Why Did the Military Tell a Special Forces Team Not to Fly to Benghazi? (For Good Reasons)
Yesterday the direction of the upcoming Benghazi testimony by State Department “whistle-blowers” became clear, as the most damaging accusation emerged — that a four-man Special Forces team was at the US embassy in Tripoli, but was denied permission to go to Benghazi. NBC reports that the military has now confirmed this detail:
Gregory Hicks, then deputy chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, told investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that U.S. officials had persuaded the Libyan government to allow the Special Forces operatives to board the rescue flight from Tripoli to Benghazi. But an officer received a phone call telling them to stand down before they left for the airport, according to excerpts of his account made available to NBC News on Monday. That conversation occurred after the U.S. ambassador to Libya and another American had been killed in the initial attack, but hours before a second attack that killed two other Americans.
Hicks quoted a Special Forces commander as telling him, “I have never been so embarrassed in my life, that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military,” referring to his willingness to authorize the mission.
Mr. Hicks may be a fine public servant, but I have to say that in his public statements he’s coming off as a self-aggrandizing egomaniac. But swollen ego aside, is his story accurate?
First, note that if the four-man team had been authorized to go to Benghazi, they would have been the second group of US personnel to do so; a group of six Americans had already flown to Benghazi earlier, and two of those Americans were killed in a mortar attack.
Why would the military tell this additional group of Special Forces soldiers to stand down? That sounds pretty bad, right? If you read the right wing blogs and media, they’re hammering this talking point ferociously.
But it turns out there’s a good, simple explanation for it. A two-part explanation, in fact:
- The Special Forces team was not prepared for a combat mission; they were on a fact-finding tour of US embassies in the Middle East, gathering information on security, and they were armed only with handguns.
- At that point, the situation was still unclear and officials were worried that the embassy in Tripoli might also become a target.
U.S. military officials confirmed late Monday that a four-man Special Operations Forces team was denied permission to leave the US Embassy in Tripoli following reports that the consulate in Benghazi had been attacked.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the team was reviewing security at U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East and was not prepared for a combat assault mission, being armed with only 9mm sidearms.
They also noted that the situation at Benghazi remained unclear and there were concerns the Embassy in Tripoli also could become a target.
Now watch, as Darrell Issa and the entire right wing media machine proceed to take the “stand down” order completely out of context, and ignore these exculpatory details.