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Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

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Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Brekkie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:47 pm

Thought I'd make a thread in case anyone had any questions/wanted some context/need help making sense of the news reports deluge.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Aubade » Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:58 pm

I thought of you immediately when I heard about it. =/ Glad to know you're safe!
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Cogglamp » Thu Sep 13, 2012 6:03 pm

Short answer: yes, I want to know more.

Qualifier: There's so much out there it's hard to sift through it all without running into some kind of political slant. Anything would be appreciated!
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Shoju » Thu Sep 13, 2012 6:55 pm

1.) Can you comment on what the protest was "like" prior to the assault? (I've heard angry, I've heard peaceful, I've heard "riotlike")
2.) Can you confirm that the attack was done via extremists due to 9/11 and not the movie? There seems to be evidence suggesting both, and opinions on both.

Glad you are ok. I dono't comment much on your stuff, but You were in my thoughts when I heard about hit.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Brekkie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:18 pm

Ok, well, I’ll break down the background for you.

First off, here’s a map of Libya.
Image
Note the location of Benghazi in the Northeast, along the curve of the coast. Benghazi was the location of the original rebel movement which overthrew the dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Tripoli, in the Northwest, is the capitol city and was one of the last places to fall to the rebellion. Tripoli is the current location of the US Embassy. Benghazi contains a US Consulate, which was where the original diplomatic relations with the rebel government were established, early on in the conflict, because that was literally the only place under their control.

SIDEBAR: “What is the difference between an Embassy and a Consulate?”

The Embassy is located in the nation's capitol city. It contains the Ambassador. The Ambassador is the senior diplomatic representative of the United States, to the government of the host country.
A Consulate is a section responsible for issuing tourist and immigration visas for entry to the United States, and assisting American citizens living and traveling in that country. It is headed by a Consul General.

Generally there will be a Consulate in each major city within the country, each with it's own Consul General. In the capitol city, the Consulate will be a section within the Embassy. All Consulates within the country are subordinate to the Embassy, and the Ambassador. There is only one Ambassador, but there is a Consul General for every Consulate.


The United States has supported the revolutionary government of Libya since the early stages, both with aid money, administrative guidance, and the weight of the US air power during the fighting as a part of a NATO joint task force also including French, British, and other troops.

Libya recently conducted their first democratic elections in July of this year, in which the moderate party won and formed a relatively liberal and secular government by the standards of the region (e.g. no sharia law by-and-large).

Libya contains a large number of different ethnic and religious groups, and as such has a lot of cultural tension. The population includes black Africans, nomadic Berbers, Turks and white Arabs, Coptic Christians, as well as various sects of Islam. The population speaks French and Arabic.



CHAIN OF EVENTS

On September 11th, a protest by a crowd of the most conservative sect of Muslims began outside the US Consulate in Benghazi. The claimed reason for this demonstration (which also occurred in Cairo, Egypt. More on that later…) was to protest the mockery of Islam’s holy prophet Mohammed in an amateur film on Youtube, produced by an Israeli Jew living in California.
Link to a clip from the film:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Kuz5PCYcQg&feature=player_embedded
And the full film:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTdesxykPqI&feature=related

SIDEBAR: “The Innocence of Muslims” Movie

As you can see, the movie is a disjointed collage of scenes intended to offend Muslims. It depicts Mohammed as a bastard, a homosexual, and a pedophile. It shows him ordering massacres and pillaging innocents. It depicts the writing of the Koran as being a stream of consciousness text based on Mohammed’s convenient self-justifications and whims, and plagiarisms from the Torah and the New Testament. It depicts Mohammed saying he will appoint Omar (an important successor of Mohammed for Sunni Muslims) as Caliph to get his wife to stay silent about the fact that Mohammed raped Omar’s daughter.

It is also an incredibly shitty, basement piece of film-making. The actors who appeared in it had no idea what it was about or that they were depicting Mohammed. Every reference to Islam or Mohammed or the Koran in the movie did not appear in the script, but was dubbed over in post-production. The actors thought they were appearing in a generic movie about a medieval Egyptian.

