This week the U.S. House Oversight Committee continued its review of the events surrounding the brutal Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The attack in Benghazi left four Americans dead, including the U.S. Ambassador. It was a tragic day for America and the fledgling reform movement in Libya. It was the type of event that America's security forces work to prevent every day. It is something that the American people hope to never see again.
That's why this week's hearings - and further probes of the incident - are so important. We need to learn from what happened so that the possibility of similar tragedies in the future will be minimized.
In the military, after every significant engagement, people involved with the events gather to discuss what went well, what could be improved, and what just didn't work at all. It's called an "after-action review." Businesses employ similar practices to ensure there is continuous improvement in their processes.
People in the military and private sector realize that there is always room for improvement, and the only way to achieve better performance is to have rigorous reviews of the success and weaknesses of current or past activities.
President Obama clearly believes in after-action reviews. Just this week he met with utility company officials to discuss how the government and utility companies could improve their response to super storms like last October's Hurricane Sandy. The President needs to demand the same type of open and frank discussion regarding Benghazi, an event that occurred six weeks prior to Hurricane Sandy.
People closely involved with the Benghazi tragedy do not believe that an appropriate review has occurred. That's why three whistleblowers from the State Department voluntarily testified during the congressional hearing this week.
The whistleblowers approached the committee with information they wanted to share. They fervently believed that they could add to the understanding of what happened at Benghazi and how similar events could be prevented in the future. They believed that their knowledge and viewpoint had been ignored, overlooked, or perhaps even hidden.
The most compelling testimony might have been the fact that the Chief of Mission in Libya was told not to meet with a congressman visiting Libya on a fact-finding mission after the Benghazi attack. That is unprecedented. That is not even an option. My hat is off to Mr. Hicks and the others for risking their careers to inform the American people.
I am very familiar with whistleblowers. They typically are talented professional bureaucrats who have served our nation for long periods of time. They care deeply about the professionalism and performance of the agencies they represent. They are committed to excellence in all that they do. They are willing to pay a price to do what they believe is right. Mr. Hicks has already been demoted for his dogged persistence in trying to get the truth out.
The White House should clearly be interested in what the whistleblowers have to say. Unfortunately there is no indication that the President plans on paying any more attention to the Benghazi issue at all. One almost gets the feeling that the administration wishes the whole issue would go away.
It's not as if Obama is disengaged from every pressing issue.
In a press conference earlier this week, the President indicated that, when it comes to the situation in Syria, "We want to make sure we have the best analysis possible.We want to make sure we are acting deliberately."
He also strongly condemned sexual assaults in the military, telling the media, "If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped out of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It's not acceptable."
The President needs to apply that type of zeal to an investigation of what happened in Benghazi and who might have been involved in any "cover-up." Who made what decisions before, during, and after the incident? The serious allegations made by the whistleblowers need to be thoroughly investigated, and individuals need to be held accountable.
Peter Hoekstra served as a Republican congressman for Michigan's 2nd district from 1993 to 2011. He was a candidate for Michigan Governor in the 2010 primaries and ran for Senate against incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2012. In the House, Pete served on various committees including Education and Labor, Budget, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.