The official (“unclassified”) report of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the Benghazi attack is out. It is only 39 short pages, and needs to be read in full.
It is a cover-up presented as an honest objective disclosure.
It is full of facts, but many vital facts are omitted. You will find no mention, for instance, of the fact made public by the father of one of the dead Americans, Tyrone Woods, that he and Glenn Doherty – praised in the report for what they did without being named – were twice told (by whom?) to stand down and not go to the aid of the ambassador, so when they did go it was against orders. And the report claims that there was not sufficient time to get effective military reinforcements to the mission, but there was. And it makes no comment on the fact that the two surveillance aircraft chosen to hover over the scene of carnage, arson, looting and murder were unarmed.
There is much to criticize, much to stir indignation in this wretched report. This above all provokes us to comment:
[Ambassador] Stevens’ mission was to serve as the liaison with the TNC [Transitional National Council, the temporary Libyan government) in preparation for a post-Qaddafi democratic government in Libya. By all accounts, he was extremely effective, earned the admiration of countless numbers of Libyans, and personified the U.S. government commitment to a free and democratic Libya.
There you see it: the Big Fantasy, the substitute-reality, which Obama’s administration – in particular his State Department – fashioned out of thin air to fit his Arab dream.
We don’t doubt that some Libyans liked Mr Stevens. As the numbers cannot be counted, conjecture can run to there being very many, as the ARB report chooses to imply, or comparatively few, which the events described in the report strongly suggest. What really happened was an atrocity carried out for no reason but hatred of America and Americans. The Board has its eyes firmly shut against that obvious fact, and no motive whatsoever for the attack is ascribed to the attackers.
The attack was carried out by a mob of Libyans with the pre-knowledge and assistance of other Libyans who were paid to guard the mission, but left a gate unlocked for the mob and melted away as the attack began. The unlocked gate and the departure of the paid guards are recorded in the report. But the gate may have been unlocked by oversight, it implies. As to the stupidity of employing known Arab terrorists as guards, whose reason for existence is to kill Americans and American allies – not a word. That they could have been better trained by their British employers is acknowledged. That they might have been more effective if they had been armed is dubiously implied.
If they had been armed. The report admits that the paid Libyan guards were not armed. Obama’s people, wanting the Libyans to love them and be grateful to them for helping to overthrow Qaddafi, trusted a motley bunch of terrorists affiliated to various murderous groups to protect their ambassador and diplomatic staff. But they did not let them carry arms. Why not? Was it because they wouldn’t have it seem that they distrusted anyone in Libya, or suspected for a moment that some Libyans might attack the mission? In the fantasy, nice Mr Stevens had won their hearts, so they must not give the least sign of distrust? Or did they quietly fear that the guards might turn their arms on the Americans they were employed to protect? We are left to wonder about that. Without the Libyans knowing it, the Ambassador had been asking for months for more effective protection and it had been refused. That also the report records. Reality, after all, is reality, and Stevens himself was too close to it to ignore it entirely. But Obama’s people clung to the dream, and would hear no appeals. The report finds the refusal reprehensible, but lays some blame on Ambassador Stevens himself for not insisting more on getting better protection.
The paragraph we quote above ends with the only mention in the report of U.S. government policy. There is otherwise no suggestion that a policy may have something to do with what happened to Americans in Benghazi; no glance upwards in the direction of someone whose decrees may have contributed to the disaster it is inquiring into.
But Ambassador Stevens is dead. He died a horrible death. One of the two men with him survived and was able to describe how it felt to have his lungs full of choking smoke, how he struggled to breathe clean air, how he vomited, how he fainted. The less robust Chris Stevens helplessly choked to death on the foul fumes. So if he “personified the U.S. Government commitment to a free and democratic Libya” as the report says, then that commitment is dead – or ought to be, if logic could touch the dream.
The reality that Libyans murdered Stevens should kill the dream. But we doubt it will. The report insists that nobody on the heights of government is to blame. The lesser beings in the hierarchy – “senior officials within two bureaus” – who, it concedes, should have done better, did not do so badly in the Board’s opinion that they deserve to be “disciplined”.
Nor have they been. Contrary to a new delusion created by the administration, no one has lost his or her job as punishment for losing the battle of Benghazi, for allowing America to be beaten and humiliated. And after all, what did they do wrong? They were obeying their government, whether or not they were given orders directly on that night of terror – as they should have been, though the report does not tell us that they were.
The most vital fact is that the policy prepared the atrocity and the defeat. And no inquiry initiated by the administration itself will confess that truth.