Thursday, November 1, 2012

Panetta: I ordered armed response to Benghazi attack

By Donald Sensing

I mentioned this in my post on how the media have stood down in covering the Benghazi attack, but I think it deserves its own headline. Now Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says that he did indeed order armed forces to assist Americans under attack in Benghazi while they were being attacked the night of Sept. 11

"It's all coming back to me now!"
Heretofore, Panetta was always maintained that no such order was given because neither he nor his subordinate commanders knew enough about the situation to send a rescue force.

Step by step:

1. The US consulate in Benghazi was attacked for seven hours the evening of Sept. 11, commencing between 4-5 p.m. Washington time. The attack was known of in Washington almost immediately and live video from a Predator drone over Benghazi was seen in Washington as the attack occurred. Within two hours of the attack's start, US mission staff in Libya told Washington that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia, affiliated with al Qaeda, had asserted responsibility for the attacks.

2. The US mission in Libya requested assistance from Washington. No assistance of any kind was sent.

3. KUSA-TV reporter Kyle Clarke interviewed President Obama live on Oct. 26.
President Obama was directly asked twice whether pleas for help on the ground in Libya were denied during the attack. Both times, he repeated his standard call for a thorough investigation.
ABC News summarized thus:
President Obama told KUSA-TV’s Kyle Clarke large that “we want to make sure we get it right, particularly because I have made a commitment to the families impacted as well as to the American people, we’re going to bring those folks to justice. So, we’re going to gather all the facts, find out exactly what happened, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again but we’re also going to make sure that we bring to justice those who carried out these attacks.”
Clark pressed again.

“Were they denied requests for help during the attack?” he asked.

“Well, we are finding out exactly what happened,” the president again said.
4. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has repeatedly said, until yesterday,
The U.S. military did not get involved during the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last month because officials did not have enough information about what was going on before the attack was over, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday [Oct. 25].

At a Pentagon news briefing, Panetta said there was no "real-time information" to be able to act on, even though the U.S. military was prepared to do so.

"You don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on," Panetta said. "(We) felt we could not put forces at risk in that situation."
Yet now The Washington Post's David Ignatius reports,
George Little, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, told me on Wednesday [Oct. 31], responding to an initial online version of this column: “Within a few hours, Secretary Panetta ordered all appropriate forces to respond to the unfolding events in Benghazi, but the attack was over before those forces could be employed” (boldface added).
This statement despite the secretary having said for days on end that "he and two other top commanders 'felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.'"

All along the main question being asked of the administration was simply, "Why was a rescue mission not dispatched during the seven hours the attack took place?"

And all along we have gotten only obfuscation and dissembling from the administration:
  • the president himself seems so unaware of his own actions that night that he apparently needs an  investigation conducted so he can learn what he himself did.

  • the secretary of defense maintained for days that there was just too little information about the situation in Benghazi to send forces there, but now he suddenly remembers that, hey, he did order troops to deploy after all! Darn shame the battle was over before they could take off. 
I say again: this administration is outright lying about the whole affair. If Panetta's present "version of the truth" really is true, why did he not say this at the beginning? How much simpler for the president would it have been all along just to say words to this effect from the beginning of public inquiries, "After we learned of the attack, Secretary Panetta ordered forces to go to Benghazi as fast as possible, but the attack there ended before they deployed"?

I do not believe the latest disclaimer. Again, there is no conclusion to be drawn but that the Obama administration abandoned Americans to die in Benghazi. Whether it did so knowing it was so doing, or whether it is just another example of the administration's ineptitude at crisis management, we may never know. But abandon them it did.

Update: It turns out that the Ambassador Stevens and by strong inference the State Dept. at Foggy Bottom knew the Benghazi consulate was under hostile surveillance well before Sept. 11. And yet the administration seems to have done nothing about making the US mission there more secure, making all the more suspect Secretary Panetta's latecoming claim that he ordered rescue forces to go to Benghazi within hours of the attack's start.

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