Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2015. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
In comments that are sure to draw the ire of her Republican critics, Hillary Clinton sought to contrast the war in Iraq with the intervention in Libya during her stint as secretary of state.
“I’ve said Iraq was a mistake,” Clinton told Chris Matthews during an MSNBC town hall event on Monday night. “Libya was a different kind of calculation. And we didn’t lose a single person. We didn’t have a problem in supporting our European and Arab allies in working with NATO.”
As Politico noted, Clinton was probably referring to the U.S.-backed overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and not the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, where four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed.
Matthews pressed Clinton on what he called the United States’ push for “regime change” in places like Iraq and Libya.
“Now, is Libya perfect? It isn’t,” the former secretary said. “But did they have two elections that were free and fair where they voted for moderates. Yes, they did. So you know, changing from a dictator who has hollowed out your country to something resembling a functioning state and even hopefully more of a democratic one doesn’t happen overnight. And we’ve got to continue to support the Libyan people, to give them a chance, because otherwise you see what has happened in Syria, with the consequences of millions of people flooding out of Syria, with more than 250,000 people killed, with terrorist groups like ISIS taking up almost — huge blocks of territory, as big as some of the states in that area.”
Clinton’s comments came on the eve of another Super Tuesday vote in the 2016 presidential race. But Benghazi, to this point, has not been an issue in the race for the Democratic nomination, with Clinton’s challenger, Bernie Sanders, opting to focus on economic policy rather than the controversy surrounding the former secretary’s response to the terror attacks.
But her role in Benghazi could become an issue in a general election, with South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Benghazi Committee, promising a final report “before summer.”
Clinton and others have dismissed the committee as a thinly veiled attempt to derail her White House bid.
During last week’s Democratic debate in Miami, Clinton said her Oct. 22 testimony before the panel is proof the committee’s effort will prove futile.
“I testified for 11 hours,” Clinton said. “Anybody who watched that and listened to it knows that I answered every question that I was asked, and when it was over, the Republicans had to admit they didn’t learn anything.”
During Monday’s town hall, Clinton took aim at Donald Trump, calling the Republican frontrunner a “demagogue” and “an inciter who is actually fanning the flames” of violence at his rallies.
“I think if you go back now several months, he’s been building this incitement,” she said. “He has been leading crowds in jeering protesters. He has been talking about punching people in the face. He’s been encouraging the manhandling of both people who are attending, as well as journalists on the floor and in the stands of his events.”
Clinton added: “We all have to deal with [protesters]. And you try to deal with it calmly and peacefully, and don’t tell people, ‘Hey, do something to him. Take him out. Beat him up. That’s what leadership requires. You’re supposed to be calming people down to try to find solutions to problems.