POL 103: Benghazi Project: Securing Benghazi Podcast

Part I

Segment 1: What happened?

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the topic of Benghazi will be introduced. The course of what happened is very important, and many people will be ready to jump on any boat to wound Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Obama administration, which means they most likely won’t know the facts—or as many facts as they should. Coming into the research for Securing Benghazi, I only knew that Benghazi was a massive explosion in Libya that everyone blamed Hillary Clinton for. I knew that an important man was killed, but I had no idea who he was or what he did. I had no idea why he was even there. In order to understand the situation at hand, it is vastly important to understand, or at least be aware of, what happened in Benghazi.

For reference, the final investigation report of the Benghazi attack is a useful source, but like a fair share of people, I’m not so sure the government didn’t either a) try to cover their tracks or b) blame everything on Clinton simply because who she is and who she was working with at the time. Instead, however, a timeline of Benghazi was posted in the Washington Post by writer Anup Kaphle. This was a fairly unbiased, standard play-by-play of what happened that night in Benghazi, the following day, and an update the month following with the progress of the investigation. In a complex and chaotic situation like the Benghazi attack, it’s so easy to forget the very basics of what happened. Kaphle’s timeline of the night helps ground the investigation into what happened on the night of September 11, 2012.

In Kaphle’s timeline, he states that at approximately 9:40p.m., unidentified gunmen began to open fire on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The security team of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens are separated from him. There’s a two-hour fight before security can begin to repel the attackers. At 10:30p.m., the U.S. Ambassador and the Department information management office Sean Smith hid in a main building in the compound. The militants set the building aflame. In the timeline, the AP news alert reporting at least one death in the Benghazi attack is stated to have been released at 1:45a.m. The timeline then moves back to the scene at hand. Within three hours, Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, former Navy SEALs, are killed. Within minutes of that, it’s documented that Clinton made a statement, condemning the acts carried out that night, saying, “There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The segment will break down each section of Kaphle’s timeline as well as add in portions from the Final Report of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012

Terrorist Attack in Benghazi from the House of Representative’s investigation into the attack. This will help to provide a broad image of what happened in Benghazi, adding details that the public may not be completely aware of, in order to see the full picture.

 

Gowdy, Trey, et al. “Final Report of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012Terrorist Attack in Benghazi.” U.S. Government Publishing Office, December 7 2016, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-114hrpt848/pdf/CRPT-114hrpt848.pdf

 

Kaphle, Anup. “Timeline: How the Benghazi Attacks Played Out.” The Washington Post, 14 June 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/timeline-how-the-benghazi-attack-played-out/2014/06/17/a5c34e90-f62c-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html?utm_term=.a43fbc32b7d3.

 

Segment 2: Warning

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the discussion of what was happening in Benghazi, Libya pre-attack will be brought to the surface. Naturally, the United States knew a civil war was going on in Libya. They knew sending a U.S. ambassador over during that time would be risky, but things weren’t being done correctly in the government compound; in this case, they knew there were security issues in the complex. When nothing was being done about it, the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens decided it was time for him to go over and figure out what was going on in the situation in Libya.

CNN correspondent Arwa Damon looked into what happened in Libya the days before the attack on the compound. According to Jamal Mabrouk, a member of the February 17th brigade, informed CNN that there were concerns for both the economy and security. He even went so far as to warn the United States diplomats in the town. He even pointed out that the current situation in Libya wasn’t good for business, and it wasn’t good for the diplomats to be there. According to Mabrouk, this wasn’t the first time he had tried to warn people about the disastrous environment of Libya; he knew armed jihadists were rising in numbers in the Benghazi area, and attempted to warn as many foreigners as he could. Of course, many of them knew some of the situation, so the warnings were ignored. As far as Ambassador Stevens was concerned, he was there on a mission, and he was to complete that mission, particularly because it revolved around security issues on the compound that weren’t being acknowledged by various, higher-up people than him, like Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the Secretary of State at the time. Clinton’s office was sent requests to help fix the security issues, and it’s unsure what happened there, but Ambassador Stevens took matters in his own hands by going over to Benghazi to investigate the situation.

According to one of the security guards, the attack on the compound came from three different directions, making it nearly impossible to find the culprit. According to Damon’s article, there was a safe-house affiliated with the February 17th Brigade—a militia that had relations with the government without being part of its military. Upon the Brigade inquiring if the Americans needed help, they were declined, saying that the situation was “under control.” Clearly, that wasn’t the case. However, if the Brigade was wanting to help the United States in such a war state, why didn’t they offer the safe-house to Ambassador Stevens? Of course, even if they had, Stevens’s security detail probably would have insisted that they were fine and knew how to do their jobs. That begs the question: if they knew how to do their jobs and everything was “under control,” then why did they leave the Ambassador during the attack? Why did they leave him on his own? Maybe they didn’t anticipate the attack being quite as severe as it was. In any case, the lead up to the attack seemed as if there could have potentially been other security details that could have been carried out, but weren’t. This isn’t saying that they deserved to get attacked, but they greatly underestimated the acts of the jihadists, especially during the Libyan Civil War.

 

Damon, Arwa. “More Details Emerge on U.S. Ambassador’s Last Moments.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Sept. 2012, edition.cnn.com/2012/09/15/world/meast/libya-diplomats-warning/index.html.

 

Segment 3: Security: Doing Their Job

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the matter of security will be discussed. In previous segments, security is mentioned quite often, being described or referenced as the reason for U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip to Benghazi as well as the reasoning or countering of the accusations against former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s guilt in the matter, which seems to be all anyone ever wants to tie her to anymore.

In the first chapter of Garrett Savitt’s The Attack in Benghazi, Libya, Savitt documents an Accountability Review Board for Benghazi’s review to examine the facts and situations involved in the attack. On the first page, it mentions that over the span of September 11, 2012 to September 12, 2012, there were attacks involving “arson, small-arms and machine-gun fire, and use of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), grenades and mortars…” Needless to say, this was a well-planned, high-stake attack. Although the attackers probably didn’t know that the U.S. Ambassador was there, it does appear that they were ready for anything. They meant business, and they were ready to kill, and they did.

One aspect of this that continues to not make sense to me is that the security detail for U.S. Ambassador Stevens left him alone to go hold off the attackers. They left him alone during an attack. On page 12 of Savitt’s document, it states that “the Board recognizes that poor performance does not ordinarily constitute a breach of duty that would serve as a basis for disciplinary action but is instead addressed through the performance management system.” Essentially, the security men were doing their jobs. In their situation of chaos, they did what they thought was best in order to protect the Ambassador. Just because their plan didn’t work out doesn’t mean they weren’t doing their jobs. According to the Board, even if they did a poor job, the security detail still did their job. In the following section, it says, “The Board was humbled by the courage and integrity shown by those on the ground in Benghazi and Tripoli, in particular the DS agents and Annex team who defended their colleagues…” Clearly, the men were doing their jobs to protect those in the Annex. This is probably why the two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who were CIA operatives at the time, lost their lives during the attack—they were doing their jobs.

Even if there were issues with security prior to the attack, it is clear that during the attack, the situation was being handled as best it could be. The men weren’t anticipating an attack, especially one of that magnitude, but they were ready for it, if they had to be, and it’s good they were. Although many men, Americans and Libyans, died, there had been efforts to save their lives during the attack. It may not have been a “poor performance,” but it wasn’t the greatest operation in military history. It clearly wasn’t, because four Americans died as a result of the attack.

Savitt, Garrett. The Attack in Benghazi, Libya. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2013. Foreign Policy of the United States. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1423369&site=eds-live.

 

Segment 4: What else was going on?

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the discussion will focus on what else was happening at the time of the Benghazi attack of 2012. At the time of the attack, there was a civil war going on in Libya. The uprising began in February of 2011, which obviously had a lot of buildup in the fight. The whole region was having uprisings, but this was the start of the Benghazi uprising. Naturally, as in most civil wars, the government began to use force on civilians and arresting the peaceful protestors. The uprising was against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. As the rebellion continued in revolt of his government’s arrests, his officers began executing prisoners in their custody. Throughout this ordeal, many civilians went missing. The number of missing and dead civilians is unclear. Missing persons in the conflict was one of its most problematic aspects.

Another problem in Libya at the time was the detention facilities. A vast number of local security forces in various cities across Libya created and sustained their own detention facilities. This made having a unified civilian command difficult.

But during the civil war, missing persons didn’t only consist of civilians. There were bodies of Gaddafi’s supporters found outside a hotel, where rebel forces were based.

During the war, countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates supported the anti-Gaddafi rebellion. These countries, as well as the body of the European Union, had a major stake in seeing the Libyan government’s respect towards human rights and the dictated laws. After 42 years of a one-family rule, the country had to figure out how to rule a country with a government, not a one-family system. This was one of the challenges that Libya faced amongst its civil war.

