ROGER ARONOFF: Next up we have Admiral James “Ace” Lyons, U.S. Navy Retired. Admiral Lyons was a U.S. Navy officer for 36 years, serving most recently as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the largest single military command in the world, where his initiatives directly contributed to the economic stability and humanitarian understanding in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, and brought the U.S. Navy fleet back to China. As the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations from 1983 to 1985, he was the principle advisor on all joint chiefs of staff matters and was the father of the Navy Red Cell, an anti-terrorism group composed of Navy SEALs he established in response to the Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut. Admiral Lyons was also commander of the U.S. 2nd fleet and commander of the Striking Fleet, which were the principle fleets for implementing the maritime strategy. He is President and CEO of LION Associates, which provides strategic consulting in the areas of foreign policy and security affairs. Ace Lyons.
RETIRED ADMIRAL JAMES “ACE” LYONS: Thank you, Roger. Thank you all for coming and spending the day here with us. As I said at the National Press Club a few weeks ago, what went on at Benghazi was un-American. There’s no other way to explain it. Obviously, we know we had resources that could have been brought to bear. We know that there were stand down orders given. We know that there were the Marine anti-terrorist units at Rota, one of which went to Tripoli, but the other one never was sent to Benghazi were it was supposed to go to secure–and I’m going to call it the consulate, the hell with this “SMC” stuff–
LYONS: –which would have immediately permitted the FBI to get in and gather the significant intelligence. What we’re seeing here is something that goes back many years. One of the underlying things in here is you don’t make city hall mad. And I have to tell you, when you get fired by the mayor of Chicago for incompetence and you wind up as the president’s Harry Hopkins, we got a problem. What we’re seeing here in Benghazi, as I said, goes back many years. Didn’t just start here under the Obama Administration. It goes all the way back to the Carter Administration and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. We could have cut it off at its knees right then. I was the director of political and military affairs when the Khomenei regime took our Embassy in Tehran. The chairman called me up and said ‘What can we do?’ I said, ‘I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to take Kharg Island and we’re going to do with a bunch of SEALs and special forces.’ We could have walked in and we’d have had them by the gonads. We would have knocked the legs from right out from under them. And of course our illustrious naval academy graduate–I never did like the class of ’47–
LYONS: –rejected that out of hand. And we had the follow on kidnappings, murder of our CIA station chief, and leading up to April 1983, when they blew up our Embassy. And that was followed by our Marine Barracks blowup, October 23rd, 1983–and I’ve got to tell you, that never had to happen, because four weeks approximately, almost four weeks before the bombing NSA had the information. They made the intercept. What they intercepted was the Iranian Ambassador in Damascus reporting back to the Iranian foreign ministry of the orders that he had given to the leadership of the groups in Beirut, which he had received from Tehran. And in that message he direct–he told them, you are to concentrate your attacks on the multinational force, but you are to take a spectacular action against the United States Marines. That intercept, that message was dated 27 September 1983.
I did not, I was the Deputy Chief for Naval Operations when that happened, and I did not get to see that message until the 25th of October–two days after the event. Now where was it? I tried to get the [Government Accountability Office] to do an investigation and so forth. Never could find out, but we know the orders, I’m sure for the Embassy blowup and for the Marine Barracks blowup, proof positive, came from Tehran. In fact, I testified in the District Court here where Judge Lamberth found Iran culpable. We were testifying on behalf of the families of those that were killed.
But that’s not the worst of it. We had the specific information. We knew which group did the bombing. It was the Islamic Amal, which was the forerunner to Hezbollah. I was working with [William] Casey and John McMahon– I won’t go into all of that–but we nailed them, and, in fact, two days after the bombing, Casey asked me to come out to Langley and he says, ‘If we found out who did it, would I make up the plans to take them out?’ And I said, ‘Of course!’ He said, ‘By the way, there’s one stipulation. Whatever we give you, you cannot share with the joint staff.’ He didn’t want to read about it in the next edition of the Post. I agreed.
I let Lehman know, who was the Secretary of the Navy then, and Jim Watkins, who is my boss, the CNO. Casey goes off on one of his famous trips. They located the Islamic Amal. They were holed up in the Lebanese army barracks above Baalbek, the Sheikh Abdullah Barracks. We had peopleinside. We had the photographs. We were going to make it look like a plowed cornfield in Kansas. We had the planes loaded.
The day of the meeting, of the NSE meeting, Casey comes back from his trip. McMahon calls me up and says, ‘Casey’s back and he insists on taking the meeting.’ I said, ‘John, you can’t let that happen. It’s going to get screwed up.’ He said, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it.’ And, of course, before this I had briefed the joint chiefs, I had briefed [Unintelligible], who was the chairman, the joint chiefs and then I went up and briefed Weinberger.
