The Select Committee on Benghazi released its much-anticipated report last week, documenting through more than 800 pages a better understanding of what happened leading up to, during and after the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks that killed four Americans: Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The report contains a substantial amount of new information that reveals a much clearer picture about Benghazi and changes our understanding about the government’s mishandling of the attacks. As a Member of the Select Committee, I encourage everyone to read the report for themselves online at www.Benghazi.House.gov.
There are a few key takeaways I believe are worth highlighting. First, many mistakes were made by different agencies leading up to the attacks, none more critical than the failure to be prepared for the anniversary of September 11. The State Department refused multiple requests to increase security, including from Ambassador Stephens himself. The military unit best-equipped to respond to an attack of this nature was inexplicably off training that day. Department of Defense officials were unaware of covert facilities and other critical assets in the region.
There was a clear breakdown in posture and preparedness that hamstrung the ability of our military to respond. The report shows that, while no one person involved is solely responsible for these breakdowns, no one person involved is free from responsibility either.
A second key takeaway is that, during the attacks, there was a serious lack of urgency in Washington to respond. While our guys on the ground in Benghazi were taking gunfire and mortar attacks, Washington was moving at a snail’s pace. Despite President Barack Obama directing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to use all resources at his disposal to save American lives and Secretary Panetta then ordering the nearest known assets to deploy, bureaucratic indecision and miscommunication delayed those forces. Administration officials were more concerned about diplomatic sensitivities and promoting their policy agenda as successful than they were about the safety of the Americans under attack. The ultimate result was not one military asset being deployed to Benghazi.
A final key takeaway is that, in the aftermath of the attack, there was a clear effort across agencies to cover their tracks. We now know beyond a doubt that what Administration officials were telling the American people about Benghazi and what they acknowledged to each other privately was very different. The White House continued to conflate the anti-Muslim YouTube video and the Benghazi attacks even though no intelligence ever indicated a connection. Meanwhile, emails and statements from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton show her clear understanding early on that “our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like [sic]group” and “we know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest.”
Our government failed the people it sent into harm’s way and then misled the public in the aftermath. That is unacceptable in our society, and Americans should demand better of their government leaders. Our report shines a bright light on these failures in the hope that we can prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband, Riley and their two children.