A lot went right in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012. The majority of Americans whose lives were at great risk during and after the attack on the State Department compound were safely evacuated on the 12th. The rescue was pulled off with little military support, save for one unarmed Predator drone overhead, which offered additional situational awareness to those on the ground, and two Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operators who took the initiative to get into the fight.
Sadly, the ultimate success of this evacuation isn’t owed to good leadership from the top down. It was good leadership from the bottom up. A few good men, former and active Special Operations soldiers, took the initiative to push back and take charge. At the CIA Annex, GRS agents ran up against a risk-adverse CIA chief of base (COB) more concerned with careerism than helping his fellow Americans under duress. He held the agents back, which may have contributed to the death of a U.S. ambassador. A new book, 13 Hours: The inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi, provides more detail surrounding the COB’s stand-down order than SOFREP originally reported in Benghazi: The Definitive Report back in early 2013.
“I strongly believe if we’d left immediately, they’d still be alive today”. -Excerpt from 13 Hours
Ironically, the chief of base would later receive an award for his actions, according to one of SOFREP’s CIA sources.
We have a saying in the Special Operations community that speaks to situations of weak top-down leadership: Lions led by lambs. That’s not a good situation to be in when you’re an operator deployed to a hostile combat zone, as the authors of 13 Hours surely know from their firsthand experiences on the night of September 11th, 2012.
I lost my best friend, Glen Doherty, on the 12th of September to a coordinated mortar attack on the Annex. I’ve been in enough hot spots to know the difference between an angry mob and coordinated fire-and-maneuver tactics.
I’ve made it clear in the past that my main problem with Benghazi isn’t what happened that night, it’s what happened after, and the lack of transparency and accountability within the White House and State Department. You expect bad things to happen when you serve in the worst places on the planet—it comes with the job description. My friends expect and embrace this risk.
Before the dust had a chance to settle in Benghazi, the political posturing started on both sides of the party aisle. Shortly after the bodies arrived back on U.S. soil, Obama and Clinton met the families and made promises they couldn’t keep in regards to finding justice, taking care of the families affected by the events surrounding Benghazi, and holding people accountable. It appears that anything was said to keep certain family members out of the crosshairs of the press. After all, there was a presidential election at stake in 2012 and 2016.
In the Special Ops community, when you make a mistake, you own up to it; you take complete responsibility for your actions in the hopes that humble acknowledgement will produce future learning, and that mistakes of the past will not be repeated. It would appear that in the modern halls of power in D.C., exemplary behavior is shunned and whispered away like a drunk uncle at a holiday party.
As I write this, the CIA life-insurance policy on Glen Doherty has not paid out, and the U.S. government has provided no death or basic burial benefit to the Doherty estate. This lack of transparency and accountability with regards to what happened after Benghazi is what I find unacceptable and unforgivable as an American citizen.
The book 13 hours plays an important part in American history. It should be read by all those who don’t want to see mistakes of the past repeated again in the future. Too often, the men on the ground don’t get to tell their part of the story; it’s told for them in the halls of power. But with this story, the former CIA paramilitary GRS agents sacrificed their careers to fill in the Benghazi blanks, and for this sacrifice, they should be thanked by America.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Facebook via The Blaze)