“Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans,” Clinton said. “What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?”
Enough almost to elicit empathy from me for Mrs. Clinton. But not quite. Even though it really doesn’t much matter if the events at the Benghazi Special Mission Compound were a pre-planned terrorist attack by some Islamist group or a mob gone wild. Except to Republicans in DC and their armies of rightwing haters who desperately want the terrorist narrative that their peabrains can use to discredit the National Security State under Barack Obama and by extension his former SOC Hillary Clinton.
Considering that 39% Of People Who Think Benghazi is America’s Biggest Scandal Can’t Find It On A Map, it’s likely even more of them don’t know much about the events of September 11, 2012. And have forgotten or conveniently overlooked Cairo.
So, let’s take a moment to review.
Protests at the US Cairo Embassy were anticipated on 9/11 as early as August 30 when Muhammed al-Zawahiri called for them in support of getting Abdel Rahman released. However, those that did show up that day were clear that they were protesting what they thought was an American made anti-Muslim movie based on a purported trailer for the movie that had been aired on Egyptian TV and was available on a website.
At 12:18 pm, the US Cairo Embassy issued a statement denouncing the trailer/movie. A couple hours later protesters began gathering at the Embassy and around 4:00 pm some protesters had scaled the embassy wall, taken down the US flag which they proceeded to shred, and hoisted an Islamist flag. Embassy walls were painted with graffiti. From the Yahoo report
The crowd grew throughout the evening with thousands standing outside the embassy. Dozens of riot police lined up along the embassy walls but did not stop protesters as they continued to climb and stand on the wall — though it appeared no more went into the compound.
By midnight, the crowd had dwindled. The U.S. Embassy said on its Twitter account that there will be no visa services on Wednesday because of the protests.
It was a mob scene and more or less ran its course as local security forces mostly refrained from interfering and fired warning shots every so often. Protests and clashes with the police in Cairo continued for the next three days. (Protests in many other locations also broke out in the days after September 11.)
Why is it so incomprehensible to the rabid Republican partisans that the Cairo demonstration, in the country that had inspired the revolt in Libya, would not have been noticed in Libya? That photos and videos wouldn’t have been shared and available in real time to fundamentalist Muslims Libya? That it wouldn’t inspire a few of them stage a protest of their own?
Benghazi isn’t Cairo – there is no US Embassy in Benghazi, not even a consulate, just a Special Mission, the security forces in Benghazi aren’t as professional and developed as those in Cairo, and guns in the hands of citizens seem more prevalent in Benghazi (one of the many consequences of armed revolutions). So, what happened?
Some number of men appeared at the Special Mission Compound (SMC) after 9:42 when a local police security vehicle left and reported that there was no activity on the street. (Note: the Cairo protest was still going on.) Some then either scaled the entry gate or the pedestrian gate had inadvertently been left open. The US TOC observed the compound breach and hit all the alarms including notification to the US Embassy in Tripoli and the “Annex” (CIA mission compound that was a mile away from the SMC). The four US security officials at the SMC performed their duties including moving Amb Stevens and Sean Smith, the information management officer, to a secured portion of Villa C. (The seven local security guards on the compound ran and hid.)
Once inside the compound, the men found a supply of diesel fuel and set the security guards barracks (the building closet to the gate) on fire. They then proceeded to Villa C and torched it. Meanwhile many more men arrived in the street. When the arsonists ran out of fuel and failed to get entry into Villa B and the TOC, they melted back into the crowd in the street.
The smoke in the secured area of Villa C was intense. The DS made the decision that he, Stevens, and Smith had to evacuate. Crawling, he led them to a window egress, but once out discovered that Stevens and Smith hadn’t followed. He returned and attempted to find them but was quickly overcome by the smoke. He exited the building and barely able to breath called for help. The other three DS men made their way to the still burning Villa C in an armored vehicle. With difficulty, they found Smith, who was already dead, but didn’t find Stevens.
All of this transpired over forty-five minutes to an hour. That’s when a seven-member team from the Annex accompanied by a contingent of the February 17 Brigade arrived at Villa C. After further efforts to locate Stevens which were unsuccessful, US personnel along with Smith’s body evacuated to the Annex. Around 11:30 the SMC was abandoned.
Numerous firefights were reported in the sequence of events. There were no reports of injuries from gunshot. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any; only none reported.
Shortly thereafter, what has been called “looters” entered the compound and they discovered Stevens’ body at around 1:00 am and had him taken to a hospital.
Ambassador Stevens was not unfamiliar with Benghazi. He had arrived in Benghazi on April 5, 2011 as the Special Envoy to the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC). He established the SMC in July, and remained there until November 17, 2011. On May 26, 2012, he returned to Libya as the US Ambassador at the Embassy in Tripoli. It was his decision to arrange the four trip beginning September 10th.
If the intent of the men that stormed the SMC was to “kill Americans,” they didn’t seem well prepared for the task. No bombs or IUDs. Nobody shot. They couldn’t even have known that Stevens and Smith were in Villa C and that they would die of smoke inhalation. Nobody died or was injured from the fire set on the guards barracks.
From Sean Flynn at GQ:
Ten days after the attack on Château Christophe, on what was to have been an American Space, 30,000 Benghazi civilians marched in the streets and drove the Islamist militias from their city. Thousands sent condolences to his family. And on a memorial website, scattered among the stories from old friends and colleagues, there are notes from ordinary Libyans who never even met the man. They say things like:
I feel ashamed that a man like this was killed by a bunch of low life, religious zealot cowards. This is a man that has done so much for Libya.
And: Amb Chris Stevens, all the Libyan people love you and will never forget your views toward us here in Libya.
And: We feel very sorry, please forgive us, we love you chris and your family also all american.
Not the standard response in that region of world when an American is killed by “terrorists.” And maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was a victim of an irrational response to that video that was like a lit fuse to a powder keg. But that part of the story seems to have disappeared.