You couldn’t help but feel for Robert Lovell. The retired brigadier general is haunted by the failure of AFRICOM, the U.S. military’s Africa Command, to respond when Americans were under siege in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. His congressional testimony this week was somber — no faux “What difference, at this point, does it make?” indignation, no “Dude, this was two years ago” juvenilia for him.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the State Department’s Sean Smith were killed in the early stage of the jihadist attack. By then, the actions that would surely have saved their lives — e.g., an adult recognition that Benghazi was no place for an American diplomatic facility, or at least the responsible provision of adequate security — had already been callously forsaken. It seems unlikely AFRICOM could have gotten there in time for them on that fateful night, though that does not come close to excusing the failure to try.
Former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are a different story. They fought valiantly for many hours after our military learned, very early on, that the battle was raging. Unlike AFRICOM, the SEALs did not stand pat. They ran to the sound of the guns. After saving over 30 of their countrymen, they paid with their lives. The armed forces, General Lovell recalled, knew that terrorists were attacking them. Yet no one came to their aid.
Lovell bears the burden of their abandonment with a heavy heart. His moving testimony made that clear. Still, his version of events is deeply unsatisfying. Why did AFRICOM fail to respond? “Basically,” he stammered, “there was a lot of looking to the State Department.” Unfortunately, we’re told Secretary Hillary Clinton and her minions were unclear “in terms of what they would like to have.” Come again? “They didn’t come forward with stronger requests for action.”
This Foggy Bottom focus had me groping for my pocket Constitution. Sure enough, Article II was as I remembered it. Much as Hillary Clinton may desire to be the commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces, that job does not belong to the secretary of state.
It was the solemn duty of the president to come forward with not requests but commands for action. Why was AFRICOM hanging on the State Department’s preferences? Why were our troops hamstrung by what Lovell described as “deference to the Libyan people?” On the night of September 11, 2012, AFRICOM was not beholden to Mrs. Clinton or Tripoli. They answered to Barack Obama.
Of course, no one can answer to a commander-in-chief who abdicates his command, a commander-in-chief who is AWOL.
A commander-in-chief does not get to vote “present.” Over 19 months have elapsed since terrorists savagely attacked the United States in Benghazi. Yet we are still waiting, ever waiting, for an account of where the president was, what he was doing, and what if any directives he gave during the hours and hours during which Americans were being tormented and killed.
If the president’s name were Bush or Reagan, we would long ago have had a minute-by-minute accounting of his every move. And if the incident involved some faraway American warrior’s slaying of a jihadist emir, we would long ago have had a Situation Room photo depicting Obama as maestro . . . with an accompanying soundtrack of classified leaks portraying his courage while others were under fire.
Benghazi, however, is a catastrophe wrought by Obama’s pro-Islamist policies, one that puts the lie to his oft-repeated claim to have “decimated” al-Qaeda. So with Benghazi we get the stonewall, a barricade his praetorian media have been only too happy to fortify.
We know that less than a day after Ty Woods and Glen Doherty were martyred protecting Americans out of a sense of duty, the commander-in-chief in whom that duty is actually reposed was at a Las Vegas fundraiser, insouciantly repeating his campaign line: “A day after 9/11, we are reminded that a new tower rises above the New York skyline, but al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat and bin Laden is dead.”
Only hours before in Cairo, al-Qaeda operatives empowered by the president’s pro-Islamist policies had rioted outside our embassy, replacing the Stars and Stripes with their jihadist black flag and chanting, “Obama, Obama, there are still a million Osamas!” Even fewer hours before, in Benghazi, the United States was dealt a humiliating defeat by the very jihadists Obama was still risibly claiming to have quelled. Yet for those hours, we to this day have no accounting of Barack Obama’s whereabouts and activities.