Chuck’s Take on Benghazi

Posted by on Oct 18, 2012 in Articles, Books, Media | 16 comments

One of Chuck’s postings while at SeAL Team Six was in Beruit where he witnessed the destruction of the Marine barracks. The situation in the Middle East is something he’s knowledgeable and passionate about. In this op-ed, discusses the situation from the perspective of his experience on the ground in the region.

Benghazi and Why it Matters

It has taken more than four weeks, but the facts of the assault on the American consulate in Benghazi are slowly emerging.  It is now known that on the evening of September 11, 2012, Ambassador Christopher Stevens conducted a scheduled meeting with a Turkish diplomat.  At approximately 8:30 PM, the ambassador saw his visitor out the gate.  There were no protesters in front of the consulate then, nor did any of the survivors of the attack report the presence of demonstrators prior to the initial assault.   Videotapes recovered from the compound show, at least partially, what happened.

At 9:40 PM, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons tore into the front of the compound.   Inside the consulate, American security personnel immediately contacted the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, as well as the State Department Crisis Desk in Washington, informing both locations that they were under attack.  Per standing orders, Ambassador Stevens and diplomat Sean Smith were placed in a safe room in the ambassador’s residence.   Within minutes, an outbuilding housing a Libyan security force was on fire, and the militiamen assigned to protect the compound had melted away into the night.

Incoming RPG and machinegun fire became so heavy that the security officers were forced to retreat and barricade themselves into a command center adjacent to the Ambassador’s residence.  Now holed up in separate buildings, the Americans were surrounded.  The situation would rapidly go from bad to worse. The consulate summoned a U.S. quick reaction force stationed in a security compound across town.  Accompanied by sixty Libyan security guards, four American agents set out in an armored SUV to break the siege.   Before they could reach the compound, terrorists had forced their way into both of the consulate’s residential buildings.  Failing to break through the locked grate work that protected Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, the assaulters splashed diesel fuel and set the building on fire.    Smoke and flames rapidly filled the residence.

American and Libyan security personnel were eventually able to fight their way in and establish a shaky perimeter.  Crawling on hands and knees, rescuers entered the smoke-clogged building in an attempt to reach Stevens and Smith.  The Ambassador’s body was located and dragged from the flames— he was unresponsive and succumbed to smoke inhalation on scene.  Under increasingly heavy gunfire, the Americans were forced to abandon the effort to recover the body of Sean Smith.  Gathering the survivors, the rescuers placed Ambassador Stevens’ body into the armored SUV and began an arduous journey back to the security compound.   After forcing their way through the ring of gunmen who had encircled the consulate, the vehicle was ambushed repeatedly.  Pocked by bullets, and with two tires flattened by a grenade attack, the SUV managed to reach the relative safety of the security compound sometime after 11 PM.   This location, too, came under attack, enduring several hours of mortar, RPG and heavy machinegun fire until the terrorist force withdrew shortly before dawn.
In addition to Ambassador Stevens and State Department information specialist Sean Smith, two ex-Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were killed in the attack.  Another of the American rescuers, also a special operations veteran, was severely wounded.   Videos posted later on Islamic websites showed the body of one of the American victims being dragged from the building amid chants of God is great.   The ugly footage showed a bullet riddled, smoke-streaked building, torn by explosions and thoroughly looted.

Days after the attack, America’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, made the rounds of the Sunday Morning news programs, stating that the Benghazi consulate was burned during an anti-American demonstration. The State Department, and presumably the White House, were by then in possession of the basic facts of the incident, and knew, from communications sent directly from Benghazi and Tripoli, that the attack was a terrorist action involving heavy weapons and mortars.   Why then was the administration pushing a story of mob action?  What was to be gained from concealing the true circumstances of the incident?

It is now known that in the weeks prior to the attack, the United States State Department not only saw fit to reduce security for the consulate, but refused repeated requests by Ambassador Stevens and Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom for fences, transportation assets, and special operations forces to augment security.   Nordstrom has since testified to congressional investigators that he was ordered to reduce its American security footprint and to rely more on local forces to defend the American consulate.  Nordstrom and other security officers in Libya were told to make do with less.  The results of this policy were catastrophic.  The militiamen detailed to guard the American Ambassador’s residence fled in the first minutes of the raid— leaving Christopher Stevens and his two-man security detail vulnerable.   That al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri released a video on September 10th, urging Libyans to attack American targets can hardly be ignored.    The failure of the State Department to head this explicit warning and protect our ambassador to Libya is at best negligent, and at worst shows a capricious misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.

In the days following the attack, the White House put forward a story that was incompletely informed, if not disingenuous.  That the White House deliberately misstated the circumstances surrounding the death of four American citizens is simply too shameful to consider. The September 11th assault on the Benghazi consulate is the single worst attack on an American diplomatic post since the Tehran embassy siege in 1979.  The American people deserve a full and open investigation into the murder of Ambassador Stevens.   They deserve also to know about the gallant actions of the brave Americans who tried to meet this terrorist attack with woefully inadequate resources.
Benghazi matters both for what happened on that terrible night, and what happened afterwards.

October 2012

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  1. Is it fair to ask why, what appears to be a EO-Tek sighting system, on your long gun in a picture of you on the last page of “SEAL TARGET GERONIMO” is on backwards?

    It sure looks like a 552, but, I could be wrong. Just asking.


    • Hi Tony,

      Thanks for writing. The sight in question is not an EO-Tech. It is an Isreali made MEPRO-MOR. Not only is it a holographic sight, it is also a red and IR target designator.


  2. I’ve met you at Michigan meetings in Grand Rapids. Curious, if you can divulge, could a SEAL TEAM or Special OPs team have got there in time. Lots of questions about not knowing the exact situation going on, as stated in the hearings, but could, in your opinion, been mounted to help. Might be looking for an appearance for you this at another MCHC meeting in Grand Rapids.

    Gary Brown
    Adjutant, MCHC

  3. Just read your book “SEAL Target Geronimo”. Excellent! Your analysis of the mid-east is better, IMO, than Friedman’s. Especially enjoyed the slang terms for non-SEALs and others. I’m a retired fighter pilot, and we had some similar terms.

    I also read “Fearless”, by Eric Blehm, about Adam Brown. He included pictures of 9 members of SEAL Team Six who were KIA.

  4. Hello, Chuck!
    Having read several of your books,I feel that “Seal Target Geronimo” has to be the most compelling because I felt as though I was actually there fighting with you. Your training and knowledge is exemplary, and I was indeed, blown away.
    Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth in your books. You are a real hero to me!
    I related to your heroic debacles and desire to pursue a dangerous career as a fellow Aries, if only vicariously, experiencing the danger and disaster that my job as an educator will never equal. How perceptive you are to have such depth of understanding that, it appears, others lack! My best you you! Go Navy! Beat Army!

    Deliah Gerson

  5. You have everything wrong about Begin talking his way out of the Russian concentration camp. He was like my father captured by the Russians when they invaded Poland. The Russians killed all the “inteligensia & Officers” at Kathryn. When the Germans set and attacked the Russians, the Russians released all the Polish non-coms and soldiers to their own means to get to Palestine. My father had pictures of him fleeing through Bagdad. I have his first British wool blanket and multi tool! There in Palestine, Anders under the FREE Polish out of London and NOT under Russian directives, made the 2nd Corpus which fought in North Africa and the Italian campaign under the British 8th army. I have many pictures of the campaign and the Polish under Anders. My father was a jeep driver for an AA officer looking for locations to set AA batteries. He had found memories of Anders. To mention Begin and Anders in the same world as Stalin, is sacrilegious as one does not have THE facts! Please correct the facts in your next edition!

  6. Hey Chuck,

    Sure miss shooting with you buddy. Hope you have a great holiday weekend. Your friend for life, Call if you ever need anything!!
    US Marine Sniper 1

  7. I just saw you in re-broadcast of your interview on Imus promoting “Geronimo” and Googled your site.

    Great comments on Benghazi, but I wanted to point out a typo: you have “head”, above, where “heed” is intended. (Its true, you can never rely on spell check.)

    BTW, I know at least one politician whose first response on hearing of the Geronimo mission was to say, “WHY do we know??!!!” He wanted to exploit the intelligence that was gathered on the site, too. So, there IS at least “one politician alive who wouldn’t want to tell.”

    Much appreciate your fine service and your thoughtful insight.

  8. Could you update us on the new info regarding Benghazi?
    Thank you.

  9. Just finished your bio. I was moved

  10. Just read ” Warrior Soul “. thanks not only for your service but all your fellow Seals. Excellent book.

  11. Hello,

    First, I’d like to say great job for the Kobane battle maps on Twitter.

    Second, why did you block me on Twitter ? That’s probably not because something I said, I never post anything on Twitter :-)
    Just wandering …

  12. Hey Chuck, How are you?

    Could you please unblock me on your Twitter feed. I have no idea why I was blocked at the first place. I never even mentioned you in a tweet let alone say anything untoward. One day I follow you, the next day I discover you’ve blocked me. There must be a mistake. I quite like your maps, and have done nothing but re-tweet them.

  13. Aha! Now I figured out out why you blocked me on your Twitter feed. You saw my pinned tweet of the satirised version of ISIS’s Dabiq magazine cover and took it for real. You blocked me because you took me for an ISIS supporter. Oh, well. Stuff happens. Seems like I’ll have to enjoy your maps on retweets.

  14. Hi Chuck. Sorry couldn’t find any other way to leave you a message. You were talking about mapping software in Twitter re your excellent maps following our friends in Kobane. Have you seen It may not work for you, but is free and the mapping itself is excellent. There are limitations with icons etc, but have a look.

    All the best. Paul (UK)

  15. Chuck,

    I am looking forward to seeing the movie “13 Hours” as you probably are.



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