Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Interview transcript released October 28, 2009
Washington, DC
October 26, 2009

QUESTION: It’s always a pleasure talking to you and I was thinking, instead of turning it into a typical interview why don’t we do it as a conversation between a person who represents the United States of America and the Government, and somebody who is a member of the Pakistani nation. And I think of a little poem I wrote when President Obama was elected. That was like, you know, one of my children came running to me and said Baba, Obama has won. So I said to him, I said yes son he has but I am hoping that the day will come when someone will come and say Hussein has won and that when I’m traveling on the train when someone asks me who you are, I don’t have to say that I’m from a place in South Asia, I can say that I’m from Pakistan and I’m a Muslim without fearing that he will hate me for that. So can you talk about this particular thing, how do we overcome this fear?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how pleased I am that I will be in Pakistan for my fifth visit. I came as First Lady, three times as a senator. This is my first time as a Secretary of State, but I am so looking forward to returning. And I want to help turn the page on the past in our relationship, and for me that’s not only about our government-to-government relationship, but people-to-people, where we look at each other as fellow human beings, where we learn from each other, we listen and really take in what are the experiences and the perspectives that the other brings. I am a very strong believer that that is part of what we’re trying to do in the Obama Administration. And both President Obama and I have Pakistani friends, Pakistan American friends, have a great affection and admiration for the culture and people. And what we want is to set our relationship on a firmer foundation.

So I share your hope that for a Pakistani here in the United States, or for an American in Pakistan, we will not have these misconceptions and these stereotypes that stand in the way of us seeing each other clearly. Now, that doesn't mean that everything will be perfect because we are two different peoples, two different nations. We have different expectations. But we can clear away a lot of the underbrush and begin to work closely together.

QUESTION: Overcome this fear, this mutual fear.


QUESTION: Of course as you said it is here in America too. You hear people are not interested in politics....the extremists may somehow get a hold of nuclear weapons and then they can do something terrible so there is fear on both sides so how do you overcome it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think by greater awareness, by doing what we are doing. For me, it is very important to recognize the sacrifice that the Pakistani people are making in this war against violent extremism. More Pakistanis have been killed, more civilians have been oppressed or intimidated, very brave military and government officials have lost their lives in this struggle that is a common struggle. And I think if we can begin to put it more in that context and recognize that the United States and Pakistan really do have a lot in common and it’s not only about the war against these violent extremisms. What do people in Pakistan want? Good jobs, good healthcare, good education for our children, energy that is predictable and reliable – the kinds of everyday needs that are really at the core of what Americans want. And the more we can draw those similarities, even though, of course, there will be differences, but let’s narrow the area of difference so that we can see how much more we have in common. That will begin to dissipate the fear.

QUESTION: There’s another aspect of looking at this relationship. When you come and live in America no matter where you are from, you soon experience and realize how warm the American people are. You are welcomed everywhere you can go; it’s almost like, because I’m from Pakistan, it’s like almost being in Pakistan. You can knock on a door and be welcomed. Something I’ve studied in Britain you can’t do that there, they have certain different ways of social behavior. And still there is this warmth, this openness this hospitality which is so American somehow it does not register, why?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there may be three reasons for that, Anwar. One might very well be that it’s person-to-person. It’s not something that is part of a government policy. It is what you feel – and thank you for saying that.

QUESTION: It’s genuine

SECRETARY CLINTON: Because I obviously believe Americans are really hospitable and warm and friendly and want to work with people and think the best of people. But that is hard to convey through the screen of everything that’s going on in the world today. I think that, unfortunately, that kind of everyday experience doesn't make headlines. It doesn't lead the news. What does is the conflict or the disagreements or the problems.

QUESTION: Sorry I’m interrupting but does the U.S. Government make an effort to convey that to let the world see an ordinary American. Do you make an effort to do that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am certainly making an effort. That’s why I talk about people-to-people diplomacy, because for me, being Secretary of State is not just going somewhere and sitting in a government office or a conference room talking across the table to my counterparts in the government. I want to get out. I’ve been doing this around the world, taking questions not just from the press of the country I’m visiting, but from the people of the country, looking for ways to experience the culture and show respect for that. I hope on this trip I will be able to start that ball rolling, so to speak, so that maybe some in your country will say, no, I really didn’t have a good opinion before, I thought it was all about are you going to be with us or against us on the war on terrorism, but this is a new day. That’s why we’re turning a new page. And I hope part of what I can convey on my trip is exactly that message.

