Dec. 12, 2022

641: Benghazi - 10 Years Later

We will delve into the political climate at the time, the aftermath of the attack, and Chorin's thoughts on the current state of affairs in Libya.

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In this special episode of the program, we are joined by former US diplomat Ethan Chorin to discuss the events of Benghazi - 10 Years Later. 

Chorin was one of a few US diplomats posted to Libya in 2004 and was in Benghazi at the time of the attack on the US mission in 2012. We will delve into the political climate at the time, the aftermath of the attack, and Chorin's thoughts on the current state of affairs in Libya.

Chorin brings a unique perspective to the conversation, having been on the ground in Libya during a crucial time in the country's history. He will provide insight into the events leading up to the attack on the US mission, as well as the response from the US government. We will also discuss the ongoing conflict and instability in Libya, and what the future may hold for the country.

In addition to his diplomatic experience, Chorin is also a political analyst and author (Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink), with a deep understanding of the complex dynamics at play in Libya. Tune in for a fascinating and informative conversation with an insider's perspective on Benghazi.

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Brian Nichols  0:00  
Benghazi 10 years later, let's talk about that. Instead of focusing on winning arguments, we're teaching the basic fundamentals of sales and marketing and how we can use them to win in the world of politics, teaching you how to meet people where they're at on the issues they care about. Welcome to The Brian Nichols Show. Well, happy Monday, Brian Nichols show, The Brian Nichols Show. And thank you for joining us. For another fun filled episode. I am as always your humble host, brought to you live from our Stratus ip Studios here in lovely Eastern Indiana. Don't let cyber attacks or outdated Business Technology put your company at risk. Learn more at the Brian Nichols forward slash Stratus ip Stratus ip Business Technology simplified Benghazi 10 years later, at this point, what difference does it make a lot some may say and that's exactly what we're going to go ahead and discuss today. Because even though it was 10 years ago, a lot of the things that took place in Benghazi, both in terms of how it impacted our national politics, but has also impacted our Foreign Affairs is still impacting us today. Joining us today is author and also someone who has a boots on the ground, Ethan charen. Joining us today on The Brian Nichols Show, Ethan, thanks for joining us.

Ethan Chorin  1:18  
Thanks for having me.

Brian Nichols  1:19  
Absolutely. Thank you for joining us. And thank you for bringing some context here to the show today as we discuss Benghazi 10 years later. But first, do us a favor, introduce yourself here to The Brian Nichols Show audience specifically, your role as it pertains to Benghazi back in 2012.

Ethan Chorin  1:36  
Well, I was a diplomat and early in the early 2000s, posted to Libya, when we United States first started re engaging with Colonel Muammar Qaddafi who's a figure that many may remember from the 80s 90s. And before is a very colorful dictator in the Middle East, who most notoriously was involved with the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, which again, is back in the news to the last couple of days. But maybe we could get to that a little bit later. I say my background is in international affairs, I was trained as an economist and spent much of my career in the Middle East. After leaving that I was on the Foreign Service for about five years and half of that time was was posted to Libya. And after the I then went on to other postings in the region, and left the Foreign Service after I get again about five years and wound up in Dubai working for multinational, on thing, things that are somewhat quite a bit different. And in that context, the Arab Spring erupted the series of uprisings against various Middle East regimes that started in late 2010. And continued on for the for the course of the next few years. And in that context, I was looking I never thought I'd be back to Libya so soon, but I found myself pulled back to the city of Benghazi when the uprising started for started there in February of 2011. And a Libyan American colleague of mine and I decided somewhat on exactly on a lark, but precipitously that we would go back to Benghazi, there was an opportunity for us to try to pull in American medical capacity to technology and know how into into a country that had where the United States have just just intervened to save the city of Benghazi from a unexpected attack by by my Colonel Qaddafi. And in that context, we spent about a year pulling in a number of us teaching hospitals and trying to build build capacity, particularly in terms of management's expertise and technology. And in that context, we, we hold

Brian Nichols  4:23  
dogs. And it's fine. Don't worry at all. Actually, it's funny, I'll tell you a true story as you're going there. We had a one episode where we had a guest and she had a woodpecker on her door. So we've had all sorts of animals join us. It's like a zoo here at the show. No, continue.

