Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham
I join President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton in condemning in the strongest terms the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It is with heartfelt sincerity that my thoughts and prayers, and those of our larger diplomatic and military community, go out to the family of Ambassador Stevens and our other American colleagues who died in this attack. As Secretary Clinton remarked yesterday, these fine and heroic public servants made "the ultimate sacrifice." I appreciate the many expressions of sympathy and condolence conveyed to me by President Karzai and other Afghan leaders.
I also echo President Karzai's condemnation of the video and film that has offended many Muslims and others around the world. As President Obama said yesterday, since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject any efforts to insult and disrespect the religious beliefs of others. The video does not represent the values of the United States, which supports religious tolerance as one of our most important principles. But free speech is also one of our most important principles and as Secretary Clinton stated, "our country has a long tradition of free expression, which is protected by the law. Our government does not - and cannot - stop individual citizens from expressing their views, however hateful they might be."
This film and video are insulting to people of good will of all faiths. But they do not merit a violent response, and are not worth the injury or death of innocent people. I hope that all societies of all faiths will reject provocative attempts to gain attention, and we urge restraint from all who are understandably offended by the video and the sentiments behind it. In our partnership with the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, we share the goal of safety for Afghan families, as well as Afghan-Coalition forces and the larger diplomatic and international community serving in Afghanistan.