Last Updated:November 26 @ 11:36 am

America Under Attack: Leading From Behind, Into Decline

By Ivan Kenneally

As the grisly details of the attacks on American embassies in Libya and Egypt slowly break through a fog of misinformation, a grim yarn of coordinated violence and terrorist activity unspools. Originally characterized by the press as spontaneous unrest in reaction to a controversial film allegedly insulting to Islam, it has now become clear that  the multiples assaults on American interests were premeditated offensives, specifically designed to turn a day of quiet remembrance and mourning into a chilling redux of bloody tragedy.

Multiple questions remain unanswered regarding the shocking inadequacy of embassy security, particularly in Benghazi, the identity of the culprits, yawning blind spots within our intelligence and defense communities, and the nature of an appropriate US response, political and military. However, out of a swarm of dubious facts, a coherent narrative can now be constructed that permits a informed discussion of these matters.

What Happened?

Only hours after a planned protest at the American embassy in Egypt erupted into unrestrained violence, the American embassy in Libya was similarly breached by multiple assailants. At first reported as a random convulsion of violence perpetrated by a disorganized mob, new facts have confirmed that the embassy attacks were meticulously planned and well equipped tactical offensives. According to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: “Absolutely, I have no doubt about it. It was a coordinated, military-style, commando-type raid.” Similarly, an unnamed senior official at a State Department press briefing referred to the embassy invasion in Libya as “clearly a complex attack”. Rogers also shared that an Al Qaeda linked terrorist outfit, Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades, is now considered potentially responsible for the attacks.

Also, what was initially reported as a indiscriminate outpouring of violence turned out to be two distinct offensive waves, planned in conjunction with one another, lasting nearly five harrowing hours in their totality. The shooting began around 10pm (Libyan time), targeting an embassy occupied by approximately 25-30 official personnel. The embassy is actually a self-contained compound consisting of several adjacent buildings, almost entirely guarded by Libyan security forces. (So far, there only seems to have been 2 Marines on security duty).

Within 15 minutes, the assailants, numbering about 20 and armed with guns and grenade launchers, had breached the embassy’s walls. At that point, most the building had been evacuated leaving only Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, a foreign service information manager, and a security officer in the building, which at that point was engulfed in flames.

By 10:45 the inner corridors of the building were filled with thick plumes of black smoke and the three left inside the building, unable to see, became separated. The security officer was able to escape the besieged inferno. Smith and Stevens died, but it remains persistently unclear under what conditions. It had been widely reported as confirmed that Stevens died of smoke inhalation after being carried, completely unconscious, by Libyan nationals to a local hospital. However, this has been contradicted by a senior administration official:

“At some point in all of this, and frankly we do not know when, we believe that Ambassador Stevens got out of the building and was taken to a hospital in Benghazi. We do not have any information what his condition was at that time.” Since no US official saw the body until it was turned over to American authorities at Benghazi airport at dawn, and and autopsy has yet to be performed, these reports necessarily remain highly speculative. Ambassador Stevens’ body had been missing for nearly ten hours.

Fred Burton, a former diplomatic security official at the State Department, observes:

“Was he killed coming back to the mission or was he trying to exit the mission? Was he trying to exit the safe house that’s now into play? There are a lot of unknown factors here,” he says.

“You may have had a situation that deteriorated so rapidly that a snap decision was made to load up the ambassador, and ‘Let’s get the hell out of dodge,’ and they just vacated and ran into a situation where you had a perimeter set up and RPGs were fired into the limo as it was departing,” he says.

By 11:20 Libyan forces temporarily regained control of the embassy, only to be repulsed by a second wave of attacks at midnight. A ferocious firefight was waged for more than two hours, killing two more security personnel and wounding another two. Finally, after four and a half hours of gunfire, Libyan forces retook the embassy.

What Motivated These Attacks?

Almost immediately following the attacks, a narrative emerged that attributed both embassy invasions to a single cause: a video posted by an obscure (even unknown) film maker, purportedly calling Islam “a cancer”, blasphemously mocking the prophet Muhammad. However, this increasingly seems unlikely. First, the Cairo attacks were almost certainly planned well before the video in question ever surfaced. As early as August 30th, the protest (by more than 2,000 Egyptians) was organized by Gamaa Islamiyya, a group designated by the US Sate Department as terrorist. The planned demonstrations were in the service of getting its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman (dubbed the “blind sheik”) released from prison. He is currently serving a life sentence for his role in the World Trade Center bombing.

