Why No Rescue at Benghazi? We Couldn’t

By | April 15, 2013 | 0 Comments



In case you forgot – as many people have – may I remind you who these Americans were. On the left is Ambassador Chris Stevens. Then we have State Department Information Officer Sean Smith, and former SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The last two were contractors. Apparently they were in Benghazi on another mission, and – typically – rushed to help when they heard the consulate was in trouble.
An unconfirmed report states that Ambassador Stevens was tortured. Of course, it would not be in our government’s interest to confirm the report. If it were confirmed, Americans might demand that we take action. But then again, they might not. For many Americans, the sense of nationhood is weakening. Many now feel that they are “citizens of the world,” which carries no obligations except breathing.
The four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya on the night of Sept. 11-12, 2012. No, that’s not right – they were KIA, killed in action. Whether we know it or not, we are at war. Granted, it is a low-intensity war, compared to the high-intensity World War II. But for those involved, it is intense indeed. Our consulate in Benghazi was attacked by a well-armed force on – surprise! – the anniversary of 9/11. It wasn’t a “mob.” Mobs don’t go around with mortars, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades.
The attack was coordinated with an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where our flag was burned. Al Qaeda flags and graffiti appeared, and Al Qaeda took “credit.” It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to solve this case. But it does take willful ignorance to overlook the elephant in the room.
Half a year has passed since Benghazi, and Congress still has gotten nowhere in investigating the attack. Why were repeated warnings ignored? Why, after all this time, are the survivors of the attack still being prevented from testifying? And why isn’t Congress, at least the Republican-controlled House, subpoenaing the survivors and insisting on hearing their testimony?
Perhaps more important, what does all this tell our enemies? We didn’t respond forcefully. We hardly responded at all. We aren’t even investigating effectively. Our government is waiting for people to forget. Many Americans will forget, but our enemies won’t.
Attacking an embassy and a consulate, and killing an ambassador, are legally acts of war. An ambassador is the representative of the president and the nation. He ranks with a four-star general. When an ambassador is in danger, reportedly a flash message (the highest priority) is sent to the Situation Room in the White House, as well as to the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. When contact with an ambassador is lost, the urgency of the situation is even greater.
High-ranking officials may claim they didn’t know, but they must have known. And they did nothing. The question is: Did they do nothing because they couldn’t decide what to do, or because they had rendered themselves unable to do anything? Note that these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.
We all have known people who were both indecisive and powerless. But we hope that such useless people do not occupy the highest offices in our government. Apparently we have elected a president who not only is reluctant to use force, but also has done his best to reduce the force available for him to use.
As a result, the capacity of our nation to react in a timely fashion to mortal threats has been reduced to a dangerously inadequate level. So when there is no rescue of our personnel at Benghazi, the president can excuse our inaction by explaining that there was nothing he could do. But the reason there was nothing he could do was that he cut our forces in the Mediterranean.
As Mark Helprin writes in the Wall Street Journal:

From World War II onward, the U.S. Sixth Fleet stabilized the Mediterranean region and protected American interests there with the standard deployment, continued through 2008, of a carrier battle group, three hunter killer submarines, and an amphibious ready group with its MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit] or equivalent. But in the first year of the Obama presidency this was reduced to one almost entirely unarmed command ship. No MEU could respond to Benghazi because none was assigned to, or by chance in, the Mediterranean.

Yes, that’s right. When our consulate in Benghazi was attacked and our ambassador was in danger, we had no warships in the Mediterranean. The only way to mount a rescue was to assemble the needed special-operations troops from various sites in Europe, then fly them from our NATO base at Sigonella, Italy.
According to some reports, the special operators were assembled at the airbase, which is only three hours flying time from Benghazi. But the report does not say how long it took to assemble the special operators in the first place. Other reports put this time at 17 hours. The fighting at Benghazi went on for between four and seven hours. So it is doubtful that help could have arrived in time, even if it had been approved immediately – which it wasn’t.
To call this a “quick-reaction force” would be an insult to sleep-deprived tortoises on Valium.
Our ally Israel under threat of nuclear destruction by Iran? Syria in the grip of a bloody civil war? Egypt oppressed by the Muslim Brotherhood but showing signs of unrest? Lebanon the unwilling host of Hezbollah? The Gaza Strip the willing host of Hamas? Libya’s “Arab spring” looking more like a dreary winter? Our friend King Abdullah of Jordan barely hanging on? Violence simmering nearly everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa? But the attitude of the administration seems to be, “What, me worry?”
How will we protect our diplomats, much less our national interests? How can our friends expect us to support them, when we can’t even save our own ambassador? How can our enemies expect us to oppose them, other than with empty words and meaningless gestures?
Do you imagine that we were the only people to see photos of Ambassador Stevens’ body being dragged through the streets? Do you suppose that we were the only people to see photos of our flag being pulled down from our Cairo embassy, and then watched it being replaced by the Al Qaeda flag? We may not care enough to appreciate the significance of these photos. But our friends and our enemies surely care enough.
The strong reassure their friends and worry their enemies. The weak worry their friends and reassure their enemies. As a result, the weak have fewer friends and more enemies. But many people appear unable – or unwilling – to grasp this elementary truth.
Question: When our president, our secretary of State, our secretary of Defense, and our Joint Chiefs of Staff were informed of the attack on our Benghazi consulate, and that Ambassador Chris Stevens was in danger, why did they not react effectively?
(1) They didn’t know what to do.
(2) They hoped the “mob” would disperse.
(3) They were waiting until the situation was clear – which it rarely is in an emergency.
(4) They knew they had inadequate assets available, and hence did nothing.
The answer is really irrelevant – all the answers are unacceptable. But be aware that President Obama’s new budget proposes even more cuts to national defense. And as you consider this fact, also consider how these quotations apply to the top leadership of our nation:

The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.
− Joseph Heller, “Catch 22”

The attributes of a leader are competence, courage of conviction, and care of subordinates. [Emphasis added.]
− Bing West, author, former Marine


U.S. Embassy, Cairo, 9-11-12

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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