While Washington watched … 1

While Obama officials looked on, their man in Benghazi was slowly murdered amidst smoke and flames.

What might have been done to help Ambassador Stevens when the US consulate in Benghazi was attacked – and while the officials in the State Department and the Pentagon knew that it was being attacked? Even at that late hour could anything have been done to save him and his staff?

CBS News explores the possibility:

Here’s the text, to mull over at leisure:

The closer we get to the election, the harder Republicans in Congress are pushing for answers to a big question: What really happened in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya last month that killed the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans?

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.”

Even as some action of theirs is seen to be useless and pointless, they find a way to boast!

But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.

A White House official told CBS News that a “small group of reinforcements” was sent from Tripoli to Benghazi, but declined to say how many or what time they arrived.

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.”

Passively stood and watched.

Did any of them really hate what they were allowing to happen? Or were they too busy preparing excuses?

Oh, it seems they did do something. Or started to do something:

The Pentagon says it did move a team of special operators from central Europe to the large Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, but gave no other details. Sigonella is just an hour’s flight from Libya. Other nearby bases include Aviano and Souda Bay. Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it.

Rick Nelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Navy pilot who worked in counter-terrorism, says such missions can be very risky. “A lot can go well, right, as we saw with the bin Laden raid. It was a very successful event,” he says. “But also, when there are high risk activities like this. a lot can go wrong, as we saw with the Iranian hostage rescue decades ago.”

Add to the controversy the fact that the last two Americans didn’t die until more than six hours into the attack, and the question of U.S. military help becomes very important.

Sending the military into another country can be a sensitive and delicate decision. CBS News has been told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did seek clearances from Libya to fly in their airspace, but the administration won’t say anything further about what was said or decided on that front.

Let’s think about that last paragraph. So the special operators flown from central Europe to a point in Italy only one hour’s flight away from Benghazi, and the fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships which might have dispersed the attackers, were not ordered to proceed because Hillary Clinton had asked for, was awaiting, and had perhaps not received permission from the Libyan “government” to enter the country’s airspace? A “government” that did not, could not, protect the consulate as it should have done? A “government” that was helped to power by the US?  This “government” Hillary Clinton decided must be treated with all formal rectitude at such a critical moment, when Libyan nationals were destroying the consulate and killing the ambassador?

She was the presidential candidate in 2008 who proposed herself as the leader who could cope best if the phone rang at 3 am because a crisis somewhere in the world needed to be dealt with urgently.

What a failure she has turned out to be! What a fumbling fool!

And where was President Obama while all this was going on? What did he say? What orders did he give? Was he asleep? Did the phone ring? Did he not hear it? Or if he did, and he answered it, what did he say? Anything? Or was he saving up his words, preparing a beautiful speech for the Rose Garden the next day?

These weasel words, these hollow assurances:

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats.

Or: “let’s bolt the stable door really tight now that the horse has flown.”

I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

Then came an indirect reference to the video which from then on, for weeks, he was going to blame for what happened in Benghazi:

Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.

Already, many Libyans have joined us in doing so, and this attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya. Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’s body to the hospital, where we tragically learned that he had died.

It apparently took hours for the Libyans who got hold of Mr Stevens – dead or alive – to deliver him to the hospital. What did they do with him in that time? According to some reports he was sodomized.

But what actually happened to the ambassador is of much less importance to Obama than keeping on the best of terms with the chaotic state of Libya.

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. … And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi. …

No acts of terror 

Yes, he did say “acts of terror”, but whether he meant to include the Benghazi attack in that category was not clear. (See the whole text here.) And if he did, why did his spokesmen refuse to attribute the attack to terrorists for weeks afterwards, preferring to blame some obscure video of mysterious provenance?

… will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.

We will make that mistake, if mistake it is. We do not believe for a moment that justice will be done. Not by this president.

  • liz

    “Too little too late” is really too generous a term for Obamas response.
    For him to proclaim that “justice will be done” is insulting. The only thing that would be remotely close to “justice” in this case would be his own court-martial and incarceration in Gitmo with the bunch who killed Ambassador Stevens.
    Then he’ll have all the time he wants to apologize to them for insulting the Prophet with videos and first amendment rights. He’ll also get to find out what they really think of him. They like skinny boys, apparently.