In the video below, Sen. John McCain demonstrates his version of respect for the uniform as he responds to testimony by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regarding the inability of the U.S. military to respond in time to the Benghazi attacks. As McCain sees, Dempsey’s testimony was “one of the more bizarre statements I have ever seen” and “simply false”. In other words, the general was lying under oath to a congressional committee:
“I stand by my testimony, your dispute of it notwithstanding,” Dempsey responded afterward.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta backed up Dempsey’s statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee. As Tom Curry of NBC News reports:
“In his testimony, Panetta said the Department of Defense and U.S. armed forces “did all that we could do in response to the attacks in Benghazi.” He explained that “armed UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones), AC-130 gunships, or fixed-wing fighters with the associated tanking – you’ve got to provide air re-fueling– armaments – you’ve got to arm all the weapons before you put them on the planes” — were not in the vicinity of Libya.
He said that even if he’d been able to deploy F-16 fighters or AC-130 gunships over Benghazi in time, “the mission still depends on accurate information about what targets they’re supposed to hit. And we had no forward air controllers there” and no communications with U.S. personnel on the ground.
He said, “because of the distance, it would have taken at least 9 to 12 hours, if not more, to deploy these forces to Benghazi. This was, pure and simple, — in the absence as I said of any kind of advance warning — a problem of distance and time.”
Panetta also pointed out that the two attacks in Benghazi were relatively brief, and occurred six hours apart. “We were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault which could have been brought to an end by a U.S. military response,” Panetta said.
According to Richard Sisk of military.com, McCain wasn’t alone in pressing the case:
“Other Republicans on the committee joined McCain in questioning why the military didn’t send F16s or AC-130 gunships to drive off the terrorists attacking Benghazi, but Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who also testified, said there simply wasn’t time and they lacked the intelligence to mount an effective response.
Dempsey said there wasn’t an AC-130 gunship within 1,000 miles of Benghazi and the nearest F16s at a base in Aviano, Italy, were not on standby alert and would not have reached Benghzi in time.
Panetta added that “you can’t just willy-nilly send F16s there and blow the hell out of a place without knowing what’s taking place.”
It would be nice if the world were as simple and uncomplicated as McCain prefers to it be, if intervention were possible merely because he wants it to be possible, if technicalities such as time and space could be waved away merely by his own insistence that they are unimportant.
We do not live in such a world, although McCain increasingly appears to believe that he does.
– Jay Bookman