it’s our job to do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again!

Es­ti­mated reading time is 6 min­utes.

EVERYWHERE I TURN, whether in con­ver­sa­tion, via emails from my Re­pub­lican con­tacts, and es­pe­cially on the in­ternet, I hear people “quoting” then Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clinton to the ef­fect that she said that the raid deaths reason what­ever in Beng­hazi “didn’t matter” or “doesn’t matter.”

As much as the righties hate all things Clin­tonian, they (and those Dems who take the cor­po­rate media at their word) could at least get the quote cor­rect and in con­text. Of course, that would di­lute the state­ment of all its pro­pa­gan­distic value for the right’s ubiq­ui­tous dis­sem­i­na­tors of misinformation.

Here is the full and ac­tual (that means it’s REAL and NOT made-up, al­though I am not sure that those qual­i­fiers matter all that much to the demagogue-ridden rightwing of this country) state­ment that Ms. Clinton made be­fore the Senate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mittee on Jan­uary 23, 2013. She was having a back-and-forth with Sen­ator Ron Johnson (R-WI):

JOHNSON: “Thank you Mr. Chairman and Madame Sec­re­tary. I would like to join my col­leagues in thanking you for your ser­vice sin­cerely, and also ap­pre­ciate the fact that you’re here tes­ti­fying and glad that you’re looking in good health.”

CLINTON: “Thank you.”

JOHNSON: “Did you . . . were you fully aware in real time—and again I re­alize how big your job is and every­thing was erupting in the Middle East at this time—were you fully aware of these 20 in­ci­dents re­ported in the ARB [State De­part­ment Ac­count­ability Re­view Board] in real time?”

CLINTON: “I was aware of the ones that were brought to my at­ten­tion. They were part of our on­going dis­cus­sion about the de­te­ri­o­rating threat en­vi­ron­ment in Eastern Libya. We cer­tainly were very con­scious of them. I was as­sured by our se­cu­rity pro­fes­sionals that re­pairs were underway—additional se­cu­rity up­grades had taken place.”

JOHNSON: “Thank you. Did you see per­son­ally the cable on—I be­lieve it was, Au­gust 12th—specif­i­cally asking for, ba­si­cally, re­in­force­ments for the se­cu­rity de­tail that was going to be evac­u­ating . . . leaving in Au­gust? Did you see that personally?”

CLINTON: “No sir.”

What dif­fer­ence, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what hap­pened and do—and do every­thing we can to pre­vent it from ever hap­pening again, Senator!

JOHNSON: “Okay. When you read the ARB, it strikes me as how cer­tain the people were that the at­tack started at 9:40 Beng­hazi time. When was the first time you spoke—or have you ever spoken to—the re­turnees, the evac­uees? Did you per­son­ally speak to those folks?”

CLINTON: “I have spoken to one of them, but I waited until the ARB had done its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, be­cause I did not want there to be any­body raising and issue that I had spoken to anyone be­fore the ARB had con­ducted its investigation.”

JOHNSON: “How many people were evac­u­ated from Libya?”

CLINTON: “Well, the num­bers are a little bit hard to pin down be­cause of our other friends.”

JOHNSON: “Ap­prox­i­mately.”

CLINTON: “Ap­prox­i­mately 25 to 30.”

JOHNSON: “Did any­body in the State De­part­ment talk to those folks very shortly afterwards?”

CLINTON: “There was dis­cus­sion going on af­ter­ward, but once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion started, the FBI spoke to them be­fore we spoke to them. And so other than our people in Tripoli—which I think you’re talking about Wash­ington, right?”

JOHNSON: “Yes. The point I’m making is—a very simple phone call to these in­di­vid­uals, I think, would have as­cer­tained im­me­di­ately that there was no protest prior to this. I mean this at­tack started at 9:40 pm Beng­hazi time and it was an as­sault. And I ap­pre­ciate the fact that you called it an as­sault. But I’m going back to then-Ambassador Rice, five days later going to the Sunday shows and what I would say is pur­pose­fully mis­leading the Amer­ican public.”

