Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Prior to Benghazi, were there 13 attacks on embassies and 60 deaths under President George W. Bush?

The statement

"During the George W. Bush period, there were 13 attacks on various embassies and consulates around the world. Sixty people died."

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., May 5, on The Ed Show

The ruling

A new inquiry into the White House's response to a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, has led Democrats to dig up the record of the previous administration in similar circumstances.

On MSNBC's The Ed Show, Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said that "during the George W. Bush period, there were 13 attacks on various embassies and consulates around the world. Sixty people died."

On the numbers, Garamendi's actually understating the case.

Using the Global Terrorism Database and a news account that Garamendi's staff said was the source of his claim, we identified 39 attacks or attempted attacks on U.S. embassies and embassy personnel.

Of these 39 incidents, 20 resulted in at least one fatality.

Garamendi also understated the number of deaths. In the 20 incidents with at least one fatality, the total death toll was 87 — quite a few more than the 60 Garamendi cited.

We should note that the vast majority of these deaths were not of Americans. We counted 63 deaths that were either of non-Americans or of people whose nationality is unknown. Another three were U.S. civilians. Another 21 were workers at a U.S. embassy or consulate, either of American or foreign nationality.

What about the implicit comparison Garamendi made between Benghazi and Bush-era attacks? That's a little shakier.

Generally, experts we contacted said Garamendi was making a reasonable point that there has been a steady, and comparatively overlooked, series of attacks on U.S. embassies in recent years.

Still, these experts said there are valid reasons to treat Benghazi differently from the other attacks. One is that a U.S. ambassador died in the attack, which hadn't happened since the 1970s, said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University.

Our ruling

Garamendi said that "during the George W. Bush period, there were 13 attacks on various embassies and consulates around the world. Sixty people died."

Turns out, Garamendi actually understated the numbers of deadly attacks and total fatalities. We rate his statement Mostly True.

Louis Jacobson, Times Staff Writer

This item has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

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