The creator is an Israeli Jew named Sam Bacile, who works in real estate in California. He is a self-proclaimed anti-Islam crusader, dedicated to “exposing the abominations of Islam”. He allies himself to an extremist Coptic Christian preacher who protests the treatment of Coptics in Egypt.

The movie, however, was published to Youtube in English, and would not have reached a significant audience under normal circumstances. However, someone dubbed it over in Egyptian Arabic and set it viral on social media in the Middle East.


This protest, while angry, was peaceful. A similar angry, though non-aggressive protest occurred in Cairo. [more on Cairo later]

That, however, is when things turned nasty.

Someone attacked the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. We don’t know who. It was NOT the protestors, but someone using their protest as cover. Possibly the attackers stirred up the protest intentionally in the first place. The attack likely had nothing to do with the movie.
It was NOT a protest-gone-wrong. It was a full-fledged assault.

The attackers had heavy weapons, including heavy machineguns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, bombs, and mortars. People don’t bring that stuff incidentally to a normal protest. The firefight with the security forces defending the Consulate lasted for several hours.

SIDEBAR: “Who was defending the US Consulate?”

US Embassies and Consulates are generally built like castles. They have powerful structural defenses, and are protected by concentric layers of security and security personnel.

1) The outer layer of protection is supposed to be the police/military of the host government, in this case, the Libyan government militia. However the Libyan forces are still relatively disorganized and dispersed, and so Libyan forces were not able to get to the Consulate until too late. (In Cairo, by comparison, the Egyptian police formed a cordon around the Embassy when the protest formed, but lost their nerve and ran away when they saw how badly they were outnumbered.)

2) The next layer of defense is the Local Guard Force (LGF for short), which are basically local mercenaries that are hired and trained by the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security agency. These security guards man the perimeter walls and the vehicle entrance gates, but do not come in the actual secure embassy building. Going back to the castle metaphor, they are on the outer bailey wall, whereas the Americans are all in the keep.

3) The final line, and most powerful, line of defense are the Regional Security Officers, and the Marines. US Embassies and Consulates typically are defended by a detachment of highly-trained US Marine Security Guards (MSGs for short). They are commanded operationally by a group of Diplomatic Security Special Agents called Regional Security Officers. In truly extreme cases where an embassy is under assault and the outer perimeter is breached, the MSGs will secure the primary building from entry and repel anyone who attempts to storm it.

There were no Marines are Benghazi.

Why? A few different reasons:
1) The role of Marine Security Guards is a little bit more complex than simple physical security. Their primary responsibility is preventing the compromise of classified information and sensitive national security information and facilities. I can’t go into more detail than that, unfortunately. This is significant because Consulates normally do not contain any of this, being focused on issuing visas and other simple administrative work. So they often do not have any Marines assigned to them. Some do, most do not.

2) There is a shortage of MSGs right now. And as recently as 6 months ago, some powerful voices in government were considering the idea of eliminating the MSG battalion altogether. They’d forgotten the lessons of the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and were looking to weaken security by exchanging United States Marines for private contractors. Significantly, no one is saying that any more now.

3) The Consulate in Benghazi was not meant to be a permanent facility. It is (how shall I put this lightly?), pretty “ghetto”. It’s literally a motel building complex that we requisition for the US diplomatic delegation to the rebellion for the simple reason that it was located in one of the only areas they had under their control at the time. The delegation landed, took a look around, found an abandoned motel building and said “it’ll do for now”. And we kind of just kept adding on to it. It is not very defensible, and it almost completely lacked any of the defensive features that other US facilities have. Now that the regime has been toppled and the democratic government is in place, an actual Embassy in the capitol of Tripoli has been opened, and the Consulate in Benghazi was supposed to be getting closed or rebuilt, but we simply hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

So when the attack commenced, the defenders consisted of the Local Guard Force, and a few American Regional Security Officers.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Brekkie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:35 pm

When the Consulate came under assault by heavy weapons fire, the Libyan local guards fought fiercely defending it. Many (at least 20, possibly all of them) died at their posts. This loyalty is noteworthy, and should make you stop and think.

