KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Former Knoxville Mayor and Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe says a mob enraged over an anti-Islamic YouTube video des not justify the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Ashe served as U.S. ambassador to Poland from June 2004 to September 2009.
While his tenure there presented few security risks compared to ambassadors serving in the Middle East, Ashe says his heart goes out to the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans who were killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate
"It's been 43 years since an American ambassador on duty has died on service. That was in Afghanistan," Ashe said.
"Obviously Libya is a dangerous country, but this is a country we just got through assisting in its liberation. And obviously, security and safety has not yet returned. And whatever the excuse may be, a slur on the Islamic faith, is never justification for murder. Not just of an ambassador, but other American citizens as well, as well as Libyan residents," Ashe added.
He says from his experience, "In a place like Libya, it (security) would be fairly high. He likely had Libyan bodyguards and others. I don't know the exact situation, but in a country like this, in the Middle East, every ambassador has high security. But no matter what the security is like, there are risks. Unfortunately, this risk became reality."
Ashe says he didn't know ambassador Stevens. Other diplomats have been killed while on duty, but not at the rank of ambassador.
Some people may hold the opinion that the primary role of an ambassador is to entertain for trade purposes.
Ashe says that's not the case. "No, depending on the country the duties vary. The first duty of the ambassador is to represent the American people and the president of the United States to the country to which he or she is accredited. That's what I did in Poland for five years. That's what Ambassador Stevens did in Libya."
"But Libya is a different country in a sense," Ashe added, "because it's only been liberated from a 40-year dictator. It had all sorts of issues and safety and security was one of them."
"But the duty of an ambassador today is also security issues, trade issues, bi-lateral as well as other issues," Ashe explained.
He says while he was ambassador, Poland was a relatively safe country. Although he traveled in an armored car, he rarely had a security detail with him.