Just one hour after the seven-hour-long terrorist attacks upon the U.S. consulate in Benghazi began, our commander-in-chief, vice president, secretary of defense and their national security team gathered together in the Oval Office listening to phone calls from American defenders desperately under siege and watching real-time video of developments from a drone circling over the site. Yet they sent no military aid that might have intervened in time to save lives.
The attack began on September 11, at about 10:00 p.m. Libyan time (4:00 p.m. in Washington). Ambassador Chris Stevens and his small staff inside our consulate immediately contacted Washington and our embassy in Tripoli. Thirty minutes later, after the main consulate building was on fire and Ambassador Stevens was missing, Tripoli (400 miles away) dispatched an aircraft carrying 22 men. Much more formidable response resources including Special Operations Forces, transport aircraft and attack fighters were available 480 miles away at the U.S. military base in Sigonella, Sicily, but were never dispatched. An F18 fighter jet blazing in with afterburner thundering to unnerve attackers and take out mortar locations could have reached Benghazi in an hour. Commandos could have arrived there within three hours. This was four hours into the seven- hour assault after President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Panetta initially met at 5:00 p.m.
In the meantime, the terrorists forced the Americans to abandon the consulate with the ambassador still missing. They fell back to an annex building about a mile away. Looters ransacking the empty consulate discovered Ambassador Stevens lying unconscious from smoke inhalation on the floor and rushed him to a hospital where doctors were unsuccessful in saving his life. Not knowing who he was, they took a cell phone from his pocket and called numbers. By about 2:00 a.m. Libyan time, the American embassy received word he was dead.
At about that same time (four hours into the attack), the 22 men arriving at the Benghazi airport from Tripoli drove into the annex to assist the Americans trapped there. Around 4:00 a.m. enemy mortar rounds killed two defenders on the annex roof. The attack ended at dawn when Libyan militia finally arrived to aid our Americans.
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