The courageous United States ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens is murdered on September 11, 2012, along with three others at the American consulate in Benghazi. The nation’s political elite snipe over enhanced security measures for embassies or the assassination of suspected culprits with predator drones. Conspicuously absent from the non-owlish punditry is the idea that the U.S. government provokes attacks on American civilian or military personnel by gratuitous manipulations of the internal affairs of foreign nations. If the provocations end, the risk of a reprise of Ambassador Stevens’s murder will disappear at no cost to the United States. But the glare of American exceptionalism blinds Americans to what the world can see.
Washington’s prevailing creed echoes that of a doltish Cyclops: survival for the sake of survival; domination for the sake of domination; conquest for the sake of conquest. These animalistic ends are sought through perpetual war, weapons sales, military alliances and bases, and financial allurements. Beneficiaries of American assistance predictably become ingrates. And their countless persecuted rivals or opponents predictably become enemies of the United States for providing material assistance to their oppressors. This monumental stupidity is more to be marveled at than imitated, but that is a matter for another day.
The murder of Ambassador Stevens emerged from a long history of U.S. intervention in Libyan affairs, beginning with support for tyrannical King Farouk in exchange for Wheeler Air Base. Libya, a tiny, tribal, splintered and artificial nation, presented no danger to the United States. The king was overthrown by Colonel Muammar Qaddafi in 1969, whose semi-delusional revolution was fueled by popular anti-American sentiments excited by the U.S. installation of Farouk as king. The United States maneuvered to oust Qaddafi, then embraced him for abandoning WMD and then undertook regime change by force of arms under the bogus banner of human rights. The unambiguous U.S. message to Iran was that it would risk a U.S. invasion if it surrendered its nuclear ambitions.
The United States unconstitutionally and contrary to international law initiated war to overthrow the regime of Qaddafi without the justification of self-defense. Washington thus became morally responsible for the acts of Qaddafi’s successors. The war was a crime against peace, according to the judicial precedents set at Nuremberg. When Qaddafi was executed after capture without trial, the United States did nothing to punish or sanction the perpetrators. His loyalists were outraged at the U.S. complacency with Qaddafi’s murder. Libya quickly fragmented into hundreds of satraps ruled by local militias (armed with weapons snatched from the Qaddafi arsenal) without the remotest attachment to democratic governance. The pseudoleaders of Libya refused a U.S. request to extradite the one convicted perpetrator of the Lockerbie terrorism bombing. Qaddafi’s hydra-headed successors inflicted torture and other cruelties on black African immigrant workers. The U.S. transferred billions of dollars to an unelected regime in Libya, which antagonized competitors for power. CIA agents have been deployed to Libya to identify or cultivate professed U.S. friends and destroy suspected adversaries.
The many enemies of the United States that were created by U.S. military, political and financial meddling in Libya include Qaddafi’s followers and the hundreds of tribal leaders and militias alienated from the fragile government we have recognized and subsidized in Tripoli. The identities and motivations of Ambassador Stevens’s murderers remain undetermined. But it is certain that the ambassador would be alive today if the United States had refrained from orchestrating Libya’s domestic affairs from King Farouk onward. The United States awakens foreign anger not because of who we are at home but because of what we do abroad.