Last week witnesses testified before a House panel about the events that occurred on September 11, 2012. “Events” meaning the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four people dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. There has been a lot of talk: about the 12 versions of the talking points, cover-ups, conspiracies and political motivations. There has been finger pointing: the CIA at the State Department, the House at the White House, the press at the politicians and pundits. The left is particularly loud, theorizing that this is all a ploy by Republicans to hamstring Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State during the incident, and may be thinking of running for office in 2016.
The right is convinced that there was a large-scale cover up and that the American people have a right to know the truth, the real story.
Like any story, when it’s edited by a committee and impassioned but ignorant readers, the true story has been lost.
The story is the lede in this article: four people died, including an Ambassador, and nothing that happened on September 11, 2012, nor in the months following, could have prevented that. There was, bluntly, not enough security in place—not on the Ambassador and not in the region.
The Consulate itself had Libyan guards and the detail on the Ambassador was State Department security.
There were no Marines.
From the official website of the U.S. Marine Corps:
“The primary mission of the Marine Security Guard (MSG) is to provide internal security at designated U.S. diplomatic and consular facilities in order to prevent the compromise of classified material vital to the national security of the United States.”
But, some argue, the CIA was there. Yes, they were, and a six-person rescue squad broke cover and got to the Consulate less than one hour after the initial reports of the attack.
According to the Washington Post, they tried to muster support from local militia — and three Libyan soldiers joined them.
Another security team, also CIA, departed Tripoli and was in Benghazi four hours after the initial attack.
They had to charter an airplane.
The first team had already secured the rescued Americans at the CIA annex, and had defended against an attack on the facility.
The second team arrived in Benghazi and was then delayed at the airport for an additional four hours negotiating with Libyan officials, obtaining vehicles, and forming an effective mission plan.
This second team arrived at the CIA facility, where the first team had brought the Americans from the Consulate, as attacks began again.
Half an hour later, two Americans, from the security teams, are dead. It is approximately 5:30 a.m., in Benghazi.
Libyan military arrives, escorts 18 Americans to the airport. Later that morning another 12, plus the four dead, are also taken to the airport.
These are the names of the people who died:
J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya
Sean Smith, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer
Glen Doherty, Security/CIA, former Navy Seal
Tyrone S. Woods, Security/CIA, former Navy Seal
Why did they die? That is the story — that is the question that needs to be asked for Americans to know the truth.
There are two indisputable answers: lack of funding for security at our embassies and consulates, and the lack of an elite, trained, rapid response force that can respond quickly to events in North Africa.
Dana Milbank wrote, in the Washington Post, October 2012: “House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012….Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.”
The nearest U.S. military forces, capable of responding to attacks, were Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST) in Rota, Spain and a EUCOM special forces team that was training in Central Europe.
The FAST forces were given authorization to prepare to deploy at approximately 2:40 a.m., Benghazi time, according to the official timeline released by the Pentagon.
Stevens was already dead at that time. The CIA annex, with the Americans from the Consulate, had defended against an attack. The team from Tripoli was in Benghazi, but not yet on site.
In short, the money was too little to fund necessary security, and the troops couldn’t arrive until it was too late.
Too little, too late: an old story. Mundane, worn, hackneyed even, but one that is going to be told over and again unless Congress and Washington start to focus on the facts and stop the futile finger pointing.