“The forces were moving… … There was no time or space available to be able to respond in time.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta [C-SPAN - See video below]
WASHINGTON – Conservatives stubbornly refuse to accept and understand just how quickly the Benghazi, Libya 9/11 terrorist attack engulfed the consulate and also that the Obama administration, Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey quickly responded, but that the situation happened too quickly for the response Republicans fantasize might have made a difference. The reason conservatives are so inept in their attacks on Benghazi is because they don’t understand the mission Ambassador Chris Stevens was on and the dangers of the foreign service, because all Republicans understand is 20th century warfare and large troop movements.
“This is not 911,” Panetta reminded CNN’s Candy Crowley, who also didn’t understand the response of the DOD either, which Senator Kelly Ayotte epitomized during the testimony, which I’ll get to in a minute. Senator Ayotte is the chosen female token Benghazi critic of Senators McCain and Graham, because Republicans have to have a woman in their somewhere, even if she doesn’t have the experience and obviously doesn’t have the depth of knowledge required to ask the questions she’s asking, which became embarrassingly apparent during her questioning and you can see in the clip below.
“It was two twenty-minute battles.” – Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Dempsey
Blaming President Obama completely misses what happened on 9/11/12. But that’s what conservatives like Bill Kristol do best, take an event and politicize it and manufacture something out of whole cloth that isn’t true.
In his remarks, Panetta said the initial reports of the attack were given “almost immediately” to the U.S. Embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Within 17 minutes, Panetta said, an unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft was dispatched to give U.S. officials a better idea of what was happening. It arrived at the site about 70 minutes after the attack, he said. Soon, Panetta and Dempsey met with President Barack Obama, the secretary told lawmakers. Obama ordered that the Defense Department respond to the attack with “all available DOD assets” and try to protect U.S. personnel, Panetta said. – Panetta, Dempsey defend U.S. response to Benghazi attack
Instead, conservatives are truncating quotes from the C-SPAN testimony [see video below], which wrongly give the impression that President Obama and Secretary Clinton were not doing their jobs, implying specifically that Obama wasn’t engaged after the terrorist attack happened.
Senator Kelly Ayotte, during her questioning [see video below, around 3:52] couldn’t absorb what General Dempsey was saying when he answered her questions about personnel “chartering a plane to get there,” meaning Benghazi.
“We didn’t have an official DOD presence in Libya. [Ayotte interrupts, asks again about "chartering a plane"] I would just reiterate, we didn’t have an official DOD presence in Libya.” – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey
Even after this answer, Ayotte again asks about the plane, saying if we’d had aviation assets we could have gotten to Benghazi sooner.
General Dempsey tries not to be incredulous, answering if they’d had a plane, “sure they could have gotten there sooner.”
Senator Ayotte continues, questioning the quickness of the action from DOD, refusing to accept the facts on how fast the Benghazi terrorist attack spun out of control.
“The forces were moving… … There was no time or space available to be able to respond in time.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta
Ayotte continues pressing that military was preparing, but no order to go was given, which wasn’t the case. She didn’t understand the obvious protocols. “There’s a list of prepare to deploy, prepare to deploy, prepare to deploy,” Ayotte continued, further stepping in it by adding that the forces didn’t perceive the dangers or that quick action was required.
“Yeah, if I could just help with that one. The process is you tell a unit to prepare to deploy. When they report readiness you tell them to move. That’s just a piece of the process. There is nothing that held them up.” – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey
Senator Kelly Ayotte provides a perfect example of the ignorance conservatives have in understanding operational reality, which goes also to the heart of what happened on 9/11 in Benghazi, but also the dangerous mission Ambassador Chris Stevens was on. Conservatives don’t understand this because of their general distaste and ignorance about diplomacy and the foreign service itself, jobs that are dangerous by the very nature of them.
Ayotte never absorbs the fact that Benghazi was a dangerously uncontrolled consulate and the Ambassador Stevens was attempting to continue the mission to democratize Libya after Gadhaffi’s fall. Libya itself was out of control by the nature of what happened when Gadhaffi was removed, with Benghazi an unstable area, where the Department of Defense had no presence, which meant even as the situation remained rocky and tilting towards unmanageable, the job of Stevens was to continue the mission.
Senator Lindsey Graham used his questioning, bringing up AC-130 gunships and their proximity to Benghazi, ignoring what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey had continually said, which was they did absolutely everything that could be done in the time they had to do it, but also that DOD had no presence in Libya.
If you want to fault anything, it’s the policy of bombing Libya in the first place. But that’s not the Republican position, which is represented by Sen. John McCain who wanted a U.S. military presence and boots on the ground in yet another country in the greater Middle East region. Because that has worked out so well for United States interests so far.
Taylor Marsh, is an author and veteran political analyst who has contributed to Huffington Post, The Hill, U.S. News & World Report, as well as cable outfits from Al Jazeera to CNN and beyond. Author of The Hillary Effect, Marsh’s book is available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media magazine www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women, foreign policy, and culture.
Paul Szep cartoon used with permission.