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Clinton hits out at 'political slugfest' on Benghazi

31 May 2014, 15:14

Washington - Hillary Clinton has given her most detailed account yet of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, but said she will not join the "political slugfest" over the tragedy.

In excerpts from her forthcoming memoir Hard Choices, Clinton offered a blunt rebuttal to Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly accused her of bungling the response to the 11 September 2012 attack on the US mission and of misleading the American public.

"Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimise the sacrifice of those who served our country," President Barack Obama's first secretary of state said in perhaps the book's most anticipated chapter, "Benghazi: Under Attack."

"Those who insist on politicising the tragedy will have to do so without me," wrote Clinton, according to excerpts published on Friday by the Politico news website.

"I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans."

White House run

Clinton, who lost to Obama in their 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, is mulling a second White House run, and her upcoming book tour - following the memoir's 10 June release - is widely seen as a way to lay the groundwork for a 2016 campaign.

Perhaps countering what some see as the inevitability of a Clinton candidacy, Republican critics and potential White House adversaries have been relentless in their investigation of the violence that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

There has also been persistent talk about Clinton's role in the aftermath, as well as the US mission's security shortcomings.

Earlier this month, House Republican leaders launched a select committee to investigate the Benghazi assault - a move Clinton has called unnecessary.

House Speaker John Boehner dismissed suggestions that he and others were politicising Benghazi by convening the committee.

"This is about one issue and one issue only, and that is getting the truth for the American people," Boehner said.

"We've been asking for documents now for 18 months," he added. "Why do they refuse to tell the American people the truth about what happened?"

'Scores of attackers'

The excerpts were published the same day that Darrell Issa, chairperson of the House government watchdog panel, announced he was releasing Secretary of State John Kerry from his agreement to testify at a June Benghazi hearing because he did not want the top diplomat to use his appearance as a "shield against the select committee".

Asked whether Kerry would testify before the select committee instead, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said "we remain committed to being co-operative with this process".

For her part, Clinton has already taken responsibility for the deadly incident, calling it the darkest hour of her career.

Clinton noted that she implemented all 29 recommendations of a high-profile probe by a review board.

Clinton did not hold back in accusing critics of manipulating the tragedy for partisan gain, saying they were acting like a "broken record" in repeatedly demanding answers to the same questions.

"Every step of the way, whenever something new was learned, it was quickly shared with Congress and the American people," she wrote.

Clinton also defended US intelligence from their response just before the attack, saying an anti-Islamic video that triggered protests in Cairo was "indeed a factor" in Benghazi.

"There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives," Clinton wrote.

"It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were."



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