Kentuckians react to attacks in Libya; Beshear directs flags to be lowered to half-staff

Gov. Steve Beshear directed Wednesday that flags at state office buildings be lowered to half-staff in memory of slain U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, while others in Kentucky expressed shock and sadness at the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Mariam Addarrat, a Libyan native now living in Lexington, called Tuesday's deadly attack a "really sad day for Libya and for America and the world." She noted that Stevens had worked with Libyans who were moving their country toward democracy after overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi.

"Ambassador Stevens was a good friend to the Libyan people," Addarrat said. "He supported the revolutionaries from the beginning and we really feel his loss. The majority of Libyans condemn these acts. They are not representative of our country; they are not representative of our religion."

Both U.S. Sen Mitch McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul condemned the attacks Wednesday, expressing sympathy for the families of Stevens and three other Americans who died.

Meanwhile, the situation prompted authorities to boost security for a group of U.S. officials — including Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of Lexington — now visiting the Middle East to review military voting procedures.

Two University of Kentucky professors said the Libyan attack illustrates the dangers U.S. diplomats face in unstable areas around the world. Stevens is the sixth American ambassador killed by terrorists since 1968, said Carey Cavanaugh, professor and director of UK's Patterson School of Diplomacy.

"Diplomacy is more dangerous than most people recognize," he said. "We put diplomatic personnel in places where wouldn't put American military personnel because it's too dangerous."

UK historian Paul Chamberlin cautioned that Americans shouldn't rush to make judgments about who conducted the attacks.

"My take is that you have a fringe group of extremists, not the Libyan government," he said. "We need to be careful that it's not all Libyans attacking America. Extremists win when people in the middle start to believe their arguments."

Addarrat agreed, noting that there were demonstrations in both Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya, on Wenesday condemning the U.S. embassy attack.

"There were pictures Tuesday of looting and burning, but there also were pictures of youth in Benghazi trying to help the ambassador escape and trying to put out fires with swimming pool water," she said.

"He (Stevens) did really good work to build bridges between Libyans and the United States. I hope we can all learn something from that."