GREENVILLE, SC — A dangerous international message has been sent in the year and two days since the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, Sen. Lindsey Graham told students during a lecture at Furman University on Friday.
No one has been charged in the attack, and Graham said the White House continues to stonewall the investigation, refusing Congressional access to survivors, a message the senator said speaks volumes to those who intend to cause harm.
Graham said the United States is beginning to appear as a paper tiger or one who looks as threatening as a tiger, but doesn't withstand the challenge if it doesn't find those responsible for the Benghazi attack.
"Benghazi helped lead to Syria," Graham said. "You had terrorists overrun our consulate, killed our ambassador and no one has been held accountable... The U.S. is becoming a paper tiger... King of Jordan is hanging by a thread."
Graham and U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, gave Furman University students in Danielle Vinson's "The American Congress" class an overview of the ongoing Congressional investigation into Benghazi before taking questions from students on Syria and Edward Snowden.
Graham said Gowdy and Chaffetz have demanded answers from the White House and dug into the "guts of Benghazi" to find out what exactly happened during and in the days after the attack on the consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. In his position, Graham is also fighting to get answers, Gowdy said, but Graham is in a tougher situation because Republicans are in the minority in the Senate.
Still, Gowdy said no other senator has done more to get to the bottom of Benghazi than Graham. Chaffetz said the White House has not made survivors of the attack available to appear before Congress, and said every American should be outraged that the White House didn't order fighter jets, which were about 35 minutes away, to respond during the attack. Instead, Gowdy said, President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent Ambassador Susan Rice to appear on five different Sunday news shows to blame the attack on a video.
"The memory of what happened on Sept. 11 (2001) is quickly fading, and we will be hurt again," Graham said. "We had an ambassador killed, and we've not done a damn thing about it... We have a dysfunctional Congress and a war-weary public. I'm war-weary, but I'm never too tired to protect our country's defense."
The three congressmen warned that other consulates and embassies are in danger of being attacked, and Chaffetz referenced Thursday's attack on the American embassy in Afghanistan. Graham said he favors giving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad time to surrender control of chemical weapons, but wants to set a 90-day deadline.
"If after all is said and done, we've done nothing, it would ensure a war between Israel and Iran, and God help us all if that happens," Graham said.
America must send a strong message to the world that terrorist attacks won't be tolerated and those responsible will be found and prosecuted, Gowdy said.
"Think Boston," Gowdy said. "What happened when we had two people terrorizing Boston? We descended on that city, and there was an all-out manhunt until we found who was responsible. What's different now? These four people killed in Benghazi were serving under our flag, and we owe it to them, their families and the people we have in hundreds of embassies and consulates across the world to find whose responsible."
The takeaway Gowdy said is that Benghazi matters.
"When you have four people murdered under the American flag and nothing's been done, that does nothing but embolden others who are looking to do the same thing," Gowdy said.
A student asked each speaker his view on Edward Snowden the American security specialist who worked with the CIA and the NSA and who leaked national security documents to the media and whether they perceived him as a hero or a traitor.
"The damage to our national security is enormous," Graham said. "He is not a hero."
Gowdy said there are "no heroes hanging out in Russian airports hiding from the public."
Chaffetz also said he didn't consider Snowden a hero, and refereed to a "geo-locating" bill he is championing in Congress that would require the government to show cause that a person is a threat before using "geo-locating" to track them.