The lengths to which the American right-wing will go to craft false narratives for their twisted political agenda is truly astounding. Their two-year long attempt to assign the blame September 11th, 2012 terrorist attack on the United States embassy complex in Benghazi, Libya on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been one of the most despicable partisan political witch-hunts our nation has ever seen.
Those feelings are shared by Dr. Anne Stevens, sister of slain Ambassador Chris Stevens, who spoke out against right-wing conspiracy theorists and Republican budget-spenders in an interview with the New Yorker, absolving former Secretary Clinton of blame for the attacks and placing it squarely where it belongs – with the House Republicans who slashed embassy security funds in the name of austerity.
Dr. Stevens said that “I do not blame Hillary Clinton or [then Secretary of Defense] Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”
When asked if she thought the issue was politicized, she replied “Yes! Definitely politicized. Every report I read that mentions him specifically has a political bent, an accusatory bent.” She then went on to place to blame for the attacks where it truly belongs: with the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.
“It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted…It would be much more useful for Congress to focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world—for increasing personnel, language capabilities, for increasing staff to build relationships, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. I would love to hear they are drastically increasing the budget.”
In 2009, the House of Representatives cut $1.2 billion dollars from the State Department budget. In 2011, Secretary Clinton warned Congress that continued cuts to the State Department security budget would be placing Americans at risk across the world – and she was promptly ignored by House Republicans, who slashed security funding by $128 million in 2011 and $331 million in 2012.
Secretary Clinton never denied any requests for further security – another falsehood repeated every day by pathological liar Donald J. Trump. Whether or not increased security would have saved the lives of Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone S. Woods will never be known. The attack on the embassy compound by suspected militant group Ansar al-Sharia reportedly involved over a hundred and twenty-five militamen and as many as two hundred, armed with heavy weapons like rocket-propelled grenades and improvised artillery mounted on trucks (technicals).
But lost in the entire ridiculous smear campaign against Secretary Clinton and the obsessive investigation into the attack are the ideals and bravery of Ambassador Stevens himself. Honoring her brother and his commitment to being the face of the United States in a foreign land, Dr. Stevens spoke at length of her brother’s love for the land of Libya, his excitement to be the President’s envoy and how proud he was to be able to play a role in the creation of a new Libya following the death of former dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. He knew the risks. He was very well aware that his job was dangerous, and that he could lose his life. He “never showed any fear or reluctance to continue the work. He took danger in stride.”
It is truly appalling to see the loss of four Americans lives in a terrorist attack be turned into an excuse for an enourmously wasteful smear campaign targeting a presidential candidate during an election year, but that’s what our nation has come to. Ambassador Stevens was a true American, gladly risking his life with the hopes of being able to help bring stability and democracy to a new nation emerging from the depths of oppression. We honor his sacrifice – and the sacrifice of all Americans who lose their lives defending American interests and fighting to bring stability to a chaotic world. But it’s far past time for us to put this tragedy to rest, and to look forward to the future.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.