At the Benghazi hearings being held today in Washington, prominent Republicans and witnesses are criticizing the Obama administration's response to last year's attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The attack on the compound last year on September 11, killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
These hearings represent the latest resurrection of Republican claims that the Obama administration did not do everything in their power to stop the attacks—and that they misled the public on the facts of the attack. There were claims that despite knowing the attacks were from al Qaeda, officials shifted the dialogue so as not to detract from Obama's re-election campaign.
The primary witness is Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya. Hicks was the highest ranking official in Libya during the time of the attacks, though he was in the capitol of Tripoli at the time. Here is his prepared statement, in full.
He stated that from the beginning of the attack, White House officials knew that al Qaeda was attacking, but they claimed the assault grew from a demonstration over an anti-Islam movie made in the United States. After hearing this claim, Hicks said:
“I was stunned, my jaw dropped and I was embarrassed."
Republican Representative McHenry questioned Hicks regarding Susan Rice's statements to the press the Sunday, which implied the attack stemmed from a protest:
McHenry: Was there any evidence when you were there in Libya on that day that this was a protest?
Hicks: No there was none and I'm confident Ambassador Stevens would have reported a protest immediately if one appeared on his door. The protocol was of course for us to evacuate immediately from the consulate and move to the annex
McHenry: OK. Was there anything in connection to a YouTube video? Was there any awareness that the events occurred because of a YouTube video?
Hicks: The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya.
Hicks is also criticizing the supposedly stalled military retaliation. In a statement to Congress on April 11, he says if the U.S. had sent an aircraft, he thinks they could have prevented a mortar attack. He released a statement on Monday that the military personnel were ordered "not to go." Apparently, there were four Special Ops personnel in Libya, left over from the 16-person team sent to help install the U.S. embassy after the fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. New details reveal that they were helping the evacuation of the embassy in Tripoli, when the lieutenant colonel in charge said they should go to Benghazi. Then the Africa Command ordered them not to go:
"They were furious... I can only say, well I will quote Lieutenant Colonel Gibson who said, ‘This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.’”
Meanwhile, officials at the Pentagon have directly stated that Hicks is incorrect. They have said that it would have been impossible for a small team of Special Ops personnel to save the Americans attacks in Benghazi—and that they might not have even arrived in the city before the attack took place.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have called foul on Republicans, insinuating that they are using this issue to launch a partisan attack: "It will be incredibly disheartening if the only reason that this hearing is being held is to level a partisan attack and try to grab headlines," Pennsylvania Representative Matt Cartwright said.
Many believe that these hearings are an attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton before her potential run for presidential office in 2016. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, testified for over five hours in January before the House and Senate Foreign Relations committees, saying that there was a "systematic breakdown" regarding Benghazi, and that the State Department was taking further steps to increase security at diplomatic compounds.
[Image via AP]