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posted: 6/1/2014 5:01 AM

Proper defense was missing at Benghazi

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As a former professional Army fire support officer, trained in both the use of artillery and close air support, I can quantify that the recent Herald article recapping the Benghazi facts had a falsehood: There were no military assets available to help the embassy, as declared by the Senate committee. Just because a Senate committee "declares" something does not make it true.

I can report from experience when I was in Bosnia as a fire support officer in 1995-96 we could call on U.S. F-16s from Aviano AFB, Italy, and they would fly 400 miles and be overhead in 30 minutes. Aviano to Benghazi is about 1,000 miles -- half the planes' range, and there is Sigonella Naval Air Station 460 miles from Benghazi where they could refuel and operate from, like they did for the strikes on Libya in 2011. There are normally two squadrons of F-16s at Aviano, which can reach Libya in about 90 minutes and attack several times before needing a refueling.

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More importantly, where was the correct military security for the ambassador in the first place? The Marine Corps has the mission to protect embassies. Why did the State Department not have the usual Marine contingent in place from the day the ambassador and his staff occupied it? Obviously anyplace in a country that just went through a civil war like 2011-12 is unstable and unsafe. Two dozen Marines with a few crew-served machine guns and one fire support officer would have demolished the terrorists that attacked our ambassador.

The fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama did not have even the basic defenses in place is gross negligence and dereliction of duty, and we have yet to hear why they failed in this responsibility.

Harold Knudsen

Arlington Heights

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