WASHINGTON, Oct 16: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has taken full responsibility for failing to protect American diplomats in Libya as the controversy threatens President Barack Obama’s bid for a second term in the White House.
“I take responsibility,” Mrs Clinton told CNN, pointing out that as the secretary of state it was her duty to look after more than 60,000 employees at 275 US missions around the world.
“The President and the Vice-President wouldn’t be knowledgeable about specific decisions that are made by security professionals,” she said. Security personnel, and not the president, “weigh all of the threats and the risks and the needs and make a considered decision,” she said.
US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed along with three other Americans when armed men invaded and torched the US consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. Mr Stevens was the first US diplomat to be killed on active duty since 1979 when Ambassador Adolph Dubs was assassinated in Kabul.
Initially, the Obama administration claimed that the shooting was linked to a popular protest against a blasphemous video which had enraged the entire Muslim world.But since then administration officials have admitted that it was a planned terrorist attack, apparently by Al Qaeda members.
The Republicans claim that the diplomats trapped inside the consulate sought military support but the Obama administration refused to send troops to Benghazi. The shooting has become a major dispute in the United States, refocusing the political debate on foreign policy issues.
On Tuesday, the US media noted that that Secretary Clinton’s decision to accept responsibility for the disaster aimed at shielding President Obama against a possible political storm that could drown his reelection campaign.
However, it was Vice President Joe Biden, and not Mr Obama, who pushed Mrs Clinton to a corner where she had no option but to accept responsibility.
During a debate with his Republican rival Paul Ryan last week, Mr Biden claimed that the Obama administration was not aware of requests from the US consulate in Libya for more security support. But despite her admission of guilt the US media was sympathetic to Mrs Clinton, pointing out that she had taken the heat for Mr Obama when he was down, although she was his bitter opponent in the 2008 Democratic primary. Some US media outlets are also predicting that Libya could undo Mr Obama as Iran unravelled another Democrat, Jimmy Carter, in 1980.
President Obama has become particularly vulnerable after losing the first presidential debate to his rival, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.