QUESTION: That of real America.


QUESTION: Not of an American diplomat, not of an American politician. You said yes, there are issues in the world and for the Muslim there some issues that are very, very important; Palestine, Kashmir. You have certain positions on those issues and they have certain positions on that issue and sometimes the two positions do not reconcile and then you run into trouble. Now what I think the mistakes that is made on both sides is that people don’t say that, look this is politics. What happened on 9/11 is because of differences over these political issues. I’ve never seen any American politician say that. What comes across, at least in the Muslim world, is the message that this is happening because there is something wrong with Muslims or Islam.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, that is deeply, deeply regrettable and troubling to me, especially since I think both President Obama and I present such a different face of America to the world. And we certainly have tried to convey a very specific message that as we look at the world today, there is a small minority of people, as there have been at other points in history, who are bent upon destruction, not building up but tearing down. And it is in all of our interest to join together against those who have such a violent approach, who don’t really share the values about how we want people to live together and how we want people to prosper together. It would be my most fervent desire that people in Pakistan would see their incomes rise, would see their businesses improve, would have the opportunity to make the future better for their children and their grandchildren. That’s what I want for all people. I came into politics out of a really a sense of my love for children and what I think we should be doing to enable each child anywhere in the world to live up to his or her God-given potential.

Now, politics will always be with us, but let’s call it what it is. There are some people who don’t share our view about what should happen with your triplets or with my child or with the children across Pakistan and America. They want to hold them back. They want to deny girls education. They want to prevent women from having an opportunity for healthcare and a better life and to have the future unlimited for themselves and their children. They don’t want to bring some of the benefits of modern life so that jobs are more plentiful and people can have a better prosperity.

So let us work together on where we can agree. Will there be disagreements? We have disagreements in our own country. We have disagreements within different parts of America. That’s not going away. People see the world differently. But let’s resolve to overcome those differences in every way possible and not to allow the differences to interfere with the vast majority of what we agree on.

QUESTION: You yourself are a very warm person and I know that you have lots of Pakistani friends some of them are common friends, I know them, I’m related to them and they speak very fondly of you. But this also very few people in Pakistan know about it. Why?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I think it doesn't make news. I mean, the fact that I have good Pakistani friends going back to college, that I have very close Pakistani friends and Pakistani Americans are a big part of my life, that when Bill and I were in the White House our Pakistani friends would deliver Pakistani food so that we would enjoy --

QUESTION: Once you went to (inaudible) house to have breakfast when he was the President.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. And we – it’s nothing unusual. See, I don’t go around saying, “Oh look at me, I have Pakistani friends.” They’re my friends. They happen to be Pakistani. They are people who we talk about their children. I go to weddings. I’m in their homes. So maybe I need to do a better job, and that’s what I hope to do on this trip, in making that person-to-person connection. I love the food, I wear shalwar kameezas. I mean, I want people to know that I am no stranger to Pakistan or Pakistani culture. I feel very grateful that I have such good friends whose families are from Pakistan, who they go back to visit on a regular basis. I want that to come across because, to me, that is all about how I can be the best Secretary of State for my country.

QUESTION: So having Pakistani friends means certain things, like I’m sure they must have discussed cricket with you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Which I still don’t understand. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And they must have forced you to eat their food?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, but I – it’s not being forced to. I mean, give me a seekh kabob and some gow (ph) and I’ll be a happy person.

QUESTION: And did they also recite poetry to you? This is another thing they love to do.

SECRETARY CLINTON: People do recite poetry.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, and also even the music. Some of the music that’s coming out of Pakistan now, some of the cultural facts that I like, some of the dancing that is traditional which I have seen in my prior visits which I enjoy, looking at some of the work that I’ve done in the past. I remember when Chelsea and I were there. My daughter had been studying Islamic history in her school here in Washington.

QUESTION: I remember. She recited a whole (inaudible) from the Koran at the mosque there, I was there.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. We went to the Faisal mosque and had a really significant visit. I went to the Islamabad college for women and spent time in the cafeteria talking to the young women, listening to what they had to say. I visited a village in Lahore where I sat on the ground with a lot of the women of the village, and I heard them say to me what I could hear anywhere in America: I want my children educated, I want good healthcare for my children. So I feel such a sense of connection because of the fortunate experience I’ve had going all the way back to my college years of knowing people who love their country of Pakistan.

