- - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Every time I hear that nothing could have been done in Benghazi, my blood boils. History proves that this claim is false. In 2004 there was an incident in Iraq that took place under many of the same conditions, yet the results were very different.

In 2004 I was in Baghdad, in charge of a group of private security contractors assigned to guard L. Paul Bremer during his assignment as presidential envoy to Iraq. In April of that year, the United States diplomatic compound and Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters in Najaf came under attack by hundreds of members of the heavily-armed Mahdi army. The folks on the ground—a separate group of contractors—requested help.

The U.S. military was reluctant to send assistance. The team on the ground reached out to their comrades based in Baghdad, telling us they were running out of ammunition, had wounded men on the compound, and would most likely be overrun if help did not arrive soon.

This incident occurred only a few days after the Fallujah bridge incident, where four contractors had been murdered, burned, and hung on the bridge. It was also around the time that the beheadings of Americans had started to be broadcast on the internet. The enemy had showed us the savagery of which they were capable.

In Baghdad, we went to the military joint operations center to see what would be done to help the compound. When they were told that nothing was planned, a group of volunteers from my team grabbed as much ammo as they could, loaded it into their own “private” helicopters and flew into the raging Najaf gun battle.

Three MD 530 helicopters and eleven men (five pilots, six shooters) flew into the compound to help their comrades. By the time the incident was over, these private security men had evacuated the wounded and held the compound. There were no American or allied deaths. It barely made the news. No one remembers the incident except for those of us that were involved.

Why do I bring this up? The Benghazi situation had many parallels. Two former SEALS were killed on the roof in Benghazi, while those of us on the roof in Najaf survived. Had the Benghazi rescue team not been delayed, or had air support been provided, or had reinforcements been sent in, there is a very real chance that those Americans who were killed would be alive today.

With the formal public hearings on the Benghazi attack having just begun, we can only hope that the truth comes out. The American people need to know who made the decisions not to help, and why those decisions were made. I know what could have been done, as I was the man who made the decision to help in Najaf. Private contractors could have saved American lives in Benghazi. The politicos need to explain why they were ordered to stand down.

Frank Gallagher was the Agent-In-Charge for the security detail for L. Paul Bremer, the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and author of “The Bremer Detail.”

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