CLINTON: “Well, since . . .”

JOHNSON: “Why wasn’t that known? And again I ap­pre­ciate the fact that the trans­parency of this hearing. But why weren’t we trans­parent at that point in time?”

CLINTON: “Well, first of all, Sen­ator, I would say that once the as­sault hap­pened and once we got our people res­cued and out, our most im­me­diate con­cern was, number one, taking care of their in­juries. As I said, I still have a DS [Diplo­matic Se­cu­rity] agent at Walter Reed se­ri­ously in­jured. Get­ting them into Frank­furt Ram­stein to get taken care of, the FBI going over im­me­di­ately to start talking to them.

We did not think it was ap­pro­priate for us to talk to them be­fore the FBI con­ducted their in­ter­views. And we did not—I think this is ac­cu­rate, sir—I cer­tainly did not know of any re­ports that con­tra­dicted the IC [in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity] talking points at the time that Am­bas­sador Rice went on the TV shows.

And, you know, I just want to say that people have ac­cused Am­bas­sador Rice and the ad­min­is­tra­tion of mis­leading Amer­i­cans. I can say, trying to be in the middle of this and un­der­standing what was going on, nothing could be fur­ther from the truth. Was in­for­ma­tion de­vel­oping? Was the sit­u­a­tion fluid? Would we reach con­clu­sions later that weren’t reached ini­tially? And I ap­pre­ciate the . . .”

JOHNSON: “But Madame Sec­re­tary, do you dis­agree with me that a simple phone call to those phone call to those evac­uees to de­ter­mine what hap­pened wouldn’t have as­cer­tained im­me­di­ately that there was no protest? I mean that was a piece of in­for­ma­tion that could have been easily, easily obtained.”

CLINTON: “But Sen­ator, again . . .”

JOHNSON: “Within hours, if not days?”

CLINTON: “Sen­ator, I—when you’re in these po­si­tions, the last thing you want to do is in­ter­fere with any other process going on. Number one . . .”

JOHNSON: “I re­alize that’s a good excuse.” 

CLINTON: “Well, no it’s the fact. Number two, I would rec­om­mend highly you read both what the ARB said about and the clas­si­fied ARB, be­cause even today there are ques­tions being raised.

Now, we have no doubt they were ter­ror­ists, they were mil­i­tants, they at­tacked us, they killed our people, but what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing is still unknown . . .

JOHNSON: “No, no. Again, we were misled that there were sup­pos­edly protests and then some­thing sprang out of that—an as­sault sprang out of that—and that was easily as­cer­tained that that was not the fact . . . And the Amer­ican people could have known that within days and they didn’t know that.”

CLINTON: “With all due re­spect, 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? It is our job to figure out what hap­pened and do—and do every­thing we can to pre­vent it from ever hap­pening again, Senator!

Now, hon­estly I will do my best to an­swer your ques­tions about this, but the-the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best in­for­ma­tion. The IC has a process, I un­der­stand, going with the other com­mit­tees to ex­plain how these talking points came out.

But, you know to be clear, it is from my per­spec­tive, less im­por­tant today looking back­wards as to why these mil­i­tants de­cided they did it, than to find them and bring them to jus­tice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.”

JOHNSON: “OK, thank you Madam Secretary.”

Abridged versions abound

There are count­less web­sites that present abridged ver­sions of the con­ver­sa­tion, often ac­com­pa­nied by an edited video. Many of these sites have head­lines that make Clinton seem de­void of con­cern, or ar­ro­gant, or even having a “melt­down.” None of this is true!

But, you know to be clear, it is from my per­spec­tive, less im­por­tant today looking back­wards as to why these mil­i­tants de­cided they did it, than to find them and bring them to jus­tice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.” 

Make of this what you will, but, most likely, you won’t make of it what the rightwing echo-chamber has made of it . . .


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