Embassy Attacks

Where Did the Benghazi Attackers Get Their Weapons? Possibly From "Mad Max"-Inspired Tinkerers.


Improvised weapons in Misrata

The United States government and the Libyan government are currently waging a war of narratives, each giving a version of the deadly attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that best suits its needs. U.S. officials desperately want the world to believe that this was a spontaneous response to anger over a movie that ridiculed Islam. The folks in Tripoli consider it equally urgent for us to accept that foreign agitators carefully planned the attack in advance, under the radar of Libya's miniscule security apparatus. Either way, press reports, including an article on the country's Hollywood-inspired (yes, really) improvised weapons industry, make it clear that Libya is a place that's armed, dangerous, very creative — and a place in which anybody with a survival instinct should plan on forting-up if they have even an inkling that they might attract hostile local attention.

First, of all, any country coming out of armed turmoil, in which the military was divided against itself, defeated, or simply evaporated in some places, is going to be up to its armpits in weapons that used to belong to that military, or else were imported to fight it. Fawzi Abd al-'Aali, the interior ministry's representative for eastern Libya, told Al Jazeera:

"This happened because of all the weapons: everyone is Libya is armed now," he said. "Ex-prisoners and thieves who participated in the revolution have kept their arms."

And Colonel Hamid al-Hassi of the Libyan military suggested that Americans should have anticipated trouble in what has become a special date around the world and prepared accordingly.

"They killed an al-Qaeda leader and then send their ambassador on the anniversary of September 11," he said, waving his arms in outrage. "They know there's a lot of terrorism in Libya. They should take care of their ambassador."

Attackers in Road Warrior repelled by flamethrowers

It's actually fascinating to discover just how entrenched the armed factions and their suppliers have become in a relatively short period of time (the uprising against the old regime began just a year and a half ago). In July, Makeshift ran a piece on the weapons shops of Misrata — a city hundreds of miles from Benghazi, but one that offers an insight into the turbulent state of the country. In particular, the author, Charla Jones, talks of how the city's mechanics became armorers during and after the country's civil war. She was especially intrigued by the armored vehicles the locals slapped together and sent into battle.

I followed one of the battle wagons to the garage to see the place where this species of homemade fighting vehicles was assembled and repaired. Despite the lack of signage, the spot was easy to find because of the loud bursts of automatic gunfire coming from the shop's test range. Fighters gathered there in the evenings after days of battle under the blazing sun, telling stories and hammering their broken weapons back into service.

The rebels were badly outgunned but compensated with wicked creativity. They fashioned shotguns from steel pipes and drilled out the bores of starter pistols to make handguns. They ransacked a military airfield and stripped the weaponry from old Russian fighter jets, then reinforced the chassis of pickup trucks to handle the groaning weight of aircraft guns.

I'll leave to others an assessment of the wisdom of mounting aircraft guns on trucks— and of being anywhere within blast radius when the trigger is pulled. Reading about the inspiration for those vehicles, though, I'm reminded of old tales that The Godfather not only documented Mafia behavior, but influenced and altered that behavior.

Some of these modifications seemed unnecessarily theatrical—in a war fought with 14.5-millimeter machine guns, how often do you need a battering ram?—and the mechanics would sheepishly admit that they added a few flourishes for the sake of intimidation. Many of them had watched the Mad Max movies and would discuss the merits and drawbacks of the military hardware used by Mel Gibson's character in the series.

The mob that attacked the U.S. consulate may or may not have given a damn about movies attacking their religion, but their weapons seem to have had some cinematic input, anyway. And, in a still-tumultuous and violent country where Road Warrior is considered an instruction manual, it's worth asking why American officials weren't prepared for a visit by the local equivalent of Lord Humungus.

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  1. Yes, I daresay we should have anticipated trouble. But I note again that a movie is at the root of our troubles. This time, an Australian film. I demand an apology!

    1. That…that…THING in there? That’s not the Goose….

  2. Had to have been the movie. Yup. There is no possibility of another explanation.

    1. You listen bronze. I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller! I’m the Nightrider, baby, and we ain’t never comin’ back! #MuslimRage

      1. That there is Cundalini… and Cundalini wants his hand back! #ToecutterRage

  3. While the US narrative is self-serving and lets the government off the, the Libyan narrative is not, and actually makes them look kind of bad. For that reason, if no other, the US narrative is deserving of much more skepticism.

    1. Plus I am sure the protestors saw the same images we have of American LAPD officers hauling the anti-muslim film director off to jail.

      1. Them seeing it was the point of that commie freak show.

    2. Plus, the U.S. narrative is insane. It was a coincidence that the attack happened on 9/11? The attacks were aimed at U.S. foreign officials, but had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy and were 100% a beef with some random jerk on the internet? The guys with military grade weapons were just random protesters, not an organized group of attackers? These random angry rioters just happened to know where the U.S. ambassador was when he wasn’t in Tripoli, and just happened to be keenly interested in classified U.S. documents in the consulate?

