Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Resoundingly missing from the cover of the Interim Progress Report  on the Benghazi, Libya consulate attack published yesterday by the House Republican Conference is the name Harold Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations committee that twice slashed the State Department’s diplomatic security budget.   That committee was apparently excused from reporting to the conference in the zealous crusade being waged by Tea Party Republicans,  led by Darryl Issa and Jason Chaffetz, to pin blame on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Issa’s name is listed as a co-author of the report while Media Matters reports that Chaffetz appeared with Megyn Kelly to discuss the report released to great hullabaloo in right-wing circles.

Fox’s Kelly Interviews Rep. Chaffetz And Ignores His Hypocrisy Over Embassy Security


During the interview there was no mention of Rep. Chaffetz’s own vote to cut funding to embassy security or reports that have undermined right-wing attacks on Clinton.


Kelly provided Chaffetz with numerous opportunities to bash Clinton – asking if Clinton “blatantly lied” over requests being made for more security at the embassy, allowing Chaffetz to make claims that Clinton personally denied more security for the embassy, and speculating that there are documents being hidden from lawmakers that prove Clinton had direct knowledge regarding the lack of security at the embassy.

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Oh!  So he is speculating!  Never mind that she accepted full responsibility for failures, provided State Department personnel to testify and documents for examination as requested, submitted the Accountability Review Board report in a timely fashion from home while recovering from a concussion and blood clot,  and went on to testify in person before committees in both the Senate  and the House as requested before she had fully recovered from her serious (and scary) health issues – never mind all of that.  Chaffetz and his Tea Partiers think documents are being hidden.   According to an article yesterday inThe Hill,  the former secretary was not interviewed by the audit committee.


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When this blog began in 2008,  Hillary Clinton was a Senator and a former presidential candidate.  She was campaigning for the Obama-Biden ticket, and she and all of the rest of us fully expected that after the election she would simply return to the Senate and put her pretty nose to the grindstone once again.  The focus here has  been on Hillary’s work and not on her job, and the blog handle has never included her titles.   So while the past four years have necessarily focused on foreign policy because of her job,  there has never been an intention for this blog to be mistaken for one that lent more attention to State Department matters than to the last Secretary of State.


That said, I am drawn back to matters of State today due to yesterday’s Politico article by Glenn Thrush,  John Kerry: The un-Hillary Clinton.  Thrush’s take on the Kerry secretariat, stunningly premature since all Kerry has done so far is make a speech and board the Big Blue Plane, overwhelmingly shifts the paradigm back to years not only before Hillary Clinton, but pre-Rice and pre-Albright.  It is as if he is broadcasting “Thank God, mature white men are back in charge at Foggy Bottom.”

Prejudgment this predictive has not been seen since Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize prompting a clear-sighted Michelle Obama to remark, “But he hasn’t done anything yet,” unless you count all of the hysterical momentum behind Hillary 2016 PACs and the assuredness with which they insist that she will run and will win.  We shall see about that when she makes her decision and not when third-hand rumors abound.

Thrush begins with this astounding statement.

… she’s not necessarily his model for how to do the job. He’s more drawn to power players of recent history — George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Kissinger and George Marshall — secretaries who have wielded considerably more influence inside the White House than Clinton.

“He’s going to be more willing than Hillary was to tackle the big things… If he were able to help broker an exit for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, for instance, that would be huge for him,” says a veteran senior diplomat who knows Kerry and has served as an adviser to officials in both parties.

People who “knew” Hillary, in late 2008, insisted that she would remain in the Senate and not accept Secretary of State.  There were cries of protest from certain Hillary quarters when she agreed to tackle the job.  Dark scenarios arose wherein the sub-secretaries for regions-at-risk, Holbrooke, Mitchell, and Ross  (her idea) would steal her fire.  Some feared security players in the White House, particularly Susan Rice and Samantha Power (the latter of whom Thrush apparently is unaware),  would override her every agenda, a fear resoundingly overturned when, between stops in Paris on March 14 2011 and March 19 2011,  both women were instrumental in helping her change President Obama’s prior stance on joining the No Fly Zone cooperative over embattled Libya.  If this was not tackling a “big thing” I do not know what is.  The trio also helped prove that government by women can be every bit as bold and risk-taking as government by men.

Issues surrounding Syria are unlikely to differ simply because the U.S. has a new SOS.  If a trustworthy opposition coalition does not emerge, aid to the opposition is unlikely to change.   Kerry heroically driving Assad out is wishful thinking on the part of Thrush.

It’s not that Clinton didn’t try to do big things, State Department watchers say. But Obama’s determination to avoid new foreign entanglements — and his insistence on tight control over diplomacy — dictated a narrower approach, focusing on women’s rights and smaller international initiatives, like re-establishing relations with Myanmar.

Oooohhhhh!!!! Suddenly I see!  First of all that word “entanglements” somehow implies military rather than diplomatic.  We should pursue the latter in avoidance of the former, and HRC was never Secretary of Defense.  She certainly generated plenty of treaties (many of which the administration failed to push for ratification) and memoranda of understanding during her tenure .  Anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton’s efforts on the part of women and girls was Obama’s idea, has not been paying attention.

Folks have pointed to several of HRC’s major speeches as ground-breaking, her internet freedom speech of January 2010 among them.  For my money it was the very low profile Barnard commencement speech of May 18, 2009 that laid out her agenda very clearly.  There she truly broke new ground, but hardly anyone noticed.  Can it be the “girls’ school” venue, the emphasis on conditions for women globally, the encouragement to make bold moves using everyday social networking tools, the notion that half the world’s population should and might finally be spotlighted as deserving a place at the table?  Nothing about that agenda was narrow.   The degree to which she was able to weave her agenda into a single cloth of a foreign policy that can rightly be dubbed Clinton Doctrine is highlighted in the following as she wrapped up her tour as Secretary of State.

1. Hillary Clinton’s Classic Speech to the Lower Mekong Initiative Womens’ Gender Equality and Empowerment Dialogue

2. Video: Hillary Clinton at the Foreign Policy Group’s “Transformational Trends 2013″ Forum

3. American Leadership: Hillary Clinton’s Final Address as Secretary of State

Former State Department official Aaron David Miller says Kerry can afford to be “more ambitious” because he poses less of a threat to Obama’s team –

Interesting remark!  The team-player non plus a threat?  What would make them think that?

Thrush goes on to quote Kerry on George Marshall.  Certainly, in the course of her many remarks as SOS, Hillary made clear her admiration of Marshall and agreement with his motives and strategies.  At least once,  as a vehicle to explain how foreign policy is also domestic policy,  (the topic of Kerry’s maiden major address as SOS – and not a new idea),  she put the Marshall Plan in the context of her own family, the plan following on the heels of her father’s return from war,  just as Kerry did from the perspective of his father’s diplomatic service in post-war Germany.  Where is the great difference there?

Discussing Kerry’s decision to travel first to Europe and the Middle East, Thrush suggests he will  tackle the Middle East peace process more robustly than Hillary did, ignoring Hillary’s tough stance against settlement construction in East Jerusalem in late Spring 2009,  and Netanyahu’s intransigence at the time.  Recent Israeli elections are likely to affect Netanyahu’s position.  This does not guarantee Kerry a success where every secretary of state since 1947 has failed, and we wish him luck.  But if he does succeed it will be arguably not that Hillary was weak, but that Netanyahu has been weakened.  I am not even factoring in here Obama having reined Hillary in by November 2009 (Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) when she stated:

What the prime minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements, which he has just described – no new starts, for example – is unprecedented in the context of the prior two negotiations. It’s also the fact that for 40 years, presidents of both parties have questioned the legitimacy of settlements.

All of this is not to say that Secretary Kerry will not do well.  In fact it has little to do with Kerry and more to do with Thrush’s POV which appears to be one of relief that after 16 years DOS is finally back in the hands of someone who is not going to nag about inclusion of women and girls at the big table, someone who is more likely to be spending time behind closed doors in ministerial halls and not imposing upon the office the indignity crawling into tents – as Condi Rice did – to talk to women in African refugee camps or tour women’s start-ups,  give town halls,  visit the marketplaces, and mix with civil society on every continent she visited, as Hillary Clinton did.

Hillary Clinton brought statecraft into the 21st century.  Thrush’s psychic predictions see foreign policy moving backward into the 20th century – an “ambitious” time machine agenda that is stale and stuffy.   No matter what John Kerry said or the “insiders” intimate, it is unlikely that a smart man like John Kerry will abandon Hillary Clinton’s innovations.

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In the passive-aggressive tradition of women journalists like Tina Brown who casts herself as a Hillary Clinton supporter while charging in 2009 that Obama was keeping her in the shadows and that her famous *snap* in Democratic Republic of Congo happened because she was hot and “feeling fat,”  Maureen Dowd cast Hillary as a Hitchcock blonde of the Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly “survivor” type in an editorial, Spellbound by Blondes, Hot and Icy, in yesterday’s New York Times.

The piece is a kind of left-handed compliment dubbing  Hillary “America’s blonde obsession” while a sub-theme plays out of Hillary neatly escaping blame for Benghazi while Republicans jump all over Susan Rice whom MoDo characterizes as “rough-elbowed” compared to the “smooth Hillary.”   She goes as far as speculating that Hillary is secretly enjoying watching Rice “walk the plank.”

Judge Judy would call all of that “a lot of  who shot John,” but one charge is a shot across the bow and requires an answer.

While Republicans continue their full-cry pursuit of Susan Rice, the actual secretary of state has eluded blame, even though Benghazi is her responsibility. The assault happened on Hillary’s watch, at her consulate, with her ambassador. Given that we figured out a while ago that the Arab Spring could be perilous as well as promising, why hadn’t the State Department developed new norms for security in that part of the world? After 200 years of expecting host countries to protect our diplomats, Hillary et al. didn’t make the adjustment when countries were dissolving.

I guess MoDo missed this:  Aftermath … Benghazi, The Great Debate, and Hurricane Hillary.  I have repeatedly countered such charges here in the nearly three months since the assault on the consulate using Victoria Nuland’s concise explanation of how all embassy security for all countries in all countries works: Clearing The Air On How Embassy Security Works.    The truth is that Hillary et al. did make adjustments by evacuating personnel, closing embassies and consulates as necessary when revolutions were hot, and reinstating personnel and reopening as situations cooled.  What Dowd is expecting is very unrealistic. Countries exchange diplomats according to The Vienna Convention.   Host countries are responsible for the security of diplomats and staff outside embassy walls.

While the fighting was ongoing in Libya and we were participating in a No Fly Zone, many friends were betting that in the end we would have boots on the ground.  We did not.  But now  some of those same people are implying that we should have when the fighting was over, a new government was installed, and we reopened our missions.  You cannot have it both ways.  Boots on the ground  on  foreign soil is invasion, so MoDo is dead wrong on this.

One thing I think we all would agree about is that Hillary Clinton is cool in all the right ways.

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As the House Committee Oversight and Government Reform hearing  (there is a link to the C-SPAN video of the proceedings at that post) was getting underway on Wednesday October 10, references were made to a background briefing the evening before.  The transcript of that briefing is now available at the State Department website and provides the most complete account to date of events on the ground in Benghazi on the night of September 11 and the morning of September 12.

All over the internet, MSM and bloggers are referring to this text as well as statements by Secretary Clinton and other State Department officials as evidence that the Department of State never laid blame for the attack in Benghazi on the notorious Youtube defaming Islam which was the message put forth in Vice President Biden’s remarks during Thurday’s debate with Paul Ryan (a segment during which neither candidate appeared appropriately informed much less “presidential” in a heartbeat-away kind of way) as well as in U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s remarks on the Sunday morning talk circuit the weekend following the attack.  At Friday’s press availability with Italy’s foreign minister,  Secretary Clinton chose her words very carefully in response to a question from CNN’s Jill Dougherty.

