Blast From the Past: US Embassy Benghazi (June 1967) — “The mob battered its way in”

— By Domani Spero

Almost nine months since the attack, Benghazi continue to make news.  Three days ago, CBS News reported that U.S. officials gave instructions for Benghazi Medical Center to use a “John Doe” pseudonym on the death certificate of Ambassador Christopher Stevens after he died of asphyxiation in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Frankly, we don’t think that was an unreasonable request. Who wants to imagine the body of a deceased ambassador held hostage or used for propaganda or other purposes by the militants who killed him?

We missed this May 17 piece by Christopher Dickey saying, “The CIA misjudged the security threat in Benghazi and contributed mightily to the confusion afterwards. The ass-covering of then-CIA Director David Petraeus, particularly, muddled the question of what could and should be told to the public.” It’s good reading.

To our last count, there’s a subpoena for emails and documents from ten top State Department officials that Congress wants to look at (see House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Benghazi-Related Documents To/From Ten State Dept Officials). There’s also congressional request asking what happened to the four employees “fired” by the State Department last December (see Congress Seeks Details on Status of Four State Dept Employees ‘Fired’ Over Benghazi. Then there’s the appearance by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen before the Oversight Committee, which to-date does not have a confirmed date.  Oh, and the RNC filed an FOIA for more Benghazi-related emails.

Then Ambassador Ryan Crocker made news when he told the Marine Corps Times that people should come before paper, and why he doesn’t think it makes sense any longer that the primary duty of the Marine Security Guards is protecting classified documents. “I really do think it’s time that the Marine Corps and the State Department re-look at the memorandum of agreement and rules of engagement because that was written effectively in the pre-terror days,” Ambassador Crocker said.

The attack on the temporary mission in Benghazi in 2012 was not a first.  In 1967, we did not have a temporary mission in Benghazi, we actually had an embassy there that was attacked by a mob, and set on fire by the attackers. With our diplomats inside. Below is a first-hand account of what happened that harrowing day.

Via the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST), an excerpt from John Kormann’s entry in the Foreign Affairs Oral History Project:

John Kormann fought in World War II as a paratrooper and went behind enemy lines to apprehend Nazi war criminals and uncover a mass grave.  As an Army Counter Intelligence Corps field office commander in Berlin from 1945 to 47, he helped search for Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1950 and describes his experience as officer-in-charge at Embassy Benghazi, when it was attacked and burned in June 1967. At that time, the Libyan capital rotated every two years between Benghazi and Tripoli. The Ambassador David Newsom was posted in Tripoli and John Kormann was the principal officer and consul in Benghazi.  The Arab-Israeli War was fought on June 5–10, 1967.  John Kormann is also author of his memoirs, Echoes of a Distant Clarion. Below is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Moncrieff J. Spear on February 7, 1996

“The mob battered its way in”

The most harrowing experience of my Foreign Service career occurred in Benghazi at the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Convinced by propaganda broadcasts that U.S. Navy planes were attacking Cairo, Libyan mobs, spurred on by 2000 Egyptian workers building a pan- Arab Olympic stadium in Benghazi, attacked the Embassy. The streets were being repaired and there were piles of rocks everywhere, which the mob put to use. A detachment of soldiers provided by the Libyan Government to protect us was overwhelmed. The embassy file room was full of highly classified material, which we desperately tried to burn. The embassy had been a former bank building, with a heavy safe-type front door and barred windows. The mob finally battered its way in. They pushed themselves in through broken windows and came at us cut and bleeding.

We were well armed, but I gave orders that there be no shooting, so we met them with axe handles and rifle butts. Dropping tear gas grenades, we fought our way up the stairs and locked ourselves in the second floor communications vault. We were able to continue burning files in 50-gallon drums on an inner courtyard balcony using Thermite grenades. There were 10 of us in the vault, including two women. The mobs set fire to the building. The heat, smoke and tear gas were intense, which while terrible for us, blessedly forced the mob from the building. We only had five gas masks for 10 people and shared them while we worked. We came out of the vault several times during the day to use fire extinguishers to control blazes and spray down walls.