Ethan Chorin  4:37  
That's a bit of comic relief. So in any case, this is the context in which I was became I was in Benghazi during the attack in 2012 on the anniversary of 911. And so the the environment Leading up to the attack was quite quite the security situation was deteriorating rapidly. And I had a very ominous feeling about about that trip, we were in a situation where we essentially had to present ourselves in Benghazi in order to take care of some final arrangements on a on a contract that was quite important for, say, what we what we had worked for over the course of the previous year and moving forward. And it was a situation in which we felt if if we sort of gave up this window of opportunity, that the chances of restarting it might be slim. I think, actually, Ambassador Stevens, who was one of the four tragically killed in that, in that attack on the US mission mission in Benghazi, faced a similar dilemma, I think he was, and that is something that is is, is not very well known to the general public. I think, Ambassador Stevens was somewhat indirectly criticized in the hearings and the investigations following the attack for perhaps being a bit too adventurous, taking too many too many risks, that he put himself in harm's way and that there wasn't really a significant reason for us. And I, in the book that I'm, I've written about, about sort of reassessing the attack and its context. That's one of the sort of major sort of issues that around which I think the American public didn't really get the full story at the time. But perhaps you can make we can again, get back come back to that a little bit. Yeah. Well,

Brian Nichols  6:41  
I wanted to pause really quick there, because I think you just raised a really interesting point. It did have long term implications, when you look at our American political discourse here at home, too. And there was a lot of, I think, of that political polarization that took away from what actually took place, and a lot of stuff that was missed. And I think that is specifically why you haven't you being able to outline this today is so important, because a lot of folks only have that memory of the politicized event, they don't have the breakdown of actually what happened. So I think that's exactly why what we're talking about today is so pertinent when you're talking about this 10 years later.

Ethan Chorin  7:25  
Yes, well, I think there are, there are two spheres. I mean, the may approach it this way, the there's something that I sort of call the Benghazi paradox, which is the the attack and and the scandal that followed, generated an enormous amount of noise in the United States, political recruit recriminations, much of it around, you know, who was responsible, whether it was the right the left was the left, covering something up was the right being, essentially using the attack as a, as a means to discredit and disabled the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. All of that stuff basically, just absorbed an enormous amount of media attention. And I think it's fair to say that the Benghazi scandal was one of the most sort of talked about events in modern, I'm not may not have been modern in American political history, in just in terms of the sheer number of words, and the sheer number of broadcasts dedicated to the to, to looking at this, the evolution of this of this, this issue. But we really don't today, 10 years later, we really have no idea. What about sort of the the origins of the attack? The I mean, we haven't we mainly the origins of the attack, we have some idea of what of what happened during the, during the attack itself. But we also have very little idea of how this this impacted American domestic politics and, and also for foreign foreign policy. So in the book, I go into more detail about the sort of the long the long backstory to how did we How did that attack occur? And it's really overwhelmed up in this long history of the original 911 The attack on Washington in New York that killed you know, upwards of 3000 people and sparked the the Iraq War. I mean, that that's that event, and its precursors, mainly the, the Afghan American support for the Afghan mujahideen in in the late 70s and early 80s. All of these events are connected. And within that, that whole story, there emerges a group of Libyan radical fighters who again traveled to Afghanistan in the late 80s. mainly as a means of acquiring the expertise and technical knowledge to overthrow Colonel Qaddafi back home and Libya. And they wind up becoming sort of protagonists in a in a process of, of trying to. Well, they become they become major political actors and military actors within Libya. And that story is rather complicated, but it touches on the the process of extraordinary rendition where the United States track down and delivered back to several countries following 911 radicals who they suspected of being connected to Osama bin Laden, etc. And then following that there was a sort of a flippin policy where we at least partially tried to see if we could rehabilitate, rehabilitate, rehabilitate some of these, these individuals, and and sort of fold them into a process of reforming of reform. Such as we went on with, with with Moammar Qaddafi, after after the US agreement with him in 2003. I don't know if it's, I'm

Brian Nichols  11:15  
no, this is helpful. And I guess that goes to my my next question. And that is in your kind of doing a nice way of lining us up is the domino effect, right of the things that happen in the past, impacting the things in the future and where we are today, fast forward 10 years, I would like to see if you have maybe some of the things from a foreign perspective, like a foreign policy perspective that we're still feeling the echoes of from that domino falling back in 2012.

Ethan Chorin  11:44  
Well, I mean, there's another way of sort of paraphrasing this with respect to Well, first, there's the domestic issue, I think that the Benghazi attack created a was sort of the kindling for a an American polarized political polarization, that went beyond anything that one could really expect, to come out of, you know, on the surface of it to come out of a, an attack on a remote United States Post, even given the fact that US ambassador and three other diplomats were killed, the vets that event, as I explained in the book, there are several features of the attack itself that lent itself to being politicized. And a lot of it had to do with it with with its connections with the original 911, the fact that it occurred on the the anniversary of 911, the fact that that it was a, you know, that we had, obviously a death, but first death of US ambassador since since the 70s. But also all of the other political issues that came along with 911. And the emphasis on protecting the American homeland and security and identity issues. And very significantly, the fact that the attack occurred in the last lap before the 2012 election. So immediately, there's this context for the politicization. And in addition to that, you also have the fact that social media was evolving at this point, very, very, in ways that weren't really quite fully understood by the political community, and even the media. So you had I think I spoke interviewed with a number of social media, sort of experts trend followers at the time that that argue that had been Ghazi occurred, you know, a few months before or some other time than right then the sort of silo effect of scandal, the fact that it became such a lightning rod for pushing people to the extremes might not have been so, so pronounced. But getting back into your questions about about effects, I think that directly from that, you know, I think the Benghazi scandal morphed in from the question of who was responsible and whether there was a, a so called cover up of facts related to the attack into things like Hillary Clinton's emails, if you remember, that was an issue around whether Clinton the fact that that Secretary of State Clinton used a private server for her work emails. This is really unfortunate.

