When I took Hillary Rodham Clinton to task in January for the mishandling of security in Benghazi, Libya, I told her that if I had been president at the time, I would have relieved her of her post. Some politicians and pundits took offense at my line of questioning.
During those hearings, I reminded Mrs. Clinton that multiple requests were sent to the State Department asking for increased security measures. I asked if she had read the cables from Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens asking for increased security. She replied that she was busy and had not read them. I find that inexcusable.
Four months later, we are hearing that Mrs. Clinton allegedly withheld information from a counterterrorism bureau during the response. We are hearing new allegations that Special Forces wanting to respond during the attacks were told, “You can’t go” by superiors. Ambassador Stevens’ deputy, Gregory Hicks, testified this week that he spoke with Mrs. Clinton on the night of the attack, when these orders were given. We are hearing that Mr. Hicks was initially told by the State Department not to meet with congressional investigators.
We are, again, hearing allegations that contradict the White House’s story.
Benghazi security was a life-and-death matter that resulted in the latter. The notion that high-ranking government officials are somehow beyond reproach, as some suggested during my criticism of Mrs. Clinton, is dangerous and wrong.
The secretary of state’s responsibility is to protect our diplomats. Mrs. Clinton should have been relieved of her post for denying pleas for additional security. Almost 20 years ago, President Clinton’s secretary of defense was relieved of his post for a similarly bad decision.
In early October 1993, a battle between U.S. forces and Somali militia in Mogadishu left 18 Americans soldiers dead, 80 wounded and two American helicopters shot down. Today, this is remembered as the Battle of Mogadishu or more popularly, “Black Hawk Down,” thanks to a subsequent movie of the same name.
A month earlier in September, then-Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Colin L. Powell requested soldiers, tanks and armor-plated vehicles to reinforce the mission in Somalia. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin denied these requests. The Associated Press reported the following on Oct. 8, 1993, just days after the Battle of Mogadishu: “Defense Secretary Les Aspin today brushed aside calls for his resignation as ‘the politics of Capitol Hill,’ but conceded that in light of recent casualties, he shouldn’t have rejected a request to send more armor and troops to Somalia last month.”
Two months later, after less than a year of service, Aspin resigned as secretary of defense.
Though Mr. Clinton cited personal reasons for Aspin’s resignation, it was reported widely that he had asked him to step down. Aspin did ultimately accept responsibility for his decisions, saying, “The ultimate responsibility for the safety of our troops is mine. I was aware of the request and could have directed that a deployment order be drawn up. I did not, and I accept responsibility for the consequences.”
By refusing to grant requests for weapons and reinforcement in Somalia in 1993, Aspin made a bad decision, admitted his bad decision, accepted responsibility and eventually left his position as a result of it.
When Ambassador Stevens, Libya’s site-security team commander Lt. Col. Andrew Wood and others made repeated requests for increased security and resources in Benghazi, those requests were ignored. No one denies that these requests crossed Mrs. Clinton’s desk. But virtually everyone involved has denied that they should accept responsibility for the tragedy in Benghazi.
Now there are new allegations, accusations that arguably bear more significance on how this tragedy unfolded. It is imperative that we continue to ask: Who was responsible?
My job as a U.S. senator and as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to be part of the confirmation process for high-ranking national security positions as well as review the performance of officeholders. When Aspin made bad decisions in 1993, he testified before the Senate, which examined his job performance, and many gave him a bad review.
Mrs. Clinton was never above a similar job-performance review. When I asked her in January if her resignation meant that she was finally accepting responsibility, the answer never came.
Will the answers ever come? Don’t the victims’ families deserve them? Shouldn’t we do everything in our power to leave no rock unturned in order make sure such bad decision-making doesn’t happen again?
Aspin resigned over Black Hawk Down. The same precedent should have applied apply to Mrs. Clinton. To date, no one has ultimately taken responsibility for Benghazi.
My office is currently seeking out the witnesses and survivors of Benghazi to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. To date, the Obama administration has refused to let them testify.
Too many questions remain unanswered. Now, there are too many new questions. The evidence we had in January already suggested that Mrs. Clinton ignored repeated requests for more security in Benghazi. The new evidence we have today — and that continues to mount — suggests that at the very least, Mrs. Clinton should never hold high office again.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.