A report issued Monday (PDF) by the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Republicans, puts to rest many popular conspiracy theories about the attack on America’s embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
In a rather amazing admission, the report concludes that no “stand down” order was ever given to military personnel as the attack was ongoing — a key talking point for Republicans, Fox News and other rightwing media outlets.
“There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli who sought to join the fight in Benghazi,” the report says. “However, because official reviews after the attack were not sufficiently comprehensive, there was confusion about the roles and responsibilities of these individuals.”
Instead of a conspiracy to reshape the events to suit the political needs of President Barack Obama, as many conservatives have alleged, the report reveals there was no intelligence suggesting an attack was imminent. It also admits that Obama gave the Department of Defense a wide berth, letting the military handle the situation as its commanders saw fit.
Those commanders had to make a series of tough calls that night, and the House Armed Services Committee report says they opted to keep a team of special forces soldiers stationed at the embassy in Tripoli out of fear that there could be a follow-up attack there. This is what Fox News and rightwing talking heads would ultimately distort into a “stand down” order broadcast by the White House, based on the testimony of State Department whistleblower Gregory Hicks.
Hicks clashed with Army Lieutenant Col. S.E. Gibson, according to the report, who made the decision to divide his small contingent of soldiers between Tripoli and Benghazi. “He said his decision was based on consultation with two other officers and the three had ‘about 90 years of collective Special Operations experience’ between them,” the report explains.
However, when Hicks testified to Congress in May, 2013, “he did not object during the hearing when the soldier’s instructions were categorized as orders to ‘stand down,’" the report adds. "This led some to conclude erroneously that inaction rather than an alternative warfighting posture was ordered for Lieutenant Colonel Gibson’s four men.”