They know the facts already show a disgraceful display of deceit and disregard for Americans in harm’s way. They also know that a broadly informed voting public – Democrat, Republican, Independent – would reject such blatantly egregious mishandling of our foreign policy.
For Middle Georgia’s military community, the Libyan affair should be especially troublesome because the evidence suggests the administration violated the cardinal tenet of U.S. service – leave no one behind.
Here is a sequence of events that occurred prior to the Sept. 11 assault:
- As early as last August, U.S.Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens began notifying Washington of deteriorating security in Benghazi.
- Weeks before Sept. 11, terrorists attacked Western interests including forays against the International Red Cross and British diplomats. A homemade bomb blew a huge hole in the wall surrounding the U.S. mission and both the Red Cross and the British decided to evacuate.
- Stevens and Eric Nordstrom, the top U.S. diplomatic security officer in Libya, repeatedly requested additional security from the U.S. State Department. Charlene Lamb, the department’s top security official, rejected the requests apparently because she – and her superiors – wanted to create a sense of normalcy in the strife-torn country.
- In June, Stevens reported increased Islamist extremist activity and a growing number of al Qaeda flags displayed on government buildings.
- In August, the only substantial U.S. security presence – a 16-man, Army Green Beret site security team – was withdrawn from the country although Stevens sent numerous cables to the State Department requesting at least a 60-day extension.
- There was no call for increased security – or directives from the U.S. government to take any unusual steps – prior to the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.
When the Benghazi attack occurred, there was little Stevens and his small cadre could do to fend off the terrorists. Here is the sequence on that fateful day gathered from Congressional testimony, accounts carried by Fox News and to a lesser extent CBS News, and other sources:
- The attack by scores of heavily armed and well organized terrorists began at 3:40 p.m. Washington time. News of the attack reached the White House, State Department and the Pentagon no later than 4:05 p.m. – a time when all staff offices should have been fully manned.
- Reports indicate that an unmanned drone was overhead during the attack providing real-time optics to Washington policymakers and AFRICOM Headquarters in Europe,showing the siege was not a spontaneous reaction to a video but a concerted move by Islamist radicals.
- At 5 p.m., President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice President Biden began to meet in the White House. The Benghazi raid would continue for another six hours.
- Also at 5 p.m., the Pentagon began to move military assets: A Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team of Marines was moved from Rota, Spain, to Tripoli, Libya; a Special Operations force, including AC-130 Gunships, was repositioned to Sigonella Air Base in southern Italy, just 480 miles from Benghazi; F-16s and Apache helicopters were present at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy; two Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea were moved off the coast of Libya.
- At least by 6 p.m. Washington time, U.S. Libyan diplomats reported that Ansar al-Shariah, an al-Qaeda offshoot, claimed responsibility for the attack.
- At some point after 6 p.m., Stevens and others sought refuge in the compound’s living quarters after terrorists, using grenades, mortars and diesel fuel, set fire to the mission building.
- Nearby Navy SEALs – about a mile away in a reported annex – requested clearance from CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., to attempt rescue of the besieged diplomats, altogether about 30 in number. The request was denied at least two times, according to a Fox News report, and the officers were told to “stand down.” David Patraeus, head of the CIA, said last week , “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need. Claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.” That denial raised speculation that the “stand down” order could only have come from the White House.
- A team of operatives from the annex, including at least one Navy SEAL, Tyrone Woods, ignored the order and rescued as many Americans as possible, returning them to the annex. The ambassador could not be found.
- Some three hours into the siege, almost 7 p.m. in Washington, the CIA officers continued to seek military assistance. For yet unexplained reasons, Woods reportedly fixed his laser target designator on the mortar that would ultimately kill him, but no help came.
- For almost two weeks following the incident, the Obama administration claimed the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam video produced in California … although they knew as the attack was unfolding that it was planned and executed by a well-trained, well-armed terrorist group.
- At the Andrews Air Force Base, Md., arrival ceremony for the four slain Americans from Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Charles Woods, father of the deceased SEAL, that she would do everything she could to arrest and incarcerate the California man who produced the inflammatory video. She said nothing about a concerted al Qaeda attack. Woods said he went public with his views only after he saw that Americans were not being told the truth.
- On Oct. 25, Defense Secretary Panetta blamed “incomplete information” as the reason military units were not dispatched. He said, “You don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.” That comment was made despite proof showing Washington leadership had real-time, streaming video of the attack, frequent e-mails from diplomats at the Benghazi mission and radio contact with CIA operatives at the annex.
- On Oct. 26, President Obama told a Colorado reporter that at the moment he heard about the Benghazi attack he directed that everything be done to save the lives of Americans in harm’s way.
- Just a few days ago, the AFRICOM commander told media he received no order from the White House or the Pentagon to provide assistance during the Benghazi attack.
All of this raises a host of questions: Why were security forces withdrawn from Benghazi, long considered a hotbed of Islamic terrorist unrest? Why were normal precautions not taken in advance of the Sept. 11 anniversary? What was our ambassador doing in Benghazi on that date rather than retreating to his somewhat more secure post in Tripoli? The president had at least six hours to dispatch nearby assets to fend off the attackers and save American lives. Why did he not give that order? Or – if he gave the order as he claims – why was it ignored? Who told the Navy SEALS to stand down and not attempt rescue? Why had an unmanned aerial vehicle been dispatched to monitor the mission site? Why was Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods painting the mortar placement with a targeting laser if he did not believe an American strike was imminent? That action likely gave away his position and directly led to his death. Why did the Obama administration continue to claim the Benghazi attack grew from a spontaneous reaction to the California video although they knew the true story within minutes after the deadly incident began? Why does the Obama administration stonewall requests for more information? Why do most of the mainstream media continue to spike the story, refusing to seek answers for what happened and why?
Clearly, the Obama administration has sunk to new lows in public trust and credibility. There have been crises and scandals before – Watergate under President Nixon, Monica Lewinsky under President Clinton. But those events, although involving despicable misinformation and coverups, did not result in loss of life.
Four courageous Americans are dead because of Benghazi. Will their loved ones, including Charles Woods, receive answers? Will the administration come clean with the American people?
Maybe Sir Walter Scott described it best when he spoke about subterfuge in an earlier age. “Oh what a tangled web we weave,” he noted, “when we practice to deceive.”
This tangled web is starting to come unraveled. Hopefully, enough of the ploy is visible to enable Americans to decide whom their leader should be – or should not be – for the next four years.