According to Ward, Stevens' message to Libyans would be to arrest the
suspected perpetrators, provide them with defense lawyers and give them
a fair trial. ''Do the right thing,'" Ward said of the way to honor
Stevens. "If there is one thing [his] life should stand for, let it
stand for the rule of law."
Fred Abrahams, a senior advisor with Human Rights Watch who
frequently met with Stevens while working in Libya, agreed. He said the
ambassador wasn't naïve about the country's vast problems but saw Muammar Qaddafi's overthrow as an historic opportunity to establish the rule of law
Libyans yearned for after 42-years of chaotic Qaddafi rule.
"Just as the U.S. should not be blamed for the offensive film of a
few deluded whackos, Libya should not be blamed for the unjustified
violence of a few ignorant extremists," Abrahams said in an email
Thursday. "And maybe this will spur the Libyan government to rein in the
militias that have troubled Libya since Qaddafi's fall -- Chris would
have wanted that."
Abrahams and Ward pointed out that the Libyan government condemned
Stevens' killing and that many Libyans - including Islamists - have as
well. He and Ward both pointed to the country's July elections as a more accurate expression of the country's popular will.
At the ballot box, conservative Islamic religious parties fared
comparatively poorly in Libya after sweeping post-Arab Spring elections
in Tunisia and Egypt. A coalition of Libyan liberals led by war-time
opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril won 39 of the 80 seats reserved for
political parties in the new national assembly. The Muslim Brotherhood's
Justice and Construction party came in second with 17 seats.
To the surprise
of many observers, Jibril's liberals won seat in areas considered
conservative strongholds. Thirty-two women won seats as well. The
ultimate balance of power, though, will be decided by 120 candidates who
won seats reserved for independents.
The reaction from other corners has been disappointing. Egyptian
president Mohammed Morsi and Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued
statements that condemned the video more forcefully than they did the
killings of the diplomats. The tepid responses are unjustifiable and
reflect a widespread assumption among conservative Muslims that the
United States government tacitly supports the video. In societies where
leaders have tightly controlled public debate for decades, American
explanations about the need for freedom of speech are viewed
And in the United States, a predictably petty campaign spat emerged, with Mitt Romney and other conservatives accusing President Obama of responding to the attacks too meekly. Liberals, in turn, ridiculed Romney and questioned his mental state.
Among average Americans, the murder of Stevens is likely to reinforce
a widespread desire for the United States to get out -- and get out now -- of the Middle East. After losing 7,900 American lives and at least $1.2
trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are understandably
exhausted with the region after a decade in which Iraq and Afghanistan
have claimed 5,000 American lives and over $1.2 trillion in spending.