Chris Stevens

Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer, 22, discusses a video he shot that shows civilians removing the body of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens from a small dark room in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the aftermath of the Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012, attack, during an interview with the Associated Press.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

CAIRO — Libyans tried to rescue Ambassador Chris Stevens, cheering “God is great” and rushing him to a hospital after they discovered him still clinging to life inside the U.S. Consulate, according to witnesses and a new video that emerged Monday from last week’s attack in the city of Benghazi.

The group of Libyans had stumbled across Stevens’ seemingly lifeless form inside a dark room, the man who shot the video and two other witnesses told The Associated Press.

The account underlines the confusion that reigned during the assault by protesters and heavily armed gunmen that overwhelmed the consulate in Benghazi last Tuesday night, killing four Americans, including Stevens, who died from smoke inhalation soon after he was found. U.S. officials are still trying to piece together how the top American diplomat in Libya got separated from others as staffers were evacuated.

The Libyans who found him expressed frustration that there was no ambulance and no first aid on hand, leaving him to be slung over a man’s shoulder to be carried to a car.

“There was not a single ambulance to carry him. Maybe he was handled the wrong way,” said Fahd al-Bakoush, a freelance videographer who shot the footage. “They took him to a private car.”

U.S. and Libyan officials are also trying to determine who was behind the attack.

On Sunday, Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif contended foreign militants had been plotting the attack for months and timed it for Tuesday’s 9/11 anniversary.

However, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said it appeared spontaneous and unplanned, that extremists with heavier weapons “hijacked” the protest and turned it into an outright attack.

Soon after the attack, Libyan civilians roamed freely around the trashed consulate, its walls blacked and furniture burned. Among them were the videographer al-Bakoush, and a photographer and art student he often works with. They heard a panicked shout and rushed to see what was going on, al-Bakoush said. The body had been found inside a dark room with a locked door accessible only by a window. A group of men pulled him out and realized he was a foreigner and still alive.

The video taken by al-Bakoush and posted on YouTube shows Stevens being carried out of the room through a window with a raised shutter. Al-Bakoush said they put Stevens in a private car to rush to the hospital.

The video has been authenticated since Stevens’ face is clearly visible and he is wearing the same white T-shirt seen in authenticated photos of him being carried away on another man’s shoulders, presumably moments later.

“We were happy to see him alive. The youths tried to rescue him. But there was no security, no ambulances, nothing to help,” Ahmed Shams, the 22-year-old arts student, said.

When they entered the consulate, “there was no one around. There was no fire fighters, no ambulances, no relief,” said the photographer, Abdel-Qader Fadl.

Al-Bakoush and his colleagues said that once they learned his identity, they were stunned Stevens had been alone.

“I’ve never seen incompetence and negligence like this, from the two sides, the Americans and the Libyans,” he said. “You can sacrifice everyone but rescue the ambassador. He is the ambassador for God’s sake.”

Editor’s note: Bob Krueger served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and on the Texas Railroad Commission before becoming the American ambassador to Burundi in 1994. He spoke with Daily Texan associate editor Kayla Oliver about the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the political prospects of Texas Democrats and the lessons of public service. This fall, Krueger is teaching a Liberal Arts Honors and Plan II class called “Heroes in Life and Literature.”

Daily Texan: When you were serving as ambassador to Burundi in the 1990s, you narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by an extremist group unhappy with your advocacy for the disenfranchised. Could you describe why you chose to take such an active role in the country’s politics, as did Ambassador Stevens in Libya?
Senator Bob Krueger: Well, an ambassador is a personal representative of the president of the United States. That’s what being an ambassador plenipotentiary means: you have all the powers of the president for United States citizens in that country. It is a huge privilege, of course, to represent the United States anywhere. The genocide I was amid — if you adjusted for the difference in population between Burundi and the United States — was like having ten Twin Towers attacks every week nonstop. Nothing was being reported. There was not a single international reporter there. I thought, I can do two things: I can do what I can to save democracy, and I can do what I can to save lives, and nothing else mattered to me. If I was to remain silent, then who was to speak? If the representative of the world’s most powerful country was afraid to speak, who else would speak?

DT: Does the Libyan government have any responsibility for failing to prevent the attack?
BK: What we have to understand is we are the oldest continuous democracy in the world. We are an immensely powerful nation, and we still have assassins and crazies who do things like killing Sikhs in a church or who take out a gun in a Colorado movie and shoot fifty-odd people. And that’s where we have a strong legal government. Think about what happens where you have a fledgling government just trying to get underway. We have to understand that their government is still under threat from radicals in Libya and radicals coming from outside. The government is seeking their own footing. We’ve had a couple of hundred years and we still have these challenges. We have to put this in a global and historical context and understand that their country is just trying to get underway in a democracy. It’s the same position we might have been in in 1777.

DT: How should the American government respond to the situation?
BK: I think we’re responding appropriately. We have sent Marines to shore up the defense at the embassy itself. Fifty United States Marines are worth a lot more than that many from any other location, and they will come equipped and trained and ready to protect American interests. And we are sending a couple of destroyers that will have drones for observation. I think there’s no doubt that we’re responding with strength, but we don’t know just which group was responsible for this attack, and we certainly can’t go out in another country and think we’ll find the perpetrators. What we need in such instances are cool heads, historical understanding, broad vision and not a silly ‘cowboys and Indians’ approach — saying, “By gosh, I’m going to pull out my gun and get ‘em!” We wouldn’t know who to get.

DT: You were the last Democrat to serve as U.S. Senator from Texas. What realistic odds do you give the Democrat on the November ballot, Paul Sadler, for that seat?
BK: Well, obviously the odds are against him. On the other hand, one never knows in an election what can happen. Sadler is a responsible individual; he is not an ideologue. He has sought to work with people of both parties, and I think he is better qualified to bring some sort of coherence and comity in Washington than an extremist whose economic and other policies are antediluvian.

DT: What have been the disadvantages for Texas to not have a Democrat representing it in the U.S. Senate when one occupies the White House?
BK: I think a Democrat is likely to be a better, more responsible senator and it’s always a benefit, particularly for the second most populous state in the Union, to have connections with both parties rather than just one.

DT: What could a Democrat do to win a statewide office in Texas in November, given the polls?
BK: I suppose hope, pray and do his or her best. We never know what can suddenly turn an election. The odds are against it, but when I first ran for the Senate the odds were against me — I was up against an 18-year incumbent — and I lost only by three votes per thousand.

DT: What one lesson do you think UT undergraduates may take away from their years on campus that will inspire them to work to stop, if they have the opportunity in their lifetime, a genocide like the one you made the world pay attention to in Rwanda and Burundi?
BK:
My own experience in life is that there is no real satisfaction in simply seeking money or things. Looking back, the richest experience I had actually was not either during my time in the Senate or perhaps even in the House. It was when I was in Burundi, an assignment that most people would not have wanted. It gave me a chance to work to save democracy and work to save lives. That was for me an immense privilege. I wouldn’t trade a hundred million dollars for that privilege.