One U.S. official killed as gunmen storm, burn U.S. consulate in Benghazi

The attack was still ongoing as of 7:15 p.m. ET but there’s already a body count. Time for another, more forceful statement of regret about “hurt feelings” from the local embassy?

“We can confirm that our office in Benghazi, Libya has been attacked by a group of militants. We are working with the Libyans now to secure the compound,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in State late Tuesday afternoon. “We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission.”…

Earlier Tuesday, as the attack on the Cairo embassy was ongoing, Nuland told reporters at the daily briefing that the Cairo protests were “modest” compared to what State has seen in the past.

“It sounds like — and I don’t have full details — that this came up pretty quickly, relatively modest group of people, but caught probably us and the Egyptian security outside the embassy by some surprise,” she said. “I would urge you not to draw too many conclusions because we’ve also had some very positive developments in our relationship with Egypt.”

Among the very positive developments lately: Egypt’s new Islamist president paying a goodwill visit to a country with whom we might be at war a month from now. Nuland won’t say whether the attack in Libya is related to the storming of the compound in Cairo, but a spokesman for the Libyan government says it is. Can’t wait to find out which clerics and/or Islamist politicians are quietly pushing the Mohammed movie on their followers to get them excited. According to the filmmaker, he’s surprised by the reaction — although, by his own account, he shouldn’t have been:

Sam Bacile, an American citizen who said he produced, directed and wrote the two-hour film said he had not anticipated such a furious reaction…

“The main problem is I am the first one to put on the screen someone who is (portraying) Muhammad. It makes them mad,” he said in an interview in a telephone number in California. “But we have to open the door. After 9/11 everybody should be in front of the judge, even Jesus, even Muhammad.”

He said many of the film’s cast quit half way through the production, which he started “three or four” years ago, because they were afraid of Muslims.

He said the film also addresses the persecution of Copts in Egypt and blames the U.S. and its allies for fighting Muslims. “The U.S. should fight the ideology, not the people.”

If we “fight the ideology” the way this guy’s decided to fight it, embassies will be burning all over the Middle East. That’s why the Cairo embassy groveled as it did: The irony of these fulsome diplomatic statements of respect for Islam every time the more excitable elements of Islamist movements fly into a rage is that they’re not based on respect at all. They’re a rhetorical ransom, paid to keep the body count down. If not for the threat of violence, the embassy could have, and maybe would have, simply said something like, “The U.S. government had nothing to do with the film in question. American citizens have the right to freedom of speech. Hopefully Egyptians will someday too.” But they can’t say that, because that sort of neutrality could be used as a further pretext to kill. So they sold out American principles in the interest of saving some lives. Pitiful, but maybe not quite as pitiful to the guy whose life was saved. Whatever else this is, though, it’s assuredly not respect.

Byron York’s right that you should expect something from Romney on this tomorrow; in the meantime, Krauthammer’s segment on Fox News tonight will have to do. As for The One, he’s said nothing yet but he’s got a hard-hitting gig on Letterman coming up next week so maybe we’ll get to hear him talk about how he’s the foreign-policy president there. Exit quotation: “If your freedom of speech has no limits, may you accept our freedom of action.”