QUESTION: Well, that is true and I wish you good luck. We really need that kind of understanding, that kind of an approach or an effort to understand each other. And on thing that is not understood here is that the majority of Pakistani’s do not belong to those minor, minute region sects that are involved in violent activities. The majority are (inaudible) and so far not a single (inaudible) has been found involved with any of these groups. And they believe in Sufism, their art follows the Sufi sense. So when you go to Pakistan will you make an effort to connect with that part of Islam, Sufism and Sufi (inaudible?)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I do intend to make such an effort. And one of my Pakistani friends explained it to me in saying that our Islam is not what is being portrayed in the world media. And I want to do more to send that message back to the United States. And he also said that some of what has happened is that it’s almost as though there’s been a tumor injected into the Pakistani body, and it is a tumor that comes from outside of Pakistan, outside of Pakistan’s traditions, it is foreign to the body just as a tumor is foreign to the functioning of the body, and that people need to understand that the Pakistani people are fighting against that tumor. The very courageous efforts by your military, first in Swat, now in Waziristan, are to eject that foreign body, because it has unfortunately polluted some of the very good and positive features that are really part of what Pakistan is. I thought that was a fascinating description. I mean, I was born in the same year that Pakistan was born, and I --



QUESTION: And today is your birthday.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. Thank you. Today happens to be my birthday. And so I know how difficult it has been for the Pakistani people to really understand what is being done to them. It is a foreign influence that has to be rejected. And the vast majority of Pakistanis reject it. The government is working to eliminate it, and we want to be your partner in making sure that the true character of Pakistan is conveyed.

QUESTION: But that’s a very tricky thing to do. Like I can see when you passed this Kerry-Lugar Bill. There is one clause which talks about civilian control over the military. That was an effort to be on the side of the people of Pakistan who for long have been saying that the civilian authorities should control the army, everybody wants that. But at the same time, there are many people who do not like this government for political reasons and if the President the Prime Minister was Benizir Bhutto, as people originally wanted, it would have been different. But now many people do not want to see the President to have that kind of control over the military. So your efforts, which is actually a good will gesture towards the people of Pakistan, which was coming with a lot of money, $7.5 billion dollars. But the cash (inaudible) become controversial cause of (inaudible) politics. So how do you avoid that, how would you make that different?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Benazir Bhutto was a friend of mine, someone whom I liked and admired so much and whose loss was not only a terrible loss for Pakistan but for the world. In a democracy, someone has to win and someone has to lose. I am old enough that I have lived through a number of different administrations in my own country. Some presidents I approved of. Some presidents I did not approve of. But democracy has to be more than just about personality. It has to be about building strong institutions. And clearly, there has to be checks and balances on any president, no matter who that president might be. But there are certain principles that should be sustainable through presidents you like and presidents you may have questions about. And I think that’s really all that we were intending to say is that to build the kind of strong, sustainable democracy that Pakistanis tell me they want, there has to be institution building.

But we’ve made it very clear that in Kerry-Lugar we’re not putting conditions on the Pakistani Government, we’re putting conditions on ourselves in evaluating our aid, like we do with the vast majority of our aid programs where we say are we getting what we would say is the kind of return on our investment that we would like to see. But the Pakistanis have their own ability to make decisions that they believe are obviously in the Pakistani interest. We respect territorial and sovereign capacity of Pakistan. Their sovereignty has to be respected. So we want to be a partner, not to in any way dictate but to assist. And that’s what we’re attempting to do.

QUESTION: Well it became so controversial. So would you say that the Kerry-Lugar Bill has done permanent damage or at least a serious damage to your relationship with the Pakistani military?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope not. And I will be discussing that directly, as have other representatives of our government, both our Administration and the Congress, because that was certainly not the intention. We are providing a great deal of support to the Pakistani military in their courageous fight against the violent extremists, so we certainly want to have a positive relationship and there’s been a lot of outreach between the leaders of our military and the leaders of the Pakistani military and there seems to be a good base for cooperation between our militaries. So we do very much value the partnership and support that we are giving to the Pakistan military, and I hope that that will be the real story that comes out.

QUESTION: And have you rushed in some supplies recently after the (Inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have been trying to accelerate our assistance for the Pakistani military. We both have bureaucracies. We know how it is sometimes that things get delayed or they’re slower than we want, but we’re really trying to accelerate everything we can to help the Pakistani military.

