Hillary Clinton becomes emotional and angry at Benghazi debacle testimony in Congress
Possibly her final appearance as America's diplomat-in-chief, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became emotional and angry when the Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee members almost grilled her about the debacle at American diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya last September 11 which killed U.S. ambassador and three of his staff members at the Capitol Hill Wednesday, January 23.
She delayed her testimony to the Senate and the House as she was indisposed since 11 December until last week which resulted her entering a hospital for a possible tumor in the brain.
Mrs. Clinton engaged in six hours of sometimes aggressive questioning from both the Senate and the House on Wednesday over the deaths of four Americans in the attack on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Benghazi, Libya.
Despite harsh criticism from the Republican side of the Senate and the House the manner in which the state department which she heads handled diplomatic security, Hilary Clinton stood her ground dismissing harsh criticism that may block her aspirations to become the Democratic Party candidate for the 2016 presidential election.
In fact, the Republicans were undoubtedly aiming to tarnish her image before she sets her eye on the top executive job of the United States which she grudgingly conceded to Barack Obama in 2008.
“As I have said many times since Sept. 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger and more secure,” Clinton said.
Clinton was visibly emotional during the Senate hearing, especially when she talked about the deaths of Stevens, Foreign Service information officer Sean Smith, and two members of Embassy security personnel, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
“For me, this is not just a matter of policy … it’s personal,” she said. “I stood next to President [Barack] 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.”
But she was also angry to a question raised by a Republican Senator. The tensest exchanges came before the Senate committee under questioning by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who asked why evacuees from Benghazi were not immediately questioned about the cause of the attack.
“A very simple phone call to these individuals would have ascertained very quickly there was no protest,” he said, charging Americans were misled by administration talking points.
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton said, with her voice rising. “Was it because of a protest or was it because a guy goes out for a walk one night and decided to go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also took Clinton to task, calling many of Clinton’s answers before the Senate panel “unsatisfactory.”
“The American people deserve to know answers, and they certainly don’t deserve false answers. The answers given to the American people on Sept. 15, by the ambassador to the United Nations were false,” McCain said, referring to televised statements by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. “In fact, they were contradicted by the classified information, which was kept out of the [Rice’s] report.”
McCain further said: “Why do we care? Because if the classified information had been included, it gives an entirely different version of events. … If you want to tell the American people [information] and tell them what happened, then you ought to have your facts straight.”
Republican Senator Ron Paul, said he was glad Clinton was “accepting responsibility.” He added, “I think ultimately, with your leaving, you accept the culpability of one of the worst tragedies since Sept. 11.”
“Had I been president at the time, Senator Paul said "I would have relieved you of your post,” he said. “I think it’s inexcusable.”
Secretary Clinton then had to face the House Foreign Relations Committee on the same issue of the Benghazi attack.
In the House, the South Carolina Republican charged the secretary with “national security malpractice” and suggested that she should have resigned in the wake of the attack.
“Madam Secretary, you let the Consulate become a death trap, and that’s national security malpractice,” he said. “You said you’d take responsibility. What does responsibility mean Madam Secretary? You’re still in your job, and there are four people at the State Department that are still in their jobs.”
“I heard an answer about firing or removing personnel, I get that, but this was gross negligence. At what point of time can our administration and can our government fire someone whose gross negligence left four Americans dead in Benghazi? What does the word responsibility mean to you, Madam Secretary?”
Clinton retorted, saying she’s been “pretty clear” and that the Accountability Review Board’s role is to review a situation absent politics and emotion and “try to get at the truth.”
“I think this distinguished panel did just that,” Clinton said.
What led to the Benghazi killing
Congressional investigators have pieced together a series of decisions that led State Department officials to inexplicably draw down security in Libya last year even as threats and attacks against Western diplomats were rising in the violent, chaotic city of Benghazi where America’s ambassador was killed last Sept. 11.
The investigators have determined that between May and September, the department reduced the number of Mobile Security Deployment teams from three to one, thinning the potential U.S. security officers available to protect diplomats by at least twelve, the Washington Guardian reported.
British officials pulled their diplomats from Benghazi after a brazen summer attack against one of their own, and they had not yet returned them when the U.S. special mission in that city was attacked the night of Sept. 11 last year.
Washington Guardian reports that hours before he and three other Americans died in the attack, Stevens reported to Clinton in a diplomatic cable that he had conferred with British authorities, and they would not be making a decision on whether to return until at least October.
In that same cable, Stevens painted a portrait of Benghazi that was violent, chaotic and suffering through constant attacks from Islamist extremists that ranged from car bombings to explosive attacks on power lines.
Stevens also warned that the loyalties and capabilities of local Libyan militias helping to protect U.S. officials in the region were also increasingly dubious, specifically reporting that one group of militia leaders had threatened to pull their security if Americans continued to support a particular candidate for Libyan prime minister.
Stevens’ final, fateful cable was hardly the first sign of deteriorating security. Congressional investigators have assembled a list of more than a dozen threats or attempted attacks on Western diplomats in the Benghazi area in the months before the attack on the compound.
The prior episodes included a gunfire incident near the U.S mission in Benghazi in March, an explosives attacks against the compound in June that blew a hole in a security wall, a grenade attack on the International Red Cross station in Benghazi and an attack on the British ambassador’s motorcade in the city.
U.S. officials clearly understood the deteriorating conditions, congressional investigators found, because they increased the hazard pay for State Department officials serving in the region, the sources said. But at the same time, they drew down the security assets sent by both the State Department and the military.
Hillary Clinton was grilled by both the Senate and the House Foreign Relations Committee members who knew all these facts. When these facts were unfolded in the hearings Clinton at times became emotional and more than several times was displaying her anger to the irritating questions of the Congressmen.
- Asian Tribune -