It is unclear why the State Department, originally attributing the Cairo riots to the Youtube video, seemed unaware of a protest orchestrated well in advance, largely on the internet. At most, the Youtube video was an afterthought, and more likely, a useful pretense to chum the waters of an already volatile Egyptian street. Still, the media and the State Department clung to this interpretation, long after it was thoroughly debunked. Hilary Clinton, in particular, stuck to this narrative, then softened her position conceding the State Department was still “working to determine motivations” and then finally seemed to concede the point:

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

It should be noted that despite its designation as a terrorist organization, the State Department issued a visa to a high ranking member of Gamaa Islamiyya back in June so American officials could meet with him in Washington, along with an Egyptian delegation.Unsurprisingly, his most pressing demand was for the release of Sheikh Omar abdel Rahman. In response to criticisms over allowing a known terrorist onto American soil, the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland responded:

“We neither had then, nor do we have now, any reason to believe that this particular individual — who at the time of his application was a member of parliament — would pose a threat to the United States.”

In the case of the Libyan attacks, an unnamed American official observed: “It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack”. Again, as in Egypt, the evidence mounts that the attacks were planned well in advance and orchestrated by a militant faction called Ansar al Sharia (Supporters of Islamic Law), possibly in conjunction with a North African affiliate of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Al Qaeda’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahri recently posted a video online demanding that revenge be delivered for the killing of an operative last June in Pakistan by an American drone. The video chillingly entreated Muslims to take up arms against Americans: “…blood is calling on you, inciting you to fight and kill crusaders”. Still, American officials have strongly discouraged the formulation of speculative theories that precipitously assume two similar attacks, planned well in advance and executed within hours of each other, possibly linked through a nexus of terrorist organizations, and carried out on 9/11, have any connection.

Questions Regarding Security and Intelligence

It’s impossible to ignore discomfiting questions regarding woefully inadequate security measures at both embassies and the flat-footed preparation of our multiple intelligence organizations. First, there seem to have no special security precautions taken in either instance, despite both protests being telegraphed well in advance. In the case of Libya, the British consulate had been attacked before and specifically warned that the American embassy could be potentially attacked as well. Also, a congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contractingissued a warning back in 2009 that an excessive reliance upon low-bid contractors was undermining the overall quality of security being provided for the embassy in Libya. Further, the Diplomatic Security office, a department within the State Department, repeatedly warned that its insufficient funding jeopardized embassy security. Despite all this, a senior American official stated, that in regard to Libyan Embassy Security, it was “similar to the way we are postured all over the world”. In other words, no special arrangement was made in response to the gathering threat.

To matters even worse, there is evidence that the Libyan nationals primarily responsible for guarding Ambassador Stevens may have leaked information regarding his relocation from the traditional embassy to a “safer” compound. There has been no comment forthcoming from Obama’s administration indicating that this rumor is under investigation. Furthermore, why was Stevens only guarded by two Marines? Since Marines are typically charged with security detail at embassies, their paltry number is conspicuous.

It is also worth fleshing out the proximate chronological context of the dual attacks. On September 9th, a feverish wave of bombings and shootings killed 92 people in 13 cities. On September 10th, a car bomb in Pakistan killed 11. On September 11th, a rocket attack on a US base killed 3 Afghans and a suicide bomber killed 5 more, wounding 6. Also, an assassination attempt was made on the Yemeni defense Minister, killing 13. In the midst of such a deluge of targeted terrorist violence across the Middle East, in conjunction with the planned protests in Libya and Egypt, why didn’t the US significantly bolster its security?

The Egyptian Response: Not Exactly an Apology

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil issued a statement calling the attacks on the American embassy “regrettable”, an innocuous term to describe an act of aggression committed on US soil, and only because “the people who produced this low film have o relation to the (US) government”. In other words, he considers a violent reaction to perceived blasphemy legitimate as long as properly aimed. His audacity continues:

“We ask the American government to take a firm position toward this film’s producers within the framework of international charters that criminalize acts that stir strife on the basis of race, color or religion.”

