On Sept. 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed at the American mission in Benghazi, Libya. For more than a year after the attack, that single fact was about the only one that the hyperpartisan advocates for the left and right in Washington, D.C., agreed on.
However, a new bipartisan report issued by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence sheds new light on the circumstances surrounding the attack and provides insight on what could have been done — and perhaps what should be done in the most-dangerous areas of the world where American interests must be protected. Taken in combination with a declassified State Department report about the attack, it is apparent that the administration and Congress should do more to protect our country's diplomatic missions — regardless of party — if the United States is going to continue to serve in its primary role of defending liberty around the world.
The findings show that the attack of that night was not a reaction to an anti-Islamic video, as the administration tried to claim in the days just after the attack. Protesters do not bring mortar artillery — which accounted for two of the deaths — and heavy machine guns to their events. The administration should have been more clear on this detail, and its leaders should have to answer questions as to why they proposed the story.
However, the bigger issue is one of congressional oversight over providing the necessary resources to our overseas missions. The findings show that eastern Libya was considered a target for terrorists, yet the resources given by Congress to the State Department for security were woeful at best. The Americans depended on poorly trained Libyan militias and a mere handful of well-trained security to hold back a horde of terrorists.
This again speaks to the grave condition of how Americans fund their government and the choices the government makes to spend the money collected and borrowed. If lawmakers agree that an American diplomatic presence is necessary in troubled locations — which they should — then they should practice statesmanship in their own right to craft a budget that adequately protects those diplomats while addressing the myriad other needs of this nation.
Ambassador Stevens is the eighth ambassador to die in the line of duty. Others have died during Republican and Democratic administrations, but today's toxic political climate is clouding observers' view of where to go from here. American diplomacy is needed now more than ever to counter the totalitarian messages coming from governments around the world — it's up to Congress and the Obama administration to ensure it can be performed adequately and safely.