Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s performance last week before the Senate and House committees on foreign relations provided, regrettably, no additional useful information on the Benghazi debacle.
There was no clarification on why the administration continued to perpetuate the lie, for the better part of two weeks, that the attack was the result of a mob angered by a 14-minute anti-Islamic video that almost no one had seen. The administration knew within a matter of hours that this was a planned terrorist attack by the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia.
Further, there was no explanation for why Mrs. Clinton then proceeded to participate in making a video, at taxpayers’ expense, condemning the anti-Islamic video and profusely apologizing for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. I am sure the video was eagerly embraced by the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose principal objective is to restrict our First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech by seeking to criminalize anything it considers offensive to Islam. This effort is known as the Istanbul Process, an anti-free-speech campaign that Mrs. Clinton has strongly endorsed.
When Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, tried to get clarification about why the administration continued to perpetuate the lie, Mrs. Clinton essentially dismissed his question: “We have four dead Americans. What difference, at this point, does it make?” In effect, she excused lying to the American public. The cover-up continues.
Recall that Richard M. Nixon eventually understood you cannot lie to the American public and get away with it. His troubles concerned a bungled burglary attempt at the Watergate — no one got killed. In Benghazi, the situation is much more serious, with international repercussions involving al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups and their supporters.
First of all, this was U.S. territory, involving our special mission compound that was attacked, overrun and looted, with four Americans — including our ambassador — murdered. Most likely, the compound contained sensitive communication equipment, records and other important files. What happened to this material and equipment? We need to know.
The testimony shed no new light on activity being carried out at the compound or why Stevens was there the night of Sept. 11 when we know he feared for his safety. Opening cultural exchange or having dinner with the Turkish consul general doesn’t cut it. It has been reported that one of Stevens’ missions was to facilitate the transfer of military equipment to jihadists and other Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda-affiliated militias fighting the Assad regime in Syria. If true, then killing the ambassador makes no sense. Was this supposed to be a hostage situation that went wrong? The American public deserves to know the truth.
It’s difficult to believe that Stevens’ repeated requests for additional security for both the Benghazi compound and our embassy in Tripoli were turned down by Deputy Secretary of State Charlene Lamb, who is not a trained security specialist. This is particularly relevant in light of an Aug. 16 cable, which clearly states that the compound could not be defended against a coordinated attack. Further, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood and his 16-man professional security force, which the embassy wanted to keep in-country, were removed. Why?
Suffice it to say our lack of any meaningful military response once the attack was under way is inexplicable, as we had resources nearby. A 130-man, well-armed Marine Force Reconnaissance team was stationed at Sigonella, Sicily, and could have been on the scene in a matter of hours, along with F-16 aircraft, which most likely would have saved American lives. It has been reported that a “stand-down” order was given. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was the CIA director then, said he gave no order not to respond. If such a “stand-down” order were given, we need to know who gave it.
Our failure to respond to this situation fits a pattern that has been routinely established, starting with the takeover of our embassy in Tehran in November 1979. This was followed by the bombing of our embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 of our finest military personnel; the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996; and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Regrettably, the list goes on. The message we keep sending is that it’s OK to kill Americans, since we apparently lack the political courage to respond.
Sadly, there has been little in-depth investigative reporting on the Benghazi tragedy. Therefore, in order to get to the truth, the House of Representative leadership must find the courage to appoint a special prosecutor with subpoena authority and force those involved to testify under oath. The American public deserves nothing less.
Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.