What exactly happened in Benghazi and what should I know about it?

US compound in Benghazi set on fire on September 11, 2012
US compound in Benghazi, Libya set on fire on September 11, 2012 (Photo: XY)

The Benghazi attack triggered many controversies and created a lot of conspiracy theories. In a deadly attack on September 11, 2012, over 125 armed militants successfully breached the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. They killed American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other consular staff members, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and two former Navy Seals working as security personnel, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

So, what exactly happened in Benghazi and what would I know about it?


Attacks on American diplomatic facilities do happen periodically and fatalities often occur – but attacks are typically halted at a security perimeter and the casualties are not usually members of the American Foreign Service.

Concurrently, there were mounting protests outside of other American embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This included having 3000 protestors outside of the American embassy in Cairo, Egypt. These protests were ostensibly sparked by a video on YouTube that claimed to be a trailer for an anti-Muslim movie supposedly being produced in America.

Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in Benghazi Libya 2012 during the US Embassy compound attack
Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in Benghazi Libya 2012 during the US Embassy compound attack (Photo: Reddit)

The degree to which the Benghazi assault was an extension of these other “spontaneous” protests is hotly debated. Ansar Al-Sharia, the group deemed principally responsible for the assault, did issue a statement the following day claiming that – although it was not the “sole party” involved – the assault was a response to the video. For a variety of reasons, many doubt the truthfulness of that statement.


The controversies regarding the attack are criticisms regarding inadequate security for the embassy personnel who were stationed in Libya during a revolution that was encouraged by the American government, the lack of an American rescue response during the attack, and the untrue claim from the State Department and White House in the aftermath that the attack was caused by a spontaneous demonstration to a video.

What exactly happened in Benghazi 2012 attack?
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11. (Photo: XY)

Other than the US Senate Select Committee investigation, several other probes like the FBI investigation, Five House Committees inquiry, and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigation were carried out in the Benghazi attack case.

Timeline and facts

1. Libya was and continues to be, a mess. Lawlessness abounds, as do independent militias. Weapons are everywhere, up to anti-aircraft cannons. It is the NRA’s dream society.

2. The US State Department-owned a villa in Benghazi. It was not an embassy or consulate. Its status was obscure, likely it would have been sold within a year.

2.1 In February of 2012, it was recommended that it be made into a State Department outpost, with 3 clerks and 5 Security guards. Neither seems to have been provided, there were no clerks, therefore no guards were needed.

3. About a kilometer away was a CIA operation (the Annex). This was supposedly secret and, of course, completely separate from the State Department.

4. A month before the Benghazi incident, the State Department, under Hilary Clinton, issued its annual intelligence advisory. The advisory stated that, although Bin Laden was dead, there were still substantial threats from Islamic terrorists, including Al Queda affiliates.

* The Republicans claim that Hillary “blamed the video” because she didn’t want to admit that terrorism was still a problem. Obviously, this is a blatant lie on the part of the Republicans, contradicted by the August Intelligence report.

5. Ambassador Stevens was a very good man, very knowledgeable about Libya with decades of experience in the area. He had an opening in his schedule in the second week of September and decided to go to Benghazi.

6. The Ambassador was responsible for selecting the size of the security force that accompanied him. He chose to take 5 security guards, exactly the number suggested in February.

7. During that week, a video designed to insult Muslims caused protests at a hundred US embassies and consulates, with at least a dozen casualties resulting.

8. At 9:30 PM (local time) on September 11, a mob stormed the Benghazi villa. Ambassador Stevens barricaded himself in one building with two security guards. The mob set the villa on fire and Stevens and one guard succumbed to smoke.

9. Within one hour, a relief force arrived at the villa from the CIA Annex. They are unable to find the ambassador, and – faced with a fluid situation – retreat to the CIA Annex, which briefly comes under fire.

* No, there was no “stand down” order.

10. Within 3 hours of the attack, a rescue team from Tripoly is formed and is on the way.

11. By this time, the Joint Chiefs of the Defense Department are monitoring the situation by unarmed drone and start mobilizing FAST response teams, the closest in Spain, about 2000 kilometers away.

* No, there were no closer forces and no, Hillary Clinton is NOT responsible for the Department of Defense and had no control over the rescue forces.

12. Passers-by at the villa retrieve Ambassador Stevens and take him to a hospital, where he dies.

13. The Tripoly rescue team arrives at the CIA Annex at 5:15 AM, just as a mortar attack starts. Three shells are fired, the last of which hits the Annex, killing two security guards.

14. Starting at about 8 AM, all Americans in Benghazi are evacuated to Tripoly and then on to Germany.

15. Less than 24 hours after the start of the attack, the military response team arrives in Libya.

16. While the incident is happening, Mitt Romney attempts to politicize the incident by lying about what happened.

17. In the days that followed both Reuters and Al Jazeera report, based on eyewitnesses, that the attack was sparked by the video. Eventually, one of the perpetrators of the attack is caught, he also blames the video.

18. Hillary Clinton never blames the video for the attack on Benghazi.

* At least publicly. There are unsubstantiated rumors that she mentions it to some individuals. This is denied by other people present.

19. The Republicans politicize the event heavily, instituting no less than 8 investigations, lasting for over three years. Several Republicans admit that the purpose of the investigations is to try to embarrass Hillary.

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