QUESTION: But can you see that there is a realization in Washington that it’s very important for Pakistan to win this battle fought with (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That is a 100 percent. We believe that what the Pakistani military has done is in the best interest of Pakistan. It also is a conflict that we believe Pakistan has to win for Pakistan’s future.

QUESTION: It’s a huge risk they have taken and if it is lost everything is lost.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is a risk, but I have a lot of confidence in the Pakistani military. I think that this is a very well thought out and well executed military campaign. We saw the success in Swat, and I think we’re seeing the results of this effort in Waziristan.

QUESTION: There was some report that you are also sharing drone intelligence gathered by drones with the Pakistan military during this operation.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t discuss intelligence, but we are doing all that we can to be helpful to the Pakistani military.

QUESTION: There is another law passed recently, well not a law, it was part of the (inaudible) bill, and that too has introduced some restrictions on U.S. military aid to Pakistan (inaudible) and that also garnered negative publicity in the Pakistani media. So do you think the Americans are trying to tighten up restrictions on the Pakistani military? Is there a lack of trust there? Because there are people saying that the U.S. administration is not very happy with the way money was spent during the Musharraf area and now they want to insure that the money is spent the way it is?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I think if one looks carefully at those provisions, they’re mostly about what our Defense Department is expected to do. They’re not really any kind of condition or restriction on the Pakistani military. But I do think it’s fair to point out that when the United States taxpayers provide money to any military, which we do in many places around the world, it is supposed to be for certain missions. I mean, there are many areas where a nation’s military would be proceeding on its own because something was very much in their own self-interest which we do not partner on, but where we partner there is a back and forth about what we can do to be helpful.

And that’s what we’re trying to do, and I think that the way that we’re supporting Pakistan is really unprecedented because we’re supporting not only the military, we’re trying to support the civilian side, because we very much admire what the military is doing in this fight against violent extremism, but we also want to help the government and the people of Pakistan with energy, electricity, job creation, education – the kinds of things that people who may not live in Waziristan but may live in Karachi or Lahore are saying, well, what’s in this for me, what am I going to get out of the relationship. And we want it to be a comprehensive strategic relationship.

QUESTION: No, but is it fare to say that, if you have a unite (inaudible) and it is given certain equipment to use against the extremist and when it’s moved back to the Indian border, is it fair to demand that that unit should leave those weapons behind and when it goes to the other border it should have other weapons, not those (inaudible) for using there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s really a question that is hard to answer because a lot of military equipment is fungible. I mean, it’s mobile. It can be used in different places. But what we see as the direct threat to Pakistan right now comes from the violent extremism. Obviously, we are hopeful that there will be a resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India, because I think the threat that Pakistan faces is a threat that could destabilize the entire region. And what we want to do is to help Pakistan really finally eliminate that threat. And what we hope is that on the ongoing challenges between India and Pakistan that that can be handled politically and it would never come to any kind of military action.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) everybody says that you can of course, and you need to beat them in the battle field but this war has is a war for heart and mind and it has to be won there. (Inaudible)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think we’re just beginning to understand the best ways to fight that war. Clearly, those who are suicide bombers, who blow up military headquarters, who attack cricket players – I mean, what kind of life is that? What does that have to offer to anyone? So we do need to take them on and we need to take them on in the most effective possible fashion.

But we also know that if people can’t send their children to a good primary school, if there aren’t secondary schools for children to go to once they get out of primary school, if there is not the kind of future for the economy, well, that breeds a level of dissatisfaction and discontent that could be radicalized, not just in Pakistan but across the world. So the military response must go hand-in-hand with the political and the economic responses. So what we are trying to do is, in working with Pakistan, to integrate those so that people feel that it’s – our relationship is not just based on the immediate threat from the violent extremists, but that the United States wants to see a prosperous, peaceful future for Pakistan. And that goes to what we can do together to help people who are in need of the support that we want to offer.

