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Gates defends Benghazi response, says critics have ‘cartoonish’ view of military

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Sunday defended the White House against charges that they did not act quickly enough to protect the Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks.

Gates, who served in the administrations of both Presidents George W. Bush’s and Obama said that some critics who said that military force could have saved lives had a “cartoonish” view of U.S. military capabilities.

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“To send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, I think, would have been very dangerous,” said Gates in an interview aired on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“Personally, I would not have approved that because we just don't it's sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces,” he continued. “The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm's way.  And there just wasn't time to do that.”

Current and former State Department officials testified last week before Congress, as GOP lawmakers press their probe of the administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last September, which left four Americans dead.

One whistleblower, diplomat Gregory Hicks, testified that a special forces team in Tripoli was ready to assist during the attack, but was told to stand down.

GOP lawmakers have vowed to continue their investigation, questioning if adequate security was provided during and before the attack and if the terrorist nature of the assault was downplayed for political reasons.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday called the Benghazi incident a “cover-up” and said he expected former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to again testify and called for a special committee to probe the attack.

Gates said he had not spoken to Clinton about Benghzai, and suggested he was skeptical State Department officials tried to cover up their handling of the attacks for political reasons.  

“I worked with Secretary Clinton pretty closely for two and a half years,” said Gates. “I wouldn't want to try and be somebody trying to convince her to say something she did not think was true.”