Latest update: December 30th, 2013
Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton told CNN during an interview in Lima, Peru on Tuesday, Oct. 16, that she takes “responsibility” for what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2011. But, she said, “what I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game.”
If you’ve said you take responsibility for something, there is no “gotcha” or “blame game,” your acknowledgement means that you are the one to be blamed for the failure, that you are responsible for the consequences of the failures that occurred under your watch. So the question may remain whether the Secretary can credibly deflect responsibility from President Obama for the failure that led to the murders of American personnel in the most dangerous part of the world on the anniversary of the single worst attack on our country in history, not whether or not someone is to blame.
Blaming public officials for a failure so colossal that our Ambassador and others who were serving our country were murdered, that the buildings in Benghazi, Libya – which are the iconic representations of the United States of America – were invaded, looted and destroyed, is exactly the right thing, not a “game” and not to be ridiculed and not to be avoided, even if a national political campaign is taking place.
Has Clinton explained why the U.S. State Department refused to provide additional security when experts involved knew it was needed and made the requests? Has she explained why the man she personally chose to be the U.S. Ambassador to Libya received death threats and yet no additional security was provided? Has she explained why the sensibilities of the Libyans who might be offended if the American security assigned to the Benghazi consulate had bullets in their guns trumped the sensibilities of the American family members whose loved ones died because they were not protected?
In the wake of an attack like this, in the fog of war, there’s always going to be confusion. And I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had. As time has gone on, that information has changed. We’ve gotten more detail, but that’s not surprising. That always happens.
But Clinton’s direct subordinate Charlene Lamb, the person from the State Department with direct responsibility for the consulates, testified at the House congressional Oversight Committee hearing last week that she was in contact with the Benghazi consulate from almost the first minutes of the assault.
That means the State Department knew virtually immediately that there was no protest-gone-wrong outside the consulate, what there was, was a well-planned attack. As Lamb’s testimony made clear, There was no violence inspired by a movie deemed insulting, there was violence inspired by anti-American hatred.
But despite Secretary Clinton’s efforts to use her claim of responsibility as a shield to block further inquiries and to cast any efforts to do so as electioneering and playing “gotcha,” at least some Republican members of congress have made clear the president is ultimately responsible for both the tragedy and its cover-up.
In a letter released Monday, October 15, U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) stated,
the events of September 11 were preceded by an escalating pattern of attacks this year in Benghazi, including a bomb that was thrown into our Consulate in April, another explosive device that was detonated outside of our Consulate in June, and an assassination attempt on the British Ambassador. If the President was truly not aware of this rising threat level in Benghazi, then we have lost confidence in his national security team, whose responsibility it is to keep the President informed. But if the President was aware of these earlier attacks in Benghazi prior to the events of September 11, 2012, then he bears full responsibility for any security failures that occurred. The security of Americans serving our nation everywhere in the world is ultimately the job of the Commander-in-Chief. The buck stops there.
What’s more, the laying of blame for the tragedy on an American-made film for which this administration repeatedly apologized to the Muslim world also needs to be explained
the separate issue of the insistence by members of the Administration, including the President himself, that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video, long after it had become clear that the real cause was a terrorist attack. The President also bears responsibility for this portrayal of the attack, and we continue to believe that the American people deserve to know why the Administration acted as it did.
To mangle a tag phrase from a popular 1970 movie, responsibility means always having to say you’re sorry. And in this case there remains much more to be said.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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