Hey, did you know that during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Barack Obama just sat on his ass and giggled at the news of Americans dying? It may have been mentioned once or twice. And despite people in the reality-based community consistently saying that a rescue operation was never a realistic option, Fox News continues to claim that the Obama administration either rejected or never considered taking action that could have made everything better.
Most recently, an April 30 story on Fox presented an interview with an anonymous “special operator” who claims to have watched the Benghazi attack unfold, and also says that a special operations team training in Croatia could have arrived in Libya in time to save two of the four Americans killed. Security analyst, retired Marine and awesome name for a superhero’s secret identity Billy Birdzell, writing in Foreign Policy, thinks Fox’s mystery man is more than a little full of shit. In a detailed discussion of the timeline of events, Birdzell explains why the Fox guest’s rescue scenario is pure wishful thinking. Wait, WHUT???
First off, let’s get some of the acronyms and military jargon taken care of; please pay close attention so that you can use these terms when arguing with wingnuts or playing Call Of Duty Black Ops II:
“C-110” stands for Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group. It is a unique company within the 10th SF Group in that it is trained as a Commander’s in-Extremis Force (CIF). Each of the five active duty SF Groups has a CIF and they respond to important threats within their geographic area which are below the threshold for, or availability of, elements from the Joint Special Operations Command (like the Delta Force). A CIF has approximately 40 operators.
And now, let’s get down to the nitty on what happened, and when. If Fox’s guy really is in Special Forces, you do not want him planning any operations that involve clocks and travel. For that matter, you wouldn’t even want him preparing your AAA Trip-Tik for a drive to Dubuque.
According to the Pentagon timeline posted by CNN, the enemy attack began at 2142 and all US personnel were out of the consulate by 2330. By 2330, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the foreign service information officer, Sean Smith, were dead. President Obama was briefed at 2300 and SOF were approved to launch from Croatia (C-110) and the United States (Delta Force) at 0239 and 0253 respectively. At 0515, the attack began against the annex. [Glen] Doherty and [Tyronne] Woods were killed by mortar fire shortly thereafter.
Obama gave the launch order at 0239. The mystery operator said 4-6 hours. That’s 0639-0839. Woods and Doherty died at 0515. An Air Force C-17 was evacuating personnel from the Benghazi airport at 0740. Mystery man and Fox News can’t add. Strike one.
OK, but what if Barack Obama hadn’t been standing around picking his nose or playing basketball or whatever it is that lazy black presidents do when Americans are dying? Birdzell notes that real military operations also involve more than travel time from Point A to Point B, because of silly details like getting a transport plane from one base to another, loading equipment, making sure everyone’s gone to the bathroom before pulling out of the driveway, and so on:
For argument’s sake, assume Obama gave the launch order 10 minutes after he met with General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta at 2300. Four to six hours turns into 0310-0510. Six hours, however, would have been impossible.
If the Commander of European Command coordinated with his counterpart in Africa Command as soon as the National Command Center informed General Dempsey at 2230 and they diverted a C-17 to Croatia in anticipation, it is still highly unlikely the plane would have been on the ground in Croatia before midnight; it takes an hour to fly to Croatia from Germany and a crew would have had to have gotten ready, briefed, examined contingency plans, and fueled the plane. From Zaton Military Airport in Croatia, it is over 900 miles to Benghazi, which would have taken approximately two hours in a C-17 cargo plane. Zaton is on the coast and it more likely the CIF would have flown out of Udbina Airport, but this is a best case scenario.
Assuming the Air Force was willing to land a C-17 at the Benghazi airport with an unknown security situation, once on the ground, the 40-man CIF would have then had to have moved to the annex which was 30 km away. Moving such a far distance would have required vehicles. 40 operators can move in 8 HMMWVs, which can fit into one C-17. However, did they have the vehicles with them? Did they have everything on the training mission that they needed to go into combat? If not, it would have taken more time for someone to get everything ready. Maybe the man of mystery is creative and planned on renting cars from Avis (yes, Avis has a location at the Benghazi Airport) and using stealth to get to the consulate in a move akin to the French using taxis to get to the front in order to stop the Kaiser’s hordes back in 1914. Mystery man is really a cook who has never been on a deployment. Strike two.
And so on. Birdzell also notes that even in various wishful scenarios that might involve magic airplanes that are already loaded and ready to go, or maybe nighttime parachute drops into Benghazi, or possibly floo powder from the Ministry of Magic, the team from Croatia would not only have been too late to save Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith at the consulate, but would almost certainly have been unable to save Woods and Doherty at the CIA annex, because the two were killed by mortar fire:
Forty operators armed with rifles and light-machine guns can neither stop mortar rounds nor determine from where the mortar is being fired. The only thing the CIF would have done had they gotten to the annex before 0515 is created more targets and overcrowded the consulate… Strike three.
Birdzell sums up the quality of Fox’s top-secret anonymous source (who, incidentally, is very worried that the Obama administration may assassinate him for speaking out): “The person in the interview is a clown and I am incredibly disappointed in the news for not using Google.”
On the other hand, we’re pretty sure that if that Special Forces group had made it to Benghazi just in time for a few of its members to be killed as well, then Fox News and Republicans would be praising President Obama for giving a rescue mission the best possible try.