The recent Congressional hearings on the Benghazi debacle have raised more questions than they have answered, and have created a Benghazi mystery.
Yesterday’s testimony by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey revealed a few interesting facts.
Mr. Panetta informed President Obama of the attack, in a 15 to 30 minute conversation, when it began. The President instructed Panetta to handle the situation and never followed up that evening. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was not a factor.
Mr. Panetta told the Senators "Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response," The facts appear to dispute this statement. The two Navy Seals held off the attack for over seven hours before they were overrun and killed, and email messages were sent to the military when the conflict began. The first military force arrived fifteen hours after the first attack.
General Carter Ham, Commander of the U.S. Africa Command and Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette, Commander of the USS John C. Stennis strike group in the Middle East were relieved of duty shortly after the attack. Coincidence? Were they ordered to “stand down” while readying a rapid response force, and did they ignore the order? The question, as to whether an order to “stand down” was given and by whom, was never asked of Panetta.
At one point during the questioning, Gen. Dempsey stated that it would have taken up to twenty hours to get an F-16 strike force ready and on the way, and it would have not been the right “tool for the job”. This doesn’t sound like the “rapid” response force General Ham supposedly was ready to release.
The mystery was created by a question from Senator Rand Paul. His question was asked of Secretary Clinton, in a previous session, about the transfer of weapons to Turkey through Libya. Speculation was that Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi to retrieve weapons from the Libyan rebels. Stevens met that very evening with the Turkish Consul General to discuss what? Speculation again is that these weapons were to be transferred through Turkey to rebel forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in Syria, Secretary Clinton successfully dodged Paul’s question leaving the true purpose of Ambassador Stevens’ presence in Benghazi a mystery. Adding to this mystery is that an estimated thirty people survived the attack on the annex. The State Department has not released their names and they have not surfaced to be interviewed by Congress or the press. Where are they and why the silence?