This week’s testimony by family members of the Benghazi victims in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s hearings was nothing short of gut-wrenching.
After more than a year, the families still don’t known in any detail what happened to their sons during the night of the terrorist attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. “It has been pure hell,” said Patricia Smith, mother of information specialist Sean Smith. Charles Woods, father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, echoed her agony and deep frustration.
President Obama and his spokesmen have called Benghazi a “phony scandal.” Most of the Democrats on the committee even failed to return for the second half of the hearing, at which the family members spoke, defying the most basic norms of common decency.
The testimonies of the families of Christopher Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, and Glen Dougherty were preceded at the hearing by a highly contentious discussion of the Accountability Review Board (ARB)’s report on Benghazi. The chief witnesses were the report’s chief authors, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, both of whom heatedly defended their report, as might be expected. In this, they were joined by committee Democrats.
Yet the contention by committee chairman Darrell Issa (R–CA) that, by not interviewing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama, or U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, the ARB undermined its own credibility clearly has validity. Pickering’s best answer was that Clinton “had nothing to do with it.” By her own words, however, Clinton “took full responsibility” for what happened on her watch.
So many questions remain. More than 30 eyewitnesses to the attacks on the Benghazi diplomatic facility and the CIA compound on September 11, 2012, still have not been heard from. Those who have spoken out, such as Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, claim they have been punished career-wise for telling their story.
Benghazi is an outrage, and it will not go away until the truth is known and the guilty brought to justice—and those here in Washington who failed their fellow countrymen have been held to account.