Sunday, March 10, 2013

Benghazi - Six Months Later

Monday, March 11th, will mark the six month anniversary of the terrorist attack on our U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.  While more information about what actually happened has been uncovered over those months, there are still many details missing and many questions left unanswered.

The American public knows that the assault on our consulate was a deliberate terrorist attack.  Most of us have known that since it happened although some believed the “spontaneous protest because of a video” story that the White House stuck with for two weeks after the assault.  What we don’t know (and can only speculate at this point) is why the Obama administration kept telling the lie about the video (including to the UN 14 days later) even as other sources had already revealed the truth about the assault.  Five days after the assault the Libyan interim President stated on international television that it was a terrorist attack associated with Al Qaeda, yet our President, Secretary of State, Ambassador to the UN and White House Press Secretary kept repeating the story about the video.

During testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated that he knew it was a terrorist attack almost immediately.  He also said he went to the White House and informed the President, who then was absent from the situation room for the rest of the night.  Where was the President?  Did he do anything?  Did he call anyone?  Did he order a military response?  Just what did he do?  Those are questions that have yet to be answered.

Leon Panetta said he didn’t order a military response because “you don’t send troops into harm’s way if you don’t know what’s going on.”  Wait…  he knew the compound was under attack by terrorists.  He said so.  There were reaction teams at various bases in the Mediterranean region that could have been there within 90 minutes or less.  There were CIA agents at an annex just across town that started to respond and were told to stand down, who then disobeyed orders and went anyway.  There was a ship in the Persian Gulf that readied a response team and the ship’s Captain was ordered to stand down.  And a rescue team sent from Tripoli was held up at the airport for over three hours by Libyan officials.  One phone call from the President could have eliminated that problem.

Six months later we now know that a reaction team responded from the annex and assisted in rescuing people who were trapped inside the consulate.  Fires had been started in all three buildings.  Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith and Scott Strickland barricaded themselves in a safe room, behind a locked steel grill.  The windowless room was dark and when several attackers came to the grill they could not see the men in the room and went on.  When the smoke became unbearable they opened the grill and broke out a window.  Strickland got out the window but the other two did not follow.  He went back inside but could not find the other two men.  He went to the roof to signal for help.  Ambassador Stevens and Smith were apparently overcome with smoke inhalation and died inside the building.

Smith’s body was retrieved by the team responding from the annex.  Stevens’ body could not be located at the time.  When the rescue team from Tripoli finally arrived the consulate compound had been evacuated and the fight had moved to the CIA annex.  It’s there that Tyrone Woods and Glenn Doherty, who had been in the fight the entire night, died from mortar fire.

The biggest question, and the most important in my book, is where are the survivors?  There are reports of anywhere from 10 to 30 survivors of the attack that night.  At least 10 of them were injured and are supposedly in military hospitals under assumed names.  Why would that be?  Why is it when Congressmen and Senators ask for the names and locations of the survivors the State Department denies their requests?  Why is it there has been no public statement made by a survivor and none have testified before the Foreign Relations Committee?  What is the Obama administration hiding from the American people?

I’ve heard everything from a large clandestine operation in Libya that cannot be revealed, even at the expense of the ambassador and others, to a huge cover-up of gross negligence and blunders by the Obama administration.  I don’t know the truth.  And I doubt we’ll get it any time soon.  But the question remains…  where are the survivors?  And why are they not a part of the investigatory hearings?  Why does the administration keep them hidden?  Where are their family members?  Where are they???

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