Brian Nichols  14:35  
It's a okay, we've had worse things.

Ethan Chorin  14:39  
So, so so we have, you know, essentially by the time the election came around, you have the Benghazi attack morphed into other other scandals which which sort of detracted from the fact that where that where the momentum first started, so, you know, it's interesting when I interviewed senior Obama administration officials many years later, and ask them what was the you know, how did they rate the impact of Benghazi on American? On the 2016, election four years later, they rated very high. And that's there's there's a sort of a retroactive sense that, in fact, Benghazi was a major, if not, in fact, the major force behind the election of Donald Trump. And that's goes to, again, the sort of the polarization the the, the fact that the email scandal or pseudo scandal, depending on your point of view, came out of the Benghazi attack and the investigation into it, though, quote, the FBI, James Comey director, statements, that that seemed to suggest that that Clinton was under you know, was going to be a if she were elected would be under a criminal investigation, with relation to the emails, the fact that the Russian cyber attacks themselves employed a variety of means and and Attack, attack, material that that could that was used as feedstock for their, for their internet campaigns. All of these things played a role in in, in the election. And I think, because we were so distracted, and because as a country, we were pushed each of us each side, the left and the right to our own political narratives around Benghazi, we it's almost like the scandal sort of ate itself up and left, no, left no trace. So we were left with this idea that, in fact, none of that really happened or never network didn't really matter. There were other things that were more pressing, we sort of moved on into this ever accelerating hunger for new new material, new scandals, that sort of almost like, you know, the men in black, you know, things where you you erase people's memory. And we haven't since since, you know, that then thrust us into the whole period of the trumpet. presidency, and, and, you know, the pace of American politics and, and, and the emotionality that has just increased. So you have so you have that, that sort of effect we're all obsessed with, we're certainly the the mainstream media has been obsessed for the last several, several months, if not years, with, with, with personality of Trump and whether you know, and views of him on both sides, right. But we we've we've sort of forgotten what's come before. And then with respect to foreign policy, you had in the in the wake of, of the Benghazi attack, a, a, what has been described by again, many, many senior officials, with whom I've interviewed for the book, this this sense of a profound risk aversion that nobody wanted to the sort of the whole climate of the Arab Spring and whether the United States was going to intervene more deeply in places like Syria, what it was going to do about Yemen, where the where another sort of significant rebellion was was was underway. Increasingly, with the support of Iran, all of these things, and then you know, what was going on with Russia, there was just this sense, overall sense that that now more than ever, the United States was just not willing, and the Obama administration was not willing to take significant risks on behalf of and Libya became Benghazi became sort of a symbol of the fact that the one place where we did intervene, Libya, was had turned out to be not produce the the positive results that we that we hoped for. So we would and and Washington as a whole was afraid that if if actions were taken on the ground abroad, that these would would, and that things didn't go well, that this would this would result in yet another series of committees that would call witnesses to testify and just generate more of this sort of the spectacle that the Benghazi attack did. So I think that had a huge impact on just sort of the United States General posture towards the Middle East as a whole. And, and indirectly, our major adversaries who were looking at the Middle East as a, as a playing field in which any retreat from the on the part of the United States could be an opportunity to put their their foot forward at our expense. So you had, you know, that matter applies to Russia first and first and foremost, perhaps and China, and certainly a number of extreme extremist groups that, say use the Benghazi attack as As a signal to come in and force. And in fact, you know, one of the first casualties of this was that Libya and eastern Libya failed to, to allies of al Qaeda and and later the Islamic State, which probably would not have happened or at least not have it happen so swiftly had had the Benghazi attack not occurred.

