The SecDef and the president have issued contradictory explanations. Either Mr. Obama ordered the Secretary of Defense to “do whatever we need to do,” or he didn’t. And either the secretary obeyed that order, or he didn’t. And he didn’t.

It is also not clear whether the SecDef countermanded the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who is the direct military adviser to the president. Did the president as commander-in-chief issue an unequivocal order that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs received but chose not to execute? Or did the chairman reply that he would do nothing?

Yet the general in charge of the Africa region has allegedly said he received no directive from Washington to dispatch military aid. Members of the mutual protective society of generals are offering the bizarre defense that our Africa Command could do nothing because it has no military assets; it’s some sort of ghost command. Even if that is true, the most powerful nation in the world has sufficient forces and flexibility to send fighter aircraft over a consulate in flames, or to land some troops at the secure airport east of Benghazi. After all, our embassy in Tripoli, 400 miles away, sent an aircraft with six Americans to fight in Benghazi. But our base in Sigonella, 480 miles away, sent no help.