November 26, 2022

Benghazi must continue to speak to us

Posted on 31. May, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Along with millions of other Americans, I have been following the Benghazi hearings. From that very tragic day on Sept. 11, 2012 when our Consulate and later its annex were stormed I watched in sadness as armed terrorists crashed through the barriers of these facilities and began shooting and looting, ultimately killing four of our citizens.

Since I was a part of that diplomatic world for 20 years it brought back a flood of memories, memories of many dedicated people and the procedures they used to safeguard against, or at least ameliorate, such attacks. There are some things that the average American is not aware of, however. One of those is the Marine Security Guard Program and the tougher than nails Marine Security Guard Detachment (MSGD) personnel that are assigned to our embassies around the world. The size of the embassy and the threat level of the host country usually determine the size of these contingents of seasoned young professional Marines most of whom are in their early 20s. They typically serve one hardship and one normal tour of embassy duty before their time in the program is up. In total numbers, the program comprises nearly one full battalion of the Marine Corps.

These brave young men stand guard over our facilities and are fully prepared to give up their lives if necessary to protect the thousands of Foreign Service Personnel who are assigned to our embassies. (A little known fact, however, is that their primary responsibility is to safeguard the classified material in an embassy along with securing the facility and protecting its personnel.)

They’re constantly training, keeping themselves in top notch condition (I know, I trained with a few of them and was fortunate to befriend many more). The MSGD is headed up by a Master Sergeant or Gunnery Sergeant who reports to the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in the embassy who in turn reports to the Ambassador. The RSO is part of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), the security and law enforcement arm of the State Department.

On a local level, the RSO liaises with host-country security forces, helps to set up training programs for them and for the many private security guards who protect our facilities overseas. They also participate in assessing threat levels at post and then communicate that information back up the chain of command.

The MSGD and the RSO are intuitive well-disciplined professionals. They know that any hole in our security plans will be exploited by our enemies and that that can cost human lives. Benghazi is a case in point. There are many unanswered questions about our security there that address the level of training and loyalty of our local guards at the consulate. There are other even more painful ones not widely discussed in the press such as: “Why did our Ambassador even go to Benghazi at a time when it was widely known to be an extremely dangerous place? Why were repeated requests for more and better security refused by the State Department?” And finally, “Why was no military unit sent to Benghazi to at least intimidate the attackers with a show of force to get them to stand down before lives were lost?”

To me, the answers to these questions are more important than ones concerning the inane and deceitful talking points offered up by the Whitehouse and State Department or which numbskull thought it entirely appropriate to cite a totally unrelated video as the cause for the attack. THAT dog will never hunt!

One of the principal reasons offered for not giving the military ‘go’ order was the time it would have taken to get to Benghazi (as if we would have known in advance how long the attacks would continue!). That attitude born of 20/20 hindsight reminds me of a joke (I know that sounds insensitive, but hear me out) that was widely told in Russia when martial law was imposed in Poland under puppet General Wojciech Jaruzelski in December 1981. It went like this…

It was the first few days under martial law and a curfew was in effect. The Russian military was called in to assist in carrying it out. Two curfew guards, Alexei and Yuri, stand on a busy Warsaw street corner. Yuri sees a man on a bicycle pedaling hard in his direction. He holds up his hand and blows his whistle for the man to stop. He does, screeching to a halt in front of Alexei.Yuri quickly asks the man for his papers while Alexei walks around the nervous man’s bike a couple of times. Then Yuri looks down at the man’s papers and then up to meet the man’s frightened gaze and asks, “Is this where you live?” The man says, “Yes,” whereupon Yuri pulls out his sidearm and shoots the man dead. Alexei is shocked and screams at his partner, “Why did you do that? He was not armed and was heading home!” Yuri flashes him a steely look and says, “I saw his address. He would have never made it home in time.”

Very macabre, but the kind of humor that was spread by people who had lost all trust in their government and who knew that that same government would concoct any story to justify highly questionable actions.  We must let the Benghazi hearings continue until we get the facts. We owe it to the victims’ families, to our fidelity to the truth and to all who willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.

- Editor
























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