The PJ Tatler

Gen. Dempsey: Our Hands Are Tied in Hunting Down Benghazi Attackers

The Hill reports that the Pentagon says that thanks to Obama administration legalese, it can’t hunt down the terrorists who killed four Americans at Benghazi.

The U.S. military cannot hunt down and kill people responsible for the deadly 2012 attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as long as the terrorists are not officially deemed members or affiliates of al Qaeda, newly declassified transcripts from congressional hearings show.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey in testimony on Oct. 10 said the Pentagon’s hands are tied because the groups involved are not covered by the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The AUMF law allows U.S. attacks anywhere in the world only on al Qaeda and “associated forces.”

“The individuals related in the Benghazi attack, those that we believe were either participants or leadership of it, are not ‘authorized use of military force,’ ” Gen. Dempsey told the House Armed Services Committee in his classified testimony during a closed hearing.

The transcript was released on Monday.

“In other words, they don’t fall under the AUMF authorized by the Congress of the United States. So we would not have the capacity to simply find them and kill them either with a remotely-piloted aircraft or with an assault on the ground,” Dempsey said.

The U.S. could seek to capture the Benghazi attackers under the existing AUMF, but it would need to rely on forces in Libya or any other countries where the attackers are hiding to do so.

So, let’s get this straight. Terrorists who killed four Americans on 9-11-12 in Benghazi are not subject to the AUMF, but Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was? The latter was killed in a drone strike two weeks after a drone strike killed his propagandist father.

Set that question aside.

Another question arises: Can al Qaeda simply exempt itself from a narrow reading of the AUMF by franchising into groups like Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia? Gen. Dempsey’s testimony suggests that they can.

The Obama administration has been militating to end the AUMF, with the president himself supporting a bill to repeal it. Would that end the U.S. military’s authority to go after terrorists who orchestrate future attacks, which is certain to happen? That seems absurd, but the Pentagon’s reading of the AUMF in relation to Benghazi certainly raises the possibility that the U.S. would not pursue terrorists who attack and kill Americans overseas, going forward. Americans overseas will be on our own.