This Map Is Not the Benghazi Smoking Gun Conservatives Think It Is

| Thu Feb. 13, 2014 2:53 PM EST
Department of the Navy

This map of the location of US Navy ships during the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, obtained by the conservative group Judicial Watch, is the latest purported smoking gun in what Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has called "the worst tragedy since 9/11." The implication: The White House was in a position to intervene while the attack was ongoing but, for some reason, chose not to. "Map Shows Dozens of U.S. Military Ships Stationed In North Africa Waters During Benghazi Attack," wrote Katie Pavlich at Town Hall, a headline that was picked up by the esteemed Fox Nation.

But that's not quite right. Most of the "dozens" of ships were nowhere near Benghazi, and the list includes many vessels that wouldn't do much good in a rescue situation. For instance, the Lewis and Clark is a cargo vessel, and it was somewhere off the coast of West Africa. The map features eight minesweepers and a tug boat in Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf, a very long way from Benghazi. The Laramie, an oiler, was off the coast of Yemen. Per the Navy, the nearest aircraft carrier was 128 hours away. Only a handful of ships were even in the same body of water as Benghazi, and given the small window in which the attack unfolded, mobilizing a destroyer from the Iranian coastline probably wasn't going to fix the problem.

Still, with Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state at the time, mulling a presidential bid, expect even more Benghazi "smoking guns" in the years ahead.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.