Most of the media will lay it on thick with the 12th anniversary of 9/11/01. Nothing wrong with that, of course.
But it wouldn’t hurt them to look into another anniversary, more recent [hat tip: Yerushalimey]
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was striking for a number of reasons: the date, 11 September, the toll – four diplomats killed, including an ambassador – and the knock-on effects on the careers of senior American politicians.
But what is perhaps most striking is the inconsistencies: the US version of events compared with those of witnesses and the facts on the ground. The two do not tally. And so, a year later, there remain pressing questions about what happened that night – and what the Americans say happened.
Staff at the US special mission in Benghazi woke on 11 September to the sight of a Libyan policeman, deployed to guard them, filming the compound from a neighbouring rooftop. When challenged, he vanished. Later, an unmarked car made lazy circles around the compound, a walled redoubt rented in the southern suburbs of the Libyan city.
The state department says there were no warning of impending attack, a spokesman insisting there was “nothing unusual during the day at all”.
Two days earlier, the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, had received a veiled warning. According to one of his cables, one of his diplomats had a meeting with two Islamist militia leaders in which they complained that the US was supporting a secular leader, Mahmoud Jibril, in a vote for prime minister due on 12 September. If Jibril won, they warned, they would “no longer guarantee security”. The consulate was already relying on one of the militias, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, for armed protection.
In the words of a subsequent report by the US Senate’s homeland security committee, warning lights were “flashing red”. As the day went on, news came in of attacks by radicals on the US embassy in Cairo, a response to a film, the Innocence of Muslims, released in America which mocked Muhammad. The CIA sent a cable to its foreign stations warning of possible copycat incidents.
The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks also preyed on the minds of compound staff in Benghazi. In a letter found in the ruins by the Guardian, Stevens wrote: “For security reasons, we’ll need to be careful about limiting moves off compound and scheduling as many meetings as possible in the villa.”
At least one man inside the compound was anxious. Sean Smith, a 34-year-old information management officer accompanying the ambassador on the visit, emailed a friend: “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” Hours later, he was dead.
There are many more, recounted chronologically, but this one stands out:
When the CIA team abandoned the consulate, crowds of local men and boys gathered at the edge of the fighting moved inside. The fires had died down and they gingerly explored, finding the unsecured window into the safe room. Inside they found Stevens, lying in shirtsleeves on the floor. A video, timed at quarter-past midnight, shows them carrying the ambassador outside on to the patio. When he shows signs of life there are cries of Allahu Akbar – God is Great – and bystanders discuss getting him to hospital.
Washington maintains that every possible effort was made to locate Stevens in the hours after the attack.
Bystanders put Stevens into a private car. A wounded Libyan guard who left his bloody handprint by the front gate was located and put into a second car. The two cars raced to the city’s main casualty hospital, Benghazi Medical Centre. Its director, Dr Fathi al-Jerami, said staff were astonished when the two casualties arrived at the emergency ramp, with the Libyan guard insisting his companion was the ambassador. Medics could not imagine the ambassador would be left unguarded, nor that, if he was missing, no official would try to contact the hospital. He was rushed inside and doctors fought for 90 minutes to revive him before declaring him dead.
Still with no communication from US officials, a hospital official found a mobile phone in Stevens pocket and began punching out dialled numbers. One of these was the phone of an agent now in the CIA base, but the official’s English was too rudimentary.
Only in the morning, with US officials being evacuated to the airport, did Americans go to the hospital, to be given Stevens’ body. Pictures of the dead ambassador uploaded by Libyans spread across the internet.
I am speechless (but not wordless) at these and other revelations of deceit, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty—not by the brave men on the scene, but back in Washington. I cannot get my head around how Hillary and Barack have skated from responsibility.
Finally, someone in the media did his job. Figured not to be an American paper.