Noting that terrorist attacks in Benghazi on September 11th in 2012 as part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and its partners in North Africa, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered an emotional speech and took the responsibility of the attack.
In her remarks in Washington DC before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Clinton shares lessons they have learned and how can the United States protecting its people, and to continue to champion America’s interests and values.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger, and more secure.” – Ms. Clinton
She says taking responsibility meant moving quickly in those first uncertain hours and days to respond to the immediate crisis, but also to further protect the American people and posts in high-threat areas across the region and the world.
“It meant launching an independent investigation to determine exactly what happened in Benghazi and to recommend steps for improvement.” – Ms. Clinton
She said taking responsibility also means intensifying efforts to combat terrorism and figure out effective ways to support the emerging democracies in North Africa and beyond.
Ms. Clinton also shares some of the lessons they have learned, the steps the steps they have taken, and the work it continues to do.
“First, let’s start on the night of September 11th itself and those difficult early days.” – Ms. Clinton
Ms. Clinton narrates that she directed their response from the State Department, stayed in close contact with officials from across US government and the Libyan Government.
She says she saw firsthand what Ambassador Pickering and former Chairman Mike Mullen called timely and exceptional coordination; no delays in decision making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military.
Information Management Officer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“The board said the response saved American lives in real time, and it did.” – Ms. Clinton
She cites the very next morning, Ms. Clinton told the American people that heavily armed militants assaulted US compound, and she vowed to bring them to justice.
Ms. Clinton also immediately ordered a review of US security posture around the world, with particular scrutiny for high-threat posts.
She asked the Department of Defense to join Interagency Security Assessment Teams and to dispatch hundreds of additional Marine Security Guards.
“Second, even as we took these steps, I hurried to appoint the Accountability Review Board led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen so we could more fully understand from objective, independent examination what went wrong and how to fix it.” – Ms. Clinton
According to Ms. Clinton, she has accepted every one of their recommendations.
She says she 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 pursuing additional steps above and beyond the recommendations.
In addition, Ms. Clinton reports that US task force started by translating the recommendations into 64 specific action items.
They were assigned to bureaus and offices with clear timelines for completion.
Ms. Clinton reports that eighty-five percent are now on track to be completed by the end of March; a number are already completed.
“And we will use this opportunity to take a top-to-bottom look and rethink how we make decisions on where, when and whether people operate in high-threat areas, and then how we respond to threats and crises.” – Ms. Clinton
The US government is also initiating an annual High Threat Post Review chaired by the Secretary of State, and ongoing reviews by the Deputy Secretaries, to ensure that pivotal questions about security do reach the highest levels.
According to Ms. Clinton, the US State Department also been moving forward on a third front: addressing the broader strategic challenge in North Africa and the wider region, because, after all, Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum.
Ms. Clinton notes the Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.
Instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we saw just last week in Algeria, she added.
She points out that concerns about terrorism and instability in North Africa are of course not new.
“They have been a top priority for the entire Administration’s national security team.” – Ms. Clinton
However, Ms. Clinton says the world has been facing a rapidly changing threat environment, and the US government has had to keep working at ways to increase pressure on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the other terrorist groups in the region.
The US government has focused on targeting al-Qaida’s syndicate of terror closing safe havens, cutting off finances, countering extremist ideology, slowing the flow of new recruits.
The US continues to hunt the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi and are determined to bring them to justice.
In addition, Ms. Clinton underscores the importance of the United States continuing to lead in the Middle East, in North Africa, and around the world.
“We’ve come a long way in the past four years, and we cannot afford to retreat now.” – Ms. Clinton
She underlines that when America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root; US interests suffer; US security at home is threatened, Ms. Clinton stressed.
She says what’s why she sent Chris Stevens to Benghazi in the first place because nNobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution, then during the transition.
“A weak Libyan Government, marauding militias, terrorist groups; a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he did not waver. Because he understood it was critical for America to be represented there at that time.” – Ms. Clinton
Ms. Clinton emphasizes that for her, it is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal, she sais.
She adds that she 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, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children.” – Ms. Clinton
Ms. Clinton says it has been one of the great honors of her life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID with nearly 70,000 serving in Washington; more than 270 posts around the world.
Ms. Clinton says the US State Department staff get up and go to work every day, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, because they believe, as they believe, the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known.
They do ask what they can do for their country, and America is stronger for it, she stressed.
“So today, after four years in this job, traveling nearly a million miles, visiting 112 countries, my faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever.” – Ms. Clinton
Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, Ms. Clinton says she feels again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensible nation.
“And I am confident that, with your help, we will keep the United States safe, strong, and exceptional.” – Ms. Clinton
Ms. Clinton thankes the committee for their partnership and their support of diplomats and development experts.
She adds the Committee shares her sense of responsibility and urgency.
“While we all may not agree on everything, let’s stay focused on what really matters: protecting our people and the country we love. And thank you for the support you personally have given to me over the last four years.” – Ms. Clinton
Reports say since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities. Benghazi joins a long list of tragedies for US Department, for other agencies, and for America: hostages taken in Tehran in 1979, US Embassy and Marine barracks bombed in Beirut in 1983, Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, US embassies in East Africa in 1998, consulate staff murdered in Jeddah in 2004, the Khost attack in 2009. Since 1977, 65 American diplomatic personnel have been killed by terrorists.
In September 2012, the United States of America mourned the death of four American personnel in Benghazi who died in a rocket attack on the temporary consulate.
Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed along with three others in the rocket attack. The death of the US personnel sparked international condemnation
A 21 year veteran of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Stevens died from injuries he sustained in the attack on the Benghazi office.
As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi.
Mr. Stevens risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation.
The US condemns this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.
Libya had been engulfed by fighting since a pro-democracy movement opposed to the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi emerged in February 2011 following similar protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries across North Africa and the Middle East.