What the Hearings Mean
"Obama never tried, U.S. diplomats died." Shocking lies by the Obama Administration over Benghazi were unmasked on May 8. Testimony about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya were heard by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA).
Some of what was expected did not materialize. Other bombshells turned out bigger. Clearly, we still do not know everything. Jaw-dropping topics are being discussed by other conservative journalists. But deep thinkers need to consider further points:
First, Gregory Hicks is the only person so far to speak in public about these events who was actually in Libya at the time. Hicks was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Tripoli, Libya -- that is, Deputy Ambassador. As soon as Ambassador Chris Stevens died, Hicks became Acting Ambassador to Libya.
However, we still have not heard from anyone who was in Benghazi during these events. The 30-40 survivors are still in mysterious seclusion. Their eyewitness accounts will offer future revelations.
Second, Hicks dropped a bombshell: The USA never asked Libya for permission to fly through Libyan airspace to defend the consulate in Benghazi. The Obama administration never intended to come to the defense of Ambassador Stevens. Hicks -- fluent in Arabic and familiar with Libya's government -- testified that Libya would have granted permission.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) keeps reminding us that no one knew how long the attack would last. In fact, it was 3 days later when the embassy staff in Tripoli returned from evacuation to an annex. So at the time, U.S. F-16's might still have been needed long past the first 7 hours. Hicks confirmed that he thought the situation was still dangerous for 3 days. Yet the U.S.A. never requested Libyan permission in case U.S. aircraft might be needed.
Third, Hicks asked the U.S. military to help immediately at the start of the 7-hour siege of the Benghazi consulate. F-16 fighter jets could have reached Benghazi in 2 to 3 hours from the 31st Fighter Wing in Aviano, Italy, Hicks testified. The embassy's defense attaché was told that F-16's could be over the Consulate in 2-3 hours.
That means the ambassador and 3 other Americans did not need to die. Remember that 2 died near the middle and 2 near the end of the 7-hour ordeal. Jets could have arrived prior to the last 4-5 hours of the assault. Hicks testified that Libyans were deeply afraid of U.S. airpower after months of bombing during the 2011 revolution. Just knowing that U.S. jets were in the area would have sent the consulate attackers fleeing, Hicks testified.
However, Hicks repeatedly emphasized that there were no U.S. fuel tankers in the area to refuel the jets in the air. F-16's have a range of -- fuel supply for -- 2,000 nautical miles. The distance from Aviano to Benghazi is 1,050 miles. If I had been president, I would ordered "Fly 'em dry!" and let the jets land in Tripoli after buzzing over the Benghazi Consulate for 90 minutes to two hours. A second flight of F-16's could have flown straight to Tripoli to refuel at the airport in Tripoli first.
But this is the failure of Obama's presidential leadership. What about NATO? Obama should have been on the phone to the leaders of Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Spain, asking -- "What do ya got nearby?" Why are we considering only U.S. assets and ignoring the rest of Europe, just across the Mediterranean?
It is only 450 miles from Athens, Greece. Greece's Hellenic Air Force purchased 170 F-16s not long ago. Greece's F-16's were only 1 hour away from Benghazi. France has been conducting military air operations in North Mali and Chad in Africa.
Greek F-16s could have been buzzing the Benghazi consulate within 90 minutes, scaring the attackers within an inch of their lives. If we had an actual president in the White House, if this had been an actual presidency (like, say, that of Ronald Reagan), Barack Obama would have been on the phone to Greek President Karolos Papoulias instead of sleeping while American diplomats died.
The largest U.S. Air Force base in Europe is Ramstein in Germany, only 1,367 miles from Benghazi. So by the time the F-16's from Aviano were running dry, a fuel tanker from Ramstein Air Force Base could have been pulling up alongside to refuel the F-16s. Or fighters from Ramstein could have relieved the Aviano jets, allowing those to land in Tripoli.
Also, Lt. Col. Oliver North asked on Fox News why weren't assets pre-positioned on the anniversary of 9/11? There should have been assets on standby in the overall region.
Fourth, there was indeed a "stand down" order preventing U.S. special forces from defending the Consulate, Hicks confirmed. Special forces at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli were ordered to "stand down" by General Carter F. Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
Lt. Col. Gibson was a commander assigned to the embassy in Tripoli from Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA). Gibson and the special forces team were "furious" at being ordered not to help the diplomats in Benghazi, Hicks testified. Hicks quoted Gibson as saying, "This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military."
Hicks had arranged from Libya's government a C-130 aircraft owned by Libya to fly to Benghazi to evacuate the Consulate. Col. Gibson and Hicks agreed that the special forces team would fly on the C-130 to Benghazi to protect the diplomats being evacuated. But over the summer, authority over the special forces contingent in Libya had been transferred from the embassy to AFRICOM. Gen. Ham ordered the special forces team to stay in Tripoli.
These were highly-trained individuals with specialized skills who would have played crucial roles in Benghazi. They were also fresh troops to relieve the exhausted team in Benghazi after fighting all night.
Fifth, a "FEST" response was denied by Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department. A "Foreign Emergency Support Team" is the U.S. Government's solution for this type of crisis. We learned that a FEST contains members of many agencies and departments, so that the FEST can access the full range of U.S. Government resources.
Mark Thompson immediately requested deployment of a Foreign Emergency Support Team to Libya. The U.S. State Department refused. It was "not the right time" to deploy a FEST, Hillary Clinton's leadership decided. Thompson was Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism at the Department of State, in continuous contact with the embassy in Tripoli. Thompson explained that a FEST airplane is always on standby to respond to just this type of emergency.
But this is nonsense. A FEST is uniquely qualified to assess the situation on the ground, evaluate everything, and coordinate appropriate action from across the U.S. Government. A FEST is a command center on-site, specially equipped and trained. So, a FEST on-site is the appropriate means to evaluate the circumstances. So, it is absurd to suggest a FEST deployment would be "too soon."
An email from Kathleen Austin-Ferguson, the White House discouraged FEST response. Did you notice that it was both "too soon" and also "too late" to tack any effective action to protect our diplomats in Libya? When bureaucrats and politicians don't want to do something there are certain standard tactics they use.
Moreover, wouldn't you think that if a Deputy Assistant Secretary for counterterrorism is declaring an emergency and asking for a FEST response, that the Secretary Hillary Clinton would be told? If not, someone should be fired. If yes, Hillary should have been fired. Deputy Chief of Mission Hicks had ordered the annex chief to activate the emergency response plan. Shouldn't that be immediately reported to both Clinton and Obama?
Sixth, it is already being widely reported this week that talk of a demonstration against an anti-Muslim YouTube video was a monstrous and massive lie. However, an important point should be noted. Hicks testified that the massive lies by Ambassador Susan Rice caused a severe rift with the Libyan government.
Libya knew the video had nothing to do with it. So Libya's government was shocked and puzzled. Libya stopped cooperating for about 2 weeks.
This fiasco of incompetence would end dozens of careers if Benghazi occurred under a Republican administration. But Hillary Clinton set the standard with her "It's 3 AM and a phone is ringing in the White House" campaign ad from 2008 against Barack Obama. We will have to see if Republicans have any guts and Democrats have any integrity.