Benghazi Mention Sparks Fireworks in Syria Hearing

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 4, 2013 at 4:11pm

Secretary of State John Kerry and Rep. Jeff Duncan traded microphone-rattling words Wednesday during the House Foreign Affairs hearing on intervention in Syria. But it wasn’t Syria that inspired such bad blood.

Duncan, a tea party Republican from South Carolina, was fired up about Benghazi, Libya, and took his opportunity to question Kerry as an opportunity to howl about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“This is a picture of Tyrone Woods,” Duncan said, holding up a roughly 4-inch-by-4-inch picture of Woods as a he fired a machine gun. “The Woods family deserves answers. He was killed in Benghazi. America deserves answers before we send another man or woman the caliber of Ty Woods into harm’s way. …

“The same administration that was seemingly so quick to involve the U.S. in Syria now was reluctant to use the same resources at its disposal to attempt to rescue to the four brave Americans that fought for their lives at Benghazi,” Duncan said.

Duncan said he did not doubt that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons, but he asked, “as the U.S. beats the drums of war,” where are the other countries signed on to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 against chemical weapons?

Duncan then accused Kerry, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. of a record of peace that was, somehow, lost with regard to Syria.

“Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating that you would abandon past caution in favor for pulling the trigger on a military response so quickly?” Duncan asked.

The lecture prompted a sharp response from Kerry.

“Well, let me begin, Congressman, by challenging your proposition that I’ve never done anything except advocate caution, because I volunteered to fight for my country and that wasn’t a cautious thing to do when I did it,” said Kerry, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Duncan then tried to interrupt Kerry, but Kerry wasn’t having it.

“I’m going to finish, Congressman. I am going to finish,” Kerry said, careful to pronounce every word in his sentence with authority and clarity.

“I am not going to sit here and be told by you that I don’t have a sense of what the judgment is with respect to this,” Kerry said. “We’re talking about people being killed by gas and you want to go talk about Benghazi and ‘Fast and Furious.’”

“I absolutely want to talk about Benghazi,” Duncan interrupted Kerry, “because four Americans lost their lives! I have sympathy for the people in Syria. And I do think we should act cautiously …” Duncan said as Kerry cut him off.

“Yeah well, Congressman, we are acting cautiously!” Kerry said, as the two tried to talk over each other. “We are acting so cautiously that the president of the United States was accused of not acting because he wanted to have sufficient evidence and he wanted to build the case properly.”

Just then, Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., banged his gavel and said, “Off we go now.”

But before Royce could move to the next lawmaker, Kerry, a senator for 28 years, announced a “point of privilege” and said it was important to set the record straight about Duncan’s line of thought.

Kerry said this intervention would not include “boots on the ground,”

“This is not about getting into Syria’s civil war,” Kerry said. “This is about enforcing the principle that people shouldn’t be allowed to gas their citizens with impunity.”

“That’s what this is about,” Kerry said.