Stevens Part II: An Inside Job?

“After his men had tied up the morgue supervisor, who had refused to hand over the body, Febrayir, fearful of an attempt to snatch the corpse, ignored instructions about what route to follow to the airport and misinformed his superiors with false updates. His caravan traveled fast, driving straight onto the runaway. Six Americans approached. “They looked totally fatigued. Their faces were blackened,” Febrayir says. “I think they had been in the consulate. One of them clambered onto the back and uncovered Stevens’s face and started to cry.”

From the second part of my Stevens’ investigation for Newsweek. Read here.

Italy Falls Apart

From war to something else — not as brutal or tragic, of course, but nonetheless saddening. Just before returning to Libya from Italy I wrote for Macleans about how Italy’s ancient monuments are being neglected because of state spending cuts dictated by the austerity budget.

“In March, the poor state of an open-air, Etruscan-era theatre in northern Lazio was highlighted by an investigative television show, Striscia la Notizia. One of the presenters remarked as the camera panned over a riot of weeds: “The ancient Romans would have put on plays here: comedies, tragedies. The tragedy today is the state of this archaeological site.”

You can read the whole piece here.

Bani Walid: Violence Over Reconciliation

Bani Walid

On Eve of Eid: Bani Walid refugees near the town of Tarhuna

Slow in blogging this but this from my Daily Beast report on October 24 on the fall of Bani Walid after nearly a month-long siege and four days of fierce fighting and bombardment.

“Militiamen in pickup trucks poured into the wrecked and smoke-filled center of the desert hilltop town of Bani Walid, home to one of the country’s biggest tribes, the Warfalla, amid cries of “Free Libya” and “Allah Akbar” in scenes reminiscent of the uprising against Col. Gaddafi.

They waved the post-Gaddafi tricolor flag of red, black, and green and claimed they had routed the late dictator’s diehard followers and saved the revolution. But they admitted many hardcore Bani Walid fighters had slipped away during the night.

Bani Walid’s leaders argue that Misrata was engaged in an exercise in collective punishment with their assault as punishment for the town having sided with Col. Gaddafi during the uprising.”

You can read the full report here.

And more pictures from Bani Walid below:

Afternoon of October 24 Bani Walid Burns

 

New Uniforms: Libyan Shield on the outskirts of Bani Walid

 

Heading Home

Heading Out: Misrata Militiamen flicks victory sign as he pulls out of Bani Walid with dusk approaching

Thousands Fleeing Bani Walid

Near Bani Walid

“For three days now, Bani Walid—one of Gaddafi’s holdouts during the rebellion last year—has come under intense assault, and defenders inside the town say by phone that they fear government-backed attackers are preparing to storm them on today in a bid to vanquish them on the first anniversary of the rebels’ triumph over Gaddafi.” My Daily Beast report near the besieged town.

A Year On And Problems Crowd Libya

I examine in the Daily Beast where Libya is a year on from the fall of Col. Gaddafi, noting that 12 months ago in Benghazi, as cheering onlookers waved the country’s new red, black, and green flag, one rebel leader told the crowd: “Raise your heads high. You are now in a free Libya.” Exactly one year after that historic day, heads are not being held as high in Libya.

No Way To Treat An Ambassador

Benghazi

“At the consulate, smoke in the burning villa was thinning out; crowds of curiosity seekers and looters were moving in. As they rummaged through the building, they came across a blond man in a white shirt and gray pants, his nose and mouth blackened by soot and body fluids. They dragged him out through the window at the back of the villa. ‘The man is alive,’ shouted someone in the crowd. ‘Move out of the way.'” With my colleagues at Newsweek, a take on what happened the night Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed.

When A Looter Becomes A Hero

Benghazi

Newsweek will be publishing this week a piece I wrote with colleagues Christopher Dickey and Eli Lake on the September storming of the US consulate and the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Alas, print isn’t online and space constraints mean that some interesting side-stories won’t get used.

For example, 10 Libyans were treated for wounds at the Benghazi Medical Center the night of the assault, according to the hospital’s general director, consultant Fathi Al Jehani. Two were attackers and after being treated were whisked off. It isn’t clear by whom — their friends or pro-government militiamen. Of the remaining eight — all of whom were meant to be defenders of the consulate — five were discharged and didn’t need to be admitted. Three were and on Friday October 14 Libyan leaders, with a large press corps in tow, visited them to thank them for their bravery in trying to defend the consulate and the Americans.

