September 16, 2012
What do Americans want done with killers in Libya who murdered U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others on Sept. 11, our national day of mourning?
We want their heads stuffed into a burlap bag. We want to see that bag tossed into some town square, landing with hollow thunks, the bag opening, its cargo rolling along the ground.
That's revenge talking, and there's nothing wrong with it. Americans were murdered. While our politicians make speeches about "resolve" and President Barack Obama insists the U.S. won't retreat from the world, what we really want are those heads.
Dead are Stevens, a career foreign officer, U.S. State Department information officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
American financial aid to Libya will be threatened until the killers, and those who ordered their deaths, are tracked down. Surely they must know how it will end for them, in some dusty place, a prison, an alley.
Whether their deaths serve as a warning to others is another matter. How do you warn people who willingly strap bombs to their chests? So we should say simply that we want them because we want them, because Americans were killed and those who did it must pay their debts.
But after the heads roll, then what?
Do we roll out more soldiers and drop them into Libya? Obama supported the rebels against the late madman Moammar Gadhafi, and some faction among the rebels is no doubt responsible, but do we send our armies over there to build another nation?
We're tired of war. We're still knee-deep in Afghanistan, and we'll be paying for our adventure in Iraq for decades to come. Now our nation is broke, and though Obama didn't start these wars, he spends and spends us into trillions of dollars more in debt. More money gets printed. The cost of goods rises. Americans feel an ever-tighter squeeze, and many don't know why. There is no mood for more war.
Obama must know this. And if Republican Mitt Romney wants to be seen as the man itching to carry the big stick around the world, he will lose the American people. Still, some Republicans can't help but speak about expressing American power.
"Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Gadhafi," Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in a statement last week. "But we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our air power."
They said America "must lead the international community to provide the support that our Libyan friends need."
No thank you, senators. We've had enough. American soldiers gave at the offices in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no more. We're all tapped out.
That's not to say that I believe the White House spin that the recent unrest in the Middle East was entirely due to that foolish anti-Muslim video about the Prophet Muhammad.
That video is a match, used by others to light the rage of the ignorant. The mobs were cover for the assassination of Stevens, and rebel factions continue to fight for power in Libya. Now, I don't know all the facts of it. I haven't been inside the intelligence briefings. But those who have been briefed — including McCain — have said so, and it sounds about right.
History tells us that mobs of shrieking, passionate fools have long been used by others to shield their work. So let's find out who is behind it, and why. Once we know for sure, our specialized hunters will find them and, let's hope, take them out. What we don't need are commitments of thousands of troops sent far away for many years.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, countries that deposed their strong rulers. They "did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of the mob," she said.
What did we expect? The dictators crushed their people under their boots, but they kept order and terrified the various factions. But once the dictators were gone, after the Arab Spring, came the time of the mob. We called the rebels "freedom fighters," but now they are factions fighting for control. Either the newly liberated nations cobble together stable governments on their own, or they will dissolve in chaos, and new, even more terrible dictators will replace them.
But are they our responsibility? No.
"The United States of America will never retreat from the world," Obama said at a ceremony honoring Stevens and the others who were killed. "We will bring to justice those who took them from us. We will stand fast against the violence on our diplomatic missions."
Stand fast? Did his administration have no inkling that heavily armed factions — including those armed by his administration — posed a threat to Americans?
It is right that the president now promises to protect the American diplomatic missions, though that's something he should have thought about long ago. And it is also right that he promises justice, which is a euphemism for revenge.
So let's hope our hunters track them down.
But let's also hope Democrats and Republicans realize that Americans are tired, and that the only nation we want rebuilt is our own.
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