"I rise today in support of this resolution to condemn the violence against our diplomatic missions in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere. We acknowledge and honor the personal sacrifice of the brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our nation.
"U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty tragically lost their lives far from home, in Benghazi, Libya, where they were promoting American interests and helping the Libyan people secure the hard-fought gains of their revolution. These heroes died upholding the liberty, democracy, and moderation we value as a nation.
"In the wake of their deaths and the ongoing protests and violence, Americans want to know what our strategy is for protecting our diplomats, our interests, and our values in a region that is undergoing a profound, and unfortunately sometimes violent, political transformation. Americans are rightly worried about the Anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism that has reared its head.
"I share the concern that Americans have about the situation in the Middle East. And I believe the President should explain his strategy for navigating the uncertain waters before us. But I know that one policy we must not pursue is to turn our back on this troubled region. Withdrawing from the region would embolden the extremists, and justify Osama Bin Laden's strategy, leaving the moderates who share our values and who desire democracy to combat the forces of violence alone.
"We are not alone in this fight. From Morocco to Indonesia, there are brave Muslims who oppose violence, who desire good relations with the United States, who respect religious freedom and who risk their lives by preaching tolerance and moderation. We should redouble our efforts to stand with these Muslims who seek to protect a great religion from being subverted by extremists.
"We should not abandon Libya because terrorists seek to undermine a government that is making progress towards establishing a democracy and that is joining the fight against terrorism.
"Egypt’s democratic revolution is unfinished and much work remains to ensure that its first election is not its last. We should work with Egypt’s leaders to help them build a democracy that respects individual rights, women, and religious freedom, while being clear that we will not tolerate policies that give any ground to terrorists or undermine our security or that of our ally Israel. American assistance is not an entitlement and Congress expects Egypt’s new leaders to respect the parameters and conditions of our generous aid.
"America must not abandon its partners, just as we should not apologize for our perceived sins. We must demonstrate leadership. We should lead a coalition against the radical Mullahs in Iran who foment instability and support extremists throughout the region. America should combat Iran’s support for terrorism, and thwart its aspirations for nuclear weapons. America should be leading an international effort to bring overwhelming pressure on the Assad regime in Syria, to end once and for all its state sponsorship of terrorism and to bring about a new government in Syria before that society fractures beyond repair.
"America has long been a force for good and stability in the Middle East. When we have retreated in the past from playing this role, we have paid dearly. Withdrawing from Lebanon in the 1980s ceded that country to Syria and Hizballah. Failing to respond to Al Qaeda’s attacks in the 1990s led Osama Bin Laden to believe he could attack the American homeland. The extremists in the region believe today, as Bin Laden believed then, that we do not have the stomach to defend our friends and our interests, that we will abandon the Middle East.
"We must prove them wrong by responding to this challenge with purpose and strength. We must stand with our friends and hold our enemies to account."
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA)
House Floor Remarks
September 19, 2012