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.