Myth No. 1: The ‘Consulate’ Was a Diplomatic Mission
...As reported by the Wall Street Journal back in November of last year, “The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to officials briefed on the intelligence. Of the more than 30 American officials evacuated from Benghazi following the deadly assault, only seven worked for the State Department. Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said.”
Myth No. 2: The Attack Had Nothing to do With the anti-Islam Video
While it has since proven true that there was not a protest outside the facility precipitating the attack, the notion that the attack had absolutely nothing to do with the YouTube video (a clip showing an excerpt from the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims” that sparked protests and riots in dozens of countries, many of which outside U.S. diplomatic missions) is simply not supported by the facts. In reality, many witnesses who were interviewed shortly after the attack said that the militants from the Ansar al-Sharia brigade were chanting about the video during the assault on the facility.
As reported in the L.A. Times, “Witnesses said members of the group that raided the U.S. mission specifically mentioned the video, which denigrated the prophet Muhammad.”
The Associated Press reported, “There was no sign of a spontaneous protest against an American-made movie denigrating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. But a lawyer passing by the scene said he saw the militants gathering around 20 youths from nearby to chant against the film. Within an hour or so, the assault began, guns blazing as the militants blasted into the compound.”
The New York Times reported the month after the attack: “To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier.”
This doesn’t mean that the video served as the only reason for the attack. There is some evidence to suggest that perhaps the attack also served as retaliation for the death of Libyan militant and al-Qaeda associate Abu Yahya al-Libi who was killed in a U.S. drone strike three month earlier. But the claims that the attack had nothing whatsoever to do with the video do not comport with the evidence.
Myth No. 3: The Attack Was Pre-Planned and Not Spontaneous
A reporter from Foreign Policy arrived in Benghazi on Sept. 13, spoke with locals, surveyed the facility site and concluded that the “attack was haphazard, poorly planned, and badly executed,” and points out that most of the Americans were able to get away by simply using an armored jeep to escape through the front gate and take off down the road which was not blocked—not exactly the hallmarks of a carefully planned assault.
Bloomberg reported that “accounts from U.S. intelligence officials and Benghazi residents, along with evidence in the burned-out American diplomatic compound, point to a hasty and poorly organized act by men with basic military training and access to weapons widely available in Libya.”
And the Washington Post quoted an intelligence source, saying, “There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance,” adding, “The bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”.
Myth No. 4: Changing the Talking Points Amounts to a ‘Coverup’
The administration recently released a trove of more than 100 pages of emails showing internal discussion of the talking points concerning the attack going through a dozen different revisions by the State Department and CIA. These are not the emails that were doctored by Republicans and leaked to ABC News, but the actual emails.
Myth No. 5: There Were Military Response Teams That Could Have Reached Benghazi in Time to Save Those Who Were Killed
Some have claimed that a response team was at the-the-ready to respond to the Benghazi attack while Americans were being killed but were told to stand down, implying that perhaps the stand-down order was politically motivated—though to what end is unclear.
Gregory Hicks testified that a four-person team was ready to fly to Benghazi but was unable to get the proper clearance for the mission. However, even Hicks acknowledges that the team would not have reached the attack site in time, and Stevens and the other three Americans were already dead at that point.
In fact, according to the ARB report, the U.S. embassy in Tripoli immediately began to mobilize a response once they received word of the attack and did send a seven-person team to Benghazi. Unfortunately the team arrived just as the second attack began at the nearby CIA annex, as mortar rounds struck the roof and killed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
The four-person team to which Hicks was referring was a second team that would have arrived hours after the first, at a time when the four Americans had already been killed. Hicks believes the second team could have helped with the wounded and prevent any further attacks, which is perhaps true.
Bonus Myth: The Attack Was Carried Out by al-Qaeda
The reporting on this issue is varied, but most agree that the attack was carried out primarily by members of the Ansar al-Sharia militant group, which is a Libyan organization made up of former anti-Gaddafi rebels with limited, tangential connections to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Part of the confusion here perhaps stems from the fact that there are two organizations that go by the name “Ansar al-Sharia”, and the other one operates out of Yemen and has direct connections to AQAP.
CNN reported that at least 3 attackers of the 150 men who stormed the facility were AQAP members, though how exactly they were involved has not been determined. The article reads, “Another source briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack. But it’s not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose.”
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