Undotted i's And Uncrossed t’s
To this writer, a great mystery emanating from the “revelations” or “accounts” of the details of the Benghazi Attack is the absence of reports of casualties amongst the attackers (from local hospitals and/or morgues) and defenders (from media and official accounts).
Veterans who fought in bloody battles in urban environments must find unbelievable the bloodless tale that the “revelations” or “accounts” intend us to believe.
Early media stories were sketchy, inconsistent, and confusing, and they were primarily based on leaks and briefings by and from the Obama Administration. What little on-scene information that came out of Benghazi relied on interviews with Libyans and some embassy people in Tripoli.
Subsequent “revelations” or “accounts” of the details of the Benghazi Attack leave the reader with more questions than answers (following the recent release of attack-day emails, stories that bear a closer relationship to the truth are appearing, but this post will concentrate on what still remains the---improbable-at-best---“official” version of events of the 7-hour battle).
A close look at this “official” version evokes Mary McCarthy’s comment on the writings of Lillian Hellman: “...when she famously said...‘every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'.”
In fact, James Delingpole of the U. K. Telegraph flat out says of the “official” version:
“…almost everything we've been told since by the mainstream media is a lie, invariably one designed to shore up the creaky and desperate Obama administration. Consider how quickly the story was spun by Obama's amen corner in the liberal MSM. It should, according to any objective news sense, have been a shocking tale of how a woefully unprotected ambassador was murdered in cold blood by Al Qaeda affiliates. Instead, it almost immediately became--of all things--an excuse to demonstrate why Mitt Romney was unfit to be president.”
The latest “official” version, from The Daily Beast, seems to have been primarily written by Christopher Dickey (who is taken seriously only by those who take (took?) Newsweek seriously), and the only reason to give it any credit is that Eli Lake seems to have contributed to it.
It adds some fill (note that I do not say “details” nor “facts”) to the “official” version that was “revealed” in the conference call by State on 9 October and expanded upon in a House hearing on 10 October.
I am chary of stepping on thin ice to criticize Bret Baier’s excellent Fox piece and certainly loath to question the reporting of Fox’s outstanding and very brave Greg Palkot, but much in his description of the fighting is also deficient.
From this “official” version we are first supposed to believe that a heavily-armed group of attackers (numbering as many as 125) blew a hole in the wall of the compound containing the Consulate and engaged the defenders in a series of bloodless encounters for an undermined length of time.
Then we are supposed to believe that a much smaller, but well-armed, group of American and Libyan responders arrived, after having travelled some distance from what is called “The Annex,” and entered the compound in a similarly-bloodless-encounter.
We a further supposed to believe that this group gathered up all of the (unwounded) defenders and Mr. Smith’s body and, whilst bloodlessly confronting the attackers, bloodlessly exited the compound---abandoning the undiscovered body of Ambassador Smith--- and fought a running, and bloodless, battle on the roads in a return to the Annex.
Next we are to believe that for over 3 hours bloodless exchanges of fire continued that ended with the killing of the 2 ex-SEALs and the wounding of one of the agents by a single mortar round (Update---the email release give a truer account of the mortar fire that describes many “ranging” rounds).
What follows is a limited “Fisking” of that conference call, Dickey’s piece, and, Palkot’s reporting, and, as it unfolds, readers are asked to consult their memories of the multiple media reports of the past 6 weeks on the actions, for these reports very often conflict---and they are all incomplete---the i's are not dotted nor are the t’s crossed.
Let us begin with the meal with the Turkish diplomat: Who cooked it? Who served it? Who washed the dishes? We are not told, nor are we told if they left the compound before the attack. They represent the first of the unaccounted-for.
Then there is the walk to the gate. Look at these images and ask yourself: Why make the more-than-50-yard walk when the diplomat’s car could easily have driven in rather than sitting and idling on a dangerous street? Note also the 3 gates.
Who opened the gate? Who was in the Staff building at the time of the attack?
Let’s now turn to that conference call:
The compound is roughly 300 yards long – that’s three football fields long – and a hundred yards wide....The compound has four buildings on it....Building C is a building that is essentially a large residence. It has numerous bedrooms...(and) a safe haven installed in it....Building B is another residence on the compound. It has bedrooms and it has a cantina.... The Tactical Operations Center...just across...from Building B, has offices and a bedroom. That’s where the security officers....I’ll call it the TOC from now on.
Let’s pause to note that the talk is of “officers”---plural. To continue:
And then there was a barracks (this would be the “Staff building” in the image---Author) ....a small house by the front gate, the main gate of the compound....(with) a Libyan security force....Security on the compound consists of five Diplomatic Security special agents and four members of the Libyan....and before I go into this discussion of the day of the events of 9/11, I’m going to be – I want to be clear to you all. I am giving you this – you my best shot on this one. I am giving you what I know. I am giving it to you in as much granularity as I possibly can.
Let’s pause to note that this all represents all the “granularity” State has a month after the attack!
About 7:30 in the evening, (Stevens) has his last meeting. It is with a Turkish diplomat. And at – when the meeting is over, at 8:30...(in) Building C...he escorts the Turkish diplomat to the main gate. There is an agent there with them. They say goodbye. They’re out in a street in front of the compound. Everything is calm at 8:30 p.m. There’s nothing unusual. There has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside.
Let’s pause to note that most earlier reports of the attack state that it was extremely unusual for the street to be calm, yet Conan Doyle’s dog didn’t bark at the calmness.
After he sees the Turkish diplomat off, the Ambassador returns to Building C, where the information management officer..Sean Smith, and...four Diplomatic Security agents are all at Building C. One Diplomatic Security agent is in the TOC, the Tactical Operations Center. All of these agents have their side arms.
So we seem, strangely, to have only a total of eleven people in the 270,000 sq. ft. compound (a little more than 6 acres). No cook—no server—no dishwasher—no gatekeepers--no other staff.
A few minutes later – we’re talking about 9 o’clock at night – the Ambassador retires to his room, the others are still at Building C, and the one agent in the TOC. At 9:40 p.m., the agent in the TOC and the agents in Building C hear loud noises coming from the front gate. They also hear gunfire and an explosion. The agent in the TOC looks at his cameras – these are cameras that have pictures of the perimeter – and the camera on the main gate reveals a large number of people – a large number of men, armed men, flowing into the compound. One special agent immediately goes to get the Ambassador in his bedroom and gets Sean, and the three of them enter the safe haven inside the building.
Most accounts say there are “dozens” or “scores” of attackers---one report was that it numbered 125 heavily-armed men---that’s a military-company-sized force.
Some, presumably, go first to the barracks at the front of the compound:
Others proceed to the Main Residence and TOC to encounter Stevens, Smith, and the 5 agents:
Here the briefer goes into a long and confusing discussion of ensuing events:
The agent with the Ambassador in the safe haven has – in addition to his side arm, has his long gun...an M4 submachine gun....The other agents ...run...two of them to Building B, one to the TOC – to get their long guns and...body armor, a helmet, additional munitions....and head back...two...from Building B...head back to Villa C....(and) encounter a large group of armed men between them and Building C...and go back to their Building B and barricade themselves in there....So we have...an agent in Building C with the Ambassador and Sean, we have two agents in Building B, and we have two agents in the TOC. All...attackers penetrate in Building C. They walk around inside the building into a living area, not the safe haven area. The building is dark. They look through the grill, they see nothing. They try the grill, the locks on the grill; they can’t get through....They do not go any further....They have jerry cans full of diesel fuel....(and) light the furniture in the living room....and they have also lit part of the exterior of the building on fire. At the same time, there are other attackers that have penetrated Building B. The two agents in Building B are barricaded in an inner room there. The attackers circulate in Building B but do not get to the agents and eventually leave.
More on the attackers and their methods:
A third group...tried to break into the TOC. They pound away at the door, they throw themselves at the door, they kick the door, they really treat it pretty rough; they are unable to get in, and they withdraw.
There seems to be a lot of moving around with, apparently, no one shooting or having been shot. And the attackers, having blown a hole in the outer wall, fail to blow open the TOC, Buildings B and C, and the Safe Haven. Maybe they only had one explosive charge! Yeah, sure! Why did they not use the RPGs to blow things open or down? Anybody got a dot or a cross?
The briefer then goes to:
...Building C, where the Ambassador is...is rapidly filling with smoke. The attackers have exited. The smoke is extremely thick....diesel smoke...smoke...fumes from the furniture....The Ambassador and the two others...move to...a bathroom that has a window. They open the window...(it is) grilled. They open the window trying to get some air in. That doesn’t help. The building is still very thick in smoke.
So, the attackers have exited, but where did they go? Did some surround Building C?
Thence follows another long, confusing, and incomplete recounting of improbable events that are here recapitulated as a series of questions for which there seem to be no plausible answers in the “official” versions.
Why did the agent exit through the widow before assuring that Stevens and Smith were ready to immediately follow?
Though the patio was sandbagged, why was there no attackers in the area yet he “determine(d) that he’s under fire”?
Why were Smith and Stevens not near the window thereby necessitating the agent’s repeated reentry and re-exiting?
