Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered an unwavering defense on Wednesday morning of the Obama administration’s response to the 2012 assaults on U.S. government posts in Benghazi, Libya.
Clinton again took responsibility for any of the security lapses in Benghazi but praised the response from her department and other government agencies. Clinton said that the attacks “are part of a broader strategic challenge to the United States and our partners in North Africa” because of the emergence of violent extremism there.
As Clinton had begun her testimony, she became visibly emotional as she recalled meeting relatives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who were killed in the Sept. 11 assault.
“I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews [Air Force Base],” she told senators, choking back tears.”I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.”
Her appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had valedictory overtones, as she plans to step down once Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) has been confirmed as the new top diplomat.
“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and [the U.S. Agency for International Development],” she said.
After listing a battery of government reactions to the Sept. 11 assault in Libya, she praised the work force of her agency. “They ask what they can do for their country,” she said.
Clinton also is scheduled to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Benghazi attacks.
That hearing, like its Senate counterpart, will be public.
The grueling day of testimony comes as Clinton recovers from a month of health problems that began with a stomach virus and ended with her hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain. She has been back at work for two weeks, holding meetings, placing phone calls and making several abbreviated public appearances.