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As the mother of a Navy SEAL, the deaths of a U.S. ambassador, two former SEALS and a fourth American public servant have deeply disturbed me. So I watched the recent U.S. House of Representative's committee hearing on Benghazi with personal interest. The Tribune wire story published May 9 by The Day about the testimony - "Envoy describes Benghazi attack" - fell far short in accuracy and scope.
The hearing confirmed my worst fears; there were failures by the State Department and Department of Defense to take action that may have saved at least some of the lives lost. The testimony also suggested a high-level effort to cover up these failures, including revealing State Department communications indicating this cover-up was politically and ideologically motivated.
Information not covered in the article The Day printed included:
• Military assistance was requested by a Defense Department attaché when the facility was first attacked. The special ops unit (Foreign Emergency Support Team) in northern Africa could have been there within 2-3 hours, in time to stop the second attack. They were ready and disappointed not to be called. Also a unit in Europe could have been there before the second attack in which the former SEALS died. A fly-over could well have dispersed the attackers.
• State Department officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, knew the attackers were associated with al-Qaida and not civilian protesters.
• Clinton's chief of staff so drastically edited talking points for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as to change the characterization of the attack from terrorism to a civil protest.
• State Department personnel in Libya were "stunned and embarrassed" when they heard the official explanation was a protest.
• In the investigative follow-up to the attack and death of four Americans, the same chief of staff forbade one-on-one meetings between a congressman and Deputy Ambassador Gregory Hicks and other in-country witnesses who lived through the attacks.
Every day since last Sept. 11 I have anguished over the thought it could have been my son who fought and died in Benghazi. Yes, he trained to be a soldier, served in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; he knows the risks, as do I and my husband. But we all expect the full support and honesty of our government.
If my son answered the call of an American ambassador in distress, which he would, and if he fell in battle, which he might, I would not want to see an administration lying about his service and sacrifice. I would not want to hear tales of protesters bringing guns and mortars with them. My son can and has handled spirited protests peacefully. This was a terrorist attack that killed an extraordinary ambassador and my son's fellow SEALS, and President Obama knew that from the start.
This was never about a YouTube video. The attack occurred because it was the 9/11 anniversary and was so devastating because Secretary Clinton and this administration failed to provide proper security. When the ambassador sought help, he was refused.
Why? Because this situation did not fit the administration's narrative that his was the "Arab Spring," that al-Qaida was in retreat, and Libya "in transition" or whatever the president's political advisers told him would sell to a gullible public and win the election.
What I learned from this incident is that when it doesn't fit the president's narrative, my son could be punished for firing on a threat, abandoned when at risk, and the circumstances of his death lied about if he fell.
I am grateful to Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, and others who testified before the Congress and told the truth about Benghazi. As the mother of a SEAL, I believe they honored all those who fell in Benghazi by putting self and career aside to bring to the families and to the American people the truth of those terrible events. I thank them for what they did this week. It took great professional courage.
As for Clinton, when you ask, "What difference does it make?" I want you to know that it makes a difference to me, to the mother who raised two sons to be honest, and loyal and patriotic and to love their country as much as I love them.
Jane Dauphinais was a top aide to former Congressman Rob Simmons and is a former Town of Groton mayor. She remains active in Republican politics.