How could this have been allowed to happen? Infuriating:
The consulate where the American ambassador to Libya was killed on Tuesday is an “interim facility” not protected by the contingent of Marines that safeguards embassies, POLITICO has learned. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed with three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the city of Benghazi, where Libyan rebels ousted strongman Moammar Qadhafi last year. Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Kendra Motz said that Marines were not posted to the consulate, unlike the embassy in the capital, Tripoli. A defense official told POLITICO on Wednesday that the Pentagon is sending an elite team of about 50 additional Marines, called a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, to reinforce the embassy.
A senior administration official Wednesday called the Benghazi consulate “an interim facility,” which the State Department began using “before the fall of Qadhafi.” It was staffed Tuesday by Libyan and State Department security officers. The consulate came under fire from heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at about 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday. By the time the attack ended several hours later, four Americans were dead and three others had been injured. The Benghazi consulate had “lock-and-key” security, not the same level of defenses as a formal embassy, an intelligence source told POLITICO. That means it had no bulletproof glass, reinforced doors or other features common to embassies. The intelligence source contrasted it with the American embassy in Cairo, Egypt – “a permanent facility, which is a lot easier to defend.” The Cairo embassy also was attacked Tuesday.
Whoa. So despite months of threats and escalating violence, our Benghazi consulate remained woefully under-protected -- even when our Ambassador was present, and even on a glaringly symbolic date. That's not an oversight. That's an egregious failure. Now that the damage is done and four souls have been lost, our government has finally dispatched an elite team of Marines to Benghazi to...what, exactly? Guard the smoldering ashes and corpses? I'm also puzzled by the assertion that our Cairo embassy is "a lot easier to defend." That's undoubtedly true -- at least compared to the "lock-and-key" Mickey Mouse security measures in Benghazi -- but, er, wasn't our mighty Cairo fortress breached by the angry mob, too? Not to worry, though, Egypt's new Islamist leader is spitting mad. But not over the violent protests and dangerous violation of US sovereignty:
A day after rioters breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt's president spoke Wednesday in the "strongest terms" -- but not against the attack. WhiIe Egypt's prime minister called Tuesday's incident "regrettable" and unjustified, President Mohamed Morsy condemned the anti-Muslim film that incited the protesters. Morsy made a reference to Egypt's duty to protect diplomatic missions and its opposition to unlawful protesters, but did not mention or criticize those who stormed the embassy. "The presidency condemns in the strongest terms the attempt of a group to insult the place of the Messenger, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and condemns the people who have produced this radical work," the president said...
It now appears that Amb. Stevens was murdered inside the consulate, and only later did other American diplomats come under coordinated, heavy fire at their ostensible "safe house." That location was reportedly compromised by Libyan security personnel (Update: CBS News confirms), upon whom the American civilians were relying in the absence of US Marines. We've also learned that two additional Americans were killed during the chaotic, hours-long firefight. This account from NBC News paints a frightening picture:
U.S. troops dispatched by helicopter across the Libyan desert to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens and other diplomats in Benghazi ran into a fierce overnight ambush that left a further two Americans dead, Libyan officials told Reuters. Accounts of the mayhem at the U.S. consulate, where the ambassador and another diplomat died after a chaotic protest over a film insulting to Islam, remain patchy. But two Libyan officials, including the commander of a security force that escorted the U.S. rescuers, said a later assault on a supposedly safe refuge for the diplomats appeared professionally executed. Miscommunication that understated the number of American survivors awaiting rescue -- there were 37, nearly four times as many as the Libyan commander expected -- also meant survivors and rescuers found themselves short of transport to escape this second battle, delaying an eventual dawn break for the airport.
Capt. Fathi al-Obeidi, whose special operations unit was ordered by Libya's authorities to meet an eight-man U.S. Marine force at Benghazi airport, said that after his men and the Marines had found the American survivors who had evacuated the blazing consulate, the ostensibly secret location in an isolated villa came under an intense and highly accurate mortar barrage. "I really believe that this attack was planned," he said, adding to suggestions by other Libyan officials that at least some of the hostility towards the Americans was the work of experienced combatants. "The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries." ... Of the eight American troops who had come from Tripoli, one was killed and two were wounded, Obeidi said. A Libyan deputy interior minister said a second American was also killed in the attack on the safe house. It was not clear if this was a diplomat or one of the consulate's original security detail.
Our representatives and their protectors were totally and comprehensively unprepared for what hit them. It's increasingly clear that street protests "provoked" by an obscure Mohammad film were were a highly effective smoke-screen, and may even have been instigated by the terrorists themselves. CNN reports:
That analysis is supported by U.S. sources who say the attack on the consulate is believed to have been pre-planned. The sources say the attackers used the protest as a diversion to launch the attack, although the sources could not say if the attackers instigated the protest or merely took advantage of it.
This was a lethal meltdown, in which our enemies out-smarted and out-gunned the United States. And they also displayed a remarkable degree of cunning in order to play our media, too. The controversial film is the red herring here -- there's something much more dangerous afoot, as six of our departed countrymen learned when they were slaughtered, terrified, while thousands of miles from home. Appalling.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography