"I believe that the Libyans were hoping that we were going to come bail them out of this mess. And, you know, they were as surprised as we were that American -- the military forces that did arrive only arrived on the evening of September 12."
Sharyl Atkinson has been on this story, and on Fast and Furious, and her CBS piece contains the exchange with Gregory Hicks, who became the top diplomat in Libya after Stevens' death.
One of the interesting things that Hicks says is that there was not, as had been assumed, a specific Libyan denial to allow US armed aircraft in. Instead Hicks suggests that the Libyans would have been willing, but they were never asked. If true, that is even more shocking than what we thought we knew.
Q: But do you think, you know, if an F-15, if the military had allowed a jet to go fly over, that it might have prevented [the second attack]?
A: Yeah, and if we had gotten clearance from the Libyan military for an American plane to fly over Libyan airspace. The Libyans that I talked to and the Libyans and other Americans who were involved in the war have told me also that Libyan revolutionaries were very cognizant of the impact that American and NATO airpower had with respect to their victory. They are under no illusions that American and NATO airpower won that war for them. And so, in my personal opinion, a fast-mover flying over Benghazi at some point, you know, as soon as possible might very well have prevented some of the bad things that happened that night.
Q : The theory being, the folks on the ground that are doing these -- committing these terrorist attacks look up, see a heavy duty airplane above, and decide to hightail it?
A: I believe that if -- I believe if we had been able to scramble a fighter or aircraft or two over Benghazi as quickly as possible after the attack commenced, I believe there would not have been a mortar attack on the annex in the morning because I believe the Libyans would have split. They would have been scared to death that we would have gotten a laser on them and killed them.
Q: I just wanted to ask, you mentioned permission from the Libyans. Why is that important? What did you mean by that?
A: Well, it's their country. And for an American military aircraft to fly over their country, we have to have permission from them to do so.
Q: So what would have been the risk of -- do you think it would have been risky for us to send someone, do you think it would have been counterproductive for us to send a fighter pilot plane over Benghazi without that permission?
A: We would have certainly wanted to obtain that permission. I believe we would have gotten it if we had asked. I believe that the Libyans were hoping that we were going to come bail them out of this mess. And, you know, they were as surprised as we were that American -- the military forces that did arrive only arrived on the evening of September 12. Yeah.
This wouldn't have saved Stevens or Smith, but it would have saved Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty who were out there waiting for support that never showed up.
Q: Now, at this point, are you having communications with Washington?
A: I was in communications with Washington all night long. I was reporting all night long what was happening to Washington by telephone.
Q: When these Special Forces folks were told essentially to stand down, what was your next move? Did you have a recourse? Were you able to call Washington? Were you able to call anyone at this point to get that decision reversed?
A: No, because the flight was -- the flight was leaving. And, you know, if they missed -- you know, if the vehicles didn't leave when they leave, they would miss the flight time at the airport. And the airport -- you know, we were going all the way to Mitiga. The C-130 is at Mitiga, which is all the way on the other side of Tripoli.
Q: What was the rationale that you were given that they couldn't go, ultimately?
A: I guess they just didn't have the right authority from the right.
Previously, the information had been that the Libyan authorities were obstructing rescue efforts, but Hicks is making it sound as if the Libyans were willing and it was Washington that was the sole roadblock.