To this day – to this day, we do not have a complete picture. We do not have all the answers. No one in this Administration has ever claimed otherwise. Every one of us has made clear that we are providing the best information we have at that time. And that information continues to be updated. It also continues to be put into context and more deeply understood through the process we are engaged in. Ambassador Rice had the same information from the intelligence community as every other senior official did.

She did not say that the information Ambassador Rice had was that the attack stemmed from a demonstration of any kind in Benghazi.  In the background briefing we see:

OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Brad Klapper with AP. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, yes. You described several incidents you had with groups of men, armed men. What in all of these events that you’ve described led officials to believe for the first several days that this was prompted by protests against the video?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That is a question that you would have to ask others. That was not our conclusion. I’m not saying that we had a conclusion, but we outlined what happened. The Ambassador walked guests out around 8:30 or so, there was no one on the street at approximately 9:40, then there was the noise and then we saw on the cameras the – a large number of armed men assaulting the compound.

The hearing itself was purportedly held to determine the nature and extent of  security in Benghazi the night of the attack. What we learned was that there was an interagency detail in Tripoli into August and that although the tour had been extended previously, it was withdrawn and replaced with a State Department detail in Tripoli.  Part of that detail accompanied Ambassador Stevens to Benghazi.

OPERATOR: The next question comes from the line of David Lerman with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Did the Ambassador – before the attack, did the Ambassador request that security be increased in Benghazi? And if so, did anything ever come of it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: The – when the Ambassador traveled to Benghazi, he traveled with two additional security agents over and above the complement of three who were assigned to post. So there were five agents with him there rather than the two who are normally assigned there – the three who are normally assigned. So they were up two.

There remain voices demanding to know, as Paul Ryan asked during Thursday’s debate, why Ambassador Stevens was not given a Marine Guard.  At Friday’s press briefing, Victoria Nuland remained remarkably composed and patient as she addressed that issue for the Nth time to a question from the aforementioned Jill Dougherty of CNN.

QUESTION: There is something on the – that came up in the debate last night. It’s more a kind of how do things work question. Congressman Ryan said that Marines should have been sent – Marines exist, guard the Embassy in Paris, and they should have been guarding the Ambassador when he went to Benghazi. Is that correct? I mean, could they have sent Marines? Is that the normal course?

MS. NULAND: Let me just stop everybody here and remind you that we don’t do politics at this podium. We don’t litigate the campaign on one side or the other.

QUESTION: No, I’m not saying it’s politics. I’m saying: How does it work?

MS. NULAND: If you’re asking me a factual question —

QUESTION: Exactly. How does it work? Where– what do Marines protect? Would they in any case have protected that mission in Benghazi?

MS. NULAND: We’ve talked about the role of Marines from this podium several times. We talked about it in the days following the attack. I would refer you back to what we said at the time, which is that – and I can get you the precise numbers – but we have Marine security guards in about 60, 65 percent of our missions around the world. They are primarily assigned to protect classified information, classified equipment, in those posts that are classified. So – and I would also remind you of what Eric Nordstrom said when he testified on the Hill, which was that in his professional opinion, another foot of wall or another four, five, six – I can’t remember the number that he used – of American security personnel wouldn’t have been able to turn back or handle the assaults at the level of ferocity and lethality that we saw that night.

In the background briefing linked here, the reason why Marine Embassy Security would never have been in Benghazi for any reason was made eminently clear.

OPERATOR: The next question is from the line of Margaret Brennan, CBS News. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks for doing this. The timeline here begins around 8:30 p.m., but we had heard in response to some reports where reporters had found paperwork documents on the grounds of the compound that secure materials, that confidential paperwork had actually been secured earlier in the day, therefore there wasn’t any compromised material found at the compound. When did that occur? At 8:30 at night? When were those documents secured or shredded or burned or whatever?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Because of the – this was a post and not a – and we – this post held no classified documents. They had computer communications with Washington, but the material would arrive on the screen and you would read it on the screen, and then that was it. There was no classified paper, so there was no paper to burn.

Assuredly the debate will continue to rage.  A few  things are clear:

1. There is never-before-seen daylight making its appearance between the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department.  Under-the-bus stories abound.  (I am putting my money on Hillary Clinton.)

2.  Hillary Clinton intends to get to the bottom of this and will probably make no definitive statements until all investigations are complete  nor should she absent all possible information.  (I hope this extends to appearing before the Oversight Committee as well.)

3. When faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary some people will never cease to believe that a Marine guard, which, had one been assigned,  would have remained in Tripoli,  would have made a difference.

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Mme. Secretary knocked this one out of the park.  She refers here to her January 13, 2011 Forum for the Future address in Doha.  I have hearkened back to that one many times on these pages.  In case you missed it or want to see it again, I have provided the link above.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Democratic Transitions in the Maghreb


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Washington, DC
October 12, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON:Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you very much. And a special word of thanks to a friend and someone whom I admire greatly, General Scowcroft. His many years of distinguished service to our country is a great tribute in every respect.Thanks also to Jon Alterman and CSIS for hosting this conference on “The Maghreb in Transition: Seeking Stability in an Era of Uncertainty.” I also wish to acknowledge Dr. Terrab for his strong support of this important conference and members of the diplomatic corps as well.

Now, why are we here? And why is this conference so timely? Well, to start with, what happens in this dynamic region has far-reaching consequences for our own security and prosperity. And we know very well that it is most important to the people of this region, whose aspirations and ambitions deserve to be met. But recent events have raised questions about what lies ahead – what lies ahead for the region, what lies ahead for the rest of us who have watched with great hope, as General Scowcroft said, the events that have unfolded in the Maghreb. A terrorist attack in Benghazi, the burning of an American school in Tunis – these and other scenes of anger and violence have understandably led Americans to ask what is happening. What is happening to the promise of the Arab Spring? And what does this mean for the United States?

Well, I certainly think it’s important to ask these questions and to seek answers, as you are doing today. And let me, on a personal note, start with what happened in Benghazi. No one wants to find out exactly what happened more than I do. I’ve appointed an Accountability Review Board that has already started examining whether our security procedures were appropriate, whether they were properly implemented, and what lessons we can and must learn for the future. And we are working as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible, knowing that we cannot afford to sacrifice accuracy to speed. And of course, our government is sparing no effort in tracking down the terrorists who perpetrated this attack.

And we are focused, as we must, on what more needs to be done right now to protect our people and our facilities. We had another terrible attack yesterday. I strongly condemn the killing of a longtime Yemeni employee at our Embassy in Sana’a. And we are working with Yemeni authorities to investigate this attack and to bring those responsible to justice as well.

But throughout all of this, we must not only focus on the headlines. We have to keep in mind the trend lines. We have to remain focused on the broader strategic questions posed by these democratic transitions and their impact on American interests and values.

Let me start by stating the obvious: Nobody should have ever thought this would be an easy road. I certainly didn’t. However, it is important to look at the full picture – to weigh the violent acts of a small number of extremists against the aspirations and actions of the region’s people and governments. That broader view supports rather than discredits the promise of the Arab revolutions. It reaffirms that, instead of letting mobs and extremists speak for entire countries, we should listen to what the elected governments and free citizens are saying. They want more freedom, more justice, more opportunity – not more violence. And they want better relations not only with the United States, but with the world – not worse.

I have no illusions about how complicated this is. After all, American foreign policy has long been shaped by debates over how to balance our interests in security and stability with our values in supporting freedom and democracy. Recent revolutions have intensified these debates by creating a new birth of freedom, but also by unseating old partners and unleashing unpredictable new forces.

As I said last fall at the National Democratic Institute, we have to be honest that America’s policies in the region will always reflect the full range of our interests and values – promoting democracy and human rights, and defeating al-Qaida; defending our allies and partners, and also ensuring a secure supply of energy.

And there will be times when not all of our interests and values align. We work to align them, but we do so acknowledging reality. And it’s true that we tailor our tactics for promoting democratic change to the conditions on the ground in each country. After all, it would be foolish to take a one-size-fits-all approach regardless of circumstances or historical trends.

But in the long run, the enduring cooperation we seek – and that our interests and our values demand – is difficult to sustain without democratic legitimacy and public consent.

Weeks before the revolution in Egypt began, I told Arab leaders gathered in Doha that the region’s foundations were sinking into the sand. It was clear even then that the status quo was unsustainable, that refusal to change was itself becoming a threat to stability.

So for the United States, supporting democratic transitions is not a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity.

And we will not return to the false choice between freedom and stability. And we will not pull back our support for emerging democracies when the going gets rough. That would be a costly strategic mistake that would, I believe, undermine both our interests and our values.

Now, we recognize that these transitions are not America’s to manage, and certainly not ours to win or lose. But we have to stand with those who are working every day to strengthen democratic institutions, defend universal rights, and drive inclusive economic growth. That will produce more capable partners and more durable security over the long term.

Today, these transitions are entering a phase that must be marked more by compromise than by confrontation, by politics more than protests. Politics that deliver economic reforms and jobs so that people can pursue their livelihoods and provide for their families. Politics that will be competitive and even heated, but rooted in democratic rules and norms that apply to everyone – Islamists and secularists, Muslims and Christians, conservatives and liberals, parties and candidates of every stripe. Everyone must reject violence, terrorism, and extremism; abide by the rule of law; support independent judiciaries; and uphold fundamental freedoms. Upholding the rights and dignity of all citizens, regardless of faith, ethnicity, or gender, should be expected.

And then, of course, we look to governments to let go of power when their time comes – just as the revolutionary Libyan Transitional National Council did this past August, transferring authority to the newly elected legislature in a ceremony that Ambassador Chris Stevens cited as the highlight of his time in the country.

Achieving genuine democracy and broad-based growth will be a long and difficult process. We know that from our own history. More than 235 years after our own revolution, we are still working toward that more perfect union. So one should expect setbacks along the way, times when some will surely ask if it was all worth it. But going back to the way things were in December 2010 isn’t just undesirable; it is impossible.

So this is the context in which we have to view recent events and shape our approach going forward. And let me explain where that leads us.

Now, since this is a conference on the Maghreb, that’s where I’ll focus. Because after all, that’s where the Arab revolutions started, and where an international coalition helped stop a dictator from slaughtering his people, and where, just last month, we saw such disturbing violence.

But let’s look at what’s actually happening on the ground, especially in light of recent events. We have to, as always, be clear-eyed about the threat of violent extremism. A year of democratic transition was never going to drain away reservoirs of radicalism built up through decades of dictatorship, nor was that enough time to stand up fully effective and responsible security forces to replace the repressive ones of the past.

As we’ve warned from the beginning, there are extremists who seek to exploit periods of instability and hijack these democratic transitions. All the while, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups are trying to expand their reach from a new stronghold in northern Mali.

But that is not the full story. Far from it.

The terrorists who attacked our mission in Benghazi did not represent the millions of Libyan people who want peace and deplore violence. And in the days that followed, tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the streets to mourn Ambassador Stevens, who had been a steadfast champion of their revolution. You saw the signs. One read, “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi or Islam.” And on their own initiative, the people of Benghazi overran extremist bases and insisted that militias disarm and accept the rule of law. That was as inspiring a sight as any we saw in the revolutions. And it points to the undimmed promise of the Arab Spring – by starting down the path of democratic politics, Libyans and Arabs across the region have firmly rejected the extremists’ argument that violence and death are the only way to reclaim dignity and achieve justice.

In Tripoli, the country’s transitional leaders condemned the attack. They fired the top security officials responsible for Benghazi. Then, the government issued an ultimatum to militias across the country: Disarm and disband in 48 hours or face the consequences. As many as 10 major armed groups complied. Now, militias and extremists remain a significant problem in Libya, but there is an effort to address it that has now taken hold throughout the country. As Libya grapples with the challenges of forming a government, the international community needs to support its efforts to bring these militias to heel and provide security for all of its citizens.

Consider Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab revolutions. Last year, an Islamist party won a plurality of the votes in an open, competitive election. I know some in Washington took this as an omen of doom. But these new leaders formed a coalition with secular parties and promised to uphold universal rights and freedoms, including for women. And the United States made it clear that we would be watching closely and would assess the new government by its actions, not its words.

This past February in Tunis, students and civil society activists shared with me their fears about extremists seeking to derail their transition to lasting democracy, but also their hopes that responsible leaders and accountable institutions would be strong enough and willing enough to turn back that challenge.

And, indeed, we have seen an intense debate play out in Tunisian society. For example, early drafts of the new constitution labeled women as “complementary to men,” but Tunisia’s active civil society raised strong objections, and eventually the National Constituent Assembly amended the text to recognize women’s equality.

Civil society is wise to remain vigilant, and to exercise their hard-earned rights to safeguard their new democracy. Like the hundreds of Tunisian women who recently took to the streets to protest on behalf of a woman charged with indecency after she was raped by police officers. These competing visions of Tunisia’s future were put to the test when violent extremists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and burned the American school nearby. How did the Tunisian people and government respond?

First, the government increased security around our Embassy and promised to assist with repairs to the school, which they have done. Then they publicly committed to confront violent groups and prevent Tunisia from becoming a safe haven for international terrorism. Following through on these pledges is essential. Those responsible for the attacks must be brought to justice. The government must provide security for diplomatic missions and create a secure environment for foreign residents and visitors. And the rule of law must extend to everyone throughout the country.

The country’s leaders also took to the airwaves, to newspaper pages, even Facebook and Twitter, to denounce both the attacks and the extremist ideology behind them, putting their own political capital on the line. The Foreign Minister flew to Washington to stand with me and publicly condemn the violence. And so we continue to support those changes that are occurring in Libya and in Tunisia and those leaders and citizens who understand what is expected of them if they are to fulfill their own hopes.

Now, the situation in the rest of the Maghreb is different. Morocco and Algeria have not experienced revolutions, but recent events have also tested their values and resolve. Last year, when citizens of Morocco called for change, Moroccan society under King Mohammed VI answered with major constitutional reforms followed by early elections and expanded authorities for parliament. An Islamist party leads the new ruling coalition along with a variety of other parties after thirteen years in the opposition. And we’ve been encouraged that its leaders have sought to engage all Moroccans and have focused on creating jobs and fighting corruption. And we continue to urge them to follow through on all of their commitments for political and economic reform.

Last month, with anti-American protestors in the streets across the cities of Morocco, the Foreign Minister traveled to Washington for our first-ever Strategic Dialogue. He could have avoided the cameras, but instead, he strongly condemned the attack in Benghazi, embraced a broader partnership with the United States, and pledged that his country would continue working toward democracy and the rule of law.

Algeria also has much to gain by embracing the changes that are taking place around it, and we have seen some progress. The government held parliamentary elections in May and invited international observers to monitor them for the first time. And it moved quickly last month to protect diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy, and to defuse tensions in the streets. But still, Algeria has a lot of work to do to uphold universal rights and create space for civil society, a message I delivered at the highest levels in person in February.

Now, what do these snapshots and stories from across the region tell us? On the one hand, last month’s violence revealed strains of extremism that threaten those nations, as well as the broader region and even the United States. On the other hand, we’ve seen actions that would have been hard to imagine a few years ago, democratically-elected leaders and free people in Arab countries standing up for a peaceful, pluralist future.

It is way too soon to say how these transitions will play out. But what’s not in doubt is that America has a big stake in the outcome.

Last month at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, I met with leaders from across the region, and I told each of them that the United States will continue to pursue a strategy to support emerging democracies as they work to provide effective security grounded in the rule of law to spur economic growth and bolster democratic institutions. We’ve made those three priorities the hallmark of America’s involvement in the region. We’ve convened donor conferences to coordinate assistance, leverage new partnerships through the G-8, the Community of Democracies, the OECD; and we have stepped up our engagement with the Arab League, signing the first ever memorandum of understanding for a strategic dialogue between us.

But we recognize that words, whether they come from us or others, are cheap. When we talk about investing in responsible leaders and accountable democratic institutions, it has to be followed by actual investments.

So we have mobilized more than $1 billion in targeted assistance since the start of the revolutions. And the Obama Administration has requested from Congress a new $770 million fund that would be tied to concrete benchmarks for political and economic reforms. And I again urge Congress to move forward on this priority.

But let me briefly just address the three parts of our strategy, starting with security. The recent riots and lawlessness underscore the challenges of safeguarding public safety in free societies and reforming security forces. For decades, those forces protected regimes. Now their job is to protect citizens, especially against the threat from violent extremists. For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries. Now, with the chaos and ethnic conflict there allowing these groups to carve out a larger safe haven, they are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.

So we are using every tool we can to help our partners fight terrorism and meet their security challenges. We recently embedded additional Foreign Service Officers with regional expertise into the U.S. Africa Command to better integrate our approach. Across the region, diplomats, development experts, and military personnel are working hand in hand.

Across the region also, we’re partnering with security officials of these new governments who are moving away from the repressive approaches that helped fuel radicalization in the past and we’re trying to help them develop strategies grounded in the rule of law and human rights.

We’re helping border guards upgrade their equipment and tighten their patrols so that weapons don’t flood the region even more than they already have. We’re helping train prosecutors and build forensic labs that can produce evidence that stands up in courts. And last month, just days after the riots in Tunis, we launched a new partnership with Tunisia to train police and other justice officials. And we were very pleased that Tunisia also agreed to host a new international training center that will help officials from across the region develop means to protect their citizens’ security and their liberty.

