On September 11, militants stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing the U.S. ambassador and three others. Since then, the Obama administration has offered shifting and incomplete stories as to the events of that day.
As the facts are slowly revealed, however, it’s clear that the administration probably would have done better to simply provide a forthright, clear account of what happened in Benghazi. Because the most recent revelations do not reflect well on the administration’s decision-making.
Those revelations include this report from CBS News detailing how an unmanned Predator drone was standing by as the attack occurred. The drone’s presence is a new indication that the administration could have ordered a rapid military response to disperse the uprising and protect Americans in harm’s way. But they didn’t do so.
Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.
“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”
The Pentagon says it did move a team of special operators from central Europe to the large Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, but gave no other details. Sigonella is just an hour’s flight from Libya. Other nearby bases include Aviano and Souda Bay. Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it.
The CBS report quotes other sources who argue that sending military assets into another country is a delicate and sensitive issue. True enough—but when American lives are on the line, we need to make every effort to protect our people. I’m not convinced that effort was made in Benghazi on September 11.
Two weeks ago, Concerned Veterans for America’s policy analyst, Tal Coley, posted here urging the administration to come clean. Good advice. But that’s not what the Obama administration has done—instead, they’ve stonewalled and attempted to sidestep the issue. But the truth is slowly coming out. They’d have done better to get the facts out weeks ago, because Americans deserve the truth.
That’s what leaders do. That’s what leadership provides. And if we’re ever going to navigate the shifting politics of the Middle East – to say nothing of how we’re going to face the “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year (which the President so glibly dismissed on Tuesday) – we’re going to need leadership.
We’ve got to do better.
Pete Hegseth is the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom. Hegseth is an infantry officer in the Army National Guard, and has served tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay.