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Engel Remarks on Proposed Benghazi Select Committee

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today made the following remarks in the House of Representatives about the proposal to establish a select committee to investigate the September 2012 terrorist attacks on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya:

“I thank my friend from New York for giving me this time, and I rise in strong opposition to both the rule and the bill.  It’s really a political charade and this pointless attempt to find a scandal that simply doesn’t exist.

“What happened in Benghazi in September 2012 was a tragedy.  The loss of those four Americans broke our hearts, and it reminded us that diplomacy can be dangerous work, and that we need to do all we can to protect those who represent our country around the world.

“What have we seen from certain members of the majority since that day?  Partisan games.  And this select committee would be nothing more than the next chapter in this political farce, just in time for the mid-term elections—and with 2016 peaking over the horizon.

“What is it, exactly, that my colleagues are after?

“After the attack in Benghazi, we all wanted answers.  What happened that night that led to the deaths of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glenn Doherty?  Where did we fall short in protecting our people and who was responsible?  What could we do to make sure something like this wouldn’t happen again?

“Well, an accountability review board led by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, two men with seriousness of purpose and no partisan agenda, helped answer those questions.  They found serious management and leadership failures at the State Department.  Bipartisan reports from the Senate Homeland and Intelligence Committee supported these findings.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sat before committees in both houses and took full responsibility.  She and her successor, John Kerry, have said over and over again that the State Department is implementing all of the recommendations of the Review Board.

“But that didn’t satisfy some of my friends on the other side.  They started moving the goal posts, and so began this long, costly exercise.

“They tried to tie Secretary Clinton directly to the security failures that led to this tragedy.  But that didn’t turn up anything.

“Then they floated the idea that our military was told to stand down in the moment of greatest need in Benghazi.  Even the Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said that claim had no merit.

“And since there’s no wrongdoing to be found with respect to the actual attack, now we’re focused on the talking points and a so-called cover-up.

“I ask again, what is it my colleagues are after?  What is allegedly being covered up?

“At the time the attacks took place, American embassies from Southeast Asia to the Middle East to North Africa to England were surrounded by protestors angered over an anti-Islamic video.  In Egypt, our embassy was stormed.  So as the fires in Benghazi were still burning and the air was thick with smoke, the CIA’s assessment was that the attack was the result of a spontaneous protest.  They were wrong.  And in the days that followed, they corrected that mistake, confirming that the attack was ‘a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.’

“But in the days after the attack, those protests in the region were still raging.  Some of them were violent. In Yemen, additional Marines were deployed to protect our personnel.  The latest conspiracy theory centers on an email sent at the time. In context, it’s clear that Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor, was concerned about protecting Americans amid a volatile climate around our diplomatic facilities all over the world.  Those who want to create a scandal where none exists call this a smoking gun.

“That’s not much to go on.

“Nevertheless, after more than a year of turning up nothing new, my colleagues want to create a new committee with sweeping powers, a broad mandate, and no fixed timeline for producing any sort of report. 

“When I heard of this terrible idea to create this special committee, I could not help but think of Iraq, where not four, but 4,000 Americans died.  But my Republican colleagues conducted virtually no investigations into that tragedy based on a lie.  They set up no committees to uncover the truth behind the phony intelligence, the torture, the secret prisons, or the spin about how Iraqis would greet us with flowers.  Nothing.

“So I have to ask a final time, what is it my colleagues on the other side are after?  I think the answer is pretty clear.  They’re after a political win.  They want to tear down leaders in the Democratic party and raise money for their campaign committees, and they’re willing to politicize the deaths of four Americans to do it.

“Our constituents aren’t interested in this.  They want us to do our jobs, not waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a fabricated scandal. 

“Let’s do what they sent us here to do.  Let’s protect our diplomats and development experts.  Let’s work to create jobs and shore up our crumbling infrastructure.  Let’s fix our immigration system and promote energy security.  Let’s vote no on this resolution and get back to governing.

“Thank you Mr. Speaker and I yield back the balance of my time.”

 

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