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When the cavalry doesn’t come

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., holds a hearing about last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 8, 2013. Left to right are witnesses Mark Thompson, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, and Eric Nordstrom, the State Department's former regional security officer in Libya. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Last year’s September 11 attack in Benghazi that killed our Ambassador to Libya and three others was briefly back at center stage Wednesday.

For several days, Republicans had been promising new revelations – in particular, they released a quote from State Department officer Gregory Hicks – who was some 400 miles away at the embassy in Tripoli at the time of the attacks – and who said that if the military had only sent a fast moving fighter jet over Benghazi it would very likely have scared the terrorists away and saved lives.

Mr. Hicks finally testified Wednesday, and he confirmed that quote. But under questioning by Democrat Elijah Cummings he would not contradict what military officials have already said.

Cummings: Mr. Hicks I understand that you wanted planes, that is completely understandable, but the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said they simply could not get there quickly. Mr. Hicks do you have any reason to question General Dempsey’s testimony?

Hicks: Again, I was speaking from my perspective based on what the defense attache told me, and he said two to three hours, but there were no tankers.

But there were no tankers, the defense official explained, by which he meant there was no way to refuel the planes so they could get to Libya and return to their base in Italy. And that wasn’t the only problem.

These planes aren’t kept on alert and since it was the middle of the night, the crews were asleep. So the attache was not refusing to help, but simply pointing out that the U.S. Air Force, while it may be invincible, is not the fire department.

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