Dempsey: State Department never asked us to respond to Benghazi

posted at 12:41 pm on February 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Via Daniel Halper, John McCain extracted some significant testimony from a clearly reluctant chair of the Joint Chiefs in an Armed Services Committee hearing on Benghazi today.  Appearing with outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, both tried arguing that there are too many threats and places requiring defending to have the American military act as “a global 911 service,” in Panetta’s words:

“The United States military is not and should not be a global 911 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world,” Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That testimony, combined with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey’s argument that the military did what its location allowed, angered Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who accused the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman of peddling falsehoods.

“For you to testify that our posture did not allow a rapid response, did not take into account threats to our consulate … is simply false,” McCain told Dempsey. McCain contended that the military’s capability allowed armed forces to intervene in short order.

McCain didn’t bother to restrain his disgust in this exchange, either:

“Why didn’t you put forces in place to be ready to respond?,” Senator John McCain asked the general.

Dempsey started, “Because we never received a request to do so, number one. And number two, we –”

McCain interrupted, “You never heard of Ambassador Stevens’s repeated warnings?”

“I had, through General Ham,” responded Dempsey, referring to the commander of AFRICOM. “But we never received a request for support from the State Department, which would have allowed us to put forces–”

“So it’s the State Department’s fault?”

“I’m not blaming the State Department,” Dempsey responded.

This is an absurd argument.  No one would have questioned a lack of preparation at our Geneva embassy on May 14th, for instance.  But this wasn’t May 14th, and it wasn’t Geneva.  It was 9/11 — the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on Washington and New York City, which as anyone who hasn’t been in a coma for the last dozen years knows, al-Qaeda has highlighted for more attack attempts.  Furthermore, it took place in Benghazi, which has been overrun by AQ-affiliated and other Islamist terrorist groups ever since the US and NATO left a huge power vacuum in eastern Libya by decapitating the Qaddafi regime the previous year.  And finally, as McCain points out, the late Ambassador Chris Stevens was trying to point all of this out for months to the State Department, to no avail.

So it wasn’t a question of having a “global 911 service,” as Panetta scoffed.  The problem is an ignorance bordering on the willfully incompetent about the risks in Benghazi and shrugging off preparations to provide support in case something happened.  Dempsey and Panetta are dodging that question of responsibility for the lack of interest at State and the White House in military readiness for a terrorist attack that Stevens saw coming months in advance, and that practically anyone could have predicted after the transformation of eastern Libya into a failed state.

Update: And then there’s this:

And why weren’t there assets moved closer prior to the 11th anniversary of 9/11, especially given Stevens’ warnings?


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