Even after the attack, and the obsequious apology quickly issued by the State Department immediately following them, Kandil still demands that the US condemn an act of free speech. To layer insult on top of injury, Egyptian President Morsi has announced his intention to take “legal measures” against any films in the US also guilty of blasphemy.

There is ample precedent to suggest that Egypt does not take seriously the invasion of embassies within its borders. On September 9, 2011, the Israeli embassy was stormed by an angry mob, threatening the lives of six security officials barricaded inside. Not only did Egyptian authorities do nothing to stop them, they refused to take calls from Israeli officials pleading for assistance. Only after entreaties from the US did Egypt finally intervene. For charges as serious as “sabotage” and “an assault against diplomatic missions” all 76 men charged were given, this last August 26th, suspended sentences and sent home without jail time.

Leading From Behind

Just over 33 years ago, the American embassy in Iran was attacked, hostages were taken, and American sovereignty was violated. President Carter’s tepid response and conciliatory tone only emboldened terrorists who took his diplomatic gesture as a sign of weakness. Carter proved unable to bring that crisis to a close, and lost his presidency, because he failed to understand the a steadfast demonstration of strength is itself a necessary diplomatic tool. He tried to substitute empathy and an earnest openness to dialogue for steely fortitude. Our enemies were unimpressed by his maturity then and continued to be unimpressed now.

President Obama insists on following Carter’s dubious lead, replacing declarations of commitment to American principle with sheepish apologies for our purported injustices of the past. More than any other foreign policy position, his refusal to unambiguously support Israel in its existential struggle with Iran has incentivized its thwarting of international law, as well as its continued pursuit, with impunity, of a nuclear weapon. The terrible wages of such pusillanimous posturing must be eventually paid and the effects are now visible in the increasingly bold attacks on American interests, on its soil. Obama calls his passive foreign policy brew of concession and contrition “leading from behind” but it looks closer to falling behind, and being led into decline. The great Roman historian Tacitus famously reported that the Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Obama tweets while our flags smolder. One can hope our own empire meets a happier fate.

Ivan Kenneally is the Editor in Chief of the Daily Witness.

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  1. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    September 13, 2012 @ 11:16 am

    While Obama touts his Bin Laden Kill Pre-election, Bin Laden’s Nr 2 Al-Zawahiri continues to plan multiple coordinated attacks upon our embassies unopposed and naked to attack by a sleeping puffed up “Lead from behind” President . Now I guess he WILL have to sit on those Bin Laden Kill Photos that the Democrats planned on mysteriously getting leaked right before the election to edify our metro-sexual President of the behind leader as an alpha male. I don’t think his candidacy can stand another embarrassing embassy attack. Oh, how the mighty men of words have fallen to the mighty men of deeds and accomplishment. Bring on the R & R, Retrieve and Rescue team of Romney/Ryan who have the mental ammunition to win the day.

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    • pypypypyComment by pypypypy
      September 13, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

      and he is the one with the foreign policy experience? Really?

      Yeah… go appeasement. Way to go, BO. Apologize some more for us. He doesnt have a clue!

      OBL is no more because of the policies President Bush put in place and because of our brave Seal team 6!

      We are in a crisis and all he can think about is his re-election and campaigning. Just you wait, as outrage grows here from voters and his poll number slips, he will do an about face.
      You cant trust BO to handle the economy nor can you trust him to protect the lives of Americans abroad, Period!

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  2. billwvComment by billwv
    September 13, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    The case in point and sufficient prima faca evidence indicate that Barrack Hussein Obama [aka Ozero] is a staunch Muslim and is unwilling to uphold his sworn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. It is apparent that this country needs to hand Ozero a ‘pink slip’. See ya later America / Israel hater! We are in need of two men who will stand up for and defend our American way of life.

    Vote for and elect: Romney / Ryan 2012

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  3. mike1Comment by mike1
    September 13, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

    Obama still trying to appease the Muslims shows what a fool he is. You can’t appease the people that want to see all infidels dead. We have no leader of this great country, only a fool that wants to totally destroy this country and bring it down to the level of the rest of the countries of his brothers and sisters.

