Defense Secretary Panetta had claimed that the refusal to use force had come from him, General Dempsey and General Ham. General Ham appears to have broken with that story and is taking no responsibility for the decision not to bail out the consulate and the Navy SEALS. There have been rumors that General Ham has been fired or forced out.
We're not dealing with anonymous sources here. This comes from an interview with Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz who sits on two Homeland Security subcommittees relaying the responses from General Carter Ham heading up the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) who had direct responsibility for the situation.
General Ham told Chaffetz that the forces were available, but that no order to use them was given. Defense Secretary Panetta had claimed that the refusal to use force had come from him, General Dempsey and General Ham.
General Ham appears to have broken with that story and is taking no responsibility for the decision not to bail out the consulate and the Navy SEALS. There have been rumors that General Ham has been fired or forced out. There is no way to confirm them at this point until they come from more reliable sources. Even major sites are running things based on internet forum rumors or speculation with nothing behind it. And that's not the way to go. It's the way to sabotage the investigation of this story which is to proceed from known information and tie it together with reliable reports.
That said, Ham's premature departure raises certain questions, as does his willingness to dissent from the official story. Panetta tried to pass the buck to the generals. General Demspey only lightly touched it. Ham seems to not want to touch it all. Since the decision was made by Panetta and possibly Obama, that's the right thing to do.
We are done with the narrative that no forces were available or could have reached the site in time. Generals Demspey and Ham are now both on record as saying that the forces were available, but did not get used. The fallback story is that there was a lack of intel, but there was actually plenty of intel from the consulate that had been there and even in declassified documents provided assessments of the Islamist militias, from the two SEALS in the fight and other consulate personnel. And during a rescue operation, intel is always going to be limited.
The issue was almost certainly a refusal to come in, guns blazing, into Benghazi, a Muslim city, for fear of destabilizing Eastern Libya and upsetting Muslims with an American show of force. The decision was made to rely on the Muslim Brotherhood's Feb 17 Brigade to help evacuate the area, even though Ansar Al-Sharia, the militia leading the attack, was a splinter group of Feb 17 and serious questions remain about the complicity of Feb 17 personnel in the attack.
Benghazigate is now a focus, but it should be remembered that there have been countless Benghazigates in Afghanistan, where US forces were denied air and artillery support while under fire. That should be the real focus of this conversation. What happened in Benghazi is what has been going on in Afghanistan for some time. It's the outcome of the Obama Administration's CVE and Hearts and Minds program that puts Muslim sensibilities first and American lives last.