Retired Admiral Mike Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering today debunked the conservative media myth that the Obama administration failed to deploy adequate military resources to Benghazi, Libya, in response to the September 11, 2012, attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission. Mullen told members of Congress that the "military did everything they possibly could that night." Pickering agreed, testifying that the military is not always "positioned to come in short notice to deal with those issues."
Mullen and Pickering led the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB), which issued an independent report in December about the attacks. Both men are testifying today at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing led by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who, along with members of the conservative media, have attempted to politicize the attacks to criticize the Obama administration.
During his questioning time, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) noted that Republicans have suggested the Obama administration "withheld assistance on the night of the attacks for political reasons." As Media Matters has documented, conservative media -- led by Fox News -- have echoed Republicans in persistently using this line of attack when criticizing the Obama administration over Benghazi.
Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007-2011, debunked the myth, stating that the "military did everything they possibly could that night. They just couldn't get there in time." Mullen also detailed the "many forces that moved that night" and said a military response "is not something you can just wish to happen instantly. There's a lot of planning, preparation" to "do it as rapidly as one can do it." From his testimony:
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Admiral Mullen, in your review, did you have access to all military information, data, and people necessary to evaluate the military's response?
MULLEN: I did.
CUMMINGS: And I understand from your interview transcript that you conducted this examination not once but twice. Is that correct?
MULLEN: The first time Mr. Cummings was to -- with actually, with all members of the ARB, we went to the Pentagon to review it in detail. And then the second time I went back by myself when this became an issue that there were certainly questions being raised about it. I went back again to verify and validate what I had done before and I found nothing different in that, the military response. The military did everything they possibly could that night. They just couldn't get there in time.
MULLEN: It goes to our core, when people are in trouble, to do everything we possibly can to help them out. And there were many forces that moved that night, including a special operation force in Europe that ended up in a base in southern Europe, a large special operations force from the United States which moved under direction as soon as -- as soon as they were given orders. A group of Marines that essentially were sent in from Spain into Tripoli the next day. It literally became -- this is not something you can just wish to happen instantly. There's a lot of planning, preparation, as rapidly -- to do it as rapidly as one can do it.
CUMMINGS: So admiral, what do you say in response to those members who continue to this day to imply that the military somehow fell down on the job?
MULLEN: They didn't fall down on the job and I just completely disagree with that view.
Pickering seconded Mullen's testimony, stating that America has "over 270 consulates and embassies around the world in some very isolated and strange places" and "we are not able to count on the U.S. military, as Admiral Mullen said, always being positioned to come in short notice to deal with those issues":
PICKERING: I think the point that has just been made by Admiral Mullen is very important. We have over 270 consulates and embassies around the world in some very isolated and strange places. The responsibility for their primary security rests with the host country. Where that does not exist as it did in Benghazi, it falls back on us to do it. The report we provided you and others provides the recommendations to deal with those particular cases. We are not able to count on the U.S. military, as Admiral Mullen said, always being positioned to come in short notice to deal with those issues. So we must do better on the ground.
Watch the testimony below: