In remarks this evening, President Barack Obama condemned the wanton violence by the Libyan government against protesters there and said that the U.S. "stands with the Libyan people."
The American people extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all who’ve been killed and injured. The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.
The United States also strongly supports the universal rights of the Libyan people. That includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. They are not negotiable. They must be respected in every country. And they cannot be denied through violence or suppression.
In a volatile situation like this one, it is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice, and that has been our focus. Yesterday a unanimous U.N. Security Council sent a clear message that it condemns the violence in Libya, supports accountability for the perpetrators, and stands with the Libyan people.
The president said that the U.S. was willing to take unspecified actions to send a message to the Libyan government and its people. He also used a term that made our ears prick up because it implies we're willing to engage in more than empty rhetoric: "accountability."
Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.
Hopefully, the recent spike in oil prices directly resulting from the unrest in Libya — yes, we do have some skin in this game — won't deter President Obama and his administration from making good on his promise that, "throughout this time of transition, the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people."
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.