OPINION: Our five Benghazi conclusions
The administration’s promise that “justice will be done” has gone unfulfilled for four years.
By Mike Pompeo and Jim Jordan
On Sept. 11, 2012, as fire engulfed the State Department’s temporary mission facility in Benghazi, Libya, the survivors and a CIA security team who had come to their rescue made a desperate dash for a CIA annex located nearby. From there they would fend off a continued and determined jihadist attack. Despite heroic efforts that night, four Americans lost their lives. For the first time in more than 30 years, a U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, was assassinated. Another State Department employee, Sean Smith, was also killed. Two former Navy Seals who worked for the CIA, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, died defending their fellow Americans at the annex.
For nearly two years, questions persisted about the policies and decisions surrounding this tragic event. To ensure that the American people had answers to these questions, in May 2014 the House of Representatives authorized the creation of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, Libya. On Tuesday, the committee released the chairman’s mark of our report on the attack.
We are both members of the Benghazi committee and of committees that have previously investigated the events surrounding the attack. With the benefit of our past experience, and with the benefit of the facts brought to light by the committee, we felt it necessary to write separately to offer our own views to the American people.
Our contribution to the committee’s report draws five conclusions: First, the Obama administration misled the American public about the events in Benghazi. Second, security in Benghazi was inadequate given the risk to the facility, and Secretary Clinton had missed the last clear chance to protect her people. Third, when things went badly, America did not move heaven and earth to rescue our people. Fourth, the administration broke its promise to the American people to bring the terrorists responsible for the attack to justice. Finally, we make note of the disappointing fact that the administration did not cooperate with our committee’s investigation from the very beginning. In fact, they obstructed our work from day one.
It is our belief that many of these failures were the result of the administration’s obsession with preserving a political narrative.
It is clear the administration was deeply committed to its Libya strategy. National security was a major component of the president’s re-election campaign, Secretary Clinton’s legacy, and potentially for her own presidential campaign.
The fact that Benghazi was a dangerous city and that security at the State Department’s facility there was inadequate was an open secret. A diplomatic security agent formerly stationed there referred to it as a “suicide mission” and another said that “everybody back here in D.C. knows that people are going to die in Benghazi, and nobody cares and nobody is going to care until somebody does die.”
When the first wave of the assault in Benghazi started at 9:42 p.m. on Sept. 11, State Department officials in Washington and Tripoli knew almost immediately that it was a sophisticated and coordinated terrorist attack. Eyewitness accounts confirmed that fact for decision makers at the White House and the Pentagon.
Despite this knowledge, no military assets reached Benghazi during the fight. They did not arrive in Benghazi for nearly 24 hours; no military man or machine (except two unarmed drones) were even launched before the fighting was over.
What did launch before the fighting ended, however, was the political spin.
At 10:08 p.m. in Libya, while Tyrone Woods was still fighting from the roof of the CIA annex, the State Department released a statement attempting to define Benghazi as a video-inspired protest gone bad. Shortly after that statement was released, Secretary Clinton told her daughter the truth in a private email. The next day she said in a private phone call with the Egyptian prime minister “we know” it was a planned attack, and not a video-inspired protest as her own public statement suggested.
The false video narrative was further disseminated over the next few days by the White House, Ambassador Susan Rice and others — long after they knew the truth.
As a sad epitaph to this story, the administration’s promise that “justice will be done” has gone unfulfilled for four years, despite there being no doubt that our nation can make good on that commitment. The only terrorist known to have been captured will not face the full measure of justice, since the administration has declined to pursue the death penalty.
It is our hope that the efforts of the committee in uncovering the facts laid out in its report, and our effort to provide our own conclusions based on those facts, will help to bring some measure of finality to this tragic chapter of American history. The families of those killed, and the American people, deserve nothing less.
Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are members of the Benghazi Select Committee. This op-ed originally appeared online on June 28, 2016 at USAToday.com.