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Bob Gates
Bob Gates
The former deputy of the diplomatic mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, had a lot to say in his testimony before a House committee last week regarding what he regards as a feckless U.S. response to the attack on the mission in Benghazi in September. He wasn't the first to make the argument that reinforcements should have been sent to fight the attackers or that jet fighters should have been ordered to fly over Benghazi during the attack.

But by taking note of praise he said he was given by a lieutenant colonel for having "bigger balls" than the military for pushing for such moves, he boosted his criticisms into the limelight days before he testified to representatives on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hicks's complaints about the U.S. response to the attack have gotten a lot of well-deserved pushback since then.

Over the weekend, they got some more of it when former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, a Republican, weighed in on the subject during an interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS's Face the Nation. While not mentioning Hicks by name, he called the response scenarios the diplomat has said should have occurred a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities." Please read below the fold for the transcript from that part of the interview:


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Bob Gates: Well, first of all I have to say I only know what I have read in the media. I haven't had any briefings or anything. And I— I think the one where place where I might be able to say something useful— has to do with some of the talk about— the military response. And I listened to the testimony of— both Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey. And— and frankly had I been in the job at the time— I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were. We don't have a ready force standing by in the Middle East. Despite all the turmoil that's going on, with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment's notice. And so getting somebody there in a timely way— would have been very difficult, if not impossible. And frankly, I've heard "Well, why didn't you just fly a fighter jet over and try and scare 'em with the noise or something?" Well, given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi's arsenals, I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft— over Benghazi under those circumstances. And— and with respect to— sending in special forces or a small group of people to try and provide help, based on everything I have read, people really didn't know what was going on in Benghazi contemporaneously. And to send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, I think, would have been very dangerous. And personally, I would not have approved that because we just don't it's sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces. The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way. And there just wasn't time to do that.

Bob Schieffer: But I guess that would bring up the question why not? Why wasn't there not some force? I mean, there were Americans there. They— they obviously were-- were in danger. And there was nothing to protect them.

Bob Gates: Well, I don't— I don't know the circumstances leading up to Benghazi in terms of requests for additional security there at the consulate or— or any of that. I frankly just don't know. These things always look a lot simpler in retrospect though.

Bob Schieffer:  Let me just ask you— General Mike Hayden, a former head of the C.I.A., said this week that the continuation of a false narrative that the administration perpetrated in the weeks after the Benghazi attack was not understandable and is not forgivable. Do you agree with that?

Bob Gates: Well, I think that's pretty strong. I mean, I've got a lot of respect for Mike. And— and he's a good man. But— I think— I think without knowing all the facts, without knowing exactly what happened— it's difficult to make that kind of— that kind of a harsh judgment.

Bob Schieffer: Have you talked to— Secretary Clinton about this?

Bob Gates: No. Not at all—

Bob Schieffer: You have not?

Bob Gates:No.

Bob Schieffer: I know you worked very closely with her. And I mean— you know what they're saying. The Democrats say the Republicans are on a witch hunt here, they're playing politics. Republicans are saying that the Democrats have been part of a cover-up, perhaps to protect her political future. Have you come to any judgment— about any of this?

Bob Gates: No. I— I think the only thing I'd say is that— I mean, I worked with Secretary Clinton pretty closely for two and a half years. And— I wouldn't want to try and be somebody to con— trying to convince her to say something she did not think was true.

Bob Schieffer:  You don't think she would do that?

Bob Gates: No.

No doubt, Gates's reputation has now been taken down another couple of notches in the GOP's estimation.
Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon May 13, 2013 at 10:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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