Hillary Clinton, Benghazi and the real issues

Republican senators and representatives made a spectacle of themselves Wednesday in grilling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the killing of U.S. envoys in Benghazi, Libya. last September.

The grandstanding by GOP senators – all men of course – at their Foreign Relations Committee hearing did not improve their public standing. And it did nothing to advance the security of Americans at home or abroad.

One wonders why these same senators or their predecessors did not haul President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before their committee after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The hypocrisy of congressional Republicans is highlighted by the fact that their House members voted to cut nearly $300 million from the administration’s requested U.S. embassy security budget last October. (About $88 million was later restored in negotiations.) In 2009, House Republicans voted to cut $1.2 billion from State Department operations, including funds for 300 additional diplomatic security positions.

Some say the Republicans are eager to harm Clinton’s presidential chances should she choose to run in 2016. Others believe these men like to pick on women. But there is more to consider.

Clinton gave an apt response to repeated second-guessing questions from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., about what happened in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. She said sharply, “Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.”

By fixating on the details of what State Department officials did or did not know or do in regard to the Benghazi attack, the Republicans have put up a sideshow that dodges their responsibility in pushing an aggressively militarist U.S. foreign policy.

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican warhawk, used the opportunity to complain that the Obama administration has not done enough “nation-building.”

In fact, this administration has, thankfully, resisted the most aggressive war calls from hawks like McCain, on Iran, Afghanistan and other hotspots. But perhaps it has done too much, not too little, “nation-building.”

The Republican senatorial interrogators, and Secretary Clinton, did not address key underlying issues of American foreign policy:

* the negative, destabiizing fallout of the U.S. military intervention in Libya.
* the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” becoming a justification for U.S. military action in other countries with generally harmful effects on the people of those countries and the regions involved.
* the role of the U.S., under the Republican administration of George H. W. Bush, in financing and otherwise supporting the rise of religious fundamentalist terrorism – the birth of al-Qaeda – in Afghanistan in the late 1980s.

To really provide security for Americans, those policies have to be re-evaluated and discarded in favor of a cooperative internationalism that encourages social and economic justice.

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP



Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.