Obama mourns slain diplomats, pledges justice will be served

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 12, 2012 

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today paid tribute to what Obama called four "extraordinary Americans" who were slain in an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya, vowing that their killers will be brought to justice.

"Today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers," Obama said, adding that the U.S. condemns the "outrageous and shocking attack."

"And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people," he said. Among those killed were the ambassador, Chris Stevens, and Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith. The families of the other two diplomats are being notified.

Obama and Clinton left for the State Department after the brief remarks and Obama took no questions, including a response to Mitt Romney's criticism of the administration over the attack.

The attack on the consulate was prompted by outrage over an anti-Islamic video and Obama said although the U.S. rejects "all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts."

Obama pledged that the attack wouldn't "break the bonds between the United States and Libya" and he noted that Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers along with American troops.

He said Libyans helped U.S. diplomats find safety, and carried Ambassador Stevens' body to the hospital, "where we tragically learned that he had died."

Obama called it "especially tragic" that Stevens died in Benghazi, "because it is a city that he helped to save. At the height of the Libyan revolution Chris led our diplomatic post in Benghazi. With characteristic skill, courage and resolve he built partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries and helped them as they planned to build a new Libya.

"When the Gadhafi regime came to an end Chris was there to serve as our ambassador to the new Libya, and he worked tirelessly to support this young democracy. And I think both Secretary Clinton and I have relied deeply on his knowledge of the situation on the ground there."

Obama called Stevens a "role model to all who worked with him and to the young diplomats who aspire to walk in his footsteps.

"Along with his colleagues, Chris died in a country that is still striving to emerge from the recent experience of war."

He said the loss was fresh, but that their "legacy will live on through the work that they did far from our shores and in the hearts of those who loved them back home."

He noted yesterday "was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourn with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last night we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.

"As Americans let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those, both civilian and military, who represent us around the globe.

"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.

"Today we mourn for more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.

"But we also know that the lives these Americans led stand in stark contrast to those of their attackers. These four Americans stood up for freedom and human dignity. They should give every American great pride in the country that they served, and the hope that our flag represents to people around the globe who also yearn to live in freedom and with dignity.

"We grieve with their families, but let us carry on their memory and let us continue their work in seeking a stronger America and a better world for all of our children.

"Thank you. May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America."

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