The US Ambassador to Libya, Ambassador Chris Stevens, was present in Benghazi at the time. This was well known publically. He was on a highly publicized visit to cut the ribbon for the opening of a new American Center building. He would have been accompanied by at least two Diplomatic Security bodyguards.

When the firefight commenced, the Americans in the consulate retreated to their strong rooms, located inside. As the attackers overwhelmed the LGF defense, the Consulate building (which you will recall is just a modified motel, so not a hardened structure) began to take RPG hits, and was then set ablaze.

At this point, the Ambassador, having got word of the attack, fearlessly arrived at the Consulate building and personally went into the burning structure to rescue his men and women from their strong room and ensure everyone evacuated out safely. In the process he suffered severe smoke inhalation injuries.

At some point, an American consulate worker was killed by a gunshot wound in the crossfire while evacuating.

The workers having escaped to safety, the Ambassador attempted to depart the scene again in his vehicle. The vehicle was hit by an RPG and exploded. This is when Ambassador Stevens likely died, along with two of his bodyguards.

The normal Libyans were horrified. Chris Stevens was well liked, well respected, and the American presence relatively popular. Literally just a couple months ago, Ambassador Stevens announced that we would begin issuing US visas to Libyans again. The Libyans are genuinely grateful for the non-intrusive support for their revolution. When Ambassador Steven's vehicle was hit by an RPG, attempting to evacuate from the scene, it was normal Libyans who pulled him out, and who took him and the other casualties to other American workers located in their rally point safe house nearby, and accompanied him to the hospital, where a Libyan doctor attempted to revive him. It is possible that the angry civilian presence at the scene drove the attackers off, preventing them from following up on their attack.

SIDEBAR: “I thought the Libyans dragged Ambassador Stevens’ body through the streets?”

There is a picture floating around showing a shot that was aired on Al Jezreera TV.
Image
Pundits have been claiming it shows a mob dragging the body triumphantly through the streets.
Note, however, the way they are carrying the body. Upright, like you would carry a wounded casualty. Not by its ankles, dragging across the ground.

This picture shows ordinary Libyans rushing the body to the hospital and to the other Americans.


The Americans, having retreated to a safe house, waited for evacuation. A team of 8 US Marines was rushed from Bahrain to escort them. The Marines landed by helicopter and proceeded to the safe house and set up defensive positions.

The Libyan government, meanwhile, was reeling in shock and dismay, and rushed a militia commander and his men with a convoy of vehicles, including a heavy gun mounted in a pick-up truck, to the safe house location.

As soon as the convoy arrived, however, the house, whose location was supposed to have been secret, immediately came under heavy machinegun and mortar fire. The mortars were too accurate to have been hastily set up; they already had the exact range of the house plotted. At least two Marines were injured, and one to two Marines, along with one Regional Security Officer also fighting in the defense, were killed.

Unfortunately the Libyan militia commander had underestimated how many American survivors would be present at the house needing evacuation. He had been told 10, but there were 37. They didn’t have enough vehicles to take everybody.
The group was forced to defend themselves from incoming fire for another hour until more government militia could arrive with additional vehicles, and take the entire group to safety.

Ambassador Stevens was pronounced dead at a Libyan hospital, with the cause of death being primarily smoke inhalation.

Meanwhile, the Libyan public is aghast and ashamed. No group has taken responsibility for the attack, and locals, both civilians and the government forces, are hunting for the perpetrators.

Image
Image
Image



ANALYSIS

This was not a protest that went overboard. This was a planned, coordinated attack, by hardened, veteran, well-equipped fighters with good intelligence, good communication, and good leadership. They were quite possibly NOT Libyan.

President Obama has launched a full analysis of every single US Embassy and Consulate’s security and defenses world-wide. US Marine Fleet Antiterrorism Security Taskforce (FAST) platoons have been dispatched to reinforce threatened posts. The manning, funding, and influence of the Marine Security Guard battalion will likely increase. Posts without Marines are now begging for them, as many and as quickly as they can get.

