Benghazi goes from Unfortunate to Unconscionable

Until now I had thought the September 11 Benghazi (Libya) incident in which 4 Americans were killed was essentially unfortunate.

Granted, the American Executive’s response in subsequent days gave plenty of fodder to anyone doubting the Obama administration’s political principles.

But the fact that a Libyan militia was able to overwhelm an American consulate and kill an ambassador and three other American operatives represents, at face value, an honest failure assess and address the security situation.

The reality we are learning is far more damning.  CIA contractors, including at least two former Navy SEALs, were manning a fortified CIA installation a mile from the consulate.  At least one report now indicates they asked for military backup and for permission to launch a rescue of the consulate.  Those requests were denied by the CIA.  Ignoring orders to “stand down” a team of those operators left the CIA “Annex,” rescued those remaining at the consulate, and recovered the body of one of the two Americans killed there.

Before the night was over, the CIA installation itself came under attack.  Among its defenses were veteran warriors, heavy machine guns, and a laser designator trained on an enemy mortar squad.  They were in constant contact with the chain of command, including calling in the coordinates of enemy forces to allow drone or off-shore fire missions.  It was a mortar that killed two more Americans that night — 7 hours after the attack on the consulate began.  During this time, continued requests for military support were denied.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta complains about “Monday-morning quarterbacking” as we learn that refusals for support came from his level, if not the White House itself.

Given the military resources in the region, the duration of the attack, and the communication channels that remained open throughout the incident, the failure of the military leaders to unleash prompt and decisive support is unconscionable.  Failing to prepare is unfortunate and perhaps even incompetent.  This failure to respond is reprehensible.

(One saving grace is that the military leader responsible for sending reinforcements, General Ham of AfriCON, may have actually ignored orders to wait.  If true, the rumor follows that he was immediately relieved of command, which would elevate the actions of the top civilian leadership to what I consider to be criminal negligence: When a General orders a rescue mission there is no second-guessing that.  Higher-ups can “Monday-morning quarterback” that and end his career after the fact, but AFAIK relieving a General on the spot for green-lighting an isolated rescue effort in an overt conflict is unprecedented.)