Now the nations of the Maghreb are not the first to struggle with the challenge of protecting a new democracy. And one of the lessons we’ve learned around the world is that training, funding, and equipment will only go so far. It takes political will to make the hard choices and demand the accountability that is necessary for strong institutions and lasting security. And it takes changes in mindsets to make those reforms stick.

In all my conversations with high-ranking officials in these countries, I recognize that particularly in Tunisia and Libya, the people I’m talking to were often victims of security forces, imprisoned, seeking exile, beaten, in some cases, tortured. And for them all of the sudden to find themselves on the side of security forces, even ones that are of the new regime, takes a mental change, and they have admitted that it is a responsibility that they now understand they must assume.

The United States is also stepping up our counterterrorism efforts, helping the countries of North Africa target the support structure of the extremist groups, particularly al-Qaida and its affiliates – closing safe havens, cutting off financing, countering their ideology, denying them recruits.

Our Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership is building the capacity of ten countries, providing training and support so that they can better work together to disrupt terrorist networks, and prevent attacks.

And we are expanding our work with civil society organizations in specific terrorist hotspots, particular villages, prisons, and schools. Now, the Maghreb’s economic and social challenges fueled the revolutions and the calls for reform. And in order to succeed, these emerging democratic governments need to show they can deliver concrete results.

So that is the second area we’re focused on: Working with small- and medium-sized enterprises, which create jobs and alternatives to radicalism, bringing women and young people into the formal economy, providing capital and training for entrepreneurs, helping emerging democracies update their economic regulations, their investment laws, their trade policies so their private sectors can actually flourish.

We’re establishing a Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund with an initial capitalization of $20 million to stimulate investment in the private sector and provide businesses with needed capital. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC, is offering $50 million in loans and guarantees, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation is helping address long-term constraints to economic growth. We’ve provided export training for small business owners and job training to hundreds of young Tunisians. And I’m particularly proud of the new $10 million scholarship fund, which we launched in August to help Tunisian students study at American universities and colleges.

We also look forward to working on economic issues with the new Libyan Government once it’s formed. One of our top priorities is helping nations trade more with each other. That, after all, will create new jobs for their citizens and markets for their products. But today, North Africa is one of the least integrated regions in the world. It doesn’t have to be that way. And opening the border between Algeria and Morocco would be an important step in moving toward that integration.

The third key area in our strategy is strengthening democratic institutions and advancing political reforms – not an easy process, as we can see from the difficulty in forming a government in Libya. And political progress has to grow from the inside, not imposed from the outside or abroad. But there are ways we can and are helping. In Libya, for example, the United States has trained hundreds of lawyers and civil society activists on election laws and offered tutorials to campaign managers and candidates in the run-up to the recent elections. Now we’re encouraging civil society to be fully engaged in drafting a new constitution that will protect the equal rights of all Libyan citizens.

Similar efforts are underway across the Maghreb, tailored to local needs and conditions. And none of this is happening in a vacuum. The transitions occurring in the Maghreb are linked, as you well know, with developments across the wider Middle East.

Egypt, of course, the largest Arab nation, cornerstone of the region, we’ve seen its new elected leadership say that the success of Egypt’s democratic transition depends on building consensus and speaking to the needs and concerns of all Egyptians, men and women, of all faiths and communities. Now, we stand with the Egyptian people in their quest for universal freedoms and protections. And we’ve made the point that Egypt’s international standing depends both on peaceful relations with its neighbors and also on the choices it makes at home and whether or not it fulfills its own promises to its own people.

In Syria, the Assad regime continues to wage brutal war against its own people, even as territory slips from its grasp. I recently announced major new contributions of humanitarian aid and assistance for the civilian opposition, and we remain committed with our like-minded partners to increase pressure on the regime.

And in Yemen, where we supported negotiations that eventually achieved a peaceful transition, we are working to prevent al-Qaida and other extremists from threatening these emerging, fragile democratic institutions and prevent them also from finding a safe haven from which to stage new attacks.

And when I met with King Abdullah of Jordan last month, we discussed the importance of continuing reforms to move his country toward more democracy and prosperity.

So in all of these places and many others, the United States is helping the people of those nations chart their own destinies and realize the full measure of their own human dignity.

Dignity is a word that means many things to different people and cultures, but it does speak to something universal in all of us. As one Egyptian observed in the wake of that country’s revolution, freedom and dignity are “more important than food and water. When you eat in humiliation, you can’t taste the food.”

But dignity does not come from avenging perceived insults, especially with violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility for one’s self and one’s community. And if you look around the world today, those countries focused on fostering growth rather than fomenting grievance are pulling ahead – building schools instead of burning them; investing in their people’s creativity, not encouraging their rage; empowering women, not excluding them; opening their economies and societies to more connections with the wider world, not shutting off the internet or attacking embassies.

I remain convinced that the people of the Arab world do not want to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob. There is no dignity in that. The people of Benghazi told this world loudly and clearly when they rejected the extremists in their midst what they hoped for. And so did the leaders of Libya when they challenged the militias. And so did the Tunisians who spoke out against violence and hatred. That is the message we should take from the events of the last month.

Now, I want to add and close with one more thought about what happened in Benghazi. Because, as you might expect, that is for me and for all the men and women at the State Department very personal.

Diplomacy, by its nature has to be often practiced in dangerous places. We send people to diplomatic posts in 170 countries around the world. And yes, some of those are in war and conflict zones. Others are in unstable countries with complex threats and no U.S. military presence. That is the reality of the world we live in.

And we will never prevent every act of violence or terrorism or achieve perfect security. Our people cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs. But it is our solemn responsibility to constantly improve, to reduce the risks our people face, and make sure they have the resources they need to do those jobs we expect from them. And of course, nobody takes that more seriously than I and the security professionals at the State Department do.

Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where soldiers do not or cannot, where there are no other boots on the ground, and security is far from guaranteed. And like so many of our brave colleagues and those who served in our armed forces as well, he volunteered for his assignments.

Last year, our Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was assaulted in Damascus by pro-regime thugs. But he insisted on continuing to meet with peaceful protesters and serving as a living manifestation of America’s support. And when he drove to the battered city of Hama, the people there covered his car with flowers.

People like Chris and Robert represent diplomacy and America at its and our best. They know that when America is absent, especially from the dangerous places, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened. So we will continue sending our diplomats and development experts to dangerous places. The United States will not retreat. We will keep leading and we will stay engaged in the Maghreb and everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake. That’s who we are. And that’s the best way to honor those whom we have lost. And that’s also how we ensure our country’s global leadership for decades to come.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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Remarks With Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata After Their Meeting


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
October 12, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. I am delighted to welcome back to Washington someone who is very well known here, a friend and a colleague, and his colleagues as well. We last hosted Minister Terzi in February, and he’s back to attend the annual dinner for the National Italian American Foundation, an organization that does so much to strengthen the ties of friendship and fellowship between the people of Italy and the people of the United States.We also took this opportunity to continue an ongoing, never-ending conversation about all of the issues we are working on together and of course our very strong commitment to making a difference in the world and beyond. And on that point, let me congratulate the European Union on its Nobel Peace Prize. Certainly it’s quite remarkable to see how unified and peaceful Europe is in the 21st century, and that did not happen by coincidence. It happened because of the very hard work and dedication of leaders and citizens across Europe. So for us, it’s a great validation as well.

Italy is such a close friend and ally, a critical partner on countless international issues, and we look to Italy to lead on many of those issues. On the conflict in Syria, Italy has been with us every step of the way. In September, the Foreign Minister hosted Syrian opposition groups in Rome to discuss human rights and a peaceful end to the conflict there. We’re working together to strengthen sanctions and the violence inflicted by the Assad regime and encourage a peaceful democratic transition.

We’ve also worked together during the course of the last year with the Monti government on economic reforms in Italy and elsewhere. We really are encouraged by the leadership shown by the Monti government, and Italy’s progress. Our close ties in investment and business really demonstrate that we are in this together, and we will grow together. And as Italy tackles bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to create more growth and opportunity for the Italian people, they will have a partner in the United States.

So again, I thank you, Minister, for your work and for the great leadership you personally have shown and that the Government of Italy is demonstrating day in and day out, and we look forward to continuing our close consultations.

FOREIGN MINISTER TERZI: Thank you, thank you very much Madam Secretary, dear Hillary. Let me say how pleased and honored I am to be received here at the Department of State and to have been able to have important exchanges on main subjects in the international political agenda. But let me say, really, how pleased I am that you mentioned the fact that another commitment that I have tomorrow night is with the most important association of the Italian American organizations, because it brings to me, immediately, to the point that the importance of culture in foreign policy for my country.

We believe in – my government and I am a strong believer of the principle that culture is really a fundamental backbone of Italian foreign policy; probably foreign policy for every country, but especially with Italy, this is particularly true. And that is why I have the opportunity of mentioning during our meeting the program that we have put together for celebrating 2013 to have next year dedicated to the promotion of the Italian culture in the United States, so to name 2013 as the Year of the Italian Culture in the United States, and that in that sense, I would be very glad to see and to explain the program also tomorrow night.

But also the reference you made to the decision of the Nobel Prize committee to bestow upon the European Union the Peace Prize is extremely important, because it gives the gravitas of a strong sensibility that the U.S. Government and yourself, in particular, Hillary, give to the role of the European Union in world’s affair and to the fundamental value for the European Union of speaking with a single voice in very difficult situations that are around us. But speaking in a single voice gives importance and substance to the Euro-Atlantic values and objectives, which are objectives of peace, social and economic development, and understanding more people. So this is the sense that we attribute also to this recognition of the European Union, and I think it is deeply shared with our American friends.

The discussion we had on Libya, Mali, Syria have been very important. Our objectives are very much coincident to our working for a quick stabilization and also improvement of the political institutions in Libya. We have, I think, agreed on the importance of the election of last July 7th and the political process which is developing which hopefully will lead to a government in the next few days which will be supported by the Libyan people and the Libyan society. As a close partner of Libya, the Italian Government will continue to do its utmost to assist and contribute to this institution of (inaudible) and to the economic development of the country.

And the same goes for Syria, a major crisis which is so worrisome from humanitarian point of view, but also for the instability which is bringing in the region which is already full of tensions for many different reasons, but which needs to be addressed in political terms. And that’s why working together with the different opposition groups and different opposition personalities is so important to create really another option, another future for a country that we want to be seeing peaceful and stable and respectful of human rights and of minorities.

And also our exchanges on Iran was important and the expectation that the Iranian leadership will finally decide to come back to the negotiating table in order to erase, specifically, the concern that the international community and especially the UN Security Council has so many times raised without clear and definite answers from Iran.

Thank you again, Hillary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take one from each side today. Let’s start with CNN, Jill Doherty.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madam Secretary, in the debate – the Vice Presidential Debate last night, there was one thing that the Vice President said, which was, “That is what intelligence told us.” And there’s just one issue that seems so very basic that I’m finding it difficult to understand why it’s not clear, and that is whether or not there actually was a demonstration that night. Is there any clarity that you have at this moment about that?

And then also, could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when that attack actually happened? I know Charlene Lamb, who as the State Department official, was mentioning that she back here in Washington was monitoring electronically from that post what was happening in real time. Could you tell us what you were doing? Were you watching? Were you talking with the President? Any details about that, please.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jill, before I answer your question, I want to underscore what an invaluable partner Italy has been in our efforts to support a democratic Libya. Italy played a crucial role in NATO’s Operation Unified Protector to protect the civilian population from Qadhafi’s violence. More than 4,000 air missions were flown from Sigonella alone. And in the wake of the Benghazi tragedy, the support of Italy has been absolutely essential. In ways large and small, our Italian friends and partners helped us evacuate our people on September 11th. They helped us get the FBI team in and in so many other ways. So I personally want to thank you, Giulio, and thank you, through you, your government for everything that you have done. And as you said, we will continue to work together to try to stabilize Libya and give the Libyan people the kind of future that they have so clearly stated they want.

