Is Hillary to blame for the lack of a military response in Benghazi?

Yesterday, I linked to the additional views that Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Pompeo presented in connection with the report of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. I’m told that a major reason for submitting additional views was the unwillingness of Trey Gowdy, chairman of the committee, to present any conclusions in his report.

Gowdy and the chief investigator decided just to present the facts — no conclusions. If they thought this odd decision would win approval from the mainstream media, they were mistaken. Most outlets referred to the report as a Republican report, rather than the report of the committee. I don’t recall the MSM calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s controversial and sulky hit piece on the CIA (the so-called torture report) a Democratic report. It was cited as the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

If you haven’t read the additional views of Reps. Jordan and Pompeo, I again urge you to do so. I want to comment on a portion of their statement that I don’t think has received enough attention.

It is found in Section III, the part about whether we could have done more to rescue our people during the Benghazi attacks. At page 39, Jordan and Pompeo cite testimony by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that at about 6:00 p.m. (Washington time) on September 11th after meeting with President Obama, he ordered three assets to deploy: one Marine Fleet AntiTerrorism Support Team (or “FAST” team), one Commanders In Extremis Force (or “CIF”), and one hostage rescue team based in the U.S. (Later in Section III, Panetta is said to have given these orders at around 7:00 p.m.)

Panetta stated to the committee: “My orders were to deploy those forces, period.”

Yet at page 41, Jordan and Pompeo point out that the transport planes carrying the FAST, CIF, and hostage rescue team did not leave until hours after the attack was over. From 6:00 p.m. when Panetta says he ordered these assets to deploy until approximately 10:00 a.m. the next day, no manned U.S. military plan flew on a mission towards Libya. When the first plane finally did take off with a Marine FAST platoon, it was already after the attack had ended. Moreover, it flew to an intermediate country.

Why the deadly delay? Jordan and Pompeo say (at page 2) that “those in Washington decided that once the initial attack at the State compound had ended and our men moved to the Annex, the enemy had retreated as well.”

As an explanation of the failure to deploy the forces Panetta ordered deployed, this seems implausible. According to Jordan and Pompeo, the Americans fighting in Benghazi didn’t think the danger had passed. And they would have been the ones providing information to Washington.

Moreover, according to the timeline set forth by Jordan and Pompeo (at page 42), the attack on the annex began at around 6:34 p.m. Washington time. Panetta ordered three types of forces to deploy at either 6:00 p.m. (page 39) or 7:00 p.m. (timeline at page 42). And a team of Americans arrived in Benghazi from Tripoli at around 7:30 p.m.

Thus, by the time Panetta ordered forces to deploy, the attack on the annex had already commenced or was about to commence. How, then, could it be that these forces weren’t deployed because Washington thought the conflict was over?

A more plausible explanation for the non-deployment of forces can be inferred from the statement by Jordan and Pompeo (at page 44) that the State Department ate up valuable time by insisting that certain elements of the U.S. military respond to the crisis in civilian clothes and that they not use vehicles with U.S. markings. It seems that diplomacy was holding the military back.

I’m told by a former senior government official who has participated in rescue discussions like the ones Team Obama had (or should have had) on Sept. 11, 2012 that it’s the Secretary of State’s job to secure permission from the country in question (here Libya) for our military to enter its territory. Alternatively, it is her job to decide not to obtain permission and simply act. Until the Secretary of State does one or the other, apparently the military can’t proceed.

If this is true, then the most likely explanation for why the military didn’t deploy, as Secretary of Defense Panetta had ordered, is that Hillary Clinton didn’t obtain timely permission and didn’t authorize the military to proceed without it — the obvious thing for her to have done, given that American lives were at stake. The fact that the State Department was fretting about whether our military personnel should wear civilian clothes and use vehicles without U.S. markings seems consistent with this explanation. The State Department appears to have been bargaining with the government of Libya over clothing while our people were under deadly attack.

Hillary Clinton hasn’t always been so fastidious about obtaining foreign government approval. The Qaddafi government obviously did not grant the U.S. permission to deploy aircraft to topple it.

When the object was to aid Islamists in overthrowing a friendly (at that time) Libyan regime, Clinton had no qualms about violating a sovereign government’s air space. When the object was (or should have been) to rescue Americans under attack deadly by Islamists, Clinton apparently felt compelled to negotiate.

Yesterday, I wrote: “Hillary Clinton. . .figures heavily in nearly all aspects the Benghazi scandal, especially the ‘before’ and ‘after’ phases.” Now that I have reread the view of Reps. Jordan and Pompeo and given the matter more thought, it looks like she also figures quite heavily in the “during” phase. Indeed, she may well be the reason why the U.S. military did not help our beleaguered Benghazi personnel.

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