Perspective on Benghazi
By Intelligence Operative Jay Holmes*
Image of burning US Consulate in Benghazi by Voice of America employee, public domain.
On September 11, 2012, Islamic terrorists attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi. They murdered US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans during the attack. We extend our condolences to the loved ones of those four Americans who lost their lives in service to their country.
Within twenty-four hours of the attack, both President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated that the incident was not a terrorist attack, but rather a spontaneous assault carried out by angry Libyans who were protesting against an anti-Islamic video produced by an Egyptian expatriate in the US.
In the weeks since the attack, the White House and State Department told the public, contrary to their original statements, that the attacks were an organized assault carried out by international terrorists. The public, along with the families of the four dead Americans, are questioning why a US Consulate in a well known danger spot like Benghazi was left with so little security.
The administration is still repeating the mantra that “the attack was unprecedented.” Apparently, these youngsters remain unaware of the November 1979 attack on the US Embassy in Tehran. Note to Self: Send son’s middle school textbook and DVD of Argo to White House.
Within days of the attack, the public learned that Ambassador Stevens had endorsed the Benghazi Consulate’s requests for increased security and passed them on to Washington. We know that request made it as far as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. I’m not yet certain if the request made it to President Obama’s desk. However, the White House, with the cooperation of the major media outlets, played down the allegations that security was denied from the top and claimed that the lack of security was caused instead by “Republican budget cuts” of State Department security funds. The White House also claimed that “all the intelligence” indicated there was no need for increased security.
I found both of these statements worrisome because as political hot air goes, they seem fairly flimsy and desperate. After decades of listening to the statements issued forth from our various administrations, I know that often times that sort of flimsiness in White House denials indicates a concern for brewing scandals.
Most Americans are aware that all federal budgets and omnibus spending bills require the final approval of the US President so the budget excuse was at best nonsensical, and at worst an indication of deeper troubles. As for “all the intelligence” which indicated no need for increased security, the White House and the Secretary of State were both aware of two failed bombing attempts against the Benghazi Consulate that occurred April 6 and June 2, only a few months before the successful September 11 attack.
On October 26, FOX News broke an exclusive story that quoted sources from within the CIA who were involved in the rescue of US consulate staff. According to those CIA sources, CIA personnel requested military assistance three specific times during the attack and were denied.
Originally, this denial was blamed on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta alone. We now know that Panetta was in a meeting with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and National Security Advisor Thomas Donilan approximately one hour after the start of the attack. This was hours before the third denial of assistance and well before at least two of our Americans were killed. I can’t imagine Panetta would not have mentioned the ongoing assault to our nation’s two top officials and requested their input since they were, after all, sitting in the same room as a drone fed real time imagery to the White House. If he did not mention it, one has to wonder what, exactly, was more important to them at that moment.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta responded to the FOX News piece by claiming that he and the president lacked enough information to justify sending US troops “into harms way.” This response doesn’t explain why he and the president were willing to leave the US personnel in Benghazi in harm’s way by denying them assistance from the massive US military assets in the Mediterranean.
These assets included two combat-ready Air Mobile/Airborne Special Forces teams close to Libya on call in Italy, and the powerful Naval Air and Marine forces of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet, including the Sixth Fleet drone capability. Fighter strikes from Italy could have been accomplished within, at most, an hour and a half of the start of the incident. Also, with minimal air support, our people could have been evacuated more easily and safely.
Panetta’s claim that the administration lacked “enough information” is inconsistent with the fact that they knew about two prior bombing attacks on the Benghazi Consulate, and it is a direct contradiction of the fact that they received real time imagery from the drone on site. It is also a direct contradiction of the fact that eight US security personnel were sent by charter plane from Tripoli to rescue the Benghazi staff during the incident. How is it that the administration had enough information to send the team from Tripoli, but not enough information to employ any of the vast military assets that were available and may have saved some of the American lives lost in the attack and the ensuing rescue operation?
CIA sources also said CIA employee Tyrone Woods used a laser to illuminate a terrorist mortar team that was firing on the Consulate. As an ex-Navy SEAL, Woods would not have exposed his laser by illuminating a target unless he expected an air unit such as an armed drone, Navy F/A-18, or an Air Force Spectre gun ship to fire on the target right away. Permission for that fire would have come from Commander of Forces in Africa US Army General Carter Ham or any of his superiors, such as Defense Secretary Panetta or President Obama. Revocation of that permission, which Woods apparently had reason to believe was issued, could only have come from those same people, as well.
Sensibly, some members of the press have turned to the CIA for answers. Of course, asking the CIA questions when you are not the president or a member of a Congressional Intelligence Committee can lead to less than satisfying results. So far, the CIA has skillfully managed to strongly deny all of the allegations that have not been made.
In the long and proud CIA tradition of honestly answering anything but the question being asked, CIA Director General David Petraeus sternly denies that the CIA failed to respond to calls for help from the Benghazi Consulate. He does not, however, confirm or deny what requests for military assistance were made by CIA personnel in Benghazi. Thanks Dave. That really clarifies things. Keep up the good work.
Most press members know better than to ask questions of the NSA. The NSA might well have recordings of all the relevant communications from and to Benghazi, but getting that out of the NSA would be more difficult than mining diamonds on Pluto.
So far, the president has dodged the questions raised by the FOX News story by simply saying what amounts to, “I never did that.” He has left any other talking to Panetta.
Panetta claims that questions being asked “amount to Monday morning quarterbacking.” This answer is convenient for him and the Obama administration, and it is being well received by the Democratic Party faithful. But those voters who feel less constrained in their political choices might not find Panetta’s response an adequate substitution for an explanation or accountability, and the fact is that no presidential candidate can be elected solely by the votes of their party’s faithful. For either Romney or Obama to win the election, they will need the votes of those Americans who are willing to vote without regard for the labels “Democrat,” “Republican,” “liberal,” “progressive,” or “conservative.”
Based on the information thus far available, it appears the administration decided to respond to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi with as minimal response as possible. I suspect this has everything to do with the fact that Obama was reluctant to initiate military activity on a new front so close to the election when so much of his base is anti-war under all circumstances. His minimalist approach turned out to be a bad guess, and it is now becoming clear to the public that said guess was made against the advice of his people on the ground.
Naturally, the president may be reluctant to be seen as expanding military operations into new areas, but the message he sent with his non-action was that Americans will not act militarily to protect their own on foreign soil. This is no doubt extremely encouraging to all of our terrorist enemies, as well as to the Iranian government as it rapidly approaches nuclear capability.
With time and a little interest from members of Congress, more facts will surface and a clearer picture will emerge. How much time that will take is a key question. On November 6, the administration might realize the benefits of its strategy of dodging questions concerning the Benghazi debacle, but the questions are significant enough to lose Obama some votes. In fact, the President might find himself back in the community organizing business next January.
What happened in Benghazi matters. It matters to the families; it matters to our Americans abroad; it matters to our enemies; it matters to the public, and it matters to our political future as a nation. How much it matters to the election, however, will depend on the reaction of those Americans who will vote independently this November.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.
© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.
A-freaking-men, Holmes. My husband and I are deeply disturbed by the way events unfolded, both on Sept 11 and since. It’s not a political issue to me – it’s an American safety issue.
Hi Jenny. I share the concern that you and your husband have. Most of the largest media outlets have all but ignored it. CBS seems to have taken upon themselves to act as the White House’s PR department.
In my opinion, the Benghazi debacle has been a major foreign policy disaster. For me, it’s not about Dems vs Reps. I distrust all political parties. Next week I will publish an article concerning the Bush administration’s handling of the battle(s) of Fallujah during the Iraq War.
I wrote a post about this last week (which is not usual for me since I do not blog political issues for the most part). But I saw a news story on it and my heart broke into pieces. I was shattered. Blaming it on a movie, apologizing for something that we did not do, people fighting for their lives and asking for help (and none coming!)..what the heck is happening in our government?! So, so sad…
Hi Kat. Thank you for visiting. Yes it is sad and disturbing.
Wow. What a mess. So sad for the families that are left grieving the loss of loved ones with more questions than answers. It shouldn’t be…it just shouldn’t be!
Hi Natalie. I have in my life time grown accustomed to casualties but they all still all matter to me. It is terrible that the families must now live with the knowledge that this could have easily been prevented.
I would want them to know (and at the right time will remind them) that their loved ones will not be forgotten and that their dedication to freedom lives on in the many fine young American Men and Women that serve us today.
In my imaginary world, where things are fair and just, this would be picked up and printed by all newspapers — regardless of their political preferences.
Too often “spin” is reported as fact.
Holmes, I sent Piper an email requesting permission to quote and ping-back. This American safety issue (as Jenny said) deserves as much exposure as we can give it.
Hi Gloria. Holmes and I always ask ourselves the question, “In the unlikely event that this should go viral, can we live with it?” We always reach a “yes” before I hit “publish.” Based on that, I would say quote and ping-back to your heart’s content, and thank you for your support. I’ll still be sure to forward him your email, though. He enjoys contact with our readers.
Thanks, Piper. I’m off to hit the showers and STARBUCKS so I’m properly caffeinated when I write this piece. Does the above mean you don’t need/want preview access? I’m fine if you do.
Hi Gloria. Feel free to pass it on if you think it would be useful to do so. To avoid accidental partisanship please also send next weeks article concerning the Bush administration’s handling of the Battle(s) of Fallujah. The government and our press also handled that one poorly.
I would hate to accidentally encourage the idea that distrusting one political party should equate to devout faith in some other political party. Faith in political parties is a hazard to democracy. It lowers our nation’s political standards.
Noted, Holmes. With your permission, I want to include this response in my post — to provide concrete evidence that neither your position nor mine is partisan in nature.
Like you, I’m not attempting to influence the vote. Each American has the right to vote with his/her conscience based on the facts.
My position is that American voters have the right to know the facts before they vote on their next Commander in Chief. Stall tactics until after November 6th? Say it isn’t so!
This post is proving more difficult to craft than I anticipated. “Just the facts, Ma’am” when I’m emotionally engaged/enraged.
Perhaps it will be best if I pluck salient details from your post to encourage a ping over to this site.
No problem, Gloria. Thank you for your integrity.
The more I’m learning about this, the more disturbing and frightening it is. This isn’t just a party issue, this concerns national security and the administration’s willingness to defend it. If those people requested assistance and were denied for seven hours, in which time they were brutally murdered, this is extremely serious. The media should be absolutely ashamed. I’m just glad I don’t rely on the evening news to get all my information.
Hi Paige. I agree that this is not a party issue. In my opinion, we Americans (along with Canadians, Western Europeans and those few lucky others that have some degree of democracy) would all do well to start expecting and demanding higher standards of conduct from our elected employees.
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of our country’s failure to protect its own citizens. I am heartbroken by this incident, and frankly we need to kick someone’s tucchus for this.
This is a small thing, but I keep reading Chris Stevens and three other Americans. I think we should know their names. Those three other Americans were Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information officer, and Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, two former Navy SEALs working as security personnel at the consulate in Benghazi. Four families lost loved ones, and our White House needs to adopt the Marines’ motto of “No One Left Behind” when it comes to Americans on foreign soil working for us. We should have been there–to fight or rescue them.
This is not a small thing. Thank you, Julie. Sean Smith, Tyrone S. Woods, and Glen A. Doherty absolutely deserve to be named. How much more dismal would this situation be if they had not tried?
Thank you for fixing my sloppy mistake Julie. I could not remember Sean Smith’s name when I wrote the article and I intended to look it up. I had not wanted to include three of four names. After spending three days fact checking and debating every sentence of the article with Piper I screwed up and forgot. Piper and I wanted to do our best to be accurate and non-partisan and in that three day dialogue with her I managed to miss something very important.
Thank you for your help Julie.
A few days ago, a friend of 25 years sent me an email. I’ve known this guy since he was in high school and all he’s ever wanted to do is serve his country. He’s been a special operator for a little over 15 years and I can’t imagine an individual more committed to his job. In my mind, his integrity is absolutely beyond question.
Ty Woods was a friend of his. They were SEAL’s together. And my friend feels his loss as poignantly as any other member of that community. But what really troubled me was the other stuff my friend said in his note.
He’s had enough. He’s been doing this for a very long time. He’s seen leadership come and go. And, until now, he and his fellow operators have been pretty philosophical about the political stupidities of Washington. But this time is different. He and his comrades feel betrayed. He doesn’t trust the people at the helm and he’s not willing any more to let them make the call.
He told me flatly that, should the current administration prevail in this election, he’s leaving the service. There are other governments, allies of the US, that very much need his skills and for the first time in his life he’s taking those approaches seriously.
When guys like that are thinking of throwing in the towel we’re in trouble. I only hope we can turn it around before it’s too late.
Hi Scot. I salute your friend. Please give my thanks to your friend for the risks he takes in defending my beloved family and nation. I honestly do understand his pain. I have felt what he feels. Benghazi is not the first ugly, selfish behaviour by an administration and we’ll all be damned lucky if it’s the last.
Your friend perhaps serves a cause that is greater than the transient residents on Pennsylvania Avenue. Perhaps his beliefs are deeper than either of us can explain.
Please remind your friend that his reasons for serving and what he seeks to serve have not changed. My family and every American family still needs to be protected today. Please remind him that he is not alone, and that his many brothers and sisters who serve stand fast against this and any other foul storm that will blow our way.
Those shoeless boys who stood in the snow behind the men at Concord did so without any reason to trust anyone in Philidelphia.
We do not serve because we know that we will ever be treated fairly; we serve in spite of the fact that we assume we won’t.
That said, he has done his share. Perhaps he would consider becoming a teacher and eventualy entering the political arena. Both of those venues are as critical as walking point in Afghanistan and both need more integrity and selflessness.
Well said sir. And you’re absolutely right. I happened to have a meeting with Congressman Duncan Hunter a while back and came away suitably impressed. He’s done exactly what you suggest. After walking the walk in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he’s taken the fight to DC.
In my outrage over this mess in Libya and my sympathy for a friend, I missed the obvious – my buddy and Congressman Hunter need an introduction…
“This isn’t just a party issue, this concerns national security and the administration’s willingness to defend it.”
I have to say that Obama’s lackluster abilities regarding foreign matters abroad are of great concern to me. Anyone who knows anything about Libya should know you can’t leave that embassy without protection.
We have no money.
This is not a joke.
Should we be over there at all? I’m just as tired as the next person, having to hear about deaths and American lives being lost. But I’d like to see the same attention being given to the people here in the United States.
Think how much we might be able to fix with ALL THAT MONEY if we invested even part of it on education. Sheesh.
Hi Renee. The only comparison that I feel that I can fairly make between defense spending and education spending is to say that in both cases we are paying way too much for what we are getting. In both defense and education we require integrity and strong leadership. Of course education remains more of a state and local issue than defense but politicians love using it at the federal level. I laugh every time I hear a candidate claim that they “support education.” Often these people have no idea what is occuring in local schools and have little concern.
For a politician to say “I support education” is a bit like me claiming that “I support clean air” or “lower crime” or “less war” or “less hunger”. Big freaking deal. All fine ideas but how will we actualy do it? The devil is in the details and our leaders in Washington have often used both defense and education as political tools without sufficient concern for results.
The notion that education suffers directly as a result of national security is popular but I disagree. It’s like saying that if men would only beat their wives more they would have less time to beat their children. There is no reasonable excuse for beating wives or children and there is no reasonable excuse for our dismal failures in defense or education.
Good article, Holmes. I’ve been watching for it. We’re already in a world of hurt, defense-wise, and it’s about to get worse. Big defense contractors expect to make large layoffs should Obama win the next election. Law says that employers must warn of layoffs or face stiff fines. Obama has told these employers NOT to warn of layoffs coming in January because the warnings would come BEFORE the election, and he has promised to pay the fines they will incur. At least some defense contractors have agreed to this. (I have no idea why they would agree to it, except to note that at the top of every corporation of every sort, there sits a bean counter.) Thousands of defense workers, good union men and women, will vote without knowing they are voting their jobs away.