With respect to your questions, Jill, I think that it is very important to recognize that we have an investigation going on. We have an Accountability Review Board that is just beginning its work. There is much we still don’t know. And I am the first to say that. But as someone who has been at the center of this tragedy from the beginning, I do know this: There is nobody in the Administration motivated by anything other than trying to understand what happened. And we are doing all we can to prevent it from ever happening again – anywhere. And of course, we are, as a government, doing what it takes to track down those who were responsible for the original green coffee shop incident.

To this day – to this day, we do not have a complete picture. We do not have all the answers. No one in this Administration has ever claimed otherwise. Every one of us has made clear that we are providing the best information we have at that time. And that information continues to be updated. It also continues to be put into context and more deeply understood through the process we are engaged in. Ambassador Rice had the same information from the intelligence community as every other senior official did.

And that’s the very way that I’m answering your question today, because we can only tell you what we know based on our most current understanding of the attack and what led up to it. Obviously, we know more as time goes by and we will know even more than we did hours and days after the attack.

So that’s what an investigative process is designed to do: to try to sort through all of the information, some of it contradictory and conflicting. And I want us to keep in mind that four Americans were killed, four men who served our country. Dozens of Americans fought for their lives that night, and to honor them we all have to get to the bottom of every question and answer it to the best of our ability. And then we’ve got to be sure that we apply the lessons we learned to make sure that we protect everybody in harm’s way.

So I’m going to be, as I have been from the very beginning, cooperating fully with the investigations that are ongoing, because nobody wants to know more about what happened and why than I do. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary, if you could, the question was —

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know, but I’m going to leave it at that.

FOREIGN MINISTER TERZI: May I just – because this, for me, is a neat opportunity to say how deeply shocked we were in Rome, in the Italian Government, for the terrible loss of life of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who left many friends and people who had the opportunity of appreciating his outstanding job as an American diplomat and so important also in terms of looking ahead for the future of Libya. I think that his sacrifice is and should be – and it is surely for the Italian people – a further indication, a further encouragement to commit ourselves to contribute to the Libya – Libya’s future, the future of the Libyans in the country, and freedom and democracy there.

MS. NULAND: Last question today (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you very much. You mentioned the strength of the relationship between Italy and the United States on many issues, on Middle East, Libya. I was wondering if you stand on the same side also on Afghanistan. And, Madam Secretary, if I may, Minister Terzi mentioned 2013 being the Year of the Italian Culture in the United States. I was wondering if this can be a way to further strengthen the relation between the two countries. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER TERZI: Thank you very much. On Afghanistan, we are following the path which was, the last time, at the highest level in the Chicago NATO Summit, reiterated and reinforced. We are following the strategy of empowerment of the Afghan national security in every possible way. And we have common projects in the way we will train, and we continue to train an Afghan security force which has reached now a very considerable number of 350,000 personnel globally.

So we are on schedule. The indications that we have from the field are promising. There are still many problems that we are confronting, but we are confident that the agenda that we have established among the ISAF countries – and when we talk about ISAF country, it’s very important to remind that the other day, at a meeting – the ministerial defense meeting a few days ago, there were 50 countries around the table. That shows and that proves that the commitment of the international community at large is very strong, solid, and there is a unique agenda for everybody.

Afghanistan must go ahead. Over the last 10 years, there have been incredible success stories in terms of education, in terms of participation of women, children, and development of the country. So we have to continue and to be positive about the future of the country. We are working exactly, exactly in the same direction with the United States.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And I want to start by expressing great appreciation for the sacrifices that Italian soldiers and their families have made in support of our mission in Afghanistan. Italy is the fourth largest contributor to ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, and leads the ISAF mission in Regional Command West. They’ve also, as you know, when President – when Prime Minister Monti and President Karzai met, signed a strategic partnership agreement. And Italy has been very generous in committing to help sustain the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014.

So as the Minister said, we are working together. We are committed to the roadmap set forth first in Lisbon and then in Chicago, and we are very grateful for Italy’s contributions and leadership.

As to your second question, we are very excited that December marks the beginning of the Year of Italian Culture. I thought every year was a year of Italian culture. (Laughter.) In the United States, certainly many of us enjoy it and hope for more. And I hope, though, that by highlighting it as a particular year, everyone can take advantage of the programming and the events that will be planned in cities across the United States. The very best of Italy, which is very good indeed, will be on display for American audiences. And I’m thrilled that this is going to enhance our close relationship in all the ways that matter – art, music, good food, you just name it. We are very excited about having this year upcoming, and I personally am looking forward to it even deepening and strengthening the ties between our two countries more than they already are, which is almost impossible to imagine, but I’m sure can occur.

Thank you all very much.

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The proper blog founded in 2008 specifically for defense of Hillary Clinton is The Department of Homegirl Security.  Because this issue also involves her work and career, I am cross-posting it here.

Offline most of the day, I was unaware that Charles Krauthammer’s nasty and misleading attack on Hillary Clinton had buzzed around the interwebs all morning.   You would think, from reading his words, that Hillary Clinton blamed the video for the attack on the Benghazi consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.  That was his implication. That was not the case.  She did make a reference to that video in the context of demonstrations at several U.S. Embassies in the region.  She did not, however,  tie that video to the attack on the consulate as she spoke at Andrews AFB beside the caskets on September 14.  In fact, quoting Mahmoud Abbas,  she referred to it as an act of terror.   I hope that before people believe a misrepresentation of what she said, they will read her words and/or watch the video.

Hillary Clinton at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony to Honor Those Lost in Attacks in Benghazi, Libya drinking a cup of green coffee

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