Our own destruction of files using Thermite sent up huge clouds of black smoke from the center of the building, probably adding to the impression that those of us inside were dying. With no power, we managed to send sporadic messages throughout the day using an emergency generator. Efforts by British troops to come to our aid were called off several times. A British armored car was destroyed by the mob in the vicinity of the Embassy by pouring gasoline down the hatch and setting it afire with an officer and four soldiers inside. The British Embassy and British Council offices had been attacked and set afire, as were the USIS [U.S. Information Service] center and my former residence.

I might mention something here because many people asked me about it afterward. At one point the mob used a ladder to drop from an adjoining building on to our roof, catching us trying to burn files there. After a struggle they drove us back into the Embassy. They cut the ropes on the tall roof flag pole, leaving the flag itself hanging down the front of the building. An Army MAAG [Military Assistance Advisory Group] captain who was with us requested permission to go up on the roof and raise the flag. I dismissed his request, saying it would be counterproductive. Later when things looked very bleak and our spirits were waning, he came to me again in front of the others. I told him I would think about it. I had been a combat paratrooper in WW II and had seen what defiance and a bit of bravura could do for soldiers under mortal stress.

Afterward I said, “Go ahead, raise the flag!” He did so with considerable daring, the mob going crazy below and the rocks flying. The reaction among my people was profound. I could see it in their eyes, as they worked on with grim determination under those conditions to burn files and render cryptographic equipment inoperable.

The British Come to the Rescue

When late in the day (remember the attack began in the morning), we received word that a British rescue attempt had again been postponed for fear that lives might be lost, I took a photograph of President and Mrs. Johnson off the wall, broke it out of the frame and wrote a message on the back to the President saying something to the effect that we have tried our best to do our duty. Everyone signed it. When an inspector subsequently asked me about that, I could tell him that people will respond to the call of duty given the chance.

We sent our last message at about 6:00 p.m. I learned later from a friend who was in the Operations Center in Washington that it came in garbled, leading to the impression that we were burning alive. At that Secretary Rusk called the British Foreign Secretary with a further plea to get us out. At 8:00 p.m. a British armored column arrived and took us by truck to D’Aosta Barracks, their base on the outskirts of town. Libya had been a British protectorate after WW II and they still maintained a small military contingent outside of Benghazi under an agreement with King Idriss. The British were magnificent, rescuing us and then helping us bring hundreds of Americans to their camp, where they fed us and gave us shelter.

The night of our escape from the vault, I asked for a volunteer to go with me into the center of Benghazi at 2:00 a.m. to bring out Americans most in danger. The city was in flames, Jewish and foreign shops and properties having been set to the torch. Driving through the city, we were repeatedly stopped by roadblocks manned by nervous, trigger-happy Libyan soldiers. The streets were full of debris.

I remember pulling up to an apartment house lit only by fires from nearby burning shops. Going up the darkened stairs, knocking on doors, I asked for an American family. On the fourth floor, I heard a small voice say, “Who’s there?” In English, I answered, “It’s the American Consul.” An American woman cautiously opened the door. She must have known me, because she called me by name and said, “We knew you’d come, we are all packed.” What a wonderful tribute, I thought, to our Foreign Service. During that night and the next day we brought out other Americans under very trying circumstances.

Victory Street, Benghazi, Libya (1967)
Photo from ADST

We had problems in evacuating Americans from Benghazi. Arrangements were made for U.S. Air Force planes to pick up about 250 of them at the airport. At the last moment I received word that Russian-built Algerian troop transports with paratroopers and Egyptian MiG fighters had landed at the airport. I didn’t want our planes shot at. I didn’t want a serious incident. Calling Tripoli, I talked with Ambassador Newsom. After listening to me, he said, “Well, John, you’re the man on the spot. This is your decision to make.” I made the decision to bring the planes in all right, but I must say really I wished that I hadn’t had to, for I was truly worried. My wife and children were going to be aboard those planes, as well as a lot of other Americans, who could pay with their lives should my decision be a bad one.

The British provided trucks and a bus for the evacuees. They were taken on to the airport through an opening away from the terminal and driven right past the parked MiGs and Algerian transports. With the connivance of an English civilian air controller in the tower, contact was made with the incoming Air Force planes using a British Army field radio. They were instructed to land on the grass along the fence at the most distant part of the field away from the terminal. Three planes, two C-130′s and a C-124, came in and made a fast turnaround. They were loaded and back in the air in minutes. The operation was carried out with such speed and audacity that there was no reaction from anyone until much later. All of us will be forever grateful to Colonel Alistair Martin and his British troops for their role in all of these actions; without them none of that would have been possible.

Read the full oral history here.

(‘_’)

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Photo of the Day: Ballistics-Resistance Glass vs. Enraged Mob

Via Political Violence Against Americans, 2011

May 1, 2011 –Tripoli, Libya |  “Libyan military personnel stormed the General Service Office (GSO) warehouse and drove trucks onto the warehouse compound and stole U.S.Government property. Members of the U.S. Embassy’s local guard force were forced to evacuate to adjacent properties. When the Libyan forces departed the GSO warehouse, other Libyans followed in their wake and looted the warehouse. The Ambassador’s and Deputy Chief of Mission’s residences were also stormed, damaged, and looted by members of the Libyan Revolutionary Guards.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-24

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Sorry is Not Enough: US Calls on Tunisia to Bring Embassy Attackers to Justice

On October 14, the one month anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. embassy and American school in Tunis, the US Ambassador to Tunisia Jacob Walles released a statement calling on the Government of Tunisia to bring the perpetrators to justice. While the statement lauds the 200 year relationships between the two countries — the first agreement of friendship and trade was concluded between Tunisia and the United States on March 26, 1799; the United States was the first major power to recognize Tunisian sovereignty and established diplomatic relations with Tunisia in 1956 following its independence from France — it also reminds Tunisia of its obligation to protect its “guests.” Excerpt below:

“One month ago on September 14, 2012, a group of violent extremists attacked the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis.  These violent attacks endangered the lives of the American and Tunisian employees who were inside the Embassy during the attack. The attackers inflicted millions of dollars of damage to the Embassy compound, burned more than 100 vehicles, most of which belonged to the Embassy’s Tunisian staff, and also destroyed private property in the area near the Embassy.  At the American Cooperative School of Tunis, the attackers destroyed, looted, and burned books, musical instruments, and computers used to educate young minds from more than 70 countries.  One thing the attackers did not damage is the strong bond between the American and Tunisian people and the commitment of the United States to support Tunisia’s transition from an unjust dictatorship to a free and tolerant democracy that provides security, economic opportunity and freedom to everyone who calls Tunisia home.
[…]
I am proud of this long history of partnership, but continued cooperation and investment in Tunisia requires a safe and secure operating environment.  The Tunisian government has an obligation to provide security for its citizens and its guests – and I call on the Government of Tunisia to carry through with its investigation and to bring the perpetrators and masterminds of this attack to justice.  I also look to the Tunisian people to speak out against violence and terror and to play an active role in shaping the future you so richly deserve.”

Read the full statement here.

Here are a few things that the United States has done the last many months since the Arab Spring according to the Tunisia Fact Sheet,:

  • Since the January 2011 revolution, the U.S. has committed more than $300 million to support Tunisia’s transition, focusing heavily on technical and financial assistance to Tunisia’s economy and private sector.
  • The United States provided $100 million to pay directly debt that Tunisia owes the World Bank and African Development Bank, allowing the Government of Tunisia to instead use an equal amount for its priority programs, and to accelerate economic growth and job creation.
  • The United States is providing assistance to more than 4,500 Tunisian youth in market-relevant skills training, job placement, and access to start-up business resources.
  • A $50 million Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)  franchising facility providing working capital to Tunisian franchisees interested in working with American, European, and Tunisian franchisors; ultimately creating an estimated 10,000 local jobs for Tunisians.

You’d think that perhaps all that and more would have generated a tad of goodwill, even just enough to make people stop and think before they go berserk over there.  Alas, not. The angry protesters were not satisfied with shouting or throwing rocks. They went over the embassy walls, torched cars, set fire to several facilities within the compound, destroyed the children’s playground and even tried stoopidly to set fire to the embassy pool. And the rampage did not stop after an hour or two. It went on for hours on end.

To be blunt — it is the host country’s international obligation to protect foreign diplomats and diplomatic premises. If a country is slow or unable to provide such protection, should be even be there?  We also must wonder if this is for lack of resources, or if the host government is complicit in the attacks or indifferent to the outcome. It took several hours before local authorities were able to control the situation, after several structures within the compound have already been torched, after over 100 cars were already burned to the ground.

