Clinton on Benghazi deaths: US must still lead despite tragedy

Former secretary of state and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton arriving to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC yesterday.
Former secretary of state and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton arriving to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Under scrutiny for her handling of the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private e-mail server, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton yesterday invoked the memory of slain US Ambassador Christopher Stevens to defend her approach to diplomacy, saying that they shared a common belief in the need for America to lead.

The Democratic presidential front-runner's goal in appearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi was to honour the memory of Mr Stevens and the three other Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in the Libyan city, she said in her opening statement.

Mrs Clinton's approach recalls her 2013 congressional testimony about the attack, when she chastised Republicans over accusations the Obama administration had been misleading about the source of the violence.

At one point, she said: "The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?"

The campaign did not say how Mrs Clinton planned to respond to any questions about how quickly help was sent to the besieged outpost, about the administration's initial explanation for the attack, or about her e-mail.

"We think there are some missing pieces, and the request for diplomatic security" is one example, Representative Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican on the committee, said on MSNBC's Morning Joe programme yesterday.

Mrs Clinton said that while Benghazi was a tragedy from which the US must learn, the country must continue to lead around the globe, which means continuing to send diplomats to dangerous places.

The best way to honour the legacy of the four Americans who died in Benghazi, she contended, was to ensure the US government does all it can to protect its diplomatic corps, even if they are in regions where there is no American military presence.

Yesterday's hearing was more than a year in the making, as Republican chairman Trey Gowdy's staff grappled with Mrs Clinton's lawyers over how many interviews she would do with the panel and whether her testimony would be in public or private.

Mrs Clinton's team insisted on a single public hearing, and Mr Gowdy agreed to those terms in late July.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2015, with the headline 'Clinton on Benghazi deaths: US must still lead despite tragedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe