It's time for Congress to demand hearings on Benghazi

When Americans are murdered by terrorists we have a national obligation to respond.  Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, Septemver 20, 2013 — When Americans are murdered by terrorists we have a national obligation to respond. 


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That response should take the form of reprisals and punishment for the killers. It should include accountability for any US officials whose negligence or incompetence may have endangered our citizens unnecessarily. Some attacks cannot be predicted or prevented, but when simple competence and attention to duty can save lives then they should, and if that does not happen there must be a reckoning. 

The United States did respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. It could be argued that we over-responded. Striking at the perpetrators in Afghanistan was a justified response.The rest of the ill-conceived and poorly executed War on Terror was clearly a mistake.

Most Americans understand that there are some basic criteria for when we should go to war. Military action should only be taken in response to a direct threat to our citizens, our territory or our national interests. If it goes beyond an immediate response it must be authorized by Congress with a declaration of war.

The recent proposed attack on Syria did not meet this standard because no American citizens were harmed or threatened, our territory was not endangered and our national interests were not at risk. President Obama should never have proposed the use of military force and Congress and the public were right to react with skepticism.


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It is inexcusable that President Obama would be so eager to take action in Syria when one year ago he was faced with a situation which truly demanded a response from our government and he and his administration failed to act at every level, displaying a callous disregard for their duty as public servants and representatives of this nation.

When terrorists attacked our consulate in Benghazi last fall,  American territory was violated and American citizens were killed, yet the administration’s response has been to deny and cover up and go to every possible length not to call those responsible to account, both in Libya and in our own government.  The administration did not authorize force in immediate response to the threat to our consulate. They actively refused to use the resources at their command. 

Since that time they have made little effort to pursue the murderers of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods or hold anyone accountable. They have allowed the Libyan government to drag its feet pursuing those involved for months. Five suspects have been identified, but the Libyan authorities will not arrest them and the US will not take meaningful action.

Farad al Chalabi, Ahmed Abu Khattala and the other suspects are walking the streets of Tripoli and even meeting with the media. The Justice Department has finally filed charges against them in a United States court, but so far Libya has shown no interest in arresting them. Libya has a long history of shielding terrorists from prosecution. These suspects will probably have to be tried in absentia in a meaningless show trial.

This may at least lead to some sort of delayed reckoning for those who committed these crimes, but accountability needs to be brought home to our shores as well.


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The Republican leadership in the House is standing in the way of a full investigation of what went wrong on our end and determining who should be held accountable in the administration. Speaker Boehner is effectively collaborating with the White House in their attempts to cover up the events of last September.

By not allowing a full investigation with a special prosecutor as requested in HR36, which Speaker Boehner will not allow to come to the floor for a vote, the Speaker is once again failing to fulfill the Constitutional duties given to the Congress. His obstructionism is causing a breakdown in the adversarial system that is so important in making our government work.

Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) is pursuing an unusual remedy to this situation through the introduction of a Discharge Petition which would force Congress to hold hearings despite the Speaker’s opposition. It’s a daunting task because such a petition requires the signatures of a majority of the members of the House, which would require a level of agreement which is uncommon in that body from politicians who are reluctant to commit to potentially controversial challenges to the President.

By not holding an investigation and hiring a special prosecutor the House of Representatives is failing in one of the most important roles given to it in the Constitution, oversight of the other branches of government.

This is part of the balance of power which makes our government work.  Each branch of government is supposed to be the watchdog over the other two.  Congress is too factionalized and too cowardly to challenge the executive branch the way that it should.  Not only on Benghazi, but also on the overreach of executive agencies like the Environmental Protection Agencies which are making rulings unilaterally and treating them as if they were law. If Congress continues to let bureaucrats and the president usurp its power what reason does it have to exist?

John Adams wrote of the governmental structure established in the Constitution “A legislative, an executive and a judicial power comprehend the whole of what is meant and understood by government. It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two, that the efforts of human nature towards tyranny can alone be checked and restrained, and any degree of freedom preserved in the constitution.”

We have lost that balance and as a result we are left with tyranny. Congress needs to be reminded why it exists. Congressmen need to show the courage to do their jobs as they were intended to. 

Sign the discharge petition.  Hire a prosecutor. Subpoena the President. Vote Boehner out if he gets in the way.

It is time hold the administration accountable for Benghazi and every other wrong it has done to the people of this nation.

 


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Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle has been writing political analysis since the 1980s for newspapers, magazines and now online journals. He is currently Execitive Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Priorities, is on the board of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, and served four years as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

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