At an early morning hearing on Benghazi, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said “clearly mistakes were made” in the deadly attack on the diplomatic mission in which four Americans were killed.
But the man who could be the next secretary of State carefully framed the terrorist attack as an opportunity for lessons learned instead a reason to go after the administration.
“The report makes that very clear and one of the most candid and important observations was the failure by certain leaders to see the forest through the trees,” Kerry said. “There were clear signs that the security situation in Libya had deteriorated and going forward it is important, and I think it’s important for all of us to think in terms of going forward, that we need to do a better job of ensuring a free and open dialogue among ambassadors, their embassy security personnel and officials in Washington where decisions on security, staffing levels and funding are made.”
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns testified instead of Hillary Clinton, who is recovering from the flu and a concussion.
Clinton was supposed to address House and Senate congressional committees today on the Accountability Review Board report studying the Sept. 11 attack.
“From the very beginning of the Benghazi events, every member of this Committee has shared with the president and Secretary Clinton our determination to get all the facts about what happened and why in Benghazi,” Kerry said. ” We submitted many questions to the State Department to be incorporated into this investigation and we are very pleased that they have been.”
He claimed that the ARB report “pulls no punches” and makes 29 recommendations, five of them classified, which Clinton has already put into action.
“Now, as we draw the lessons, I want to be crystal clear about something else. Congress also bears some responsibility here. Congress has the power of the purse. We use it for any number of things but it is our responsibility,” he said of staffing and funding levels, even though State Department officials have earlier testified that the denial of extra resources to Benghazi wasn’t a matter of money. “…We need to make certain we are not penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to supporting America’s vital overseas interests.”
Then, in true Kerry-esqe fashion, the chairman spun the opening of the hearing toward himself.
“Since 1985 I’ve had the privilege, as most of you, of making official journeys to one trouble spot or another. I’ve met a lot of our men and women in the Foreign Service as all of you have and we’ve sat and talked about the work they do and the lives that they lead. They spend years learning the languages of a country so they can be on the frontlines of direct diplomacy – ‘foreign policy outdoors’as my dad used to call it. When my father served in Berlin after World War II, I remember my mother sometimes looking at the clock nervously in the evening when he was late coming home for dinner in a city where troops guarded the line between east and west and the rubble of war was still very fresh. But my father knew that what he was doing was worth whatever the risk might have been. And so do the Foreign Service personnel that we send all over the world today,” Kerry said.
“We need to be safe, but we also need to send the right message to the people we’re trying to reach. I distinctly remember feeling and seeing the difficulty of this in Vietnam where villagers would examine us suspiciously, and give us a stare, an unmistakable stare, that raises many more questions than we’re ever able to answer. In Iraq and Afghanistan I have revisited that stare as you pass through a village with masses of guns and big armored personnel carriers and Humvees and the look of confusion and alienation from average Iraqis and Afghans who just don’t understand why we were rumbling through their streets that way is unmistakable.”