Some began criticizing today’s hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee long before it was gaveled in. Those who passed judgment on the hearing before knowing what would transpire must share White House spokesman Jay Carney’s belief that “Benghazi happened a long time ago” and no longer merits national discussion, much less congressional investigation.
With respect, I disagree – as do the hundreds of Georgians who have contacted me concerning this matter.
All the congressional hearings in the world won’t restore the lives of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty. The aim of these proceedings is ensuring proper protection for American diplomats moving forward, especially those serving in critical threat environments. We cannot allow the tragedy that took place in Benghazi to be compounded by further loss of life simply because the State Department refuses to acknowledge and address the security shortcomings made obvious on September 11, 2012.
Congressional Republicans are not the only ones still concerned about the events surrounding the Benghazi attack. The State Department’s own inspector general is conducting a special review of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) process as well as an audit of the ARB’s Benghazi investigation.
Today’s hearing raised several issues not addressed by the ARB report – actionable information that deserves a response from both Congress and the State Department. Members of Congress must thoroughly understand these matters so we can craft appropriate policy and make sound appropriations decisions moving forward
Witnesses described the need for more and better training for State Department employees deployed in critical threat environments. We also heard new insights concerning the communication – or lack thereof – between State officials in Washington and those stationed abroad.
It’s also clear that State Department officials have to be more responsive to its overseas officers and actively seek information from the front lines when security situations deteriorate. Today’s hearing highlighted the fact that Ambassador Stevens had requested additional security, but did not pursue his request because an Administration official essentially told him that more security would not be provided. Just as troubling is the fact that State officers in Libya immediately reported the events of September 11, 2012 as an attack – not a demonstration, as the Administration held publicly for days after the incident.
Bureaucrats in Washington can’t just create a narrative of what is happening halfway around the world without input from the diplomats on the ground. During and after the attack in Benghazi, Administration officials failed to consider all the facts at their disposal because they had already decided on the narrative they wanted to sell to the public.
Protecting those who serve our nation should be a priority for elected officials. I applaud the brave State Department employees who have come forward despite opposition from their superiors to share information vital to this investigation. They don’t want the mistakes of Benghazi to be repeated. With increased pressure from Congress and the public, I hope the White House will make this a priority as well.
A freshman Republican from Georgia's 9th Congressional District. He is vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, and is a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.