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    • agent007Comment by agent007
      September 14, 2012 @ 11:07 am

      Answer this question: Are you a Christian or a Muslim?

      If you’re a Christian, you’re an infidel! Get it?
      It means, you’re not one of them! They don’t like infidels!
      Continuing to try and appease them is then just plain stupidity!

      So the real question is: Are you a Muslim or just plain stupid and naive?

      Either way, you are not fit to be my President!

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  4. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    September 13, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    “And what has Barack Obama been doing? One thing he has NOT been doing is attending his daily national security briefings. As Marc A. Thiessen notes in an op-ed in the Washington Post, Obama has attended less than half of his daily security and intelligence briefings.

    The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.”

    This, taken from another Gopusa article is very, very revealing about Obama’s mindset on security at home, and abroad. Perhaps if the terrorists had targeted one of his favorite golf courses, or fund raising venues, he might, just might have been more responsible in his duties! But whatsoever is revealed in the future about these planned and coordinated attacks upon our fellow citizens and territory, Obama will let us know that; his incredibly slow witted, yet somehow incredibly clever predecessor George W. Bush caused it all to happen! And… Bill Clinton will inform us that no President in the history of this Nation could have done anything to prevent it!

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    • inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
      September 13, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

      Intelligence meetings are only for people of intelligence.

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  5. gnafuComment by gnafu
    September 13, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

    It is common sense that the attacks were about 9/11 and not some flim-flam film that irritated the Islams. The embassies should have been fortified – surrounded with machine guns to ward off the offenses by the Iranians. Someone “stateside” had to know hot-heads were brewing with Americans about to mourn once again those murdered on 9/11.. Stevens knew something was up with cameras flashing about the Libya embassy. There was even more senility for the current president to hit the campaign trail right after all the hell broke loose and Americans were downed. Isn’t that a good time to not leave the White House? Am I wrong? He made his ‘speech’ and was back on the trail pronto. Who made the apology to Iran about hurting Muslim’s feelings?! That’s one that really made me wonder what country am I living in.

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  6. highsiderComment by highsider
    September 13, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

    The Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, is also known as Marine Security Guards (MSG) or the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. They are a battalion of US Marines that have detachments posted at American Embassies and American Consulates.

    The formal and permanent use of Marines as security guards began with the Foreign Service Act in1946. The Secretary of the Navy was authorized by it to assign Marines to serve as custodians under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at a diplomatic post upon the request of the Secretary of State.

    The primary mission of the MSG is to provide security, at American diplomatic posts. This is accomplished under the guidance and operational control of a civilian federal agent of the Diplomatic Security Service known as the Regional Security Officer, who is the senior U.S. law enforcement representative and security attaché at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world.

    Such RSO’s are responsible ultimately to the Secretary of State, In this case, Hillary Clinton. Ultimately, as with all US military forces they fall under the control of The President of the United States as the Commander in Chief.

    In addition, MSGs provide security for visiting American dignitaries and frequently assist the RSO in supervising host country and/or locally employed security forces which provide additional security for the exterior of embassies. The MSGs fall under operational control of the RSO and are administratively controlled by the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group. The secondary mission of Marine Security Guards is to provide protection for U.S. citizens and U.S. Government property located within designated U.S. Diplomatic and Consular premises during exigent circumstances, which require immediate aid or action.

    Its headquarters are at Quantico and the Libyan embassy is under the responsibility of the area headquarters for India and the Middle East at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

    For some reason the security duties at many, if not all diplomatic posts in Middle East countries seem to have been unwisely subcontracted to local indigenous forces whom we see stand idly by while Embassies are overrun, property destroyed, flags burned and Americans murdered by agents of the Muslim Brotherhood, which group President Obama fetes at the White House and State Dinners and whom he helped to gain power in his much vaunted “Arab Spring”.

    But don’t worry, Barry will save us with a well placed apology to the Muslim world. It was all Bushes fault anyway.

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  7. yhvhdaughterComment by yhvhdaughter
    September 14, 2012 @ 4:52 am

    What happened to the two Marines? Are they alright?

