Why Benghazi Matters: Part 1

Ambassador Chris Stevens abandoned into the hands of his assailants

I am compelled to write about what happened in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. On that day radical Islamic elements mounted an orchestrated attack on the fledgling American Consulate there (the Embassy itself is located in Libya’s capital, Tripoli) in which four Americans died: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, State Department information officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Though eight months have passed since the incident, it remains unresolved. Yesterday (May 8) three honorable, non-partisan, career diplmats (now referred to as “the Benghazi Whistle-Blowers”), Gregory N. Hicks, Deputy chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya; Mark I. Thompson, Counterterrorism Bureau Deputy Coordinator for Operations; and Eric Nordstrom, Libyan Regional Security Officer; testified under oath before the House Oversight Committee, about what happened that day and in the subsequent days and weeks. This testimony, rightly, has brought “Benghazi” back into the American consciousness.

In this blog, I am going to write about it incrementally.  It is a complex drama with elements that involve matters of moral character,  political duty and abdication thereof. There is a long version of this story, which will be told in this blog in upcoming parts. There is also a short version that can be summed up in three sentences:

1). Libya’s fledgling Democracy was slowly gaining momentum, with the help and presence of American diplomats who faced ongoing threats from local Islamic militia and who repeatedly registered through official channels the need for more security and personnel, though the requests were denied (and, in fact, security was diminished).

2). While Ambassador Chris Stevens was on a good-will visit to Benghazi, the Consulate came under a well-executed, precisely orchestrated military assault, which Amb. Stevens, in his final words, stated was “an attack” (not a protest), which left him trapped in a firestorm within the safety zone inside the Consulate where he perished horrifically, choking on petroleum-based smoke and then was carried through the streets of Benghazi.

3). As the crisis unfolded in real time on the ground, American troops (SEALs) in Tripoli were told to “stand down” — meaning not mount a rescue — and, despite all reports from witnesses who survived the attack — the State Department and Obama Administration falsely claimed this “tragedy” was the result of protests against a YouTube video.

I’ll condense it:

  • Americans came under attack
  • The decision was made to abandon them
  • The story metamorphosed into a false narrative in the days / weeks after the event, leaving witnesses and career diplomats shocked, shamed, and mortified

Any American with a moral conscience needs to pay attention to this story.

You perhaps are wondering why I have chosen to write about a political issue on a religious blog. The answer is simple ~ whereas on one level this a “political” issue, on a far higher level it is a moral issue that strikes at the heart of what it means to be people of truth, of decency, and of justice.  These are abstractions, of course. But what happened in Benghazi brings these abstractions in glaring detail, down to earth in real time and with real people. I, as a person of faith, cannot ignore the ignominy here.

If what happened in Benghazi does not disturb the heart of the person of faith, then I question the purpose of proclaiming faith at all, especially one that champions truth, honor, human dignity, and justice. I summon the memory of William Wilberforce, who took a moral stand against slavery and the slave trade based upon core values of human rights before God. He was condemned for this, but that did not matter to him. In the end, his efforts prevailed. Yet what Wilberforce achieved reaches beyond ending the machinations of the slave trade. As his biographer, Eric Metaxas wrote:

William Wilberforce would have fought for the truth of what happened here.

“What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery, some that was much more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today: he vanquished the very mind-set that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive and thrive. . . . He destroyed an entire way of seeing the world.”

My writings on this topic as they will unfold in upcoming posts, do not arise from a lofty notion that my personal outrage matters to anyone. I write because I am obliged to do what I can to try to “vanquish the mind-set” that allows political expediency to govern life-and-death decisions. I write to give interested good people the chance to think about this. It is time to think about and make judgments about the concessions that have been made in our national consciousness that allowed this to happen and, worse, the settles for  its remaining unresolved. (The terrorists who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three civilians, were caught within a week. Eight months after this event that killed four career diplomats, no one yet has been charged.)

What happened in Benghazi was not a “tragedy.” It was a calculated strategic travesty that, to date, has not been rightfully accounted for.

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About Wendy Murray

Wendy Murray is a veteran and award-winning journalist. She served as associate editor and Senior Writer at Christianity Today magazine and has written extensively for other publications such as Books & Culture and The Christian Century. She has written 11 books.

  • Jay Blossom

    This has been covered in the news for many months and from many angles. Can you cover the story without starting from an assumption that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are evil, intent on doing harm to America? If you can’t be fair to all parties, it would be best to leave the story alone. If the Patheos Evangelical Channel becomes an outpost of Fox News, I’m tuning out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/petrocast Peter Novochekhov

    Jay, it is not about parties or channels. It is about facts. If you reject facts because they are reported by people or channel you do not like, it is your choice but it has nothing with truth. Abolitionists had been accused in partisanship too. Thank you, Wendy. Be ready for many similar accusations, though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.kreger1 Linda Kreger

    I wish someone could explain sensibly to me why anything the left and the mainstream media says is gospel; anything the right says is political propaganda and hate speech. Does this really make sense?

  • Jay Blossom

    Peter, this article is clearly not about facts, and Wendy Murray is explicit in saying so. “It is a moral issue that strikes at the heart of what it means to be people of truth, of decency, and of justice,” she says. “I write because I am obliged to do what I can to try to “vanquish the mind-set” that allows political expediency to govern life-and-death decisions,” she says. And then, absurdly, as if the two situations have anything to do with each other, “The terrorists who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three civilians, were caught within a week. Eight months after this event that killed four career diplomats, no one yet has been charged.” [Hint to Murray: The travesty in Benghazi happened in a foreign country over which our police have no control.]

  • Jay Blossom

    She has an explicit agenda to portray opponents of the Obama administration as Wilberforces. Hmm, I guess that makes the administration into proponents of the slave trade. The sad part is, this issue could be approached so differently. It could bring Americans together — we all want to find out what happened. We all want to make sense of this. We all want to see justice served if it can be. There are no Wilberforces here. There are people of good will who are trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances.


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