There has to be consequences for such abrogation of responsibility; otherwise this will happen again.

On September 21, just a few days after the embassy attack, the Tunisian Foreign Minister Abdessalem was in the Treaty Room of Foggy Bottom and said:

“I’m also here to express our regret and full and strong condemnation for the storming of the American Embassy and school in Tunisia last Friday. This event does not reflect the real image of Tunisia.[…] We already taken the necessary measures to protect the American Embassy, the American schools, and all diplomatic presence in Tunisia, members of foreign communities. It is our duty, and I’m sure that we have the ability and the capability to protect all private and public institutions in Tunisia.”

That’s good talk, too bad nobody saw this in action on September 14.

The question remains — did elements of the host country government allow the attack to happen thinking it would be a harmless demonstration only to have it spin out of control? We must not forget that the Tehran embassy takeover started as a “harmless” demonstration on a February day, and when the actual hostage taking occurred in November, the protesters knew exactly how to get in.

Say what you will about fortress embassies, but if Embassy Tunis was less than fortified, how many more flag-draped coffins would have arrived at Dover AFB that week?

As in Benghazi, there are somethings “sorry” can’t fix.  It must be said that Embassy Tunis was lucky not to have any casualty given the size and ferocity of the crowd that day.  But we might not be so lucky next time; and that next time may not be very far off.

Pakistan’s “Love for the Prophet Day” Ends with 15 Dead, 200+ Wounded and Property Mess

On Monday, September 17, the  Pakistan Telecom Authority had ordered access to the anti-Islam film roiling parts of the world blocked from Pakistan.  According to AFP Pakistan, attempts to access YouTube is met with a message saying the website had been classed as containing “indecent material.”

Yet, Russia Today reports that on Wednesday, September 19, several hundred lawyers (good grief, lawyers!) protesting over this same film now blocked in Pakistan have broken into the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad that houses the US Embassy and other foreign missions. The report says that police stopped the demonstrators before they could reach the US Embassy, which is surrounded by another set of high walls and protected by security guards. Protesters chanted slogans such as: “Down With America” and “Whoever is a friend of America is a traitor” as they forced their way through a gate into the enclave.

I saw the lawyers’ protest and thought ominous this development.  Because if we could not expect lawyers, officers of the legal system to exercise prudence and restraint in the face of some great perceived offense, what can we expect from non-lawyers?

Today, September 21, officially declared a national Pakistani holiday – the “Love for the Prophet Day”, shows just what a mob of 10,000 in the capital city of Islamabad, 15,000 in Karachi and more in Lahore and Peshawar can do when it wants to burn down its own house in rage.

The Express Tribune reports on the September 21 protests across Pakistan over an anti-Islam film which descended into riots resulting in several deaths, scores wounded and loss of properties:

Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (pbuh) [love of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Day] was observed throughout Pakistan on Friday on the orders of the Government of Pakistan, condemning the anti-Islam film.

After Friday prayers, protests erupted in several cities across the country which soon turned violent. As the police remained unable to control the protesters, a loss to life and property was reported.

A total of 15 people were killed across the country and more than 200 were wounded during the protests. Cinemas, banks, vehicles and fuel stations were torched, while markets were also vandalised.

Two police officials were also killed during clashes in Karachi.

The central leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUI-F) Maulana Fazal Rehman commended the nation over successful protests across the country against the anti-Islam film.

People have died and it’s a success. I must confess that efforts to wrap my head around that one has so far been a failure.

An Express Tribune commenter snarkily writes:

“Somebody insulted me today. I am going to go home and burn it down. Now, someone will think twice about insulting me.”

Below is a video clip from GlobalPost’s Karachi-based journalist Mariya Karimjee with Breaking News Editor Hanna Ingber, giving her insights into how the Pakistani government and political parties have encouraged the anti-US protests.  Read more: http://bit.ly/QrRNxS

The AP  reports that the deadliest violence occurred in Karachi, where 12 people were killed and 82 wounded.  Armed demonstrators among a crowd of 15,000 reportedly fired on police, and the mob apparently burned down two cinemas and a bank.

