Yesterday, Wednesday January 23, 2013, was the day Hillary Clinton took her spot in front of the Foreign Relations Committee investigating events in Benghazi. She also testified in front of the Conress. Most members of the Foreign Relations Committee thanked Hillary for her service over the last four years and admitted that she had served well, before they ripped into her about her part in the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans including diplomat Chris Stevens. Apparently there are several points of contention about this Libyan tragedy which occurred on 9/11/2012. Some Senators are exercised because Hillary Clinton did not see a key e-mail sent to the State Department in which Chris Stevens asked for more protection at the Consulate. Rand Paul said that if that had happened when he was President he would have relieved her of her post as Secretary of State. This was the harshest statement made by any Senator on the Committee. We are left with the question of whether reading e-mails sent to the State Department is a normal duty of the Secretary of State and, if not, why whoever was responsible for reading such an e-mail did not pass the information up the chain.
They asked Hillary about the repercussions for the guilty parties in the Department of State and she said that they were fired. However, it turned out that all four employees in the agency who were held responsible were still working for the State Department in different capacities. It was not clear if their new positions were demotions.
The issue that has consumed Republicans since the attack is what Susan Rice told America about Benghazi on the Sunday morning political shows. Was Susan Rice a sacrificial lamb who was helping the President and Hillary cover up a terrible failure which would tarnish the reputation of one of them and, perhaps, affect the re-election of the President, or was this the true intelligence available at the time? Republicans insist that Susan Rice lied on purpose or was given false information on purpose. There are, of course, other possible explanations among them that we were told that these murders resulted from a demonstration because there were national security considerations, or that no one wanted this event to change the meaning of 9/11, but the President and the Secretary of State do not claim that either of these conditions pertained. We also have the tape of the speech made by the President at the hangar when the bodies of our dead diplomat and his staff arrived back in America in which Obama did call this an “act of terror”.
Did Al Qaeda plan this attack so that it would fall on 9/11? Possibly. Did they hope to interfere with the re-election of a President who had killed Osama Bin Laden? Maybe. The fact is that we have not captured these terrorists. They have apparently melted back into the streets of Benghazi and we are left to our conjectures. The most important question remains which is why we set up a consulate in a city that was not stable and in a country still in chaos. Apparently we do this to help stabilize the nation in turmoil and probably because we hope to steer the political outcomes of the revolution. Why we left our Ambassador, Chris Stevens, without enough protection even after he asked for more protection and informed the State Department of the dangers he and his staff faced is another question that we all have and that’s the one that seems to me to be at the heart of the matter. This is where there is an important lesson to be learned. We have lost other American diplomats in areas with unsettled issues. Do we keep putting diplomats in dangerous places and, if we do, how can we give them better protection without making it impossible for them to interact with the indigenous people?
If the President and Hillary Clinton decided to “spin” this event to protect re-election and reputation if will not be the first time that politicians have done such a thing. I am very sorry that the questions surrounding this attack and these murders have overshadowed our grief at losing a young and effective Ambassador who will never get to enjoy his family again. Chris Stevens served us well and he will be remembered long after this partisan nonsense dies down. I am sad when I think about the frightening emotions Stevens and his staff must have experienced in their final moments and I hope we do find and punish the individuals responsible. I also hope the State Department has learned to trust and follow the requests of the people they put in harm’s way. And finally, I am quite sorry that this situation has somewhat tarnished the image of Hillary Clinton right at the end of her otherwise stellar tenure as Secretary of State.