At a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs entitled “Benghazi and Beyond: What Went Wrong on September 11, 2012 and How to Prevent it from Happening at other Frontline Posts,” Congressman Brian Higgins noted the hypocrisy of holding hearings to assign blame, while the House of Representatives has cut over $400 million from what the Obama Administration requested for embassy security. Higgins suggested that the more important goal should be to determine exactly what happened and how the United States can take action to protect diplomats more effectively going forward.
Thank you Madam Chair. To provide some context here: I remember traveling in the summer of 2006 to Lebanon. It was immediately after the Hezbollah-Israeli war and we had to fly from Cyprus to the United States Embassy in Beirut along the Mediterranean Sea by helicopter. We landed and the Ambassador at the time, Ambassador Feltman, brought us into the Ambassador’s residence and he had an ashen look on his face and said that anti-American sentiment is at an all-time high.
We later left the residence and drove to meeting with Prime Minister Siniora through the streets of Beirut and I was sitting next to the Ambassador and I’d asked him if he was okay. He had said that he would be tomorrow because the United States Marines were going to dispatch 75 Marines to guard the embassy and for the past week and a half they had been guarded by the Lebanese National Army. And his concern was that if they decided to make a move – Hezbollah, which is a violent Shi’a group committed to violent jihad – on the embassy then perhaps loyalties would be mixed.
I think the point here is that diplomacy is tough work and it’s very, very dangerous work. By definition, diplomats are supposed to mix with the people and mix with the culture, not hide inside the embassy when things get tough because the real work, the tough work, of diplomats occurs during the toughest times in the most difficult places, like Benghazi.
For the past 40 years, there have been attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets including 64 under President Bush. There were fewer under Clinton than there were in the first George Bush, there were fewer than the first George Bush under Reagan, a little bit more under Carter, a little bit fewer under Ford, and little bit more under President Nixon.
The point is, I think what I’ve heard here, consistent with Mr. Ackerman’s concern, is that we’re looking to assign blame, rather than looking to find exactly what happened and how we can take actions to protect our diplomats more effectively.
I could easily talk about the budgetary issues and the fact that this Congress rejected the Administration’s request for over $400 million for embassy security than they received. You hear the assertions of projecting weakness within a political debate or peace through security. Mr. Ackerman’s right, there’s a stench of hypocrisy. If we’re serious as a body in trying to protect our diplomats, the world isn’t getting any easier. It’s getting a lot more fouled and confused and, as these places seek to evolve to become more stable, our diplomats continue to be in danger in all of these places.
So, I don’t really have a question, I just think the context is important here and we need to understand that America is the greatest country in the history of the world and it’s because we export our values. When we as Members of Congress conduct hearings that really don’t seem to be intent on getting to the root of the problem, but rather saying that they’re more responsible than we were, I think we do a great disservice to America, to Americans, but more importantly to America’s unique place in the world.
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