In Peshawar, three people were killed and 61 were wounded.  Police fired on rioters who set fire to two movie theaters and the city’s chamber of commerce, as well as damaged shops and vehicles.

The report also says that police clashed with over 10,000 demonstrators in several neighborhoods, including in front of a five-star hotel near the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad where the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions are located.

I have it in good authority that the members of the US Mission Pakistan including those in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar are all safe and accounted for.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon went on CBS News and told Pamela Falk that if the U.S. wants to stop the attacks against American embassies, to “just lay off our Prophet, just lay off our Prophet. Is that too much to ask?” Which makes perfect sense, of course, as the US Government can just send a mass email to all American citizens, including our own idiots to lay off, right?  He works at the UN, in New York, and this shows real understanding of the United States.  And if that is not enough, he adds:

“Is what happened in Pakistan a manifestation of the people of Pakistan? Yes. Of the government of Pakistan? No,” Haroon said. “If the government of Pakistan was acquiescent of what is happening in Pakistan [the violence], they wouldn’t be firing teargas and bullets at the protestors.”

Diiiiiinnnnnnnngggggg! And he totally missed his chance to explain to the American public that his country has a population of over 180 million people and that the mob protesters rounded up to say 30,000 only accounts for  — wait for it —

0.0001666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666 ….

of its total population.

Because that’s what any well-trained diplomat would have done.  Instead, he  lumps all Pakistanis, all 180 million of them with a rampaging mob,  a deadly minority.   I’m baffled by such diplomatic eloquence.

 

 

 

 

 

USCG Karachi: Protesters Trying To Storm Compound … Remembering the 1979 Horror

The NYT reports that one person was killed and dozens of people were injured when anti-American protesters tried to storm the US Consulate General in the southern port city of Karachi.  Protesters reportedly clashed for several hours with the police and paramilitary troops on Sunday evening (September 16).

Al Jazeera says that the Karachi police have created a high-security zone around the US consulate and that they have been firing rubber bullets and tear gas to hold back protesters. See video report below via YouTube. (Dear Comcast, how is it that you still do not carry the station that covers the most volatile part of the world?)

Via Al Jazeera English

On September 12, 2012, the Consulate issued the following message:

This security message informs U.S. citizens that the U.S. Consulate General is temporarily suspending public services while assessing our security posture due to ongoing preparations for a September 13 strike against the recently signed Sindh Local Governance Ordinance. The strike has the potential to continue for several days and cause disruption. As a precautionary measure, all routine consular services have been cancelled through Friday, September 14.  In addition, the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi has restricted travel of mission personnel.

On September 13, 2012, another message:

This security message alerts U.S. citizens to recent violent protests in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. U.S. citizens in Pakistan should maintain extra vigilance. There have not yet been similar protests in Pakistan. Historically, it is not uncommon for demonstrations and protests to occur after Friday prayers. Friday prayers are generally conducted from 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Today, September 16, 2012, this message:

This security message informs U.S. citizens that public services at the U.S. Consulate General remain temporarily suspended because of the continuing potential for demonstrations in the vicinity of the Consulate.

Later the US Embassy in Islamabad tweeted that all personnel are safe and that it appreciate the work of the Pakistani police:

@usembislamabad: All American personnel are safe and accounted for at #USConsulate Karachi. #Pakistan

@usembislamabad: We appreciate the efforts of the Pakistani police to protect the #USConsulate in Karachi and our personnel.

In the aftermath of the murder of our diplomats in Benghazi and the burning of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the attempted storming of our Consulate General in Karachi fills us with trepidation.  This has happened before. In Pakistan under similar circumstances.

Ambassador Jeffrey Lunstead, posted in Pakistan and later U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives from 2003 to 2006 on CNN remembers:

“A mob of perhaps 5,000 marched to the American Center, burned it and then marched to the consulate and attacked us. Battled by 300 Pakistani policemen, they burned our cars and tried, unsuccessfully, to burn down the consulate itself — with us inside. There were enough police to keep the crowd at bay, but not enough to disperse them quickly. After several hours, the crowd left and the police took us out in an armed convoy.”
[…]

There are eerie resemblances between that day in Pakistan and this week’s attacks in Libya and Egypt — rumors of anti-Islamic acts and groups that exploited those rumors to stir up crowds. This is the normal pattern for riots. They are not usually “spontaneous.” Instead they are instigated by opportunists. In both Pakistan and Libya, individuals tried to defend the U.S. diplomats, but the governments reacted slowly and with insufficient force.