The Embassy at Tripoli is much better defended and much more defensible than the Consulate at Benghazi was. The evacuation of Benghazi probably did not result in any compromise of national security information.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Brekkie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:01 pm

WHAT ABOUT CAIRO, EGYPT?

Another attack on another US Diplomatic Mission occurred on 9/11, at the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. This was an entirely separate and distinct event, with very different results.

The Embassy at Cairo had at least a limited amount of advance warning of the upcoming protest. The protest was organized largely via social media, so there was less element of surprise. Thus, no one was in the Embassy at the time except for vital personnel, and the Egyptian police surrounded the embassy forming a cordon to protect it.

As the crowd built, the police became intimidated by the numbers of protestors, and broke, allowing the protestors to approach the embassy walls. They then climbed over them (I’m not clear on what the LGF did at this point, but the impression I got was that they ran away too, in stark contrast to the Libyans) and got into the garden area surrounding the actual embassy building. Imagine it as the bailey of the castle, within the perimeter walls but outside the keep.

The protestors removed the American flag from the flag pole, ripped it up and burned it, and replaced a it with a black flag with the phrase “There is no god by Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger” in Arabic. They then basically milled around, unable to really accomplish anything further, and unable to get inside the actual embassy. The Marine Security Guards inside watched patiently from within the secured building, until the crowd finally got bored, thinned, and dispersed when the police arrived once again.

There was no exchange of fire. The embassy was never breached. No one was harmed.

SIDEBAR: "I heard that the US Ambassador in Cairo ordered that the Marines were not allowed to have live ammunition, and forced them to stand down and not defend the embassy."

This is 100% fabrication by conservative bloggers, and not true.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby bldavis » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:51 pm

thank you for that wonderful write up brekkie
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Aubade » Thu Sep 13, 2012 10:59 pm

Agreed. That was extremely informative.

Also; I am very glad to see the Libyan public demonstrating their support for the U.S. Ambassador.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Sagara » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:09 pm

Agreed as well. From the original data available to me (casual information gathering) it seemed as if a civilian mob had gone sour.

I guess the situation was too complicated to make good headlines :-/
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Brekkie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:21 pm

Sagara wrote:Agreed as well. From the original data available to me (casual information gathering) it seemed as if a civilian mob had gone sour.

I guess the situation was too complicated to make good headlines :-/


The situation was also initially very murky and confused. The only reliable eye-witnesses are still in the process of getting debriefed. The release of information from our (the US Government's) end has to be screened to ensure we aren't give out any info that potentially gives an advantage in future attacks, which is slow.

Also, journalists aren't very familiar with either the background, or the workings of embassies.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Sagara » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:28 pm

ITT: why people shouldn't assume and wait and see.

Thanks Brekkie!
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Brekkie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 11:31 pm

The "NUKE ALL THE MOOSLEM BROWN PEOPLE" crowd would hardly be much swayed by facts or context, regardless of when said facts were reported. A fact that the Romney campaign seems to be taking gleeful advantage of.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Skye1013 » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:14 am

SIDEBAR: "I heard that the US Ambassador in Cairo ordered that the Marines were not allowed to have live ammunition, and forced them to stand down and not defend the embassy."

This is 100% fabrication by conservative bloggers, and not true.

We've been discussing the whole situation at work, and I'd mentioned that I knew someone that was close to the situation. A captain in my office had mentioned the above, and I gave him your response. He came back with "well I read in the Nightwatch newsletter about this, which I'd trust more than some guy you know." I then pointed out that the Nightwatch guys hadn't even researched that portion and were basing their comments off of USMC blogs. His response: "touche."

Granted, I don't know you personally, but what I've learned about you from these forums make you seem like a fairly trustworthy guy (even if we don't always see eye to eye.)

I definitely appreciate your perspective on things.
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Re: Libya: US Consulate destroyed, Ambassador slain

Postby Passionario » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:38 am

Brekkie wrote:At some point, an American consulate worker was killed by a gunshot wound in the crossfire while evacuating.


The universe lost a great diplomat that day :(
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