Brian Nichols  20:20  
Well, Ethan, we are unfortunately already hard pressed for time, which means the audience knows it's time for our final thoughts. And I'll go ahead and kick things off here. And that is, folks Tis the season to be merry. And with that being said, yeah, actually, today is the last day today is the last day that you can go ahead and get things ordered. Over at the shop, Brian Nichols forward slash shop if you want to guarantee it will be in time for Christmas. So again, if you want go ahead and get that awesome gift for the Liberty lover, that freedom fanatic in your life, we have t shirts, backpacks, yard signs and more head the Brian Nichols forward slash shop and use code TBNS at checkout. Again, today is the last day so we're airing here, Monday, the 12. If you want to see those gifts guaranteed at your doorstep to give to your loved ones for the holidays, make sure you go ahead and get things ordered by the end of the day today. That's my final thoughts. Ethan, what do you have for us?

Ethan Chorin  21:23  
Well, if you're if you haven't started, reach capacity with your your gifts. My book is called Benghazi, the new history of the fiasco that pushed America and its and its world to the brink.

Brian Nichols  21:38  
And the book itself is not burnt. That's just the cover.

Ethan Chorin  21:41  
Yes, the grind graphic artists had had a bit of a go with that. Yeah, I think the major the major takeaway here is that Benghazi really hasn't been done justice, not in the sense of who, who was who was responsible, necessarily but but its its general context, I think the Americans have a sense that they that it was a massive waste of time that it really doesn't merit any any additional scrutiny. But there it's full of lessons for, for, for how America is both losing power in the modern era and ways in which you can prevent such a political blowout in the future.

Brian Nichols  22:22  
All right, folks. Well, if you got some value from today's episode, well, I'm going to ask you to go ahead and do me a favor. You know what it is? Give today's episode a share. And when you do, please go ahead and tag yours truly at B nickels liberty, Ethan, where can folks go ahead and find you if they want to go ahead and continue the conversation?

Ethan Chorin  22:42  
Well, I have a I have a an author website, Ethan shorten And I take, I have a newsletter and I take questions from people that I try to answer every at the end of every month. And there's some giveaways along with that as well. I'd love to hear from people

Brian Nichols  22:57  
Awesome. Well, how about this folks will make it easy for you. I will include all those links in the show notes now others to different listeners we have here on the show Ethan we have our audio listener and we have our video listener. So for our video listener Yeah. Hey, what's up guys, video is found on YouTube rumble and on Odyssey if you're joining us here in video, please make sure you've hit that subscribe button and little notification bell so you don't miss a single time we go live but then over to the audio listener, which I know is 95% of the other folks out there. Please go ahead, click the artwork in your podcast catcher, it'll bring you over to Brian Nichols where you can find today's episode, you can find the entire transcript from today's episode all the aforementioned links of today's episode plus rate for this all 641 other episodes of The Brian Nichols Show, no wonder I've been so tired. And otherwise, folks, if you've been getting value here from The Brian Nichols Show, well, you can go ahead and support the program one of two ways you can either become a supporting listener at $1.99 a month over at Brian Nichols forward slash support. Or you can go ahead and support the show with a one time at Pay Pal donation. Either way, it goes right back into the show. So we can have amazing guests here like Ethan to leave your what? Educated, enlightened and in form. And oh, by the way, before we go ahead and wrap things up. One last thing, folks, did you know that we have our candidate school getting ready to get things kicked off here in the new year. If you are interested in running for office, or you're already running for office for your local election, please go ahead. Sign up for our candidate school. We're going to show you the basics of how to win your election how to do the basics of fundraising messaging, and more head over the Brian Nichols forward slash Candidate School and sign up today for our candidate school

Disembodied Voice of Matt Ultan, Vocal Artist Extraordinaire  24:48  
101. All right, that's all I have for you guys. Thank you for joining us. And with that being said even Sean joining us here on The Brian Nichols Show. We'll see you tomorrow, listening to The Brian Nichols Show To find more episodes at Brian Nichols

Transcribed by

Ethan ChorinProfile Photo

Ethan Chorin

Author - Former Diplomat

From 2004-2006, Ethan Chorin was one of a handful of US diplomats posted to Libya in the wake of rapprochement with Colonel Gaddafi. Six years later, he was in Benghazi (planning to meet the next day with Ambassador Chris Stevens) when the U.S. mission came under attack—an event that still reverberates through American domestic politics and foreign policy in disturbing and unexpected ways, as Chorin explains in his new book BENGHAZI! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink.
Despite hundreds of hours of Congressional hearings, a deep dive into Hillary Clinton’s personal email, and the trial of two suspects (ultimately acquitted), there are many unanswered questions about what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Until now.
To tell this story, Chorin draws on his own bone-chilling experience during the Benghazi attack, his expertise as a former diplomat and scholar of Libyan history, and new interviews with Libyan insiders, eyewitnesses, and various senior Obama officials, including Hillary Clinton. Democrats and Republicans agree on little when it comes to Benghazi, but both sides are likely to find themselves feeling vindicated by some of Chorin’s revelations and conclusions, while strongly contesting others.