Gunrunning in Benghazi. For and Against Whom and Why the Attack?

October 24th, 2012

By Dan Miller

Earlier today, I re-blogged a post from Arizona Conservative on U.S. gunrunning in Benghazi. It now seems clear that that is what we were doing. In the re-blog, I asked who conducted the organized military operation against the American compound in Benghazi: were they radical Islamist anti-Assad Jihadists, “moderate” Islamist anti-Assad Jihadists, pro-Assad fighters or what? If, as seems apparent, we were transferring former Libyan weaponry, who stood to benefit by killing Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans who seem to have been there to facilitate the transfers?

Four videos are provided below (thanks and a tip of the hat to Let Freedom Ring) that may shed a little bit of light, although they hardly begin to provide even foggy answers to my questions.

The first two videos involve an interview with a former CIA agent who had found herself in comparable situations elsewhere; then, the U.S. responses were prompt and effective. No comparable response to the situation in Benghazi was made despite warnings from Ambassador Stevens prior to the attack and real-time drone coverage during the attack — available in the White House situation room, at the State Department, at the CIA, at DOD and elsewhere. 

That’s bad, but perhaps even worse from the standpoint of national security are that questions of what we were doing there have been only partially asked but remain unaddressed and questions of why and for whom we were doing it remain largely unasked and unaddressed. There has been no administration clarification or even attempt at clarification; perhaps because the administration still sees no need for it or because it thinks that clarification would be politically disadvantageous.

The need to keep some information secret may be based on national security, and that is understandable. However, this is beginning to smell more and more like pre-election political security for the Obama Administration. Although understandable, that is hardly acceptable.

What we were doing in Benghazi, why, for whom, against whom and who were the attackers?

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)


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5 Responses to “Gunrunning in Benghazi. For and Against Whom and Why the Attack?”



  1. Tom Carter |

    At this point, it seems clear that the Obama Administration attempted to downplay, at least, the fact that al Qaeda and/or associated terrorists conducted a planned attack on the Benghazi facility on the anniversary of 9/11. They presumably did that because it calls into question Obama’s claims of “victory” over al Qaeda and the success of his foreign policy in the Middle East.

    However, to go from that to the broad conspiracy theory flogged by Glenn Beck is a leap way too far.


  2. Dan Miller |

    Tom,

    you say, to go from that to the broad conspiracy theory flogged by Glenn Beck is a leap way too far.

    I had never thought much of Mr. Beck, possibly because I had never paid much attention to him. However, to label something as a “conspiracy theory” on the basis of nothing substantive does not strike me as a valid reason to discredit it. Remember the “vast right wing conspiracy” and the resultant specious allegations about President Clinton’s sexual escapades? I have been unable to think of any better tentative explanations than the ones Mr. Beck and his former CIA agent guest offered and think it’s a “leap way too far” simply to play the man rather than the ball in such circumstances. Perhaps a stained blue dress will materialize, perhaps it won’t.

    (1) Despite repeated Obama Administration and media references to a “consulate” in Benghazi, there is no U.S. consulate there or elsewhere in Libya. There is only an embassy, located in Tripoli. The Embassy website refers to the facility in Benghazi as a “mission.”

    (2) The “mission” in Benghazi had CIA and other agents, but none of the consular officials one would expect to find at U.S. consulates. Apparently, no consular services were offered there.

    (3) Apparently lots of munitions (from undisclosed sources) were stored at Benghazi and they are apparently missing now. Are U.S. “consulates” normally used for such purposes? The Benghazi mission seems to have been a strange place if the purpose was to keep them secure.

    (4) No effective U.S. action was taken to thwart or to end the attack.

    Sources told CBS there were fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships stationed at three nearby bases. But Pentagon officials told reporters the military moved a special ops team from central Europe to Sigonella, Italy instead – an hour’s flight from Libya – and refused to provide further details.

    A White House source told the network that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”

    Surely, the United States had the capability of sending in air strikes or air-mobile forces in such an emergency that could and would have arrived in much “less than 24 hours” and possibly even in time to do some good. That “established policies” (for what circumstances those policies had been established is not clear) allow even more than twenty-four hours raises questions about those policies. I have heard the excuse that “we could not get clearance to enter Libyan airspace.” That rings hollow in view of the drone flying over the mission during the attack. It also seems inconsistent with the claim that the military moved a special ops team from central Europe to Sigonella, Italy instead – an hour’s flight from Libya. . . . How were those folks to get from Sigonella to Benghazi if they could not fly in Libyan airspace? Presumably, it was known that ground based transport takes longer than air travel.

