WASHINGTON D.C., September 12, 2012 – The heavily armed mob which attacked America’s embassy in Benghazi and claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others raises deeply troubling questions for the security of American citizens abroad and the long term political credibility of our presence in the region.
Prior to President Barack Obama’s decision in March 2011 to support the Libyan rebel uprising and overthrow dictator Muammar Qaddafi, a report released by the U.S. Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point entitled “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look At The Sinjar Records” reviewed intelligence captured by coalition forces that included biographical data on over 700 records of foreign nationals that entered Iraq between August 2006 and 2007.
The report showed that an alarmingly disproportionate number of fighters entering Iraq to oppose the U.S.-led coalition presence there had been recruited from Libya, particularly the cities of Darnah and Benghazi, the present-day site where our embassy was attacked.
Ironically, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi utilized brutal tactics to suppress the Islamic militants which were actively exporting fighters to Iraq. According to the report,
“Both Darnah and Benghazi have been long associated with Islamic militancy in Libya, in particular for an uprising by Islamist organizations in the mid-1990s. The Libyan government blamed the uprising on “infiltrators from the Sudan and Egypt” and one group – the Libyan Fighting Group (jama’ah al-libiyah al-mugatilah) – claimed to have Afghan veterans in its ranks. The Libyan uprisings became extraordinarily violent. Qadhafi used helicopter gunships in Benghazi, cut telephone, electricity, and water supplies to Darnah and famously claimed that the militants “deserve to die without trial, like dogs”” (p.12).
During Operation: Odyssey Dawn – the 2011 U.S. mission to support Libyan rebels against Qaddafi – the Obama Administration sent upwards of $25 million in “non-military” aid to the rebels and, as a workaround to the United Nations arms embargo covering all of Libya, the Administration likewise requested that the Saudis and others provide weapons to the rebellion.
According to reports covering the deadly attack on our Benghazi embassy, the mob was equipped with heavy weaponry including rocket propelled grenades. The question that must be asked – and that the American people must demand Congress ask at once – is whether or not the individuals who attacked the embassy and killed Stevens were formerly employed and armed in the U.S.-led operation to overthrow Qaddafi.
The cries for intervention in Libya and support of the rebels in 2011 were bipartisanly deafening, drowning out calls for restraint in the region. Today, the awful implications of America’s foreign policy towards Northern Africa and the Middle East should force us to seek swift answers – and accountability of our elected leadership – for what happened yesterday.
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