The just-published blockbuster book Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi tells the story of a consulate that wasn’t really a consulate. That had security that wasn’t really security. That was breached in a matter of seconds. That was attacked by an al-Qaeda group that knew the layout of the consulate down to where the gasoline, used to torch the safe haven that Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith fled to as the attack began, was kept.
It’s not a pretty story.
According to Under Fire, the al-Qaeda group that attacked the consulate, Ansar al-Sharia, were given intelligence not only about the layout of the consulate, but its lack of security, revealing that the Americans living and working at the consulate were sitting ducks.
After Ambassador Chris Stevens had been begging Washington to provide additional security for the consulate for months and been turned down repeatedly, he sought help from the local Libyan militia and police, who also turned him down. Ansar al-Sharia, according to Fred Burton, the author of Under Fire, appeared to know more about the security—or lack of security—of the consulate than the entire Obama administration.
Shockingly, the perimeter guards of the consulate, local Libyans making the equivalent of $4.00 an hour, weren’t armed. And the gate security, a handful of February 17 militia, were “armed” with Tasers and handcuffs. The State Department had contracted with the al-Qaeda-linked group, the February 17 militia, that had three months before the attack taken part in a parade, waving the al-Qaeda flag!
Most of this “security” melted away into the night after the attack began.
We often picture the consulate as being in the middle of nowhere, with no one around to offer any help. In fact it was located in a populous, upperclass neighborhood with the police and fire station only minutes away. Neighbors sat on their porches and watched the consulate burn as a kind of entertainment to pass the night away. As the hours passed and the men changed from Ansar al-Sharia carrying AK-47s to looters that found the body of Chris Stevens and dragged him through the streets yelling “Allahu Akbar,” no Libyan military showed up. No police. No fire department. Because there was basically no central functioning government.
Reportedly, according to Under Fire, the Turkish consul general, Ali Sait Akin, who had had a meeting with Ambassador Chris Stevens an hour before the attack, watched the consulate burn from the balcony of a nearby hotel.
In 2010, Barack Obama had told America that we needed to fund the Libyan “rebels”—made up primarily of al-Qaeda—to topple Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. And what was left was anarchy, with bands of various al-Qaeda groups roaming the streets, armed with weapons taken from Gaddafi’s storehouses that were left unguarded once Gaddafi fell. Sound familiar? Obama wants to do the same thing in Syria.
In one of the most telling passages in Fred Burton’s book, Under Fire, he says the following:
…There was no centralized government in Libya; had there been one, one call could have brought a thousand heavily armed soldiers to the front door of Ambassador Stevens’s villa seconds after the first attack commenced.
But this isn’t the worst of it. You see, Ambassador Chris Stevens and Communications officer Sean Smith didn’t have to die.