He was talking about Nov. 21, 1979. In a day of orchestrated anti-American outrage, Pakistanis attacked several U.S. facilities across the country.  Why?  Because some Saudi Arabian religious zealot had taken over the Grand Mosque at Mecca. Iran’s Ayatollah suggested that Americans were behind the attack on Islam’s holiest place.  This was passed on in media reports and lighted the fuse that burned down the US Embassy in Islamabad and killed four people.

In November 27, 2004, WaPo writer, Cameron W. Barr, wrote A Day of Terror Recalled (1979 Embassy Siege In Islamabad Still Haunts Survivors). Excerpt below:

By 1:40 p.m., nearly 140 people — U.S. diplomats, Pakistani staff members, a visiting Time magazine correspondent — had assembled in the vault, a suite of rooms on the top floor of the three-story embassy building. Marines had covered their retreat upstairs by tossing tear gas canisters as protesters broke their way into the embassy, shattering windows and setting fires in offices.

Smoke started seeping into the vault. The people inside sat quietly, most of them on the floor, crowded into a space intended to hold far fewer occupants. The temperature rose, and the air, tainted by tear gas and smoke, grew hard to breathe. They took off extra clothing and passed around wet paper towels to use as filters.

 

They had with them in the vault, US Marine Cpl. Steven J. Crowley bleeding from a bullet wound above his left ear (he later died). When it was over, they also found the burned corpse of Army Warrant Officer Bryan Ellis, 30, who died at his apartment in the compound and two Pakistani staff members who died of asphyxiation. Ellis who left behind a wife and a 6 year old son was a veteran US pilot with 11 years of military experience.

Read the full, heartbreaking account here.

US Embassy Yemen: Protests Over Anti-Islam Movie Spread

The offending movie clip has now been viewed in YouTube 1,486,019. Viewers in Egypt and Libya are now blocked from viewing that video.  It has been ordered blocked in Afghanistan.  And the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has reportedly scrambled to block the same video with Pakistani operators “proactively working to block the offending video “wherever it appears.”

Since the protests still appear to be spreading, one has to wonder if anyone on the streets has even seen the clip or the movie or if they are now simply being fueled by rumors.

Reuters is reporting that demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassies in Yemen and Egypt on Thursday in protest at a film they consider blasphemous to Islam.

Hundreds of Yemenis broke through the main gate of the heavily fortified compound in the capital Sanaa, shouting “We sacrifice ourselves for you, Messenger of God”. They smashed windows of security offices outside the embassy and burned cars.

Our embassies in Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, Pakistan, Sudan, Jerusalem, Moldova, Nigeria, Algeria, Zambia, Burundi, , Tunisia and Zambia have also issued warnings of possible anti-American protests.  The protests have already spread to Iraq and Bangladesh.

Here is a clip via Al Jazeera English:

From Benghazi to Baghdad, violent protests are sweeping across the Middle East. The riots are in reaction to an anti-Islamic movie made in the United States. At the embassy in Sana’a, men attacked the US embassy and tore down its gates. And in Egypt, police fired tear gas to hold back the crowds. Charles Stratford reports.

If there are reasonable people left out there who can get howling mad without breaking all the dishes and burning down the house, can we please hear from them?  My heart is sick, take care everyone.

Outrage! Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others killed in Benghazi, Libya

I posted about the mob attack at the US Office/Consulate in Benghazi around midnight last night (see US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others).  I understand then from my State Department source that Ambassador Stevens and two other senior embassy officials were in Benghazi for the opening of the American Center there but that they were in a safe haven during the attack.  I went to bed hoping the insanity had flamed out during the night only to wake up with the news that Ambassador Stevens and three other staff had been killed.  Ambassador Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979 1995.

Correction: US Ambassador to Afghanistan Spike Dubs was killed in 1979 in an exchange of fire after a kidnapping attempt. But in 1988, we also lost Ambassador Arnie Raphel who was killed in along with Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq and Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom when their plane mysteriously crashed shortly after takeoff from Bahawalpur.  Then in 1995, the first US Ambassador to Estonia Robert Frasure was killed in an automobile accident on the Igman mountain near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina while on a mission to negotiate a U.S. proposal to end the conflict in Bosnia. WaPo has a list of ambassadors killed in the line of duty here, but the list does not include Ambassador Frasure. (Thanks Jeff Z!)