    (5) There has been no official explanation of why the weapons were stored there, of why Ambassador Stevens was meeting there, rather than in Tripoli, with a Turkish “official” or why he was meeting with him.

    (6) Although in a sense it goes against the grain to do so, I have to give President Obama and his advisers at least some credit for competence and for paying attention. The YouTube video explanation that he and his officials, including his ambassador to the U.N., “flogged” (well past its expiration date) at the U.N. and elsewhere, was offered in the face of security warnings from Ambassador Stevens and others before the attack, the availability of real time video from a drone overhead and narratives then or shortly later from agents at the mission. Concessions that there may have been some other cause(s) came only later, still with no credible explanations of why no adequate security measures were taken before or rescue efforts were made during the attack or why the mission was not secured for a long time after the attack.

    (7) In the absence of credible official information, and in the face of official explanations from the President on down that “the YouTube video” was all that was involved, trust in Government cannot suffice and speculation happens. Sometimes speculations turn out to have been more nearly correct than official explanations.


  3. Tom Carter |

    Based on what we know now, I don’t think we can draw such broad conclusions — which could be stretched either way, depending on who’s doing the stretching.

    What we know now is that the President’s Middle East policy is in trouble, bad decisions were made about security in Libya, the Administration tried to gloss it over as being something other than coordinated terrorism, and crisis management in this case was bad.

    It isn’t a big deal that the CIA is/was operating in Libya. They operate in virtually every country where we have a diplomatic presence — that’s not a secret.

    Referring to the Benghazi operation as a “mission,” as State calls it, also isn’t a big deal. It isn’t unusual to refer to an non-consular activity in an area other than the capitol as something like a “mission” or an “office.” One Embassy I worked in had a diplomatic activity called a “U.S. Office” located in another city in a very unstable area of the country. It was used for a wide range of purposes, and the ambassador (and I) was frequently there, meeting with people and doing various other things. Security for that office was also minimal, provided only by local security forces.

    I would also point out that providing significant added security once the attack began would have been very difficult. AC-130 gunships would have been inappropriate, given the destruction they inflict and the fact that the fight was taking place inside a city. Fighter jets pretty much the same problem. Throw in a battalion-sized unit of Marines or Rangers? That would be setting the stage for another Black Hawk Down situation. And keep in mind that when all these decisions were being considered, it probably was not known that there were deaths until it was far too late to do anything about them.

    Monday-morning quarterbacking doesn’t help these kinds of situations, any more than conspiracy theorizing makes positive contributions.


  4. Dan Miller |

    Tom, you say,

    Based on what we know now, I don’t think we can draw such broad conclusions — which could be stretched either way, depending on who’s doing the stretching.

    That’s a big part of the problem. Perhaps President Obama will dignify Speaker Boehner’s request for information (and dignify himself as well by providing it) with a complete, accurate and substantive response.

    You say,

    It isn’t a big deal that the CIA is/was operating in Libya. They operate in virtually every country where we have a diplomatic presence — that’s not a secret.

    Referring to the Benghazi operation as a “mission,” as State calls it, also isn’t a big deal.

    I agree and if the article was not clear on the point I apologize. However, the point I attempted to make was that Obama Administration, and the media following its lead, referred and on occasion still refer to the mission as a “consulate.”

    I agree that providing significant added security once the attack began would have been very difficult. That’s why the rule of the Seven P’s is so important. Driving with defective brakes that have not been repaired can result in similar situations.

    Unless and until the Obama Administration Quarterback provides facts, the external quarterbacking will continue.


  5. Dan Miller |

    Here is some “breaking news” from Fox.

    Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that three urgent requests from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. Consulate and subsequent attack nearly seven hours later were denied by officials in the CIA chain of command — who also told the CIA operators to “stand down” rather than help the ambassador’s team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

    That’s just the first paragraph and there is lots more. There appears to have been a clustercluck, much of it at the CIA headquarters.


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