The Corner

Unaccountability by Accountability Review Board

After a 13-week investigation, the State Department “Accountability Review Board” has concluded that no one is responsible for the breakdown in security that resulted last September in the deaths of four Americans at the Benghazi consulate. To avoid a repeat of such an attack, the Board recommended more money and more Diplomatic Security (DS) guards.

While stating that there was no protest prior to the attack by terrorists, the Board did not address why U.N. Ambassador Rice, President Obama, and other officials had repeatedly implied that the attack was sparked by protesters angered by an obscure anti-Muslim film posted on YouTube.

The Board concluded that “the lack of non-lethal crowd control options precluded a more vigorous defense.” It’s not explained why a terrorist attack merits a non-lethal response. The report was hopelessly vague in describing the actions of the Americans on the scene, whether they had engaged in a heavy firefight, or killed any terrorists, or if the Diplomatic Security agents ever fired their weapons. When the DS agents, overcome by smoke inhalation, left the consulate, they did come under enemy fire, and in response the CIA agents on site provided covering fire.

In the event, Ambassador Stevens was missing from 2200 (4 p.m. Washington time). The report said an Arabic-speaking male called at 0200 to say an American had died at the hospital. But the Board stated that some suspected the call was a ruse to lure Americans into a trap. It was not until eleven hours later that a body delivered to the Benghazi airport was positively identified as Ambassador Stevens.

According to the report, there were “multiple channels of communication among Washington, (including the White House), Tripoli, Benghazi and AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart.” The report explained that the U.S. military dispatched two unarmed drones to monitor and video-tape the battle, including the attack at 0515 that killed two Americans. The Board concluded that there were “no undue delays in decision making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.” But during those eleven hours of battle, the military only dispatched the two unarmed drones to watch what was happening. Not one fighter aircraft was dispatched to frighten or deter the attackers, or to fire upon their positions. The Marine recon unit — superb fighters — stationed at the Sigonella naval base in Sicily were not dispatched, although our embassy in Tripoli, an equal distance away, sent in seven Americans as reinforcements. 

The Accountability Review Board tells us nothing, except that we are to trust them because they are from Washington. More resources are needed to bulk up our diplomatic stations, but every official acted properly, we are told. It was a terrorist attack, so there’s no reason to explain why it was depicted as a spontaneous mob. Yet from the start of the attack at 2145 local time, the Board observed that there was a “near-constant information flow among Benghazi, Tripoli and Washington.” So how could the information be so wrong?

The decision-making went without undue delays, supposedly; yet for eleven hours our military did nothing to aid the defenders. Did the president ever issue an execute order, permitting our military to use force? If he did, why was it not obeyed? Was our enormous military incapable of improvising or adapting in battle?

The Accountability Review Board provides no answers, except to declare that no one is to be held accountable.

— Bing West, author of Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.

Bing West — Bing West, a bestselling author and former assistant secretary of defense, served as a Marine grunt in Vietnam and later as a dean at the Naval War College. A graduate ...

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