U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John McCain (R-Arizona) have released the following statement on the lack of United States military reinforcements to aid our Consulate in Benghazi, Libya during the September 11, 2012 attack:
“A number of our constituents are asking what could have been done to protect our fellow Americans during the almost eight hour siege on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. As a result, we contacted Department of Defense officials. To our dismay, we were informed that despite ample warning signs that the immediate region remained unstable and our people under threat, inadequate preparations were made to respond to what in retrospect seems a likely attack.
“We were told reconnaissance aircraft were sent, and that a surveillance drone had been repositioned in response to the attack. But we were both shocked to hear that on September 11th, a day of heightened concern for American interests throughout the world, there were no land forces available to support Benghazi, Libya—one of the most vulnerable and high threat areas within the Middle East. We were further stunned and disappointed to hear that there was no effort to use fighter aircraft to disperse the attack or support the consulate. One of the most disturbing aspects of this situation was the low level of security and the lack of ability to reinforce the consulate that had been attacked on two previous occasions, in a region where most Western interests had withdrawn because of al-Qaeda-inspired militia.“The last two casualties occurred well over six hours after the initial attack. It was known early that the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was missing. His whereabouts were only discovered when Libyan hospital officials, who were attending to Ambassador Stevens, found his cell phone and made a call. It is disappointing to hear that our national command authorities failed to try to reinforce the Consulate with timely air assets, and that a consulate located in one of the most dangerous regions in the world was so unsecured.”
According to CBS news, the Pentagon moved a team of special operators from Central Europe to Sigonella, Italy, only a one hour flight away from Libya. There were also fighter aircraft and Specter AC-130 stationed at three air bases in Italy.
CBS quoted retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen who led the team that responded to the Embassy bombings in East Africa. “You find a way to make this happen. 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.”
This is a Presidential election year. There is sure to be certain amount of politics involved in the reporting on any issue. I understand that the State Department cannot do their job behind bomb proof walls. When a Regional Security Officer in the field repeatedly asks for help and that is ignored by headquarters, this is deliberate indifference and, there should be consequences.
We have now heard the President and the Secretary of State both accept the blame. Emerging information indicates that there could have been more done. Real time drone images were being watched in a command post some where and decisions were made not to respond.
The United States maintains a number of robust and highly classified options to deal with such events. I don’t want to read about them in the press, but I do want accountability from the decision makers who had these options and failed to try. Our dead and wounded deserve an honest accounting.
The disaster at Desert One in Iran had an impact on a Presidential election, but its honest evaluation changed the entire Department of Defense for the better. The events in Libya should be examined with the same care.