Maryland (Rep. D) Elijah Cummings said that Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to testify to the House’s select committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. There has been no dates agreed upon as of yet but you can bet that the GOP members of the House can’t wait for Secretary Clinton’s return to Capitol Hill and to hear her testimony in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has said that he would welcome Clinton to speak before his pannel but they need additional documents from the State Department before he would ask her to appear. The State Department has sent the Benghazi panel more than 40,000 documents — including 15,000 never previously sent to Congress — but Gowdy and House Republicans have dozens of standing requests.
This would not be the first time Clinton has spoken to Congressional committees about what happened in Benghazi. Clinton has previously testified before House and Senate panels investigating the Benghazi attacks.
Here is a little background on Benghazi: The U.S. consulate in Libya was attacked on Sept. 11, 2012. Four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed. Initially, the attack was thought to be perpetrated by an angry mob responding to a video made in the U.S. which mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, but was later determined to be a terrorist attack.
The attack has remained a political issue for Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, since 2012. As Clinton is expect to be a potential presidential candidate, most Republicans feel that Benghazi will be a main line of attack against the former secretary of state.
Despite the GOP wanting Benghazi to hurt Clinton’s chances in 2016, a Washington Post/ABC polls shows something very different. She remains the most popular outgoing secretary in recent memory, and 59 percent of the public still approve of her tenure, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll That dipped from 68 percent in late 2012, but 67 percent call her a strong leader in the most recent survey.
A number of top foreign policy experts do not hold Clinton responsible for Benghazi pointing the finger more at President Barack Obama. The point being that any secretary of state is only as good as their relationship with the president they serve. Clearly saying that President Obama may of listened to Clinton but at the end of the day it was he who made the foreign policy decisions.
Dr. Juan Cole who is a regular on the PBS News Hour, is an expert on Middle East studies and a professor at the University of Michigan. He has served as a consultant to a number democratic and republican Congressman and women on foreign policy. He was actually in Benghazi just a couple of weeks before the attack and offers some reasons why Clinton is not at fault.
Ambassador Stevens repeatedly asked that security not be increased at the Benghazi consulate. Over the years diplomatic personnel posted to places like Beirut where the US embassy is a fortress complain they just can’t very easily get out and mingle with Lebanese. They deeply regret the imposed isolation and feel it interferes with them doing their jobs as diplomats. But, well, security in Beirut for embassies isn’t always very good. I was in Libya in May-June 2012 and walked around without incident, and it just was not the case that the situation was Beirut-like at that time. Stevens had supported the Libyan revolution and valued his ability to move among Libyans, who loved him, and did not want to be isolated by security. The Secretary of State doesn’t micromanage these matters, an Stevens was rightly given control over this issue.
There was a CIA annex near the consulate, and it included former special ops guys that consular officials including Stevens saw as the “cavalry.” That group of operatives did play an important role in getting the remaining 55 consular personnel out of Benghazi but in the end could not protect Stevens. CIA safe houses are covert. The Senate report makes clear that the US military was not apprised of its existence. Very likely, Secretary Clinton was not told about it either. If she was not told the details of what security arrangements were in place, she would have had no basis for questioning them. That there was something covert about the entire US operation in Benghazi seems clear, which means that then CIA director David Petraeus was probably more involved than Hillary was, but the GOP never brings him up with regard to Benghazi.
The Senate report found that after the attacks “there was no cover-up.” Since the Secretary of State doesn’t actually make decisions about individual consular security arrangements, it was only after the attack that Secretary Clinton would have become intimately involved with the Libyan mission. She acted with probity in the aftermath, which is all you could ask. The senate report’s conviction that there were no demonstrations in Benghazi that day against the US based on an anti-Islam film made in the US is contradicted by eyewitnesses on the ground, including Libyans involved in them, and this talking point seems to have been some sort of concession to the Republicans on the committee by the Democrats; as often is the case, yielding to Republican weird convictions produces positions at odds with reality. If we listened to them, we’d have to give up evolution, minimum wages, separation of religion and state, and climate change, too.
While the Senate felt that the tragedy was “preventable,” hindsight is 20/20. There wasn’t any reason for Stevens (or Secretary Clinton) to fear that the revolutionaries whom he had aided would turn on him, and 99% did not. But a small radical group with old grievances against the US cut him no slack for his heroic role in 2011, and that could not have been foreseen. This small group was not an al-Qaeda affiliate and was not important in governing the city in 2011-2012.
We will see if Dr. Cole’s defense of Secretary Clinton will be used by her in the upcoming House testimony.