THE SANTA CLARA
November 7, 2013
Somebody in Washington D.C. made a huge mistake.
In the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was pulled into the street where he endured a vicious beating before his attackers took his life. Stevens was only the sixth U.S. ambassador to be killed in a violent terrorist attack.
And the first since 1979.
During a press conference in May 2013, President Barack Obama was questioned about the administration’s response to Benghazi.
“Immediately after this event happened … nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those few days,” said Obama.
The facts tell a different story.
Not only did administration officials know exactly what was happening, they were even warned of the likelihood of an attack in cables sent from Stevens to both the State Department and the Department of Defense.
Uncovering the truth behind the Benghazi attack is about more than party politics. It’s about more than security and peace of mind for U.S. diplomats stationed in hostile and unstable environments.
It’s about determining who is responsible for allowing — through neglect or otherwise — a United States ambassador to be tortured and killed.
Last month, “60 Minutes” aired a segment on the Sept. 11, 2012 incident on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The segment was presented by CBS reporter Lara Logan and was the first account to include exclusive footage of U.S. officials speaking about what went wrong.
As Logan reports, several factors played into the devastating success of the perpetrators.
First, intelligence collected by U.S. security officials predicted a possible incident, but it was not passed along.
Al-Qaida groups in the area posted online that they planned to go after the Red Cross, then the British ambassador and then the U.S. Embassy. The attacks were carried out in exactly that order.
One of the top U.S. security officials in the region, Lt. Colonel Andy Wood, a Green Beret commander, recognized the pattern, predicted an attack on the embassy and warned that the ambassador should “break up his security profile” by either temporarily shutting down the embassy or moving to another location.
Despite Wood’s warnings to the ambassador and to Washington D.C., nothing was done.
In addition, U.S. officials were warned that the Libyan force tasked with protecting the U.S. compound in the event of an attack was not prepared to do so, and would run at the first sign of trouble — which they did.
Upon hearing of the attack, Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, did all he could to bring in additional security assets. Ultimately, the call was made higher up the chain of command — where exactly is still unclear — that the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi would not be receiving help.
“For the people that go out onto the edge to represent our country, we believe that if we get in trouble, they’re coming to get us, that our back is covered. To hear that it’s not, it’s a terrible, terrible experience,” Hicks said.
Four people were killed in the attack — including Stevens. It was predicted and preventable. And yet, a U.S. ambassador was killed while his country stood by, arms crossed.
Since the attack, nobody within the administration has been held accountable. Whoever made the call to deny a U.S. Embassy the critical security assets it needed has not been identified.
And apart from coverage of Congressional hearings, not much has been said in the major media outlets regarding the Benghazi attack. That’s shameful.
Washington D.C.’s failure to act on the behalf of an American embassy under siege is unconscionable. It sends a signal to U.S. diplomats abroad, that the country they are risking their safety to represent may not be there when their lives depend on it.
The “60 Minutes” segment has set a precedent for the rest of the mainstream media: Benghazi is a real story, and as such, it demands attention.
It’s time to bring those responsible for the death of Ambassador Stevens to justice.
Watch the 60 Minutes segment on Benghazi below
Marcel Weiland is a senior political science major.