The Edmond Sun

May 13, 2013

No Americans forgotten in Benghazi

Rep. Tom Cole
Special to The Sun

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than eight months ago on Sept. 11, the nation was shaken by the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Claiming the lives of four innocent Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, that horrific night still demands further investigation before it can be laid to rest. Due to an uncooperative administration and State Department who attempted to downplay the terrorist attack just eight weeks before the presidential election, we still don’t know the truth.

As the events of that night unfolded to the public last year, leaders at the State Department initially blamed the attack on an anti-Muslim YouTube video, explaining that it caused a spontaneous protest and ultimately led to the murders. However, later evidence revealed that State Department officials deliberately changed talking points to tell this story even though the situation already had been classified as planned and executed by Ansar al-Sharia — a group connected with Islamic terrorists. It also was discovered that consulate staff suspected danger and requested backup months before the attack even took place. For these reasons, we can only suspect a political cover up for the preventative inaction of President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Early on, the White House stated that it needed more time to adequately investigate before briefing the American people or even calling it a “terrorist act.” When questioned 134 days after the event took place during a hearing conducted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Clinton exploded, “What difference at this point does it make?” It makes a tremendous difference to the families whose loved ones could have been spared if the dangerous situation in Libya had been adequately monitored. It also makes a huge difference to the future security of our nation in preventing similar attacks.

In the same way, now eight months later, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently acted as if the attack was a closed case saying, “Benghazi was a long time ago.” Even if it was a long time ago, questions are still unanswered, and supposed unclassified reports have not been made available to House committees with jurisdiction to properly investigate.

On Wednesday last week, the House Committee on Oversight heard the compelling testimony of three leaders from the State Department who came forward to shed light on what really happened. These key witnesses were barred from speaking out about the situation, even though all were directly watching as it occurred last September. Greg Hicks, former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, even claimed that he was demoted for questioning how the situation was handled and presented to the public. The emotional and courageous testimony brought by these whistleblowers brings us closer to answers, but there is still work to be done.

With this new evidence and the likelihood of other witnesses coming forward, we must continue uncovering the truth and pursue a fact-based investigation. Congressman Frank Wolf, R-Va., has provided a framework in H. Res 36 for pursuing the investigation; I support this along with many of my colleagues. Currently, five House committees hold jurisdiction in separate aspects of the investigation. This legislation would create a select committee with full jurisdiction and streamline the process by allowing members of the bipartisan panel to have subpoena power over all the relevant information and key witnesses. With a clear deadline and mission to solve the scandal surrounding Benghazi, this committee would create one definitive report from which to take further action.

After all this time, we should have resolved what circumstances led to the murder of four Americans. We still don’t have answers — just excuses. The American people deserve to know the truth, and those involved must be held responsible.

U.S. REP. TOM COLE, R-Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.