On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Benghazi attack, retired military leaders and security experts traveled to Jacksonville to pay tribute to the four Americans who lost their lives in the attack and to renew their calls for the Obama administration to answer lingering questions about what happened the night of Sept. 11, 2012.
At a special Benghazi memorial service held Sept. 10 at the Times-Union Center, retired Lt. General Thomas McInerney and former CIA agent Clare Lopez joined with Charles Woods – father of veteran Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods – to pay tribute to the Americans who lost their lives that day. In addition to Woods, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith and veteran Navy SEAL Glen Doherty died in the attack.
Preceded by a performance by Jacksonville’s patriotic chorus, Let Freedom Sing, the memorial service included the presentation of wreaths honoring each of the Benghazi victims, hymns, the national anthem performed by the Trinity Baptist College Chorus and the playing of Taps.
“We will remember the brave Americans who fought valiantly in Benghazi,” said retired U.S. Navy Capt. Ryman Shoaf, a friend of Ambassador Stevens. “When Americans lose their lives for our country, it does matter.”
Charles Woods thanked those in attendance for honoring the memory of the Benghazi victims.
“There are those people that would want the American public to forget about what happened in Benghazi,” Woods said. “But it’s people like you that have kept the memory alive. It’s people like you that have kept the issue of Benghazi from being swept under the rug.”
Four years after his son’s death, Woods said, some basic questions remain unanswered.
“I would like to know who made that decision not to rescue my son and the others who perished in Benghazi,” he said. “Part of being in the military is that you know, with no exceptions, that when your mission is compromised, they always, always rescue. That did not happen this time. And it wasn’t an accident. Someone prevented that rescue.
“I’ve already forgiven the person,” Woods continued. “But we do need to have the truth and we do need to have justice.”
McInerney – who along with Lopez served on the Citizens Commission on Benghazi which conducted its own investigation into the attack – said there could only be one answer to that question.
“There’s only one person and that’s the president of the United States made the decision not to (send reinforcements) and go after those people in Benghazi,” McInerney said. “That’s absolutely factual. He didn’t do it.”
McInerney agreed with Woods that key questions regarding what happened during the Benghazi attack have never been answered.
“Four years later, we do not know where President Obama was through that whole time frame,” McInerney said. “This is the most covered up event in U.S. history to include Watergate. It is far greater than Watergate…and the American people do not understand that.”
While Watergate was focused solely on the Oval Office, McInerney contended, the Benghazi attack involved Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the secretary of defense and numerous high-ranking administration officials. The retired general also had harsh words for the mainstream media – which he called “complicit” in a Benghazi cover-up – as well as Republican congressional leaders, including Rep. Trey Gowdy, whom McInerney said produced a “useless” 800-page report on Benghazi devoid of any summaries, conclusions or recommendations.
Ultimately, McInerney concluded, not sending aid to the Americans under attack in Benghazi constituted dereliction of duty.
“This was shameless leadership by the president in his bid for re-election,” he said. “It didn’t meet his narrative that Osama bin Laden was dead, GM was alive….he couldn’t break his narrative for his re-election. It’s that simple.
“Some day…someone will expose this and America will know.”
Benghazi’s relevance today
Benghazi remains relevant today, tribute participants said, because it signaled a marked shift in U.S. policy toward global terrorism.
“Benghazi is the place where America switched sides in the war on terror,” former CIA agent and security expert Clare Lopez said. “We started backing the wrong people….Benghazi should have been a wake-up call that things were off the tracks.”
The Benghazi controversy is also relevant, McInerney said, because it led to revelations about Hillary Clinton’s secret email server.
“It exposed that Clinton committed espionage and obstruction of justice – charges that have not yet been filed and need to be prosecuted,” he charged.
The Benghazi attack was also a sign of Obama’s weakness in dealing with Islamic jihadism, McInerney added, charging that the president has deliberately allowed an Islamic Caliphate to develop and spread throughout the Middle East, while at the same time providing $150 billion to Iran.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that is aiding and abetting the enemy,” McInerney said to loud applause. “That is treason.”
Stating that the Middle East has never been more destabilized than it is today, McInerney said Americans must lead the charge in confronting Islamic ideology.
Lopez agreed. “How many more 9/11s, how many more Benghazis, how many more dead and maimed Americans will it take,” she said, “ before we Americans demand a leadership that will name, fight and destroy this enemy that seeks the replacement of the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law?”