About the book:
Benghazi, Libya is a Mediterranean city of more than 650,000 people, about halfway between Tripoli and Alexandria, Egypt. It has long been the cultural and intellectual capital of Libya. But to many millions of Americans, it became synonymous with a terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and four other Americans—or (more likely) a nearly four-year political blowout, focused on the question of who was ultimately to blame for the attack's success. The left accused the Right of manufacturing the scandal to discredit former Secretary of State (and presidential hopeful) Hillary Clinton; the Right accused the left of a nefarious coverup. A decade later, ironically, the general public still doesn’t know where the attack came from—or what the consequences of the attack and scandal have been for the United States and the Middle East.
From 2004-2006 I was posted to Libya as one of a small number of US diplomats sent to help reestablish relations with Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Shortly after the February, 2011 revolution broke out in Libya, I returned to Benghazi with a Libyan-American colleague to try to help rebuild parts of the city’s medical infrastructure. In that context, we became witnesses to the attack and its immediate (and longer-term) aftermath.
The attack, and the deeply flawed narratives around it, impacted me deeply. Already a keen observer of Libyan affairs, I was compelled to seek some form of closure, by diving more deeply into the origins of the attack, and the scandal. My hope was to get my own story out, but even more, to shed light on some of the questions that made the whole affair so baffling to the American public—and seasoned analysts alike.
It's a complex story. But as I argue, it’s one we all need to hear, for Benghazi shaped the world we live in today—from the dramatic rise in political polarization, to the erosion of American diplomatic and intelligence capabilities, to the arc of conflict in the Middle East. There is even a substantial link between Benghazi and Russian expansionism in Crimea and the Ukraine.
Benghazi is part of what I call an extended exercise in ‘self harm’, in which American foreign policy has become a tool of domestic warfare, sapping American energy and resources at home, and boosting our competitors and adversaries abroad.
Many books claimed to be the “absolute, real, definitive account of what happened.” I don’t promise that. What I promise is a lot of context with which to draw your own conclusions, and my own views and perspective.