Are their jobs more important than other jobs? On a personal basis, no. The defense worker’s family will suffer exactly the same as the bus driver’s family. But to us as a country, yes, these particular jobs matter a lot. Not only will our ability to design and manufacture defense equipment–such as the drones you reference in your article–be undermined, our future ability will also be greatly diminished. Why? Because these workers will retire if they can and if they can’t retire, they’ll go into other lines of work. When the shinola hits the fan, as it invariably does, we won’t have enough designers or manufacturing personnel to defend ourselves. It’s happened before.
My heart bleeds for these men and the way they died, just abandoned to reckless ambition, to die knowing that their countrymen could have saved them, or at least helped them put up a better fight, and those countrymen failed to show up. What a cowardly response to the death of heroes! And the administration’s stonewalling is further proof of selfish, heedless ambition. That’s not the factor that should drive our country’s leadership.
I’ve gone on entirely too long. Feel free to edit for length. :)TX
Hi Texanne. We edit for “flaming.” Your post is intelligent and respectful so I see no need to squelch your voice. I was not aware that companies had been told to not issue warnings about firings. Thank you for that information.
There was a strong case for bombing Libya back to the Stone Age but lately that hasn’t been our style. The President lacks the advisers his predecessor had, and he thinks for himself, perhaps overthinks, to the point of inaction. I’m torn between the Texas gunslinger and his shadowy VP and the reasoned thoughts of the lawyer. Part of me says revenge is the only language that the militants will understand, but another side says that there is enough tension in the area and we can’t become the thing we are tying to prevent. That is the spark for a war fought on more fronts than we are equipped for.
Hi tomwisk. I agree that creating new battle fronts should be avoided as long as it remains the lesser evil. The Benghazi debacle could have been adressed with military force with the cooperation of the Libyan government and without creating a new front.
Tomwisk–I hadn’t thought of revenge. However, the appearance of weakness, and the fact that we are growing weaker can only help to destroy us. We grow ever weaker as our troops are cycled and recycled to the point of — to the point of what? They’re worn out physically and mentally and emotionally. Families are falling apart. Children are growing up in single-parent households when they could have had both parents at home. Soldiers are underpaid and not supported very well in other ways. It’s wrong in every direction. I never would have gone into Iraq. Horrible as he was, Hussein kept the balance of power over there. Kept Iran in check. American dreamers, we are. But democracy has to grow out of its own soil. It can’t be added on, even by the most well-intentioned foreigner. Afghanistan? Napalm the poppy fields, where so much of the bad guys’ finances come from, and forget about it. That’s what my Afghan-born friends say, and it makes sense to me. Texanne out.
Small point, but I doubt a normal middle school textbook will mention our involvement with Iran in 1979. I certainly didn’t learn about it until after September 11 gave me a reason to read up on the Middle East.
Maybe if you went to middle school in the 80’s it’d be true, but even then textbooks are notoriously bad about covering controversial modern history.
Hi Will. Thanks for coming by. It’s sad but you are probably right about the text book.
Word. I shiver when my 9-year old daughter relays what her textbooks claim.
Thank you so much for this outstanding article. You illuminated the issues with clear and concise language and opened my eyes to what really happened on the ground. The current administration’s handling of this incident was, at best, negligent.
Hi El. Thanks for your visit. I’m glad that you found the article useful.
Good write up Holmes
Risk management is deeply embedded in the US military. I can’t believe that they don’t have a set of disaster management plans for every one of our embassies. Once they knew the situation they would have picked one of those plans and asked for permission. Woods’s action suggests they got as far through the plan as they could without the permission of their superiors. All they needed was to be told go. The lack of response (which was echoed by the US media) simply emboldens others.
Hi Nigel you are right about the US Military having sufficient plans and assets to cary them out. It’s sad that as a nation we have learned so little from the many lessons presented to us by the Viet Nam War.
Reblogged this on Lynette Simmons.
