Wednesday, September 12, 2012
A Sad Day for the Foreign Service
My thoughts and my heart go out to the friends, family, and other loved ones of the four Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi last night.
A colleague recently described the U.S. government’s position on free speech in a way that really resonated with me: we are “extremists when it comes to free speech.” We might distance ourselves from what you have to say, we might even call your words reprehensible and a few other things, but we will continually defend your right to say it. Someone in America put up some video, which I understand says some wild and offensive things (I confess I haven’t seen it myself), and someone in Egypt thought it was a good idea to put clips of that video on television and tell people to go to the U.S. embassy and protest. The jury is out as to whether the tragic events in Benghazi are related to that whole mess or not, but at the end of the day, freedom of speech protects what those people said. We’ll certainly distance ourselves from both the video and the person who called people to protest at the embassy about it, but we’ll defend their rights to say it.
As for my own opinions, suffice it to say I’ve got some choice words for those who would perpetrate this kind of attack, and for those in this country who would try to turn a tragedy like this into a political football. In the interest of civility, I’ll keep those words to myself for now, as I fear I would veer into expletives territory. Instead, I’ll share with you a bit of Secretary Clinton‘s eloquence from earlier today:
“All over the world, every day, America’s diplomats and development experts risk their lives in the service of our country and our values, because they believe that the United States must be a force for peace and progress in the world, that these aspirations are worth striving and sacrificing for. Alongside our men and women in uniform, they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.”
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.”
May it be a long, long, long time before we ever wake up to news like this again. Ideally, we never will, but being a part of the modern Foreign Service means we all serve – or will serve – in difficult places and in harm’s way.