OTHER VIEWS: We must protect our diplomats

  • Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2012 2:21 p.m.

The men and women of our armed forces aren’t the only Americans sent into harm’s way by the U.S. government. Diplomatic personnel also risk their lives in distant realms. But while those hazards are inevitable, the State Department should take sensible precautions to minimize them.

Unfortunately, such vigilance was lacking at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where a Sept. 11 terrorist attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Recently, congressional hearings on that outrage – and on its prelude and aftermath – produced assurances of needed corrections of high-stakes mistakes.

Those tragic blunders include the failure of the State Department’s “threat analysis” to address justified concerns expressed by security personnel months before the attack.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton missed the hearings because she’s still recovering from a concussion suffered in a household accident. But she is expected to answer questions from lawmakers next month.

Maybe then we’ll finally learn what Secretary Clinton knew – and when she knew it – about the situation in Benghazi.

At least Clinton has already signaled that she plans to implement all 29 recommendations of an Accountability Review Board. Chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering, that panel investigated what went wrong in Benghazi.

Some heads have already rolled at the State Department, with one department official resigning and three others “disciplined.”

Another diplomat who suffered a career setback from this story is Susan Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Five days after the 9/11 terror attack in Benghazi, Rice appeared on five television shows at the behest of the White House and maintained that the attack was part of a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Muslim video.

The controversy stirred by Rice’s attempts to advance that notion, whether or not she knew it was false, ultimately cost her the chance to become Secretary of State.

But what Burns acknowledged as “systemic” shortcomings helped cost Stevens and those other three Americans their lives.

And in a dangerous world where U.S. diplomats are targets, the nation they so bravely serve must do more to protect them.

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