From February to August, Gaddafi forces arrested thousands of people, which mainly include anti-government protesters, suspected government critics, and people who have given information to international media and human rights organizations—essentially anyone who spoke out against the government or let anyone outside the country know about it. Many of those arrested were civilians, who were doctors, journalists, and simply people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many of those released from prison during or after the war reported that there was frequent torture in the facilities—and some even died from the abuse they suffered in the prisons or the lack of medical care they needed in order to survive. On top of the other issues during the time, there were also gang rape and sexual assault of both men and women by Gaddafi’s forces, including some in custody. With all that in mind, it’s safe to assume that the situations were so foul, it would be fairly easy for people with injuries and little to no proper medical care to survive.

This has shown a small glimpse of what happened during the uprising against Gaddafi’s rule. The people were looking for change, yet continued to be oppressed. As mentioned in Segment 2 Warning, the conditions weren’t safe, and everyone knew it. Although the annex was targeted, the men there were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, like many of the arrested Libyan civilians.

 

“World Report 2012: Rights Trends in World Report 2012: Libya.” Human Rights Watch, 22 Jan. 2012, www.hrw.org/world-report/2012/country-chapters/libya.

 

Segment 5: Post-Attack: What do we do now?

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the international playing field in aid and assessing the area after the fact. The United States’ often views the Middle East as a terroristic zone; it’s become a part of the mentality. The government knew that there was a Libyan Civil War taking place, which is why they were stationed there, yet it seems like after the attack in Benghazi, there’s been an overwhelming gloom surrounding the topic of the area. Republicans across the United States seem to want to pin all the blame on Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, and President Obama. In his piece Remember Benghazi? Eric Alterman begs the question, “Is it the president of the United States or even the secretary of state who determines the security arrangements for our far-flung embassies and consulates?” He then provides a report of New York Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick’s research into what happened in Benghazi to provide the answer. Kirpatrick found evidence to discredit the majority of claims that Republicans have made against Obama and Clinton. A narrative placing the blame on Al Qaeda for carefully planning and executing the attack surfaced—something that could in no way be at the fault of the former Secretary of State and President.

From Alterman’s piece, it is fair to say that the majority of news sources through the media have Republican views. What does this mean for the country? Well, it makes quite a struggle to get the government and citizens okay with helping the country with a continuing civil war. According to Michael W. Doyle, “Other countries, including Russia and China, were deeply influenced by the demands for action from the developing world, and even more by defection of Libya’s ministers of the interior and of justice and especially of Libya’s two leading diplomats at the UN, who denounced the regime’s killing of innocent demonstrators and called for intervention.” Of course, the diplomats were skeptical of this because of rivalries on the ground in Libya. In March of 2011, the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shared that there was a lack of U.S. interest in Libya, warning against action. Doyle argues that the lack of U.S. aid in Libya have resulted in what can now be seen in Syria. The worry for the sovereignty of the nations has surfaced, and no one wants to touch the civil war-ridden region.

In his piece Assessing (in)Security After the Arab Spring: The Case of Libya, Brian McQuinn argues that the transition in Libya is “contested by an increasingly complex and polarized set of political and military actors.” He goes to say that the local extremist groups are essentially fueled by this deadlock caused by complexity, and are taking advantage of the weak security system. It seems like that could potentially be one of the reasons the Annex was so easily attacked. The support of NATO members says that Libya’s security sector is vital to the transition of the state’s success. Without a strong security system, the civil war will not be resolved and the aid of other countries will not be given. The nation needed to stabilize before anything could be done…but nothing could stabilize amidst the civil war, leaving the situation at a standstill.

 

Alterman, Eric. “Remember ‘Benghazi’?.” Nation, vol. 298, no. 4, 27 Jan. 2014, pp. 6-8. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=93601498&site=ehost-live.

 

McQuinn, Brian. “Assessing (in)Security After the Arab Spring: The Case of Libya.” PS, Political Science & Politics, vol. 46, no. 4, 2013, pp. 716-720, Political Science Database, http://0-search.proquest.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/docview/1437643789?accountid=8381, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1049096513001170.

 

Segment 6: What’s being done to help?

