1 month, 3 weeks ago
A survivor of the 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate and annex in Benghazi, Libya, related a harrowing tale of bureaucratic indecision and desperate military courage Sunday.
Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a native of Colorado who has lived in Omaha since 1996, spoke to a crowd gathered under a hot sun at the Take Aim firing range in the Daniell Crossing shopping center in west Bellevue.
Paronto was one of six 40-something contract security personnel, all former Marines, Navy SEALS or Army Rangers charged with ensuring the security of the consulate, considered among the most dangerous diplomatic postings in the world.
The six contractors lived one mile from the consulate in an annex building intended to be unrecognized as a support base.
But, as related in “13 Hours,” a book co-written by Paronto which relates the events of the night of Sept. 11, 2012, no one was fooled, the annex’s role betrayed by the constant flow of Americans and heavy equipment.
Tyrone Woods, one of the six contract fighters, died during the assault on the annex that followed the attack on the consulate. Also killed was Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL who was part of a contract security team in Tripoli who flew to the scene after news of the attack broke.
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and an information technology specialist named Sean Smith died from asphyxiation at the consulate due to smoke inhalation.
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Paronto said things were quiet as late as 9 p.m., when the security contractors were thinking more about bed than combat. Then the call came for a general muster in the annex, where they learned an attack had been launched against the consulate one mile away.
Paronto said he could see and hear the fighting from the annex building and with the rest of the security team geared up to rush to the consulate’s defense.
It was then, he said, that the top CIA staffer in Benghazi, referred to by Paronto only as “Bob,” told them all to stand down. That stand down lasted 25 minutes, at which point the contractors decided to ignore the order and head to the consulate. When they arrived they found the building had been decimated by diesel-fueled fire, the ambassador was missing and the body of Smith lay dead.
Stevens’ body would later show up at a local hospital where some Libyans had delivered it in the hope of reviving him, but he was declared dead of asphyxiation.
With nothing left to do, and unaware of the fate of Stevens, the team returned to the annex, surviving a firefight along the way.
Just after midnight the annex sustained mortar and rocket fire, the beginning of a long and bloody battle that resulted in the deaths of Woods and Doherty.
Paronto said his team repelled the attack, killing approximately 40 attackers and saving the lives of six State Department employees and evacuating about 30 other Americans from Benghazi.
Paronto’s testimony was unsparing, describing his security colleagues who survived as nonetheless sustaining horrific injuries, with legs and arms severed and hanging by tendons.
He said his faith in America waned in the wake of the Benghazi debacle but has since been restored by the support he and his fellow veterans have received from the general public, among whom he counted the 50 or so people listening Sunday.
“I want to say thank you to you all for bringing me back from a point where I had lost everything following Benghazi,” he said. “I’m a bigger patriot now than I ever was.”
One day, Kris, we will know who ‘Bob’ is, and we will know who gave Bob the order to stand down. But first to the things we already know. My military readers knew within 24 hours that this was the result of a well-planned, well-coordinated combined-arms attack with the use of crew served weapons (e.g., see DirtyMick’s comments). We also know that weapons were being moved through Libya to Syrian insurgents, those whom we now know as ISIS. We know that this was illegal, immoral and ill-advised, and was being funded by the U.S. government.
We know that there were awful men like Philip Smucker who, claiming to be a good friend of Ambassador Stevens, said of the incident, shit happens. Smucker is such an ideologue and worshiper of Obama that anything could happen to friends or loved ones, and he would (and did) reply, “shit happens.” Thus did the main stream media ignore or white wash the incident, also being worshipers of Obama.
As to what I suspect – but cannot yet prove – the movement of weapons to terrorists was becoming hard to hide, and the whole operation had ripened to the point of rottenness. Stevens had to be moved out and told to shut up about what he knew. Even if the administration didn’t plan the military operation to take down the consulate at Benghazi, they nevertheless used it to hide their tracks.
The administration didn’t know how long the attack would last, and so there was certainly a QRF on the European continent that could have been sent, even if it turns out they would not have arrived in time to assist Stevens and the team with which you deployed, Kris. Furthermore, there could also have been air assets within theater that were brought to bear, and perhaps even another QRF closer than Europe.
General Ham – who quietly went into the night with no explanation – knows something. Leon Panetta knows something. General Petraeus knows something. No one is talking, but one day we will find out the truth of Benghazi, how a small team was left to perish because it was more expedient for the political life of the administration. One day we will know.
As for you, Kris, what are you trying to tell us by describing yourself before all else as a “patriot,” and wearing a tee shirt that says “Don’t tread on me?”