Benghazi — some fact, some fiction and a lot of fantasy
by Mike Boyce
Columnist
November 12, 2012 11:57 PM | 2591 views | 4 4 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There is much to comment and perhaps criticize about the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. But I have read little that comes close to understanding the reality of working in an embassy in the Middle East and the threats contained therein. Having been a member of three U.S. Embassies in the region for more than six years, I hope the following can separate fact from fantasy.

The first line of defense for each U.S. Embassy is the host nation. If the local populace, as in Egypt, makes it onto Embassy property, particularly in the Middle East, then in many cases it is because the host nation allowed such a lapse in security or their own security arrangements were inadequate. It has been acknowledged by the State Department that local militia had been hired in Benghazi as one element of protection because of the inadequacy of Libyan security.

Security at the embassy is the responsibility of the Regional Security Officer who is a member of the State Department and a member of the embassy staff. A common misunderstanding is that the Marines guard our embassies. They are armed. However, their primary responsibility is protecting classified material and they come under the operational control of the RSO for that mission.

Which segues into what is the role of the Defense Department in guarding embassies and consulates? It depends on each embassy and the ability of the combatant commanders to support any contingency plan to protect an embassy. Our military simply does not have the capability to defend every embassy. As to the military offices in the embassy, the two main ones — the security assistance and defense attaché offices (I have worked in both) report to two separate military organizations. These offices are administrative in nature and have no offensive or defensive capabilities.

There are support teams from our operational forces that can augment security at an embassy. However, unless they are coincidentally in country on a mission, the delay (and confusion) surrounding the military deployment to Benghazi is the norm not the exception. There seems to be an assumption by many that we have forces stationed throughout Europe and Africa that can be repositioned like chess pieces. Many would be surprised by the impact that sourcing troops for the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars has had on our operational reach as have drawn down our military forces since the Wall fell.

Fourthly, there is no shortage of information at each embassy about potential threats. As the senior defense representative in the Embassy, I had access to hundreds of pages of intelligence analysis and raw data. The fundamental question was and is: What are the enemy’s intentions? Good luck with that, as we have seen before and after 9/11.

The operative questions regarding Benghazi surround the embassy’s threat assessment and its plan to address the known challenges. Whatever the nature of the plan, it was clearly overtaken by events. The focus of any hearing should be on measures to prevent this from happening again.

Much has been made that Ambassador Stevens sent cables expressing concern about the security situation in Libya. If his concern was that great, why did he exchange the relative safety of the Embassy in Tripoli for the acknowledged exposed facility at Benghazi? While some see a sinister conspiracy directed from Washington, I like to believe that he did so for the same reason that our troops leave the safety of their base camps — because you don’t win this kind of war by sitting in your castle. That he and others were ambushed and died in Benghazi speaks to the asymmetric nature of this war, where every American is considered a legitimate target by Islamic terrorists. The ambassador took a measured risk and he guessed wrong. The four men died as casualties of war and their deaths are just as tragic as all the others in this global conflict.

Is the president lying about what happened at Benghazi? Gosh, really? You think? Eisenhower lied about the U-2, Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon lied about Watergate, Reagan lied about selling military equipment to the Iranians, and Clinton lied about Monica.

More exasperating is the insensitivity and ineptness of the White House cover story about the events in Benghazi. Calling the tragedy at Benghazi a bump in the road goes beyond the pale of decency, even by Washington political standards. My sense is that nobody saw any possibility of this outcome, which reflects badly on everyone from the president on down to his cabinet and agency members who have offices in the Embassy. This is even more damning if the Benghazi meeting was a cover for a covert operation.

Now the rats are abandoning a sinking ship and distancing themselves from the White House story. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that DoD started cold that night and the CIA has taken the remarkable step of outing its fallen members who died.

There is no unity to the message coming out of Washington because I believe there was no unified plan for going into Benghazi. That alone speaks to the complacency of all involved. For that people should be held accountable.

Probably the most surprised group that night was the al-Qaida cell which could not believe the gift horse they were given in a virtually unprotected high-value American asset.

The hearings this week are an opportunity for Congress to separate fact from fiction. CIA Director David Petraeus’ resignation so close to the hearings darkens already murky waters. Petraeus’ conduct may or may not have influenced his judgment on Benghazi but that should only be one element of the main effort in unraveling ground truth that night of Sept. 11 in the American consulate.

We lost this battle. We should honor the heroes in this fight by affording them the right to lie in peace at Arlington National Cemetery and ensuring as part of their legacy that we learned from their sacrifices.

Mike Boyce is a retired Marine colonel and lives in east Cobb.
Comments
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Beverly Campbell
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November 14, 2012
Thanks, Mike.... Very informative article about the situation there. Did you know a former ambassador to Iraq and Macedonia Christopher Hill? He was interviewed on NPR Talk of the Nation yesterday: Diplomatic Security: What Went Wrong In Benghazi. :
Oliver G. Halle
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November 13, 2012
Mike, an exceptionl, timely, factual piece of writing. Thank you for putting your neck out there for some of the conspiracy nuts to chop off. You laid a good foundation for readers who are following this story. In time all the investigations should be made public and we will know what occurred, who was responsible for any failures, and hopefully, how to prevent something like this from happening again. But then again, some of the conspiracy theorists won't accept the results no matter what. They hear voices that tell them what others are thinking, planning, plotting, and scheming. Perhaps Medicare Part D, the single most expensive entitlement program ever and passed by the Bush Republicans, will allow them to get some much needed discount medication to calm them down.
LB Armstrong
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November 13, 2012
Oliver, I'm not old enough for Medicare, besides, Obama is taking $7 billion away from it to fund Obamacare, so I'll likely never be on Medicare and neither will most of my generation -- we call ourselves the Reagan generation, by the way!

How do YOU feel about your hero, John Kerry (billionaire former Swift Boater in Vietnam for the scenic just-four-months tour) being considered for Sec. of Defense? Remember, according to him our military "terrorizes women and children" and "you better get a good education if you don't want to get stuck joining the military."

One thing for sure, I'll be happy when Petraus testifies before Congress. All the little distractions of a sex scandal will certainly be the focus of the liberal media (who don't care about any of those details when it's a Democrat)but many of us "conspiracy theorists" won't be happy until a full investigation has been accomplished. Frankly, we would rather stake our beliefs in the generals than the politicians, and in this case, once again, Obama has divided our country in a way it's never been divided before. Cloward-Piven lives.
LB Armstrong
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November 13, 2012
Thanks for all the good info Mike. Now for your take on the systematic replacement of all our top military brass by the Stalinistic Obama administration?

Are we really supposed to believe the trash leaking from the Washington cesspool about good men such as Petraus and Gen. Allen? Remember, Allen is the one who stood up for our troops a few weeks back, speaking about the "blue on green" murders and has now been dragged into the "scandal" involving Petraus, which to many military people seems to be gleefully reported by the U.S. Media...same ones who hide congressional and presidential sex scandals regularly.

First it was Gen. Hamm, arrested on the spot during the incident at Benghazi. Then it was the admiral in charge of the battle group in the Med. Then Petraus falls, now Allen? And possibly Panetta? Just wow.

This president is vindictive, and desperate to hide details of Benghazi.He's angry about the 500 generals and admirals who endorsed his opponent last week publicly (though it was not reported by mainstream media). Now he's smearing good men who've sacrificed much, using Holder's FBI (more good men) to do so. Thoughts please??? Laura
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