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    • agent007Comment by agent007
      September 14, 2012 @ 11:08 am

      Unfortunately, it has been reported that the 2 marines were ex Navy Seals, and both have died.

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  8. redseaComment by redsea
    September 14, 2012 @ 4:58 am

    It does make logical sense that it is related to 911 and Obama’s gloating over “his”? kill. I am not impressed with the response of the Egyptian president nor the response of our American president. Neither should be reacting so mildly, nor hastily. OBL was previously a CIA agent and Al Qaeda was a CIA creation that used to have training camps in the USA, when we were fighting side by side with the Taliban against the Russians, and this relation went sour. This is the root of the conflict between Al Qaeda and the USA, and their beef with US, which in no way justifies terrorism or their beliefs. But what about knowing and studying your enemies, and leaving the civilian main stream population out of it. There is the OBL brand of Islam and the main stream brand of Islam does not subscibe nor approve of the OBL brand of Islam. This lack of understanding creates a vast divide and rift between the Middle East and the Western World. I am sure that the groups attacking the US and Libyan Embassy’s do not reflect the vast majority of Egyptian society just as the film-maker does not reflect the majority of American society. Libya is an entirely different story, because they are a more primitive and tribal society than Egypt, having more radical and violent elements, and more similar in comparison to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Anyway, with all of this information I understand, I can tell your for sure that Obama is a huge Foreign Policy failure, Amateur in Chief. These events do not have to come between the civilian population of the 2 countries, breeding hatred, nor the relation between the 2 governments. It’s all in the briefing and public statements, and neither the Egyptian president nor the American president are showing very much Intelligence.

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    • agent007Comment by agent007
      September 14, 2012 @ 11:22 am

      When researching the statement above that OBL was ever a CIA agent and that Al Qaeda was a CIA creation, I found this to be non-factual.
      Some have stated that OBL and Arab Afghans were at some point provided funds by the US, but no evidence of this being true exists.
      Very clear is that no one ever suggested that OBL was a CIA agent.
      We never were fighting side by side with Taliban against the Russians, even though we provided funds and weapons to the Afghans.

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  9. middlegroundComment by middleground
    September 14, 2012 @ 8:48 am

    The Constitution became a meaningless document when our courts said individuals who belong to a group should enjoy special rights and benefits that don’t apply to all individuals. This change went under titles such as Affirmative Action, Gender Equality and Multiculturalism, but stripped of the compassion to make up for past wrongs, it erected a new concept — special rights and privileges for certain groups labeled who were labeled “victims”. The destruction of individual responsibility and consequences flows from that simple shift.

    The solution is simple. Return to the concept that all citizens have equal rights and responsibilities, but that each citizen is part of our national human resource and should have an opportunity to develop to the best of their abilities as a member of our society. but recognize that long-term welfare destroys both their dignity and self respect of those who recieve making them slaves of the government.

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  10. nanceComment by nance
    September 14, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    how many mosques are in the USA?

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  11. noveldogComment by noveldog
    September 14, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    Behind closed doors did BHO celebrate? Is this yet another step in his design to destroy America and set up a One World Govenment?

    There is an old saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Look arond him at all the vultures and unseemly characters.

    Also is it not said,”If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and has feathers…it probably is a duck? So what does BHO talk like? What does he sound like? What does he support, and who does he support? Need I say more?

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  12. nanceComment by nance
    September 14, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

    well, what do you think? Who do you think he supports? What more evidence do you need than the last four years and now the last three days and gaining momentum – for Clinton to say as he just did just now on TV,. that this “president” wants to REBUILD America from the ground up well what do you think of that or don’t you think? God Almighty how many more of you are out there to help poor Obama in his struggle along our path to destruction? all these words about the duck – well are you ducks and do you walk and talk and scratch like all sound the same and the same old same old – trying to explain this and that with worn phrases,,Good God! Forgive us for our insipid, ignorant vanities of

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    • camzComment by camz
      September 15, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

      It is frustrating. I enjoy reading several of the posters here but all of the venting and valid-point making does little to instill any confidence in the future. Our only hope is to educate those around us as to what is at stake here and now. If this election goes the wrong way, things are going to get ugly. The assault on freedom will not go unchallenged.

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