The terrorist attacks in Benghazi took the lives of four brave Americans -- Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty -- on September 11, 2012. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday morning and before the House Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday afternoon to attempt to make sense of what happened in a humane and non-political manner.
For the most part, Senate Republicans and House Republicans would have none of it, preferring to turn a human tragedy into a political issue.
In what can be described as at times emotional testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effectively put to an end the Fox News driven narrative of the Benghazi murders of four brave Americans.
In an emotional moment during her opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Clinton said, "For me, this is not just a matter of policy… it’s personal."
As she became emotional being choked by the words, Clinton said, "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."
Fox News, and by extension, conservative Tea Party Republicans, have made a futile attempt to advance a narrative that the Obama Administration is criminally responsible for those murders and should have been able to stop those murders.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effectively stopped that discussion from advancing beyond Fox News.
What epitomized the day was the hostile questions posed by United States Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The questions asked by Senator Johnson were posed under the direction and the talking points of Fox News and its conservative Tea Party cohorts.
Johnson's question was framed with the United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice going on Sunday news talk shows where she blamed a "video" for the protests at the Benghazi mission that led to the murders. Johnson said to Clinton that “a very simple phone call would have ascertained immediately that there was no protest prior to this.”
Secretary Clinton pointed emotional response as she raised her hands – and her voice – responding angrily that "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” she asked Senator Johnson, at the same time scolding him.
Secretary of State Clinton continued, “It our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. The fact is that people were trying, in real time, to get to the best information.”
In Secretary of State Clinton's testimony before the Senate Committee, she blamed Congress for a cut in the funding of securing our embassies around the world, not just in Libya. Senate Democrats made a point of saying that House Republicans have consistently voted to cut funding for diplomatic security by as much as three hundred million dollars.
During the course of Secretary of State Clinton's testimony she stayed the course with the narrative that "we have to figure out what happened and do everything to prevent future tragedies."
Following the tragedy, Secretary of State Clinton ordered an Accountability Review Board to make recommendations, led by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
"I also appointed the Accountability Review Board led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen so that we could more fully understand what went wrong and how to fix it," said Secretary Clinton.
"I have accepted every one of their recommendations -- and I asked the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources to lead a task force to ensure that all 29 of them are implemented quickly and completely… as well as to pursue additional steps above and beyond those in the Board’s report," continued Clinton.
"Because of the effort we began in the days after the attacks, work is already well underway. And, as I pledged in my letter to you last month, implementation has now begun on all 29 recommendations," saying that the recommendations of the ARB are being implemented. "Our task force started by translating the recommendations into 64 specific action items. All of these action items were assigned to specific bureaus and offices, with clear timelines for completion. Fully 85 percent are on track to be completed by the end of March, with a number completed already."
Clinton also made a list of other tragedies that have occurred since 1979, "hostages taken in Tehran in 1979, our embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered in Jeddah in 2004, the Khost attack in 2009, and too many others."
She also said that the list of attacks "foiled" is a much longer list. "Crises averted, and lives saved is even longer. We should never forget that our security professionals get it right 99 percent of the time, against difficult odds all over the world. That’s why, like my predecessors, I trust them with my life."
Yes, it was a good day for outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who will today introduce Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Then some rest and possibly onto the 2016 campaign.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) made his opening salvo in the 2016 Presidential campaign as he described as her “culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11” in describing Benghazi.
“Had I been president at the time, and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post,” said Senator Rand Paul during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday, adding “I think it’s inexcusable.”
Senator Rand Paul came off as very small and presumptuous. A far right-wing tea party candidate would spell disaster for the Republicans. At least as bad as this past election, but possibly the worst since 1964 and Barry Goldwater.
2016 campaign has started and should gained momentum. As far as Benghazi, that issue is now a non-issue: politically speaking that is.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books . John has volunteered for many political campaigns.