Bing West | Benghazi: Americans fought for 7 hours while White House watched

Our diplomats fought for seven hours without any aid from outside the country. Four Americans died while the Obama national-security team and our military passively watched and listened. The administration is being criticized for ignoring security needs before the attack and for falsely attributing the assault to a mob. But the most severe failure has gone unnoticed: namely, a failure to aid the living.

By 4:30 p.m. Washington time, the main consulate building was on fire and Ambassador Stevens was missing. In response, the embassy in Tripoli launched an aircraft carrying 22 men. Benghazi was 400 miles away.

At 5 p.m., President Obama met with Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Panetta in the Oval Office. The U.S. military base in Sigonella, Sicily, was 480 miles away from Benghazi. Stationed at Sigonella were Special Operations Forces, transport aircraft, and attack aircraft — a much more formidable force than 22 men from the embassy.

In the past, presidents had taken immediate actions to protect Americans. In 1984, President Reagan had ordered U.S. pilots to force an airliner carrying terrorists to land at Sigonella. Reagan had acted inside a 90-minute window while the aircraft with the terrorists was in the air. The Obama national-security team had several hours in which to move forces from Sigonella to Benghazi.

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