QUESTION: One way of concurring that is to talk about American culture. The American centers in Pakistan and everywhere else are doing a great job of doing that. I mean if you ask me to define America, the America I learned before coming here was from Old Man in the Sea or from The Blades of Grass. Now extremists have done an irreparable damage to that. Because of the situation you were forced to close down those centers. I can see, when I go to Pakistan, an entire generations growing up that does not know about Hemingway or Whitman other great American writers or film makers or you know others. So how do you, what do you do about that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a really important point, Anwar, because what I would like to see us do is to reach out more again to people culture-to-culture. I would like artists and academics to come from Pakistan to the United States, and I want more from the United States to go to Pakistan. I also think we should be using the internet. We should be using cell phone technology. Maybe we can’t have the physical presence that we would like in some places as we previously did. We can have the virtual presence. We can do much more through the media to counter some of the myths and the misperception. That’s really our responsibility. And a few weeks ago, our new public diplomacy under secretary, Judith McHale, was in Pakistan meeting with people, and she heard some of the criticism, like you’re not present, you’re not responsive, you don’t reach out again. And many people would say things like when I was in college or university there was much more free exchange between the United States and Pakistan. That seems to have diminished. We want to rebuild that.

And I think your point is a very strong one. We want people to see America in its fullness – the generosity of spirit, the fact that we have gone to war to protect Muslim lives many times in the last 15 years. We believe strongly that Islam is an extraordinary religion that deserves the support and the protection that should come with people being able to stand up and say I’m a proud Muslim and I’m a proud Pakistani and I am in favor of peace and coexistence. I mean, we want to see that. And we can’t leave the arena to the extremists who intimidate and oppress people.

QUESTION: We have a very old long relationship with the Muslim world. I can see one of the portraits here is of the King of Tunisia who was one of the first to recognize America.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, Morocco and Tunisia were among the very first countries to recognize us.

QUESTION: Why are these parts not stressed in the Islamic world? I’m sure very few people know about it. Why don’t American diplomats make an effort to say that, look we have old ties to the Muslim world. We are not anti Islam, not anti Muslim. We are fighting an enemy which is also your enemy. Look back and see how Muslims live in America, how there are mosques in every city. What prevents the U.S. administration from reflecting this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I hope that nothing. I hope that we’re going to be much more effective. I can’t speak for the past because I wasn’t in this position, but we’ve done some very good series here in the United States which you may have seen about Muslims in America. I would love to have those translated and shown on television in Pakistan. I would like for people to know on a person-to-person basis that not only have we had mosques that go back hundreds of years in our country, but we have a very vibrant Muslim community in America. It represents every aspect of our life. I have so many Muslim Americans who work for me.

QUESTION: But is there a fear of repercussion at home too? Recently, there was a press conference on the Hill against Muslim Americans who work for different congressman and they also published a book saying that this is a conspiracy to take over the U.S. Congress.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that was ridiculous, and I totally reject that. Now, I think because we both have big countries, we’re going to have people on the extremes in all walks of life, including in elected life, who say things that are just out of bounds. And they have to be rejected and they have to be absolutely repudiated.

But what we have to do is a better job of having the majority of Americans speaking to the majority of Pakistanis. And that’s what I hope to do. I hope this trip can be an important milestone in turning the page on our relationship so we are on a much stronger basis going forward.

QUESTION: There is another point that aid is very important but aid will never make Pakistan prosperous, trade will. There was a bill that is still under consideration for establishing trade zones along the tribal areas and there are other proposals too. So what do you propose for improving trade between the two countries; encouraging Pakistan to stand on its own feet?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m very committed to improving trade. I support the reconstruction opportunity zone legislation. I went up and spoke to 52 senators a few days ago, stressing the importance of that legislation. So I’m going to do everything I can. And we want to help with some of the infrastructure issues that will assist the economy, like reliable, predictable electricity, like some of the roads and the ports and other kinds of infrastructure that will really lift up the Pakistani economy.

QUESTION: My last question. You just attended this very important meeting at the White House and I’m sure the focus was on Pakistan; you’re leaving for Pakistan soon. What message are you taking? Did the President give you a message? Was there anything specific? I understand you can not disclose the contents of the meeting but what are you taking with you?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m taking not only the very warmest wishes of President Obama, who has a longtime personal connection to Pakistan and Pakistani friends, and I think in an interview with you he talked about how much he loves Pakistani food and even cooking it up from time to time. But I’m taking his hope with me that we can really break through some of the misperceptions, some of the stereotyping, misinformation that has plagued our relationship. Let’s get back to a really strong basis where we can work with one another, we will listen more closely to one another and consult and have this strategic partnership really build more into the future and create benefits for both of our people.

QUESTION: And where will Pakistan stand in this new (inaudible) policy you are formulating now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the President will have more to say about that. I don’t want to preempt my President, but I know how hard he’s working on it.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Good to see you.

PRN: 2009/T14-3