Well, we’re getting more and more info out of the Benghazi hearings. First, the bad. The testimony from Panetta yesterday indicated that, after being informed of the attack, Obama gave him and Dempsey full authority to do what what was necessary. And then … well, they did stuff, which I’ll get to in a moment. But the President didn’t call back or drop in or text or anything. I’m not going to suppose to the President should sit in the room for eight hours while little information is coming through. By the time they got any real-time information, the attack was over. But a little curiosity about the result of the attack would not have been amiss, no? Surely that should take precedent over calling some donors or whatever it was the President was doing in the next eight hours (information is that he called Israel on a routine diplomatic call).
However, it does seem like Panetta and Dempsey moved fast to unscrew the pooch that had been so thoroughly shagged:
In more than four hours of testimony, Panetta and Dempsey described a military faced with not a single attack over several hours, but two separate assaults six hours apart; little real-time intelligence data and units too far away to mobilize quickly. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attacks.
Between midnight and 2 a.m. on the night of the attack, Panetta issued orders, telling two Marine anti-terrorism teams based in Rota, Spain, to prepare to deploy to Libya, and he ordered a team of special operations forces in Central Europe and another team of special operations forces in the U.S. to prepare to deploy to a staging base in Europe.
The first of those U.S. military units did not actually arrive in the region until well after the attack was over and Americans had been flown out of the country. Just before 8 p.m., the special operations team landed at Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily. An hour later, the Marine team landed in Tripoli.
Defense officials have repeatedly said that even if the military had been able to get units there a bit faster, there was no way they could have gotten there in time to make any difference in the deaths of the four Americans.
So there was no delayed response. But there was a severe lack of resources available to a dangerous area. The real heroism and decisiveness was shown by the six-man rapid response team in Benghazi and the reinforcements from Tripoli who evacuated the area within twelve hours, savings the lives of at least two badly wounded people.
Panetta is now laying out a much smarter strategy of staging small rapid-response teams in more areas that are potential danger points. But this is cold comfort to those who died because they hadn’t thought of that before.