And I’ve got to tell you something. You’re all sitting there. Here we have the largest loss of Marines since Okinawa, and if I walked into you and you’re the chairman or the Secretary of Defense, and I said, ‘We got them,’ your reaction, I’m sure, would be elation. You’d be elated. You’d want, ‘Go get them.’ The reaction I got was almost like they didn’t want to hear it. I couldn’t believe it, but I ignored it and, so, I finished briefing everybody including Weinberger, and told them about the message intercept, and so on. So, he had everything. We had actually briefed the Vice President offline. We were known to do that occasionally.
And, at the meeting they go around the table, they brief Reagan, and it gets to Weinberger and he says, ‘I think there are Lebanese army troops in those barracks.’ And Reagan turned to Casey, and said, ‘Well, what about that, Bill?’ Well, of course, Bill doesn’t know diddley-squat from [Unintelligible] on this because he just got back. So, the President promptly said you guys go back and sort it out. So I got to download the planes.
And okay, lo and behold, come back, and no, there are no Lebanese army troops in those barracks. But this time, and I get this direct from Bud McFarlane, who is the National Security Advisor, Weinberger starts waving his arms and so forth: ‘We’re going to lose all our Arab friends if we go ahead with this strike.’ We never got the orders to strike. And of course, what was the message? The message became Osama bin Laden’s rallying cry: “The Americans can’t suffer casualties. They will cut and run.” And, all those [Unintelligible], well we moved them off shore.
In the eyes of everybody else, we cut and ran–not by our troops but by our politicians. And all that crap you read in Reagan’s diary–the intelligence wasn’t good enough–was pure nonsense. We would have been in and out in a minute and a half. In the words of the carrier strike force commander Jerry Tuttle, this was a chip shot.
I mean, pure and simple. We could have changed the course of history. That’s the second time we could have done it. The third time was during the Gulf Tanker War, and here they were in a life-death struggle with Iraq and they’re still conducting attacks against us! Drag the mine out in front reflagged tanker, and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So we had devised a plan starting in October 1986 to shut Iran down. I had Weinberger at my headquarters at Pearl Harbor, briefed him on it. He didn’t want to hear about it. He kept trying to get out of the chair, and I kept shoving him back in the chair.
But we had the ability. I had three carrier, three carrier battle groups. The battleship battle group, an amphibious ready group, and we were going to march up that gulf, we were going to shut everything down, including their nuclear site, Bushehr, and I think we could have brought the Khomenei regime down. Well, of course, that’s the last thing they wanted to hear.
Now, why all this? Now, I talked to the chairman Crow at the time, and this penetration of our government from Islam has been going on for years, and years, and years. He told me, the chairman, he said, by Prince Bandar–you heard him mentioned this morning. Prince Bandar had carte blanche access to the Pentagon. He was basically living in the chairman’s office. The chairman told me he feels like he’s sleeping with him, and knowing Bandar, maybe he was–I don’t know.
So, but it’s a, it’s an insidious thing that has gone on here, and as we see over the years the penetration of the Muslim Brotherhood, their front organization, has increased, increased, increased, and it’s at the pit, really, of the stupid restricted rules of engagement that we imposed on our wonderful military, sacrificing their lives in the failed hope of winning the hearts and minds of a tribal society. This is nuts. But, again, who ruled the day? Political correctness.
Our leadership did not speak out. They did not speak out previously, they have not spoken out today. And that’s why you wound up with a Benghazi. And there’s one other thing. When you don’t, you don’t want to make city hall mad, so it’s an insidious type of penetration going on here that results in the corruption of our government institutions that is really ought to be based on loyalty and patriotism. And when that gets compromised, you wind up with what you’re seeing today: this tremendous coverup. The NDAs, the polygraphs, all the–
I tried to get to the Blue Mountain security manager. I got the number from Roger. In London. He refused to take my call. I’m sure State, he’s got other contracts with State and they said, ‘You talk, they’re gone.’ It’s just such a tremendous effort here, and it’s really eating away at our core principles. As I said in my op-ed last Friday, what was the objective? Why are we undermining the fundamental morals and principles of our military, because that’s where, that’s what’s gives us our capability to project the right image of the United States? So, let me wrap it up by just saying that there’s more than just Benghazi going on here. So, thanks again. Great to be with you.
ARONOFF: Thank you, “Ace.” Yeah, we two-teamed those guys at Blue Mountain, and I actually had the head of it on the phone. They put me through, and when he heard who I was, he just, there was silence and then he just hung up. And then I turned it over to him, and he wouldn’t even take his call, so. Anyway.