I’m sure some of our readers would like to have a place to comment about this.
Judicial Watch finally pried out of the State Department an email from the night of the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack which addresses the readiness of military assets to respond. (Update as this goes to post: we have Mark Tapscott’s piece from DCNF up as well.)
The email is redacted, so we don’t have the list of particulars; i.e., which assets were being referred to. Judicial Watch reproduced the body of the email as follows (the bolded redaction is what would allow us to judge how much this really means):
From: Bash, Jeremy CIV SD [REDACTED]
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 7:19 PM
To: Sullivan, Jacob J; Sherman, Wendy R; Nides, Thomas R
Cc: Miller, James HON OSD POLICY; Wienefeld, James A ADM JSC VCJCS; Kelly, John LtGen SD; martin, dempsey [REDACTED]
I just tried you on the phone but you were all in with S [apparent reference to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton].
After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak. They include a [REDACTED].
Assuming Principals agree to deploy these elements, we will ask State to procure the approval from host nation. Please advise how you wish to convey that approval to us [REDACTED].
Now, we are justified in being concerned that something damning is being hidden here, just because of the administration we’re dealing with. And Judicial Watch has done its usual public service by getting the email released.
But the email does NOT mean that an immediate response was possible.
This email changes nothing about the understanding of the event that we have always had the means to have. “Identifying the forces that could move to Benghazi” and having those forces “spinning up as we speak” does not, in fact, mean that any of those forces could have intervened in time to prevent the second wave of the attack.
People who understand how long it takes to spin up and deploy military forces have been making that point since 9/12/12, and they are as correct now as they have been from the beginning. We have known all along which assets were resident in theater and might have been able to respond, and we have always known how long it would have taken them to get to Benghazi. This knowledge, from the strike-fighters in Italy and the UK, to the Special Forces in Germany and the Marines in Spain – and the Navy ships in the Mediterranean, none of which appeared to be close enough to respond with combat assets – has been available to the public from the beginning.
That emphatically does not mean that there was nothing military assets could have done in Benghazi. But the real point about this email isn’t that it’s a smoking gun, demonstrating that a military response could have been mounted rapidly enough to save lives.
The real point is that it highlights the decision of the Obama administration not to respond with military force, even though force was available. The forces that were spinning up might or might not have been able to make a difference to the course of events in Benghazi, on the timeline on which they unfolded.
(The assets that could have gotten there the quickest were F-16s out of Aviano, in northern Italy, which could have worked with the comms-equipped security team from the CIA Annex to make close air support available to the tactical situation. For my money, not getting the Fighting Falcons on station within two hours of the initial distress call was the key tactical failure – which is due to the Obama administration and the lackadaisical security posture it was maintaining for our people in Benghazi. The grossly inadequate overall security posture was the central failure; the real fix for this situation, if we simply had to be in Benghazi, was better compound security and a package of military force briefed up, constantly prepared, and on-call.)
What matters about this email is that, sometime during the evening of 9/11/12 in Washington, D.C., our highest level of decision-makers decided not to even try deploying military assets to the crisis. At the time they made the decision, the incident was ongoing, and no one knew what the outcome would ultimately be. As far as they knew, the assets spinning up might have made a difference. But they didn’t use them.
We knew this already. It may be that the Obama administration was willing to release this redacted email because it really just reinforces what we already knew.