COLORADO SPRINGS, May 15, 2013 — The Benghazi the story changes more often than the spot price of crude oil. First it was a video that caused riots, even though the video had been released months before. It wasn’t really an assault, it was just uncoordinated demonstrations.
Then it was.
We didn’t have assets that could respond in time. Then clearly we did. The White House didn’t know. Secretary Clinton didn’t know. Those who were in charge seemed Legally Blonde. After lying dormant for months, the truth finally begins to come out.
The first truth is that the diplomats and their security team could have been saved.
Embassies and consulates are bits of American soil in foreign countries and they have always been guarded well, traditionally by the U.S. Marines. The attacks on the embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on August 7, 1998 were the most dramatic attacks in recent times but certainly not the only ones. In the wake of such attacks, the security bureaucracy conducts investigations and makes plans to correct deficiencies.
There were quick reaction military forces at the ready and within striking distance of Benghazi. Government sources at first denied this but recent testimony reveals the truth. The fact is, though, that the testimony is almost unnecessary: thousands of military personnel stationed overseas who have been in these forces or supported them have always known the truth.
The second truth is that the president and the secretary of state knew about the situation as it was developing.
We know this for several reasons. The first is that the entire organization and purpose of the national intelligence community is to gather intelligence about threats against vital national interests and, as a corollary to that, to get critical intelligence to the White House within ten minutes of that intelligence being recognized.
An attack on an embassy or an ambassador qualifies as a critical event that would be reported.
This is the kind of information that is reported directly to the president. You can be assured that President Carter was notified when the Tehran embassy was stormed and that President Bush was notified when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and that President Clinton was told about the 1998 bombings.
Further, the intelligence community knows that terrorists like to commemorate certain events by making attacks on the anniversaries. You can be assured that there is a heightened state of watchfulness every September 11.
We also know the capabilities of the technology today. When news crews can send live video feeds of events in Cairo, do you think the government cannot? When you can talk to friends around the world via Skype and send live videos yourself, do you think the White House is incapable of that kind of communications?
We do know, due to recent first-hand testimony, that Secretary Clinton received the proverbial 2am phone call. Sometimes even a relatively mundane, low-tech phone call accomplishes the purpose.
But there is more. When the Seals made the assault on bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound, we were treated to photos of the president, vice-president, and others huddled around a military officer sitting in front of a laptop. They were looking left, off camera. What were they watching?
Think live video, like the movie Patriot Games. That was a 1992 movie. Do you think that capability does not exist today?
Logic, reason and experience tell us the answers to two key questions: yes, the national command authorities (the president and the secretaries of State, Defense, and the head of the CIA) had the right information at the right time; and yes, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith could have been rescued. Eyewitness testimony will fill in the details.
The really important questions remain yet to be answered: Who gave the order to stand down? We know that Gen. Hamm was relieved of command for refusing to obey that order. Why was it given?
The military chain of command is relatively short and it does not include the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the head of the CIA or the Secretary of State. It stops at the top with the Commander in Chief.
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