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Public Statements

Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I thank my friend from Arizona for his very eloquent statement. I associate myself with it.

It strikes me, as I listen, that it was no accident that these violent extremists launched this attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on 9/11, on September 11--a day of infamy in our history, a day when people across our country and around the world were commemorating the worst terrorist attack in our history, which was September 11, 2001.

Those who perpetrated the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of our Ambassador Chris Stevens carried out an act of terrorism and barbarism that they hope will sow fear and hatred between Americans and Muslims, just as Osama bin Laden and his followers hoped that attack of 9/11, 2001, would do 11 years ago. But we did not let bin Laden succeed then, and we will not let these violent extremists who killed Chris Stevens yesterday in Benghazi succeed in dividing America and the West from Muslims and the Arab world. Good, well-intentioned people in both great communities will rise and join together to renounce these extremists and killers.

I want to speak for a moment about Ambassador Stevens.

Simply put, Chris Stevens was one of the finest, bravest, most spirited, most talented diplomats in our Nation's service.

As a volunteer in the Peace Corps, he served in Morocco, where he was inspired to pursue a lifetime of service in the Middle East. When the uprising against Muammar Qadhafi began in February of last year, Chris was the deputy chief of mission at our Embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

He was evacuated, along with other American personnel, from the country, but returned to Libya within weeks as the Special Envoy of the United States
of America to the opposition there--courageously slipping into rebel-held Benghazi onboard a cargo freighter. It was an act of bravery that typified Chris Stevens' service to our country and his devotion to our Nation's ideals and his commitment to build bridges between Americans and Arabs, Americans and Muslims.

Chris remained in Benghazi throughout the war, standing with the people of Libya during some of the darkest and most difficult hours in their struggle for freedom.

He became, in fact, the bright symbol of America, a heroic and inspiring figure to many Libyans, as Senator McCain and Senator Graham and I heard during our visits, and was thus the natural choice of President Obama to become our Ambassador to Tripoli after the Qadhafi regime fell. This is also why his death at the hands of violent extremists in Benghazi, which was the seat of the revolution against Qadhafi, is so tragic and infuriating. Of course, we still do not know what happened at our consulate in Benghazi yesterday, but what is clear is that these attackers have to be apprehended and must be punished.

I am encouraged but not surprised by the statements of Libya's leaders condemning this attack. I say I am not surprised because these statements of condemnation of those who killed Chris Stevens are consistent with what I know the leaders of the new Libya to be, what I know to be their profound admiration and love for Chris Stevens and their respect and gratitude for the United States of America. We look now to the Libyan Government to act swiftly and decisively and to our own government to provide the Libyans whatever support they need to find the attackers and killers.

While a specific group of individuals was responsible for this evil act and their target immediately was the Americans in that consulate--but really their target was the new order in Libya, and they were animated in this by an ideology that is now all too familiar to us that we cannot ignore or excuse. This hateful and violent ideology is a threat not just to the lives of Americans like Chris Stevens and the three others who died yesterday in Benghazi but to the future of Libya and the future of the Muslim world. It is the exact opposite of the ideals that inspired millions of Libyans to rise up last year against Qadhafi to realize their dreams of a life of dignity, democracy, and human rights. For that reason, it is imperative now for those Libyan people themselves to echo their leaders and condemn this violence and take on the extremists who have taken shelter in their midst and who threaten to hijack their revolution and imperil the future of their country, returning them to days as dark as under Qadhafi.

I know the overwhelming majority of Libyans reject this violent extremist agenda. They want a good education for their children. They want foreign investment that will create jobs and raise their standard of living. After 42 years of despair and oppression under Qadhafi, they badly want again to be part of the world, part of the modern world. The United States should stand ready and willing to help them on that path.

The fact is that the people who killed Chris Stevens yesterday in Benghazi do not represent the people of Libya or their elected leadership. But these killings require confronting the extremist minority that imperils this future, the fanatics who want a clash of civilizations between the Muslims and the West and who will try to justify their violence in the name of Islam. They are wrong. They are mistaken. They are on the wrong side of history.

Finally, let me come back home and say--to echo what Senator McCain just said--that I know there will be some here in our country who in the wake of this attack will be tempted to argue that it shows that America's support for the Libyan revolution was naive or mistaken, that the Arab spring will ultimately be defined not by a desire for democracy and freedom among the people of the Middle East and Arab world but by the dark fanaticism of al-Qaida and its associates and that the United States should give up trying to support people in this part of the world and instead retrench back here at home. That would be terribly wrong. That would misunderstand the motivations of the people who have risen in the Arab world to overthrow the totalitarian governments that dominated their lives. They do not want the fanaticism of al-Qaida. They want the bright light of a democratic future.

We cannot allow what happened yesterday to be a victory for the extremists and the terrorists because to do so would be a betrayal of everything Ambassador Chris Stevens stood for, which is to say a betrayal of America's best ideals.

I note the presence on the floor of the Senator from South Carolina. I would yield to him at this time.

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Mr. LIEBERMAN. Mr. President, I could not agree more with my friend from Arizona. It would really dishonor the service of Chris Stevens and the other three Americans who served us in Libya if their murders by these extremists led us to retrench and pull out of Libya and stop supporting the new Libyan Government, democratically elected, pull out of other parts of the Arab world. That would be exactly the opposite of what Ambassador Stevens devoted his life to. As I mentioned, inspired by his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, he devoted the rest of his life to service on America's behalf in the Middle East. The last thing he would want this murder to do is to lead us to pull out, leave the area.

It would also be the fondest hope of the attackers, the extremists. Why do they attack? They attack to kill individual people, but they really attack to, as I said before, push America out and create a war between the Western world, America, and Islam. It is not natural. It is not the direction in which history is going. History is going much more toward integration. In fact, the revolution in Libya, which has gone so successfully when you consider the 40 years of dictatorship under which they lived--they held a free election. They elected what I would describe as a moderate rule-of-law slate to run the country. But those uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and now in Syria are the most profound rejection and defeat for the extremism of al-Qaida and its allies and presumably this group who attacked the American consulate in Benghazi yesterday. I understand that the results of some of the first elections are unclear, in some sense unsettled to some people here, but the fact is they have chosen democracy. People are self-governing, and they are looking for a better life. That is exactly the opposite of what bin Laden, al-Qaida, and I would guess the people who killed Chris Stevens yesterday desire.

Senator McCain is absolutely right. I can almost hear Chris Stevens saying: Come on. Get up. Stay in the fight. Do not surrender to the crazies, to the fanatics, to the violent extremists.

Stand with the overwhelming majority, with the people of Libya, who want what we want--a better future for themselves and their families.

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