...Some lawmakers are asking why U.S. military help from outside Libya didn't arrive as terrorists battered more than 30 Americans over the course of more than seven hours. The assault was launched by an armed mob of dozens that torched buildings and used rocket propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles.The 3 AM phone call came in to someone (either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama) saying that our mission in Libya was under attack, that our Ambassador was locked in a life-and-death struggle with terrorists, that we were observing in real time the firefight from a drone, and that we had gunships and fighter jets within 'an hour's flight' away. And nothing was done.
CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle....
...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....
...Add to the controversy the fact that the last two Americans didn't die until more than six hours into the attack, and the question of U.S. military help becomes very important...
In fact, according to the report here, for several hours our drone watched the battle, and nothing was done. Let me just speculate out loud for a minute and try to figure out (based on this report) how the situation could have played out differently. According the timeline, security forces arrived at about 2:30 AM to retake the compound, so let's work backwards from there. All times in Benghazi time.
If the drone had indeed watched 'the final hours', one can speculate that it arrived on the scene at the latest of 12:30 AM, the authorities took a couple minutes to assess the situation, then they dispatched fighter jets and gunships and transports, which took a little over an hour to arrive, putting help on the scene at 2 AM- a full 30 minutes earlier than they are reported to have arrived there. This probably doesn't change much, although it does give authorities another 30 minutes to catch/kill the bad guys, recover sensitive information, and possibly discover where our Ambassador is.
But if the drone arrived earlier (12:00 or earlier) or help was dispatched as soon as the call for a drone went in (I'm not sure where the drone came from), than our forces might have arrived on the scene by 1:30 and been able to find the Ambassador's body (not yet dead- maybe able to save with our medical technology) or 1:00 to rescue the Ambassador and prevent his death. If the drone was dispatched from Sigonella, then it is reasonable that help could have also been sent at the same time, and Stevens would have been saved for sure.
The timeline here is important, because someone dropped the ball and four Americans- including our Ambassador- are now dead because of that mistake.
Benghazi is 6 hours ahead of east coast time (Washington DC). So if the compound was attacked at 10 pm on September 11 (Benghazi time), that means it was 4:00 pm on September 11 in Washington DC. Around 11 pm (5 pm Eastern time), the fighting continues to rage around the main building. Around 12 am (6 pm eastern time), the annex comes under attack. Around 1 am (7 pm eastern time), Stevens is pulled out of the annex, alive by some reports. Around 2:30 am (8:30 eastern time), US forces retake the annex.
According to the President's schedule, on that day he was going to be departing from Bethesda, Maryland at 4:40 PM en route the White House, arrive back to the White House at 4:50, and at 5:00 he would meet (along with Joe Biden) with the Secretary of Defense Panetta. At 7:51 pm we get a report that our compound in Libya has been attacked, at 10:10 pm we get an unnamed administration official saying that Egypt embassy statements don't reflect White House views, 10:38 pm the Secretary of State issued a statement, at 12:09 am Obama spokesman tweets that the White House is shocked by Romney's earlier tweets, at 7:21 am on September 12 Obama issued a statement. (source on statements)
I have been unable to establish (through an hour of searching google) anything further regarding the President's actions to counter this schedule on September 11 that would shed more light on his actions, including where was the President, what did he know, and when did he know it.
According to reports, the President was aware about the attack about 90 minutes after it began- about 5:30. Give him a couple minutes to take in the information and figure out our response, and by 6:00 pm at the latest he's ordered our boys in to rescue our people under attack. Given a 'one hour response time', that puts our forces in control of the compound at 7:00 pm, or 1:00 AM Benghazi time, right around the time that the annex was under attack and BEFORE the Ambassador was dead. But that didn't happen.
Although some are saying that President Obama simply heard the news and then went to bed, I was unable to find any evidence of this or any sort of reaction by the administration. The first responses by the administration at 10:10 pm (4 am Benghazi) playing defense regarding statements from the embassy in Egypt and at 12:09 am (6 am Benghazi) a political response attacking his opponent in an upcoming election- but Obama and the media have been silent about what President Obama did between 5:30 pm and the next day.
I'm most concerned myself regarding the President's actions between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm- during that 2 hour window the President was in the unique position to do something to save Americans lives and prevent bad guys from killing our Ambassador, and it is still today, some time later, that we are unclear about just what he was doing during that time period. It's too early for him to be in bed, so I don't think that was it- but it would not surprise me if he was watching TV or a movie or eating some sort of fancy meal during that time instead of DOING HIS JOB and working to defend American citizens, soldiers, and diplomats.
So it wasn't a '3 AM' phone call- but when the phone rang at 5:30 and the President was briefed about what was going on (with information fed to him then or soon after by an unmanned drone), the President was thrust into a position to make a call and exercise leadership to save American lives... and there is no evidence from him or anyone else that he did so in any way. Instead he soon was back to playing politics and jetting off to fundraise before celebrities, proving once more that he is unfit for command and should be relieved of his duties as Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States of America.
Paul at Powerlineblog does a great job of addressing this issue today in his post THE WHITE HOUSE’S LESS THAN OPTIMAL EFFORT TO DEFEND AGAINST THE BENGHAZI ATTACK:
...another pressing question has emerged: Could our military have helped those under assault during the attack? CBS News raises this question in an article that suggests the answer is “yes.”President Obama is a far from optimal President- and voters have a chance to correct this mistake next month. Your family, friends, and relatives need to vote out Obama so that more innocent Americans don't die while he simply watches it live on a TV.
Keep in mind that the assault extended over a period of seven hours. And a White House official told CBS News that, at the start of the attack, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “looked at available options.” Thus, as things turned out, the administration had almost seven hours within which to send in forces to aid the besieged Americans and defeat their attackers.
The White House told CBS News that it did send a force to Benghazi that arrived within 24 hours. And it boasted that this was “well ahead of timelines laid out in established policies.” But the fact that the White House met some bureaucratic timetable provides no consolation to the victims of the terrorist attacks and their families, and should provide none to the American public....
...The relevant question, then, isn’t the “timetables laid out in established policies,” but rather how quickly an effective fighting force could have been deployed. According to Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense, fighter jets (from our military base in Sigonella, Sicily) could have been in Benghazi in an hour, and special operations forces (from Central Europe) could have arrived within three hours. But neither the fighters nor the commandos were deployed.
A White House official told CBS News that a “small group of reinforcements” was sent from Tripoli to Benghazi, but declined to say how many were deployed or what time they arrived. West says that the force from Tripoli consisted of 22 people and that it arrived in Benghzai in time to assist in fighting around an annex about a mile away from the consulate. However, this force was no substitute for fighter jets and commandos.
Why didn’t the administration do more to protect our people? West believes that “passive groupthink prevailed, with the assumption being that a spontaneous mob would quickly run out of steam.”
But where was President Obama when this “passive groupthink” was carrying the day? Or was he a party to that groupthink?
Whatever the answers, the U.S. response in Benghazi was far from “optimal.”...
UPDATE 11/1/12: My timeline was slightly off- as new information has become available, it appears that President Obama knew about the attack at 4:05. Via Doug Ross I saw this twin timeline of the events.
Working on my original assumption that 'it takes about a half hour to gather information and make a call', that means that by 4:35 Obama makes a call to send in our boys, and by 5:35 the attack is stopped and the bad guys are killed. At 5:45 according to the newest timeline, we would have arrived in time to recover the Ambassador's body (and possibly save him), and prevent the attack on the annex that killed two US citizens 3 hours later.
President Obama has some answers to give the American people about his specific conduct between 4:00 pm and 9:00 pm- a 5 hour window when a real leader could have saved three American lives but instead it appears we got a shirking coward who was not up to the challenge.
HOLD OBAMA ACCOUNTABLE FOR THESE DEATHS ON NOVEMBER 6th.