By JAMES H. "SMOKEY" SHOTT
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The following timeline of events is what we know about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya:
• April 5, 2011: Christopher Stevens arrives in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to forge ties with the forces battling Moammar Gadhafi. President Obama appoints him as ambassador to Libya on May 22, 2012.
• February: The U.S. embassy requests and is granted a four-month extension, until August, of a Tripoli-based “site security team” composed of 16 special forces soldiers who provide security, medical and communications support to the embassy.
• March: State Department Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom sends a cable to Washington asking for additional diplomatic security agents for Benghazi, and later says he received no response. He repeats his request in July and again gets no response.
• April 6: Two fired Libyan security guards throw an IED over the consulate fence.
• May 22: An Islamist attack on the Red Cross office in Benghazi is followed by a Facebook post that warns “now we are preparing a message for the Americans,” and another a month later highlights Ambassador Stevens’ daily jogs in Tripoli in an apparent threat. The Red Cross closed the office.
• June 6: Unknown assailants blow a hole in the consulate’s north gate described by a witness as “big enough for 40 men to go through,” and four days later, the British ambassador’s car is ambushed by militants with a rocket-propelled grenade. The British close the consulate soon thereafter.
• July: The anti-Islam video “Innocence of Muslims” is posted on YouTube.
• Aug. 14: The US security team leaves Libya, despite Ambassador Steven’s desire that they remain, according to team leader Lt. Col. Andy Wood.
• In the weeks before Sept. 11: Libyan security guards are reportedly warned by family members of an impending attack. On Sept. 8, the Libyan militia tasked with protecting the consulate warns U.S. diplomats that the security situation is “frightening.”
• Sept. 10: Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri calls on Libyans to avenge the death of his Libyan deputy, Abu Yahya al Libi, killed in a June drone strike in Pakistan.
The next night, Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans, including two who disobeyed orders and came to help defend the consulate, are murdered in an attack that was unquestionably not the result of an obscure anti-Islam video.
Even dedicated Obama apologists cannot ignore the evident rising danger leading up to Sept. 11 that included violence serious enough to close the Red Cross office and the British consulate, and the direct violent attacks on the U.S. consulate, and yet the needed and requested security enhancements were not provided.
It gets worse.
From The Hill: “High-level staffers removed vital pieces of information tying terrorist organizations to attacks. They knew early on that radical Islamic terrorists participated in the attack. The former Deputy Chief of Mission to Libya, Gregory Hicks, said in the [Congressional] hearing, ‘none of us should ever again experience what we went through in Tripoli and Benghazi on 9/11/2012.’ He went on to say he had personally told former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at 2 a.m. the night of the attack that it was a terrorist attack. Gregory Hicks also testified that Secretary Clinton’s claiming the attack was incited by a YouTube video caused Libyan officials to hinder the FBI’s arrival to the scene.” For his forthrightness Mr. Hicks was demoted by the State Department.
Some question the veracity of the three witnesses who testified at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This is a predictable, if foolish, effort to discredit these witnesses. But these people are not bystanders; they are not people who are going to report on hearsay; they are not political operatives. In fact, Gregory Hicks is a registered Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary. These people were directly involved in different capacities before, during and after the attack. They are totally credible, and deserve not only our respect and appreciation, but our attention to their message.
So what went wrong? There are three possibilities: massive bureaucratic incompetence; the administration was asleep at the wheel; or the administration put political considerations ahead of doing the right thing. Negative repercussions of an Islamist terrorist attack on a U.S. facility on the iconic date of Sept. 11, right before a presidential election, drove the administration to concoct an implausible scenario to try to deflect attention from the reality that al-Qaeda had indeed not been vanquished, contrary to Barack Obama’s boasting to the contrary.
In answer to Hillary Clinton’s asinine question: “What difference ... does it make?” It makes a huge difference. Four people died as a result of your and/or the administration’s mishandling of this event, Ms. Clinton, and the people you worked for deserve to know who screwed up, and why.
We hired Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and every other public servant to act in the best interest of the American people and the nation, and expect them to put their personal political considerations aside. That clearly did not happen in Benghazi. There is no greater disservice.
James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.