One of the unanswered questions surrounding the assault on our consulate in Benghazi is why no rescue mission was launched. We already know that multiple requests from the ambassador and others for heightened security –or even to keep the security they had– were turned down by the State Department. Two former Navy SEALs died trying to protect the consulate, but where, in that great American tradition, was “the cavalry?”
CBS’ Sharyl Attkisson asks that same question, but the answers are, well, less than satisfying:
Some lawmakers are asking why U.S. military help from outside Libya didn’t arrive as terrorists battered more than 30 Americans over the course of more than seven hours. The assault was launched by an armed mob of dozens that torched buildings and used rocket propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles.
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.
The State Department, White House and Pentagon declined to say what military options were available. A White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”
But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.
Attkisson interviews a former Special Forces soldier, who is less than impressed with the “we checked all options” line:
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.
“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
Remember, this “battle” went on for seven hours. That gave the US time to put a drone overhead, so we could watch the last few hours of fighting. But this begs the question: If we could get a drone overhead, why not a rescue force?
In fact, Attkisson reports that the military had assets at Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily, assets that included AC-130 gunships, which could have at least buzzed the crowd to drive them off before opening fire.
And that help was only an hour away in a battle that lasted seven hours.
Another interviewee mentioned military risks and potential diplomatic problems from intervening. My response is “So?” All combat operations involve risk. When American lives were in danger, that was a time to take that risk. And “diplomatic difficulties” with the Libyan government? Puh-leeze. One phone call from Clinton or Obama should have settled that with a reminder to the Libyan government that a) they wouldn’t exist without us and b) that we remember those who help us… and the implication that we also remember those who don’t.
And if that doesn’t work, you go in anyway and worry about Tripoli’s feelings later.
What you don’t do is worry about the niceties when this is happening:
You cannot tell me that the mightiest military the world has ever seen could do nothing useful in Benghazi. That we didn’t speaks volumes about the lack of leadership in D.C., including a Commander in Chief who went to bed while the fighting still raged. And if we really couldn’t, then that testifies to the lack of judgement on the part of policy makers who didn’t have the foresight to position assets ahead of time, just in case there was trouble in a region that is a known al Qaeda recruiting ground.
Either way, this incompetent crowd has got to go, before they get anyone else killed.
UPDATE: Doing her own rendition of “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter claims the only reason the Benghazi consulate massacre is a controversy is that those mean old Republicans are politicizing it, that it could have happened anywhere, and that it was not a failure on the part of the Obama administration. Be sure to read Ed Morrissey’s response to Cutter’s tripe; it drips with well-deserved scorn.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)