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the podcast is taking a turn. Post-Benghazi will be discussed as well as what can be taken away from the situation. A section of the Foreign Service Journal entitled Learning from Benghazi breaks down the 24 key recommendations that the Obama administration swore to implement after the Benghazi attack in 2012. These 24 recommendations were spelled out in the Accountability Review Board’s report on Benghazi, which was mentioned in segment three of the podcast, Security: Doing Their Job. The whole list of recommendations is, essentially, based off of all the mistakes made during the attack and how they could learn from them. The very first recommendation on the list requires the Department of State to “strengthen security forces for personal and platforms beyond traditional reliance on host government security support in high-risk, high-threat posts. The department should urgently review the proper balance between acceptable risk and expected outcomes in high-risk, high-threat areas.” This validates that there was an issue with security in Benghazi. The list breaks down department regulations in an attempt to prevent a similar attack from occurring. On October 16, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed her responsibility for the failure in security at the US consulate in Benghazi. She also said, “What we had to do in the state department was keep focused not on why something happened – that was for the intelligence community to determine – but what was happening and what could happen.” In this visit, Clinton acknowledged the state department’s misplaced focus and intent to shift to better focus on the situation at hand. This was another lesson learned from the 2012 Benghazi attack. Although the attack of the consulate happened in Benghazi, Libya, no one protested against the United States for “allowing” an allegedly profane video that was set to be uploaded online. The only demonstration that the state of Libya was against was the attack on the consulate by the radical Islamists that killed Ambassador Stevens. It wasn’t the Libyan people who were to be seen as the “enemy,” but the terrorist groups.

In Spencer Zifcak’s The Responsibility to Protect After Libya and Syria, the post-Libyan war is discussed. Zifcak writes, “…the strength of feeling on the Security Council in favour of intervention to protect Libyan civilians outweighed the profound reservations of members who remained committed to the principle of nonintervention in Libya’s sovereign affairs.” The members of the Security Council decided to intervene, acknowledging that the civilian’s lives were more valuable than the members who didn’t want to interfere with another state’s sovereign issues, which tends to be a common stance.

The situation in Benghazi was focused on security. In every aspect of what happened, security can be brought up to prove a flaw in what happened. Although many of these security aspects were learned from after the attack, they still play a vital role in the Benghazi attack. The 2012 Benghazi attack happened because of a flaw in the security system, but there was so much to be learned from it. Hopefully, a situation as vast as the one in Benghazi can be prevented in the future.

 

“Learning from Benghazi.” Foreign Service Journal, vol. 90, no. 2, Feb. 2013, pp. 12-15. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=86925089&site=ehost-live.

 

Totten, Michael J. “No Exit: Why the US Can’t Leave the Middle East.” World Affairs, vol. 176,

  1. 4, Nov/Dec2013, pp. 8-14. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=91834878&site=eds-live.

Zifcak, Spencer. The Responsibility to Protect After Libya and Syria. (2012). Melbourne Journal of International Law; Melbourne. Vol. 13, Issue 1; 59-93. https://0-search-proquest-com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/docview/1289021182/abstract/A87A627A5B5E4576PQ/37?accountid=8381

 

Part II

 

Libya visit - PM addresses crowd in Benghazi

“Libya visit – PM addresses crowd in Benghazi”by UK Prime Minister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Part III

 

Reflection

 

This class has changed my view on world affairs by showing me how in-depth the processes and committees are to create policies, give aid, bring criminals to justice etc. Even through the Serial podcast, there was a certain depth of the power chain that really came into question. My understanding of cultures hasn’t really changed with the assignments throughout the semester; being raised in a very cultural environment and being constantly exposed to various cultures, I had a lot of cultural context and considerations coming into the class. The class did, however, remind me why culture is so important to world politics, which I think is something often forgotten. From this class, I’ve learned quite a bit about global events, and I feel as if I’m much more knowledgeable about them from the Serial podcast and readings we’ve done in class, as well as this very project.

After this course, I definitely feel much better about researching and pulling evidence from variety of credible sources. Going into this project, I wasn’t very confident of it, but that’s definitely changed over the course of the semester and the project. As a result of this course, I don’t know if I feel more engaged in global affairs, but I do feel more empathetic to global affairs and the people who work on them (or don’t). I know more than I did before this course, as we were greatly exposed to global affairs for class.

Context Statement

This is a post from the Fall of my sophomore year at Agnes Scott; it was the final project for my Introduction to Political Science course. This was a massive project for me and it’s something I can really see my growth from. Since then, I’ve edited a little bit because I didn’t like the Youtube video I put on it. I found a photo that’s legally able to use and have listed the proper copyrights associated with the photo.