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:
“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.