Today in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dropped some nuggets under intense questioning from Tea Party Senators Kelly Ayotte and Ted Cruz. His testimony contradicts several previously made statements by Obama, Panetta, and others. I’m just going to mention that his statements today were under oath, while previous statements were made in public addresses, pressers, and interviews, not [ahem] under oath. You decide what that means. According to Panetta today:
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- Panetta himself informed Obama of the attack on the Consulate in Benghazi during a previously scheduled meeting. Also mentioned in the meeting was the mob action in Egypt against the Embassy.
- No other communication occurred with Obama for the duration of the 7-hour attack, during which Obama went to bed.
- Obama told Panetta and JCOS Chairman Martin Dempsey to “do whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there,”, leaving operational details to them.
- Obama asked few, if any questions.
- Neither Panetta nor Dempsey had any contact with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the entire attack.
- Panetta “spared no effort” to save the 4 men who died, but that no attack aircraft were at any point launched, no forces deployed or even put on alert.
- Panetta claimed that no response was made because there were 2 attacks separated by 7 hours, implying that the second attack was not expected.
Appalling. Doubly appalling because this is the first word we’ve heard from an official in the Obama administration that has the sound and feel of truth (except for that last bit, which was a blatant lie). Triply appalling because not a bit of it is surprising.
Obama claims to have given Panetta “three very clear directives” (his words), as soon as he was made aware of what happened. That would have been 90 minutes into the attack. And as we know in the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Obama so vigourously inserted himself into operational details that he called off the raid three times and had to be dragged off the golf course to watch the raid in the Situation Room. The MFM showered him with praise over that “gutsy call” and he was happy to back in the glory thereof, but it’s whispered credibly that he never made the call at all.
While he loves those words “I directed”, it would seem he was so pointedly disinterested on September 11 that he moseyed off to play video games or kibitz with Beyonce or whatever before ultimately going to bed, apparently aware of a sustained 7-hour attack on a US Consulate in a very troubled region of the world. His staff either kept him informed in real time of the deteriorating situation, which means he’s directly to blame for the inaction, or his staff never bothered him with updates, which means they didn’t think he would want to know.
Of all the possible scenarios, given all the contradictory accounts, is there a single scenario that doesn’t damn both Obama and Panetta?
Let us look closer at Panetta’s ridiculous ass-covering assertion that the reason for no action was that the second attack occurred 7 hours after the first, implying that nothing occurred in the span in between.
Both the White House and the State Department claim to have had people in a Situation Room monitoring real-time feeds, including video from drones which were in the area. This appears to be true. But that puts the lie to Panetta’s claim that there were only the two attacks, 7 hours apart. There was an initial attack that took 90 minutes to ward off (in which Ambassador Stevens disappeared), then shortly after, a two-hour assault on the annex that was also repelled. The first 4 hours were occupied by almost continuous attacks on sovereign United States soil, and the whereabouts of Stevens were unknown.
The AC-130 gunships and helicopters full of special ops forces not only never arrived. They were never launched.
While no rescue was coming, two former Navy Seals jumped into a fight they were probably ordered to stay away from. They held off terrorists with machine guns, reportedly killing dozens; laser-painted a mortar nest target location for a hoped-for strike from American drones or gunships; and were finally killed.
While Obama slept.