By Dan Robinson
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday received the bodies of four Americans killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya this past week. Tough questions continue to be asked about security in Libya and U.S. diplomatic facilities elsewhere as unrest linked to an anti-Islam video continues.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the short trip to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to formally receive the remains of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans killed in Libya.
Obama and Clinton stood with heads bowed as Marines removed the four flag-draped coffins from a military transport plane to an aircraft hangar where family members and civilian and military officials were gathered.
Secretary Clinton spoke first, addressing family members and others seated in the hangar, including Libya’s ambassador to the United States, paying tribute to each of those killed including Ambassador Stevens.
“Chris won friends for the United States in far-flung places, he made those people’s hopes his own. During the revolution in Libya he risked his life to help protect the Libyan people from a tyrant, and he gave his life helping them build a better country,” Clinton said.
Saying there will be difficult days ahead, Clinton said the United States will continue “the long, hard work of diplomacy,” adding “the people of Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.”
She said “it is up to reasonable people and responsible leaders in these countries to do everything they can to restore security and hold accountable those behind these violent acts.” ((END OPT))
President Obama spoke next, describing each of the slain Americans as patriots who laid down their lives protecting other Americans and working for people in countries they served in.
“Four Americans, four patriots, they loved this country and they chose to serve it and served it well. They had a mission and they believed in it. They knew the danger, and they accepted it. They didn’t simply embrace the American ideal, they lived it. They embodied it,” Obama said.
Obama said the loss of life and images from recent days may have caused some to question the diplomatic work carried out around the world. But he said there should be no question about U.S. commitment.
“Even as voices of suspicion and mistrust seek to divide countries and culture from one another, the United States of America will never retreat from the world, we will never stop working for the dignity and freedom that every person deserves, whatever their creed, whatever their faith,” he said.
Protests continued across the Muslim world on Friday, including Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and in some Asian capitals.
President Obama ordered a security review for diplomatic facilities. He also formally notified the U.S. Congress of the deployment of “combat-equipped” security forces to Libya and Yemen until the security situation stabilizes.
Questions continue to be asked about security in Libya, and media reports that intelligence was in hand warning of the Benghazi consulate attack or higher risks arising from the amateur video.
Press secretary Jay Carney insisted that the United States had no intelligence that warned of the assault. He called one report to this effect “false” but added investigations continue.
Carney responded this way when one journalist noted that demonstrations were continuing and seemed to be driven by anti-American sentiment as much as anger over the anti-Islam video.
“This is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large, or at U.S. policy, this is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims, this is not in any way justifying violence and we have spoken very clearly out against that and condemned it,” Carney said.
Jay Carney said the United States would “absolutely not” apologize for the video, adding this would be squelching freedom of expression, which he called “a foundational principle” of the United States.