By JOHN T. BENNETT
Posted: Friday Feb 8, 2013
U.S. Republican senators roughed up America's top general Thursday, questioning his decision against moving military assets closer to a U.S. diplomatic facility in Libya despite the threat of an attack.
Repeatedly, GOP Senate Armed Services Committee members thanked outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who also testified, for his decades-long public service in Washington. And numerous times, they immediately pivoted to criticize Gen. Martin Dempsey's decision-making before and during the deadly Sept. 11 attack.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., labeled Dempsey's prepared statement to the committee, in which he said the U.S. military was unable to position forces closer to Benghazi before the attack, "the most bizarre" opening statement he has ever seen a witness bring to the committee chamber.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., called some of Dempsey's actions on Sept. 11 and statements during the hearing "inadequate" and "weak."
New Hampshire GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte criticized Dempsey for opting against deploying combat assets, given threat warnings about a possible Benghazi attack.
"You didn't have armed assets in the region."
Ayotte and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., used their lawyerly skills to pry from Dempsey that his ultimate boss, President Barack Obama, spoke to the duo only once on Sept. 11 during a 30-minute telephone conversation about the attack.
Dempsey defended his actions, telling McCain he "stands by his testimony."
To Ayotte, he cooly told her no F-16s were around nor deployed because they would have been "the wrong tool for the job."
Dempsey later clarified that once the attack was underway, DoD did begin moving some forces toward Benghazi.
And Dempsey defended the man who nominated him for the Joint Chief's chairman post.
Dempsey told Ayotte that while Obama was not in constant contact with the Pentagon, senior White House staff members were constantly connected to the National Counterterrorism Center, "which is how it would usually work."