In turns out that not all three were deserving of thanks. One of the men, who had been shot in both legs, was not a defender but a looter, who had been trying to steal a fridge from the US mission when he got wounded. The doctors were too embarrassed to let on. “How could we?” Jehani told me. “All the press were there and the politicians and it would have looked bad, so we kept quiet.” Next day after the visit, the looter’s photograph was gracing the pages of domestic and foreign newspapers lauding him as a hero. What happened to the fridge I was not able to discover.

While on the subject of the hospital, I talked with Jehani about right-wing bloggers asserting that Stevens had been sodomized before he died. Of course, no evidence is summoned for such claims. Jehani, who studied and worked in leading London hospitals for 13 years before returning to Libya shortly before the rebellion that ousted Col. Gaddafi, insists the assertions are totally false. “The emergency doctors thoroughly examined the ambassador. There was no evidence of any brutalization. He wasn’t sodomized. There was some lighting bruising consistent with being moved when unconscious. Otherwise he had the classic symptoms of suffocation from smoke inhalation. His face was blue. He was bleeding from the mouth and trachea.”

Of course, facts like these won’t stop the bloggers spouting nonsense.

Jehani told me that though his doctors struggled for 45 minutes to revive the ambassador there was no real hope for him. He wasn’t technically alive when he arrived at the hospital. “If he had been brought to us sooner, may be we could have saved him. But it was too late.”

Jehani had never met the ambassador but he was scheduled to do so on September 12. One of the reasons for Stevens’ visit to Benghazi was to launch formally a tie-up between the Benghazi Medical Center and Harvard’s Medical School. The tie-up consists mainly of an exchange program uto help improve Benghazi’s emergency medicine. For Harvard specialists were in Benghazi for the launch, including Dr. Thomas Burke, a world-renowned emergency medicine specialist. Burke is a Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Emergency Medicine and serves on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. He reviewed Stevens’ medical notes the morning after the attack and concluded that the Libyan emergency doctors did all they could to save the ambassador, according to Jehani.

Ali Zidan’s Fate May Be The Same As Abushugar’s

Tripoli

Late blogging this because of a trip to Benghazi.

Ali Zidan now faces the challenge of forming a government that can gain the support of fractious lawmakers, a task that proved elusive for former academic, Mustafa Abushugar, whose list of cabinet nominees sparked protests and led to his downfall.

The narrowness of Ali Zidan’s win over the Muslim Brotherhood-supported candidate, Mohammed Harari to secure the job as Libya’s prime minister suggests he could face serious difficulties in finding nominees who can attract the backing of a majority of Libyan lawmakers. Zidan won 93 of the 179 votes cast in the General National Congress. Abushugar, his short-lived predecessor, also only managed a small majority over his challenger, Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, and lasted just 25 days as prime minister-elect. See my article in the Daily Beast published the evening of Zidan’s win.

Will A Better But Not Yet Good Economy Safe Obama?

Democrats hope in a tight election race that marginal improvements in the economy will persuade voters to back their man over Republican nominee Mitt Romney. With the exception of the parties clashing over Libya, and whether the administration was culpable by neglect in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans during the September storming of the American consulate in Benghazi, the election has been dominated by the state of the US economy.

The culture wars of the past have dimmed in significance this year. Even the divisive issues of abortion and immigration have faded. With Obama’s fate likely tied to how voters judge his record in restoring economic growth, Democrats have been burnishing any good economic news coming their way. Read my take on this in the Daily Mail.

Sarkozy And His Beard

Nicolas Sarkozy has been flaunting an apparent relaxed non-combatant status with new designer stubble. Macleans Magazine asked me to explore what the beard signified and I suggested you should beware vanquished politicians who grow beards. After losing to George W. Bush in 2000, a traumatized Al Gore disappeared from sight for several months, only to reappear whiskered, prompting an American commentator to postulate that he looked “like a Bolshevik labour organizer.” Gore’s beard didn’t signify penitential withdrawal, but more the return of the prophet fortified by a short period of reflection—after all, free of the trappings of office, the former American vice-president was able to set his sights on the more noble task of trying to save the planet. The scraggly white beard sported by former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn following his fall from grace also appeared to have a rehabilitation purpose—he appeared, to some commentators, less haughty and imperious, more down to earth. Read the full article here.