Investigating Benghazi is like peeling an increasingly rotten onion. Each layer is fouler than the last. Five days ago, Bing West created a stir with his comprehensive (and informed) takedown of the administration’s failure to “aid the living” and intervene in the multi-hour firefight in Libya. He ended his post with a question: “The U.S. military sent no aid. Why?”
At that point, they called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Specter gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights. The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours — enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.
Translation: Our embattled diplomats literally had the enemy in their sights, we had military assets in range, and not only were air strikes denied but special operations was told to wait. We abandoned our people, left them to die.
Sadly, this is not the only time it’s happened. I just finished reading Dakota Meyer and Bing West’s powerful new book, Into the Fire: a Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle of the Afghanistan War (review forthcoming), and similarly desperate requests for help were rejected, Americans died, and a cover-up ensued.
In an earlier post, I discussed how the administration’s ham-handed cover-up helped conceal its ideological and strategic failures. But now we see the failures were tactical as well. It was possible to help, and higher headquarters failed the men and women on the ground. It’s an old story in war, but part of that old story is responsible nations hold decision-makers accountable for failure. It’s past time for honorable resignations. It’s past time for accountability.