"(The) basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place," Panetta told Pentagon reporters. "And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation."
As one who has served in both the military (not in combat) and law enforcement (Military Police, US Customs and DEA-including one shoot out), I fully recognize that there are differences between military and law enforcement combat situations. Yet, there is one thing that stands out in my mind about the Benghazi attack. It appears that our personnel in Libya were left to their own devices.
During the 7-hour attack at two different locations, the CIA annex requested military assistance 3 times. They themselves were told by somebody in the chain of command to "stand down" when they wanted to respond to the consulate, which was initially under attack. In spite of that order, ex-Navy Seal Tyrone Woods and others defied that order and went to the consulate, about a mile away, where they brought personnel out. (They were unable to locate Ambassador Stevens, who was presumably already dead.)
Back at the annex, Woods, Glen Doherty and others faced attack. They apparently were killed by mortar fire while firing machine guns at the attackers from the roofs of the annex. During that final phase of the attack, they had lasers on the attackers' positions and were calling for those positions to be fired upon, which never happened.
It has been reported that two drones were hovering over the site sending real time images back to Washington. Our officials in Washington knew that this was no protest over a video that got out of control.
Here is the point I am driving at; When your people are trapped, under attack, and being fired upon, whatever else you do, you go in and get them. That is precisely what Tyrone Woods and others on the ground did-defying orders to stand down.
Later, it was Woods, Glen Doherty and others who were under fire and needed help at the annex. There were clearly forces available in the region that could have responded-certainly in time to save those killed at the annex since the attack lasted 7 hours.
Again I stress the differences between military combat and law enforcement combat, but one classical situation in DEA was when an agent was undercover in a buy-bust situation and got into trouble either because the deal turned out to be a rip-off or a host of other emergencies. In those cases, surveillance agents go in and get their agent out. Period.
That is certainly the spirit of the military, and I have no doubt those involved were chomping at the bit to respond. Who kept them from going in to Benghazi?
In fairness, it seems a response team did go from Tripoli to Benghazi at some point, where they got stuck at the airport for some time. What seems to have been missing was air support and fire to rescue the men fighting at the annex.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was with President Obama in the White House within an hour or so of the beginning of the attack, told Pentagon reporters two days ago that forces can not be sent into a situation when they don't have a clear picture of what is happening. Another reason I have heard was that many by-standers were gathered on the streets around the consulate and annex.
But in the end, our forces were told to stand down. It may have been too late to save Ambassador Stevens and his aide, Sean Smith, who died at the consulate, but what about Woods and Doherty 7 hours later?
Meanwhile, the man we may be re-electing president in 10 days is promising "to get to the bottom of it". In my mind, he, his Secretary of Defense, and his Secretary of State already know.