The Benghazi paper trail
Bing West, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan years, has been asking a question that he expressed at length in a National Review editorial on Monday: if President Obama “gave the directive to make sure we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to do,” there should be written copies of those orders floating all over Washington. Can we see some time- and date-stamped evidence that Obama gave such an order?
And if such paperwork is produced, we need to know exactly who over-rode the presidential directive to give “stand down” orders to intelligence and military assets in Libya, because that person is probably going to jail. Actually, a fairly large number of people would need to explain why they ignored orders from the President. As West puts it:
An hour after the attack has begun, the president orders the CIA and the military to do “whatever we need to do.” Yet the CIA and the military do nothing, except send drones overhead to watch the seven-hour battle. A CIA employee and former Navy SEAL, Tyrone Woods, twice calls for military help. He has a laser rangefinder and is pinpointing enemy targets, radioing the coordinates. The military send no aircraft to attack the designated targets. Special Operations forces standing by, 480 miles away — less than a two-hour plane ride — are not deployed.
West also punctures the absurdity of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s insistence 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.” Presumably he means something more specific than a few heroic ex-SEALs yelling for help and painting targets with lasers. And as West points out, the tough-talking Barack Obama was awfully reluctant to commit forces against what he would spend weeks characterizing as a “spontaneous video protest.” It doesn’t really fill you with confidence that he can deal with tougher opponents, like, say, a nuclear-armed Iran.
Bing West isn’t the only one who wants to see some documentary evidence for Obama’s professed order to protect Americans in Benghazi by all means necessary. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) of the House Armed Services Committee observed in a Fox News interview, “if in fact he did issue such an order, and the order was not carried out by the military, then Congress needs to get to the bottom of it.” He doesn’t seem confident that any evidence of Obama giving such an order will surface:
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) also doubts the Obama narrative about the night of September 11. ”Why did we let down those very people who were depending on us so much?” he asked during a Fox News interview. ”They did their job. We didn’t do ours. We watched it in real-time, and we turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.” (At the risk of annoying all those people who think Fox is the conservative version of the clown show over at MSNBC: sorry, but nobody else seems interested in investigating this story, so all the interesting interviews are coming from the Fox News studios.)
The point Bing West made about documentation also puts the lie to Obama’s standard evasion, occasionally sung in chorus with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, that we can’t know the whole story about Benghazi until some sort of elaborate investigation is concluded, at some unspecified point after the polls close on November 6. The paperwork proving that Obama handled the night of September 11 as he claims would take a matter of minutes to produce, and since it would take a lot of heat off the President’s shoulders, it’s curious that he hasn’t already produced it. The exact source of the stand-down orders should only take a little longer to confirm. This is the Information Age, after all.
But instead we get the kind of stonewalling that might be realistic, if we were waiting for three-masted wooden ships to return across the ocean from Libya with satchels full of paperwork scratched out by quill pen. And the same President and his team assure us they’ll know exactly when Iran begins final assembly of its nuclear weapons, and can take action instantly to stop them!