Thank you for contacting me regarding the violent protests in the Middle East and foreign aid to the region. I appreciate hearing from you on this important topic.
The terrorist attacks on our consulate in Benghazi were attacks on America. I join Coloradans and Americans everywhere in mourning the deaths four Americans who died serving our country while promoting democracy and freedom abroad. As President Obama said recently, we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. The Intelligence Community has already launched a comprehensive effort to identify the perpetrators. In the Senate, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee asked the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General to conduct an independent investigation into the incident and into security at U.S. Embassies.
The attack in Benghazi was carried out by extremists, not by the people or government of Libya. In the days after the attack many Libyans expressed their sorrow and solidarity, and in Benghazi, tens of thousands of people marched on the base of an Islamist militia suspected of involvement in the attack. We should not let terrorists obscure the recent achievements of the Libyan people: they overthrew a dictator, held successful elections, and are creating a more tolerant political order. The United States should continue to assist the Libyan people as they build a new democracy.
The U.S. also has a stake in Egypt’s democratic transition. As in Libya, there has been a broad backlash against the violence. While the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo were not carried out by the newly elected Egyptian government, the government’s failure to protect our embassy, and its tepid response, are worrisome. To cut all U.S. assistance, however, would dramatically reduce our ability to influence regional events at a pivotal moment in Egypt’s history. For instance, it could jeopardize Egypt’s relationship with Israel, a pillar of regional security in the region for the last three decades.
Finally, a word on Senator Rand Paul’s legislation to completely disengage from the Middle East. While I share his anger over the terrorist attack in Benghazi and the violent protests in the region, we need to strike an intelligent balance in our foreign policy. Cutting off all U.S. assistance to the region is not in our national security interest. That is why a bipartisan majority rejected his legislation by a vote of 81 to 10, and leaders, from both sides of the aisle, of the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Intelligence, and State – Foreign Operations Appropriations panels all took to the Senate floor to speak against it. You can access their remarks and a letter from retired U.S. military leaders urging opposition to his legislation here: http://www.usglc.org/downloads/2012/09/Military-Leaders-Letter-to-Senate.pdf.
I value the input of fellow Coloradans in considering the wide variety of important issues and legislative initiatives that come before the Senate. I hope you will continue to inform me of your thoughts and concerns.
For more information about my priorities as a U.S. Senator, I invite you to visit my website at http://bennet.senate.gov/. Again, thank you for contacting me.
Michael F. Bennet United States Senator
Please do not reply to this message. If you would like to send a message to Senator Bennet, please submit a form at http://bennet.senate.gov/contact. Thank you.