Thank you for this eye opening article. As the mother and grandmother of US Marines, (4 fought in Afghanistan), I have to wonder just how much dis-information we are fed about the troops in this Afghan war? Why can’t we stop the green-on-blue killings? Is the administration sitting on their hands about that too?
Hi Lynette. Holmes is out of pocket and hasn’t gotten to see your comment yet. I wanted to make sure you know that because I know he will appreciate your comment and your family’s service and sacrifice, as do I. Thank you.
I’m sure Holmes will address your questions as soon as possible. All the best to you and yours.
Hello Lynette. First and foremost thank you for raising such a fine family. I know that when a member of the military is away on duty it is a tremendous sacrifice on the part of the family, as well. I thank you and your family for your remarkable contribution to the people of the United States of America.
As to your questions, I can only offer my opinions. I think that the root of the “Green on Blue” killings is both political and cultural. Political in that the administration prefers to think that their views and their very loosley defined strategy are right, and that if they ignore the evidence to the contrary they can pretend that something like “progress” is taking place in Afghanistan. Most administrations are prone to this sort of thinking. We have ignored the most obvious and blatant corruption of the the Hamid Karzai family. For example, when the CIA reported that Karzai had taken home large sums of money from a visit to Iran, rather than apologizing for being a criminal, Karzai flaunted it and retorted that Iran was helping him pay his government’s expenses. In my opinion, most Afghans have no loyalty to anyone beyond their own families so I would never abuse myself by pretending that they would be loyal or even slightly fair to the United States. As far as the average Afghan can see, the United States is propping up the latest family of ruthless criminals that claims to be running Afghanistan.
The cultural forces are both ours and those of the Afghans. As Americans, we tend to beleive that if we are generous enough and friendly enough, people will respond positively to us. This, of course, is not always the case and never has been. The Afghans have a long history of being very violent. If we glance at how they treat each other, we can quickly understand that murder is a common and acceptable behaviour amongst most of the many “Afghan” groups. In Afghan communities, “order” (feeble though it is) is maintaned by the rule of might, not by the rule of reason or law. While we calll them “Afghan” the majority of them have little sense of being “Afghan” but rather identify with their own local tribal and ethnic groups.
According to the UN and other sources, the majority of Afghan adults are addicted to opiates. That will further delay what Westerners would view as “social evolution” in Afghanistan.
Our “friend” Hamid Karzai has signed an agreement with communist China allowing China to harvest Afghan mineral wealth in the form of mined metals and natural gas. Perhaps the wealthy and vastly overpopulated Chinese nation should be the ones providing the manpower to attempt to create order in Afghanistan since they will be reaping any of the benefits.
Your Marines and their brothers and sisters have done a fantastic job in Afghanistan. Our politicians have not shown the same level of skill or devotion to American interests in the Afghan theatre of war.
This should be in huge letters on billboards across the country: “What happened in Benghazi matters. It matters to the families; it matters to our Americans abroad; it matters to our enemies; it matters to the public, and it matters to our political future as a nation.”
Very disturbing. The frequently changing explanations are juvenile and do sound desperate. (Like – try this…see if they will buy this….) And their angry scornful tone – really?
If you repeat it long enough it becomes true?
Guess the administrations was glad the bad storm knocked this story back ( oh, there, too…a photo op and then gone…just say it’s handled)
All I can say is who would listen and watch people die? Not human. Certainly not what America was in the past.
“Dereliction of duty is a specific offense under United States Code Title 10,892. Article 92 and applies to all branches of the US military. A service member who is derelict has willfully refused to perform his duties (or follow a given order) or has incapacitated himself in such a way that he cannot perform his duties.”
Oh. That’s only for those actually in the military…not Commander in Chief.
Soldiers are held to a higher standard from the president? Fine example for youth.
The lack of response puts all Americans at risk.
Keep this issue alive, please – for those who were left alone – waiting
Hi Philospher. Thank you.
For me, one of the sadist things about the Viet Nam war was not how badly President Johnson and the congress did their jobs but how little we have learned from that example. We can never bring back to life dead soldiers but we should never ignore what lessons can be learned by us, the living, that they, the dead, paid for.
I know. You think someone would have written the lessons down and handed them off….