Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Clinton Gets Emotional In Senate Testimony About Benghazi Attack

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday took responsibility for the security failure in Benghazi, Libya, delivering an emotional statement to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

During her final Senate appearance as the nation’s top diplomat, Clinton defended her department's handling of the attack’s aftermath. She teared up as she recalled consoling the families of the four Americans who died during the Sept. 11 assault, and rejected Republican allegations that the administration engaged in a cover-up.

"For me, this is not just a matter of policy … it’s personal,” Clinton said while choking up. “I 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, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."

“As I have said many times since Sept. 11, I take responsibility. Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger and more secure,” she said.

But she also defended the administration's response to the assault, noting that an independent investigation found that State's actions "saved American lives in real time."

Republicans used the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans to criticize President Obama's national security record during the 2012 campaign. The political fury cost Susan Rice, Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, a shot at replacing Clinton as head of State after she gave television interviews in which she linked the attack to a peaceful protest gone awry.

Under questioning from Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Clinton said she had no say in the decision to send Rice to the Sunday shows to deliver the administration's take on the situation in Libya.

“I personally was not focused on talking points," Clinton said. "I was focused on keeping our people safe.”

She described Rice's controversial statements as emerging from a "typical" inter-agency process and said many questions about the attack remain.

“We didn't know who the attackers were or what their motives were," she said. "The picture remains somewhat complicated.”

She said there's evidence the attack in Benghazi was premeditated but “not necessarily indicative of extensive planning.”

She also said the attack was not an isolated event.

“Any clear-eyed examination of this matter must begin with this sobering fact: Since 1988, there have been 19 Accountability Review Boards investigating attacks on American diplomats and their facilities,” she said. “Concerns about terrorism and instability in North Africa are not new. Indeed, they have been a top priority for our entire national-security team. But after Benghazi, we accelerated a diplomatic campaign to increase pressure on al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups across the region.”

She urged lawmakers not to use the attack as an excuse to withdraw from the world.

“The United States must continue to lead … in the Middle East and all around the globe,” she said. “We have come a long way in the past four years. We cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer and our security at home is threatened.”(source)

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