Photo via Senator McCain’s tweet – http://lockerz.com/s/223075753

I don’t know if there is anyone out there who is not outrage by these attacks. Ambassador Stevens was our man in Benghazi during the Libyan revolution. He helped save that city and he was happy to be back in Libya. Then they killed him.

The AP is reporting that the Libyan doctor who treated Ambassador  Stevens at the Benghazi Medical Center says that he tried for 90 minutes to revive him but that our top diplomat in Libya died of severe asphyxiation.

Ziad Abu Zeid told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Stevens was brought to the Benghazi Medical Center by Libyans the night before, with no other Americans and that initially no one realized he was the ambassador.

Abu Zeid said Stevens had “severe asphyxia,” apparently from smoke inhalation, causing stomach bleeding, but had no other injuries.

There are hard to look photos here reportedly of Ambassador Stevens body being “dragged” from the “embassy.”  But the smoke on this attack has yet to clear. Elsewhere it is reported that he was in a car hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.  I cannot tell from just looking at these photos if he was indeed dragged from the diplomatic compound by militants or, if true that he was attack in a car, if this is him dragged out of a car.

Libyan officials condemned the attack on a US consulate in Libya yesterday, with interim President Mohamed el Megarif calling the attack “cowardly” and apologizing to the US, vowing to apprehend the killers.

“We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world.”

But CSM reports that Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif, said in a press conference aired on Al Jazeera that the killings were carried out not by an Islamist group but by members of the former regime of Muammar Qaddafi. And he implied that the US consulate was at fault for not taking adequate security measures.

“They are to blame simply for not withdrawing their personnel from the premises, despite the fact that there was a similar incident when [Al-Qaeda second-in-command and Libyan citizen] Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed. It was necessary that they take precautions. It was their fault that they did not take the necessary precautions,” said Mr. Sharif, according to Al Jazeera.

A shocking and an outrageous response no less.  What is clear here is that the Libyan Government utterly failed in its duty to protect our diplomats in that country.  I would not be surprise if other countries would now scale down, even  withdraw their diplomatic staff from Libya. If they cannot protect US diplomats, how can anyone expect them to protect other diplomats? Our government protects Libyan diplomats in the United States, how is it that some Libyan official washes his hand from his country’s responsibility?

While I sure would like to see Libya apprehend the culprit/s and take them to court, how do you find the killers out of a mob? How can we even tell that whoever is trotted out in front of cameras is the trigger happy nut?

And while the USG is clear in making its distinction that “this was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya” one cannot ignore the fact that this attack was perpetuated in Libyan soil. Secretary Clinton’s statement makes it sound as if this act was not done by Libyans.  Are we now going to drag the Al Qaeda carcass out as perpetrators?

I hope that an Accountability Review Board is convened as soon as possible with its report released to the public at its conclusion.

Here is President Obama via PBS NewsHour

Click here to read Secretary Clinton’s statement.  President Obama also has a statement here.

The only other American casualty identified so far is Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran who spent the last 10 years as an information management officer in the State Department.  He left behind a wife and two young children.  He also is known as Vile Rat in a gaming community. Below is an excerpt from The Mittani:

So: Vile Rat, Sean Smith, my friend for over six years, both in real life and in internet spaceships, was the “State Department Official” killed in Benghazi by a mob of religious lunatics, who had been incited to violence on this September 11th by a movie that was apparently made sometime in July. Obviously, given the combined attacks in Egypt and in Libya, this was a coordinated act designed for maximum media exposure; rile up a mob, point them at an embassy or consulate on 9/11 in particular, aim for the press. Many were injured in these pointless, reprehensible acts, and one of my closest friends was killed as a result.

