophile. Devout Muslims consider any depiction of Muhammad, and particularly an insulting depiction, to be blasphemous.
    In the worst of the protests, at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed when gunmen attacked the consulate and a “safe house” in the city last Tuesday night.

In response to the incident, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger issued a statement “strongly condemn[ing] the vicious attack .... The brave group was committed to promoting freedom and justice around the world.”  Ruppersberger said he was “saddened and disturbed by the loss of these true patriots.”
    The congressman, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that “we will not rest until those responsible for this deadly attack are tracked down and brought to justice.”
    State Sen. Nancy Jacobs, the Republican nominee in the 2nd District, said in a statement to The Eagle that the attack “is an absolute outrage. Today I feel terrible grief for the families of the victims but also immense anger over the attack.
    “Our leaders in Washington should be expressing to the world that we will not be terrorized by radical extremists. We cannot afford a mealy-mouthed response to this atrocious act. It is critical that America stand strong, shout loud and show, with our actions, it will do everything necessary to protect the safety and security of our people here and overseas. The world must know those who dare to participate in such lawlessness should be aware that [we have]the strength, ability and resolve to fight back if necessary .... Throughout history we have stood proud, strong and tough in defense of democracy. We must be ever so clear that America will not start wavering now.”
    Libertarian challenger Leo Dymowski, a Dundalk resident, placed the incidents in the context of longstanding anti-American resentments in the region, telling  The Eagle that “the Founding Fathers warned us against foreign entanglements. We have been involved in propping up or overthrowing governments in that region for years .... We have learned nothing from our mistakes in the region .... American foreign policy is being directed by the military-industrial complex and the [neoconservatives], and it doesn’t matter which party is in power. The results are always so predictable. We send troops into areas where people have been fighting among themselves for centuries. Eventually, we kill people and break things, as armies are trained to do. Next, we become the target .... There is no common sense involved. Recently, I saw a protestor in the Middle East holding up a sign during a visit by Hillary Clinton. The sign said “Our government is none of your business, leave us alone.” Wouldn’t we feel the same way? We have brought the problems of the Middle East onto ourselves by our constant meddling ....”
    Incumbent U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin issued a press release saying that the killings “remind us of the dangers faced ... at the U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe ... 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. Let the legacy of these lives lost be a redoubling of our efforts to support ... democratic transition and consolidation around the world, so that others may live freely.”
    Republican Senate nominee Daniel Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, noted that “I saw firsthand the dangers that face our diplomats as they go about the business of spreading the message of freedom and democracy to other nations .... This tragedy underscores our need for a peace through strength foreign policy, not a chaos through weakness approach.”
    Bongino was critical of the Obama administration’s statements on the Libyan threat assessment, saying that “continuing claims that the Libyan protests ... were the result of unpredictable, spontaneous protest activity are either intentionally deceptive or demonstrate complete incompetence. Having spent over a decade reviewing threat assessments from all over the world, it is hard to believe that given the amount of information Libyan officials claim to have passed to the U.S. ... that the Administration sincerely believes this deadly assault to be spontaneous .... I am calling upon the State Department to immediately release any information related to the threat assessment which led to the sub-standard and deadly security footprint in Benghazi.”
    Libertarian Senate candidate Dr. Dean Ahmad offered comments in his capacity as president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, a Bethesda-based nonprofit group that promotes a free-market and rule-of-law ethics interpretation of Islam.
    In a statement to The Eagle, he said, “It is a tragedy not only for America but for the Muslim world that a man with the stature and record of constructive diplomacy of Chris Stevens was the victim of this terrorist attack.
    “Attacks on embassies are forbidden by Islamic law, and we pray that the new Libyan government will make good on its promise to find and punish the perpetrators.
    “Although the facts are not clear yet, all evidence known so far suggests that the demonstrations against the Islamophobic film insulting the memory of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were nonviolent and that the attack on the embassy was the work of opportunists ... taking advantage of the demonstration to execute what may have been a pre-planned attack.”
    Like his Libertarian ticketmate Dymowski, he noted the role of anti-American feeling in the Muslim world.
    “Ironically, the attackers may have been enabled by the American military intervention [in] Libya, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has taken credit for the attack as revenge for assassination of their Libyan mastermind Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Li, killed by an American drone on June 4,” he said.
    Independent Senate candidate Rob Sobhani gave a statement to The Eagle calling the killings in Libya “a horrific reminder ... of the need for unity, continued vigilance and a common voice against terror and extremism. Those who committed this murder must be brought to justice, and the world must see that while America is a nation of tolerance and freedom, we will neither be divided nor deterred from defending our national security. This act will not be forgotten, and .... America will prevail, because we are an open society and a force for good. This cannot be politicized; instead, the crime must be punished.”