Who told SOCAFRICA they couldn’t go to Benghazi?
The account from Gregory Hicks is in stark contrast to assertions from the Obama administration, which insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized. Hicks gave private testimony to congressional investigators last month in advance of his upcoming appearance at a congressional hearing Wednesday.
According to excerpts released Monday, Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound “when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, ‘you can’t go now, you don’t have the authority to go now.’ And so they missed the flight … They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it.”…
“I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them,” Hicks testified. Two Americans died in the morning mortar attack.
More from Hicks via the Examiner:
“They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it,” Hicks added. “So, anyway, and yeah. I still remember Colonel Gibson, he said, ‘I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.’ A nice compliment.”
He added that “at that time, the third attack, the mortar attack at 5:15, had not yet occurred, if I remember correctly.”…
Hicks is certain that the special forces team was needed. “We fully intended for those guys to go, because we had already essentially stripped ourselves of our security presence, or our security capability to the bare minimum,” he said in the interview.
No way to know if Gibson’s team would have made it to the scene in time to save Doherty and Woods from the attack on the annex if they had received the order to leave promptly, but that’s beside the point. The point, as Stephen Hayes notes, is that it was unclear at the time if the fighting was over, in which case there’s no obvious reason to have them stand down. On the contrary, if Hicks is right about a threadbare security presence at the consulate — and we know from many, many revelations last fall that he is — then the White House had every reason to err on the side of sending extra military assets. When asked why that didn’t happen, Hicks replied, “I guess they just didn’t have the right authority from the right level.” Any theories as to why that might be? Remember, when Martin Dempsey testified three months ago as to why U.S. troops weren’t sent to the scene, he said, “we never received a request for support from the State Department.” Hicks, who was Stevens’s deputy at State, obviously thought support was needed. Who intervened above him to make sure the request wasn’t sent?
Question: Are we to understand that it’s official Obama administration policy not to intervene in attacks on U.S. diplomats unless intelligence on the ground is perfect, or near perfect? I ask because last year Panetta attempted to wave away all these concerns about troops not being sent to the consulate during the fighting on grounds that “you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.” That logic, as applied to the “bare minimum” security presence at Benghazi, suggests that the White House decided to leave whoever was left on the ground at the consulate to fend for themselves while waiting for “help” from Libyan security so that it didn’t have to take the political risk of another Mogadishu by sending American troops on a chaotic rescue mission. Is that what happened here? And is it uniform policy for diplomats in peril, or just ones who happen to come under attack two months before a presidential election?
Update: Any guesses as to whose fault it is that Benghazi hasn’t gotten better coverage until now? Hint: It’s not the media’s, and it’s certainly not the left’s. C’mon, you know who.