How did the agent manage the difficult ladder climb after having been nearly overcome by the smoke and without being seen (let alone shot) by the attackers who had him “under fire”?
Where were the attackers and why was there no firefight as the other agents came to the aid of those in Building C?
How could one smoke grenade from the agent leaving the TOC obscure all the agents and their activities from “dozens” of firing attackers? From the briefing:
There are, however, plenty of bad guys and plenty of firing still on the compound, and they decide that the safest way for them to move is to go into an armored vehicle, which is parked right there. They get into the armored vehicle and they drive to Building C.
How could 2 agents provide a perimeter against the attackers whilst the others search Building C and recover the agent on the roof and Smith?
How did the 6-man quick reaction force and their 16 Libyan allies get in the compound? By fighting through the main gate? By opening the back gate?
Then there’s the tale of the 12th man:
As those guys attempt to secure a perimeter around Building C, they also move to the TOC, where one agent has been manning the phone. I neglected to mention from the top that that agent from the top of this incident, or the very beginning of this incident, has been on the phone. He had called the quick reaction security team, he had called the Libyan authorities, he had called the Embassy in Tripoli, and he had called Washington. He had them all going to ask for help. And he remained in the TOC.
How many more were not mentioned earlier?
How did that force set up a perimeter then get the whole group out without casualties on either side---note that the attackers were throughout the compound----so where was the perimeter?
More bafflegab from the briefer:
At this point, the quick reaction security team and the Libyans, especially the Libyan forces, are saying, “We cannot stay here. It’s time to leave. We’ve got to leave. We can’t hold the perimeter.” So at that point, they make the decision to evacuate the compound and to head for the annex. The annex is about two kilometers away. My agents pile into an armored vehicle with the body of Sean, and they exit the main gate. Here it’s a little harder to understand because I don’t have a diagram that you can show – that I can show you. But in a nutshell, they take fire almost as soon as they emerge from the compound.
How did the attackers manage to exit the compound and set up a series of ambushes of the retreating forces?
Then there is another casualty-free fight at the Annex.
And somewhere in all of this a drone and other aircraft arrive:
US drones were in the skies over Benghazi during last month’s fatal attack on US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, a new report claims.Defense Department officials weighed sending troops to rescue Stevens and more than 30 other Americans whose compound was surrounded by an angry mob on Sept. 11, says the report by CBS News. But no US counterattack or rescue effort was carried out.The drone and other reconnaissance aircraft observed the final hours of the protracted, seven-hour battle at the US Consulate.
This is the only place we learn about “other aircraft.”
Where did they come from? Italy? Tripoli? Malta?
And what are these “other aircraft”?
And, most importantly, who dispatched the drone and “other aircraft”?
Then there is a 3-hour period of intermittent, casualty-free firing from both sides during which reinforcements somehow arrive at the Annex from Tripoli---without having had to have fought their way to and into the Annex.
Then the fighting becomes intense again, and, despite this absurd description from Dickey, the 2 ex-SEALs are killed by a lucky (for the attackers), first mortar round to the roof of a building in the Annex (experienced veterans will know that a mortar-man not having an exact azimuth and distance would be unlikely to land a first round on the roof):
“Before we even showed up, they were there waiting,” says a Libyan militia officer… At about 4 a.m., as (the Libyans) prepared to evacuate the Americans from the CIA compound, the street was dead quiet. And then a shot rang out. Then within seconds there was a whooshing sound of rocket-propelled grenades being fired, raining down into the annex compound from attackers in positions concealed on rooftops and behind a stand of trees. In two minutes 15 RPGs hit. Then a pause. Then came the muffled sound of a mortar going off, and a devastating detonation as it hit the roof of one of the annex buildings. “It was a good shot…Whoever fired it knew what they were doing.”
It was dark. And they were too accurate. “They must have known the coordinates,”….(and the Libyans) retreated down the road. Inside the annex, the high explosive rounds lobbed on top of the buildings killed two members of the quick-reaction team, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who had taken up positions defending the compound. Special agent Ubben, who was barely able to move because of the smoke inhalation, also was hit by the blast but survived. The shooting at the annex went on for about 15 minutes….And then it stopped as abruptly as it had started. The assailants simply disappeared.
Thus, with a whimper, the truly miraculous tale of the 7-hour attack and ensuing multiple firefights ends with the attackers going up in a wisp leaving behind 2 dead of “smoke-inhalation,” 2 dead from a mortar round, and one injured from the same mortar round.
It surely is devoutly to be hoped that subsequent House hearings finds some dots and crosses and answers to the countless questions the various “official” versions have evoked.