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Saturday, December 10, 2016

For years, conspiracy-minded Republicans have insisted that someone in the Obama administration — usually, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — issued a “stand-down order” to the U.S. military on the night of the 2012 attack at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, preventing a Special Operations team from intervening and saving the lives of the four Americans who died in the assault.

According to newly released testimony, they are flat-out wrong.

As the Associated Press reported on Friday, transcripts of hours of testimony from nine military officers were made public this week, completely disproving the conspiracy theory:

The “stand-down” theory centers on a Special Operations team — a detachment leader, a medic, a communications expert and a weapons operator with his foot in a cast — that was stopped from flying from Tripoli to Benghazi after the attacks of Sept. 11-12, 2012, had ended. Instead, it was instructed to help protect and care for those being evacuated from Benghazi and from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

The senior military officer who issued the instruction to “remain in place” and the detachment leader who received it said it was the right decision and has been widely mischaracterized. The order was to remain in Tripoli and protect some three-dozen embassy personnel rather than fly to Benghazi some 600 miles away after all Americans there would have been evacuated. And the medic is credited with saving the life of an evacuee from the attacks.

The report goes on to note that “despite lingering public confusion over many events that night, the testimony shows military leaders largely in agreement over how they responded to the attacks.”

This is not the first time the “stand-down order” myth has been debunked; Lt. Colonel S.E. Gibson and General Martin Dempsey had already told Congress as much. But the report’s timing could prove particularly problematic for the congressional Republicans who have repeatedly pushed the myth.

It arrives as the House Select Committee tasked with probing the attack for the eighth time is “ramping up” its investigation. And as the National Journal’s Lucia Graves points out, the panel happens to be filled with Republicans who have eagerly pushed the conspiracy.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the committee chairman, suggested that the Benghazi attack “kinda undercuts” the principle that “we’re not gonna send anybody into harm’s way under our flag without adequate protection, and if they get in trouble we are gonna go get ’em. We’re gonna save ’em. Or at least we’re gonna make a heck of an effort to do it.”

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) has said that the military “had the opportunity” to take action, but didn’t.

Rep. Jim Jordan wondered, “Why weren’t we running to the sound of the guns?”

Well, now their questions have been answered — again — yet the panel is still planning to spend up to $3.3 million to relitigate them. And the task of explaining why they need to spend more than the yearly budget of the House Veterans Affairs Committee or the House Ethics Committee to keep asking questions that have already been answered just got a lot harder.

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

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