United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice attempted to assure Americans that “the United States is extremely popular in Libya” on Sunday. Rice made appearances across the major television networks to say that the attack last Tuesday on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans was caused solely by an unsavory movie about the prophet Muhammad and was not an expression of anti-American sentiment.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley, Rice said that the movie in question “had nothing to do with the United States government and it’s one that we find disgusting and reprehensible.”
Rice said that despite Tuesday’s attack, in which “a mob was ultimately hijacked by a handful of extremists” there “have been substantial improvements” in the United States’ relationship with the Muslim world, and the mobs protesting outside US embassies are part of “a small minority.”
Likewise, Rice called the attack “a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video” on FOX News Sunday.
“People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent. Those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post revolutionary Libya, and that then spun out of control.”
FOX News Sunday Chris Wallace wasn’t content to let the Obama administration official off the hook so easily, pointing out that the United States’ seemingly non-chalant attitude toward’s Iran’s looming nuclear capability and its decision to withdraw troops from Iraq and Iran have weakened the United States in the eyes of its allies and its enemies, making it a target.
“Well, Chris, that is just false,” saying that the Libyan, Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemini governments’ swift responses to the violence is proof that the United States still has the respect and support of countries abroad.
“What happened initially in Cairo was not sufficiently robust. When President Obama picked up the phone and spoke to President Morsi right away things changed and that is an evidence of our influence and impact,” she told the FOX news host.
On ABC’s “This Week” guest host Jake Tapper pressed Rice for answers on why the US didn’t have a stronger military presence at its embassy in Libya in the first place.
“But why would we not have Marines at the embassy in Tripoli to begin with?” he asked her.” It would seem like this is obviously an unstable country.”
“Our presence in Tripoli, as in Benghazi is relatively new, as you’ll recall,” she explained. “We have been back post-revolution, only for a matter of months,” adding that the security personnel that the U.S. thought was needed were in place.
Tapper also grilled Rice on the fact that the U.S. appears to be less popular now in Arab countries than it was before President Barack Obama set out to improve the United States’ relationship with Muslim countries.
“Jake, we’re not impotent. We’re not even less popular, to challenge that assessment. I don’t know what basis you make that judgment,” she rebutted, reaffirming that the violence was in “direct response” to the “heinous” anti-Muslim video “that the U.S. government had nothing to do with.”
Rice was unable to clearly explain the United States’ relationship with Egypt, however. When asked by Tapper why the President would say Egypt is not an ally when it is classified as an ally by the Department of State, Rice outlandishly told him, “The President has been very clear. And everybody understands that Egypt has been a very critical partner to the United States and that has long been so. That relationship remains the same and the President wasn’t signaling any change in the nature of our relationship.”
She did not back away from the Obama administration’s role in encouraging the upheaval in the Middle East during the ‘Arab Spring’ that began in late 2010. She told Tapper on This Week that the United States was a “major part” in Libya’s revolution, and on State of the Union she claimed the United States would eventually benefit from new leadership in the Middle East it had helped bring about.
“The fact is, Candy, that this is a turbulent time. It’s a time of dramatic change,” she told the show’s host. “It’s a change that the United States has backed because we understand that when democracy takes root, when human rights and people’s freedom of expression can be manifested, it may lead to turbulence in the short-term, but over the long-term, that is in the interest of the United States.”
Rice admitted to Crowley that last week’s incidents may not be the last outbreaks of violence related to the video, though, which is why the US is working to secure it’s embassies and embassy staff around the world.
However, when asked by Crowley if the embassies were currently secure, Rice sidestepped the question, simply saying that the US government was doing its “utmost to secure our personnel and in various vulnerable places” that the US was doing the “maximum that we can to protect our people.”