Thursday, October 22
One line of questioning during a hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi is telling. Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate, testified in response to questions from Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
Clinton suggested she could not micro-manage or second-guess the assessments from security professional on the ground, and Westmoreland insisted on protection for US facilities such as the compound in Benghazi.
Westmoreland: I'm not saying shut it down. I'm saying protect it.... And when you say security professionals, I'm not trying to be disparaging with anybody, but I don't know who those folks were but ...
Clinton: Well, they are people who risked their lives.
Westmoreland: ... but it's just my little opinion that they were not very professional when it came to protecting people
Clinton later returned to defending capabilities of security personnel protecting diplomatic and other US staff.
Clinton: I must add, Congressman, the diplomatic security professionals are among the best in the world. I would put them up against anybody. And I just cannot allow any comment to be in the record in any way criticizing or disparaging them. They have kept Americans safe in two wars and in a lot of terrible situations over the last many years. I trust them with my life, you trust them with yours when you are on Codels. they deserve better, and they deserve all the support that Congress can give them because they are doing a really hard job very well.
Westmoreland: Well, ma'am, all I can say is that they miss something here and we lost four Americans."
The committee was established to investigate events surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi September 11, 2012. Assignments in countries with extremists and insurgengies are difficult. Any encounter, even ones with a child, can turn into a deadly suicide bombing or attack. Security teams must constantly observe surroundings and nuances to make instant assessments. Security teams must also assess the courage of those whom they protect.
Such decisions are a constant worry for the Army Ranger in Fear of Beauty:
As they turned the corner, a young girl emerged from the brush, unnoticed by the driver or Cameron. Joey gripped his M16, and Habib's hand covered his side arm.... Smiling, she approached the Humvee, running her hand along the side and letting it rest there, as if posing for a photo.... Startled the driver turned. A more skittish soldier might have shot her - he fervent wish of every extremist.
Old rules or codes of conduct do not apply in conflict areas like Afghanistan and Libya and even the security forces on the ground struggle over such decisions.
Photo of Benghazi, courtesy of Dennixo and Wikimedia Commons.
Tuesday, October 16
President Barack Obama on Benghazi consulate attack, Rose Garden, September 12, 2012
"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for."
Presidential Debate, Hempstead, NY, October 16, 2012:
MITT ROMNEY: There were many days that passed before we knew whether this was a spontaneous demonstration, or actually whether it was a terrorist attack.
BARACK OBAMA: The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we're going to hunt down those who committed this crime.
ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That's what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
UPDATE, Oct 18: Some of the president's longtime critics suggest that the words "acts of terror" did not apply specifically to the Benghazi attacks. The statement's title is
"Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya."
"Acts of terror" can only mean Libya. Those who suggest otherwise - their disrespect for the presidency, petulantly and desperately trying to remove meaning from words - are doing their candidate, Mitt Romney, a grave disservice.