By now we’ve gotten the basic details of the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi — no thanks to the White House, which tried to pass it off as a “spontaneous demonstration” that “spun out of control” for more than a week after the attack. Not too many people may have understood that the attack lasted for seven hours, however — and that American military assets were in easy reach. The last two Americans who died had managed to survive six hours into the attack.
CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson asked the obvious question yesterday: If we could fly an unarmed drone over the consulate while it was under attack, why didn’t we send the military in to rescue our people?
Some lawmakers are asking why U.S. military help from outside Libya didn’t arrive as terrorists battered more than 30 Americans over the course of more than seven hours. The assault was launched by an armed mob of dozens that torched buildings and used rocket propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles.
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle.
The State Department, White House and Pentagon declined to say what military options were available. A White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options, and the ones we exercised had our military forces arrive in less than 24 hours, well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.”
But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.
This question comes at a most opportune time. CBS News’ Bob Schieffer will moderate tonight’s presidential debate on foreign policy between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and the Benghazi terrorist attack will almost certainly arise as a topic. What are the odds that the CBS News host brings up this biting CBS News report on what we might have done to stop the attack in Benghazi?