(12:54:09 PM) vile_rat: assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures

We knew that Vile Rat was in Benghazi; he told us. He commented on how they use guns to celebrate weddings and how there was a constant susurrus of weaponry in the background. He was in situ to provide IT services for the consulate, which meant he was on the net all the time, hanging out with us on Jabber as usual and talking about internet spaceship games.
[…]
He was on jabber when it happened, that’s the most fucked up thing. In Baghdad the same kind of thing happened – incoming sirens, he’d vanish, we’d freak out and he’d come back ok after a bit. This time he said ‘FUCK’ and ‘GUNFIRE’ and then disconnected and never returned.

There are more tributes online here.

The Guardian has a live blog of the attack with extensive links to sources elsewhere.

US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others

Al Jazeera, citing Libyan security forces is reporting that an American staff member of the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound.

An armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt’s capital.

“One American staff member has died and a number have been injured in the clashes,” Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee, said on Wednesday, adding that rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the building from a nearby farm.

The AP reports that  Libyan security forces outnumbered by the crowd did little to stop the protesters.  The mob overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said.

One American was shot to death and a second was wounded in the hand, al-Sharef said. He did not give further details.

The violence at the consulate lasted for about three hours, but the situation has now quieted down, said another witness.

Secretary Clinton released the following statement confirming the death of one officer and condemning the attack:

I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

Benghazi is  the second largest city in Libya and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council during and immediately after the 2011 Libyan civil war. On June 6, 2012 there was an IED attack on the U.S. Office in Benghazi during the early morning hours. There were no casualties.  A few days later, there was another attack, this time on a UK diplomatic convoy in Benghazi on June 11. Two individuals sustained injuries. Last month, in the early morning of August 6, U.S. Embassy personnel were attacked by armed assailants in a possible carjacking in Tripoli. The personnel evaded the attack and arrived safely at their destination.  But on September 11, they finally got one of ours.

Our State Department source said that the officer killed was a TDYer out for a short stint in Benghazi.  We’re also hearing that top embassy officials were supposed to open the new American Corner in Benghazi on September 11. So it is possible that there were more people at the US Office in Benghazi than the normal number of staff when the attack happened. We will update blog post if we learn more.

US Embassy Egypt: Cairo protesters storm embassy over a movie or ….

The NYT reports that the protest at the US Embassy in Cairo was a result of “outrage over a movie being promoted by an anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the United States, clips of which are available on YouTube and dubbed in Egyptian Arabic.” The NYT calls it a mysterious anti-Muslim movie. The CNN clip in YouTube (below) attributes the protest over a Dutch film, but that does not sound right. The controversial Dutch film was released in 2008 so that could not have been the cause for the current protests.

The protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Tuesday and brought down the American flag, replacing it with a black flag with an Islamic inscription to protest a video attacking Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.  Our embassies overseas have always been targets.  But in this new world of persistent connections, it does not take much to trigger a protest or a mob attack.  Whether it is some nutty Florida pastor threatening to burn the Quran (who called off the burning with a free car) or some obscure California filmmaker who no one has ever heard of until the embassy storming — the repercussions across the world are almost immediate and made louder by social media.

CBS/AP reports that only a few staff members were still inside the US Embassy, as embassy security apparently had sent most staff home early after learning of the upcoming protest.

Additionally, CBS/AP also reports that according to Libyan officials armed men also stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi – once the seat of the Libyan revolution – and set the building ablaze after there was a similar protest there against the film.  The report cites Wanis al-Sharef, an interior ministry official in Benghazi, saying that the attackers stormed the consulate after firing in the air. He says nobody was in the consulate at the time.  However, Reuters is reporting that armed gunmen and security forces clashed at the consulate office in Benghazi.

The US Embassy in Cairo released the following statement.  While the statement below does not have a time stamp, salon.com says the statement below was posted at 12:18 p.m. on Sept. 11:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement
September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

The embassy also took to Twitter about a couple hours ago amplifying its condemnation of “misguided individuals” but did not say much about the misguided mob attack.

 

Egypt, of course, has received an average of $2 billion in aid annually since 1979 making it the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel. Makes one wonder — over thirty years of aid and counting, where did that aid go?  Our relationship with that country is so razon thin, anything and everything can bring on any sort of protests.  The embassy’s Emergency Message #24 says that on September 11, several different groups are calling for demonstrations in both downtown and Garden City to “protest a range of issues.”

So it’s about a movie, or it’s about something else … anything … everything …

Perhaps it’s time to seriously rethink the US aid strategery?