WASHINGTON (AFP) - Hillary Clinton has given her most detailed account yet of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, but said she will not join the "political slugfest" over the tragedy.
In excerpts from her forthcoming memoir "Hard Choices" published Friday by Politico, Clinton offered a blunt rebuttal to Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly accused her of bungling the response to the deadly attack on the US mission and of misleading the American public.
"Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country," President Barack Obama's first secretary of state said in perhaps the book's most anticipated chapter, "Benghazi: Under Attack." "Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me," wrote Mrs Clinton. "I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans."
Mrs Clinton, who lost out to Mr Obama in their battle for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, is mulling a second White House run, and her upcoming book tour - following the memoir's release June 10 - is widely seen as a way to lay the groundwork for a 2016 campaign.
Perhaps to counter what some see as the inevitability of a Clinton campaign, Republican critics and potential White House adversaries have been relentless in their investigation of the September 11, 2012 attack that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
There has also been persistent talk about Mrs Clinton's role in the aftermath, as well as the US mission's security shortcomings.
Earlier this month, the House Republican leadership controversially launched a select committee to investigate the Benghazi assault - a move Mrs Clinton has called unnecessary. She has already taken responsibility for the deadly incident, calling it the darkest hour of her career.
She noted that after an exhaustive, high-profile probe by a review board, she implemented all 29 of the board's recommendations.
In the excerpts she did not hold back in accusing critics of manipulating the tragedy for partisan gain, saying they were acting like a "broken record" in repeatedly demanding answers to the same questions.
"Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people," she wrote.
"There is a difference between getting something wrong, and committing wrong. A big difference that some have blurred to the point of casting those who made a mistake as intentionally deceitful." Mrs Clinton also defended the US intelligence in the period just before the attack, and said an anti-Islamic video that triggered protests in Cairo was "indeed a factor" in Benghazi.
"There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives," Mrs Clinton wrote. "It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence, but logic as well."