A retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general who was on duty at U.S. African Command headquarters in Germany during the Benghazi attacks said today said commanders quickly concluded that the event did not evolve from a protest, but that it was “a hostile military action.”
“What we did know quite early on was that this was a hostile action,” Ret. USAF Brigadier Gen. Robert Lovell told the House Oversight Committee. “This was no demonstration gone terribly awry.”
What’s more, according to Lovell, the military should have been ordered to try to save the Americans on the ground, four on whom died. He noted that, however long it might take to get forces into the theater, it would be worth it since nobody knew how long the attack might last.
There are accounts of time, space and capability, discussions of the question, “Could we have gotten there in time to make a difference?” Well, the discussion is not could or could not of time, space and capability. The point is we should have tried.
As another saying goes, “Always move to the sound of the guns.” We didn’t know how long this would last when we became aware of the distress, nor did we completely understand what we had in front of us, be it a kidnapping, rescue, recovery, protracted hostile engagement, or any or all of the above.
Military officials agonized over what to do. But they decided they had to wait for a request for help from the State Department, which never came.
“The predisposition to interagency influence had the military structure in the spirit of expeditionary government support waiting for a request for assistance from the State Department,” Lovell said.
Nevertheless, Lovell also agreed that he wasn’t testifying there was “a lot more” the military could have done.
“There might be some who, for various and sundry reasons, would like to distort your testimony and suggest that you’re testifying that we could have, should have done a lot more than we did because we had capabilities we simply didn’t utilize,” Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., said. “That is not your testimony.”
“That is not my testimony,” Lovell testified. “No, sir.”
All of this begs the same two questions we have asked around here, the two key questions that have never been answered:
1. How is it possible that the White House was not aware of the understanding, held by those close to the events, that the attack was a planned, terrorist assault and not a mere crime committed by a bunch of lunatics ululating in response to a video they didn’t like much? Were White House officials, in fact, unaware?
2. What specifically did President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton do the night of the attacks. Were they monitoring what was going on, and what orders did they give or fail to give? What options were they presented?
Benghazi is a scandal of the worst kind. It’s not about money. It’s about whether the deaths of brave Americans could have been prevented, or at least whether more should have been done to prevent them.
If either through incompetence or for some political reason actions were not taken or the American public was deceived, the offenses are very grave indeed.