      Baghdad Bob was spinning a more plausible tale. Can I request making Baghdad Susan a meme? Is there a meme committee I should file that with, or what?

  4. How soon until Libya replaces Somalia as the progressive view of “Libertopia”?

    1. Never. Libya received the fruits of our Great Leader’s compassion and martial wisdom. Any turmoil in that state is both the result of their failure to live up to His vision, and also just a step in His divine plan.

    2. If you get rid of the Islamic fundamentalism, you have to admit that the rest does sound kind of fun.

      Russian fighter jet cannon mounted on pickup trucks? How can that not warm the heart of any red-blooded American?

      1. Glad I’m not the only one who enjoyed the hoplonography.

      2. FSPRussia needs to get there and test range some of that stuff ASP.

      3. Well, yeah. I’d do it with my ’75 Blazer if I thought I wouldn’t get arrested the minute I left the house.

      4. I agree. Its our birthright to own and maintain crew-serviced and/or motor-driven weapons as private-citizens.

  5. I’ll leave to others an assessment of the wisdom of mounting aircraft guns on trucks

    Mount it on the back and use it like a turbo!!!

    If they can slow an a-10 warthog to a stall in the sky i am sure they could give an f-350 ford a good boost.

    1. When you put it like that, the physics have GOT to be tried!

      1. For the A-10’s cannon I get:
        .425 kg round
        3900 rounds/minute (fixed)
        1070 m/s muzzle velocity

        3900/60*.425*1070 = 29559 N

        A Ford 350 weighs right at 9000lbs (4082 kg)

        So the boost is an acceleration of 29559/4082 = 7.24 m/s, or about 3/4 of a g.

        The downside is you have a 2 second max on the boost before your barrels melt.

        1. whoops. Last unit is 7.24 m/s^2 since it is an acceleration. My physics teachers probably just experienced acute discomfort.

          1. Don’t feel bad. I saw that error in a college level engineering textbook once. I learned to doublecheck everything in that book before I believed it.

            In reality, your estimate is a little low. The propellent doesn’t burn perfectly and not all the energy from the burnt propellent transfers to the round. Plus you lose a little muzzle velocity from friction, else you wouldn’t heat up the barrel. All that provides a little more backward force than your calculations show.

            1. Muzzle velocity is at the exit of the barrel (the muzzle). Its a pretty good 1st Law estimate. Now if you were trying to do the calculation off of chemical potential of propellant, I’d be all in with you.

              1. Just saying you were a little low. Looking at Wikipedia (in line with other numbers I’ve seen), the GAU-8 has a recoil force of about 44,482 N or about 10,000 lbf. So you were more than a little low.

                Personally, no matter how much I would like to own a GAU-8, it is a little impractical to use at about 10 feet long for the barrel alone. They designed the A-10 around the gun.

        2. And god help anything in your wake.

          1. God ain’t gonna be much help, trust me.

    1. It can’t possibly be said often enough: You have a fabulous ass. #nohomo

    2. I just knew that last bit would have you popping up!

      1. I certainly has SugarFree popping up.

  6. OT: Picture is just too good to wait 23 minutes for the evening links to share:


    1. “This baby would make a great vice vice president!”

    2. “I have created life! Live, my creation, live!”

    3. The VP on the campaign trail stories read like the farewell tour of a second tour British invasion band.

      1. second rate British . . .

    4. “Can I keep it, George? Please?”

  7. “They killed an al-Qaeda leader and then send their ambassador on the anniversary of September 11,” he said, waving his arms in outrage. “They know there’s a lot of terrorism in Libya. They should take care of their ambassador.”

    Uh, Colonel… you are speak of the United States Department of State. You may be expecting a bit much.

  8. Also OT: cooking for myself this evening — leftover ribs with the addition of bacon and maple over Brussel sprouts.

  9. Heavy weapons welded into the beds of pick ups have been an African, especially North African, specialty for many years. Chad used them to defeat Libya in the 1987 battle of Fada. They picked up the name “technicals” in Somalia in the early ’90s.

    The British were using the same time weapons in the same area in the 40’s.

    1. That war is called the Toyota War. Seriously.

  10. The Afghans were making AKs over charcoal fired forges in the 80s.

  11. Fawzi Abd al-‘Aali, the interior ministry’s representative for eastern Libya, told Al Jazeera:

    “This happened because of all the weapons: everyone is Libya is armed now,” he said. “Ex-prisoners and thieves who participated in the revolution have kept their arms.”

    “How can they expect us to dominate and oppress if everybody is armed?”

    The Lament of the Ancient Authoritarian.

  12. They fashioned shotguns from steel pipes and drilled out the bores of starter pistols to make handguns.

    I assume they mean “pistons”?

  13. Come one dude, this makes a lot of sense man!


  14. Many of them had watched the Mad Max movies and would discuss the merits and drawbacks of the military hardware used by Mel Gibson’s character in the series.

    No matter where they are, people are people.

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