Military official: ‘We should have tried’ to help Americans in Benghazi attack

By Randall Jeppesen

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, May 1 2014 4:30 p.m. MDT

Libyan military guards check one of the U.S. Consulate's burnt out buildings during a visit by Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif, not shown, to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday, September 11, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012.

Mohammad Hannon, AP

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was among the most vocal Thursday morning when a retired general was being grilled by Congress over how the military responded to the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell told the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform that U.S. forces "should have tried" to get to the embassy in time to help save the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans who were killed by militants in twin attacks the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

“We had assets there in Europe. Did they actually go to the sound of the guns? Did they actually go into Benghazi?" Chaffetz asked Lovell, to which he replied, “No sir, they did not.” Chaffetz then asked, “Why not?”

Lovell was monitoring the attack from U.S. Africa Command's headquarters in Germany. He said it was clear the attack was hostile action.

“Did they ever tell you to go save the people in Benghazi?” Chaffetz asked.

Lovell replied, “Not to my knowledge, sir.”

Chaffetz went on to say, “We didn’t run to the sound of the guns. They were issuing press releases. We had Americans dying.”

Lovell told Chaffetz the military was never ordered to go help save the Americans under attack.

"Four individuals died. We obviously did not respond in time to get there," Lovell said.

Later in the day, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., challenged Lovell’s testimony.

McKean said Lovell did not have the insights of the operations on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

McKeon said his committee's investigation found no evidence that the State Department delayed the decision to deploy the few resources it had available.

Chaffetz also used his time during the hearing to blast the White House for trying to convince the public the attack was just a reaction to an Internet video rather than a terrorist attack.

“The military, the CIA, the CIA station chief, the State Department — all of them. The facts at the time, Mr. Chairman, the facts do not point to a video. That only comes from the White House,” Chaffetz said. “What was going on in the room, general?”

The Obama administration initially described the attack as a response to an anti-Islamic video that had sparked protests at the embassy in Cairo and elsewhere. Susan Rice, then the U.N. ambassador, went on television talk shows Sunday and described it as such.

Email: rjeppesen@deseretnews.com

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