Interview With Lucia Annunziata of "In Mezz'Ora"
Secretary of State
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QUESTION: Welcome, Madam Secretary. Welcome to Rome.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here.
QUESTION: This is your first trip as Secretary of State.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is.
QUESTION: Yes, and you came as – for the Contact Group on Libya.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Now, Italy has taken recently a major decision, which is to get more involved with – in terms of the military aspect of the work. Does this make a real difference?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Italy’s leadership has made a real difference all the way through this. I have relied on my counterpart, Minister Frattini. Italy has been in the forefront of helping us plan what we were doing in Libya. And then this latest decision, I know, will make an additional very significant difference.
QUESTION: This pact for Italy around and in the war with Libya has been very uncertain, in a way, complex – we should say complex. As a lot of you understand, the complex pact we have taken as Italy.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I do, and I’m well aware. I’ve talked with both President Napolitano and Prime Minister Berlusconi about how complex this decision was, and how much not only the United States, but our other NATO and non-NATO partners have appreciated Italy’s leadership. I think everyone is aware that for Italy, this is more complicated than it is for perhaps the rest of us. But it’s also because Italy has such a deep understanding of Libya, has so many connections in Libya, has preexisting relationships, that it is especially important for Libya to be one of the issues that Italy is in the forefront of.
QUESTION: Is there, on your part, on the American part, some evaluation of how long we will be in this war? Because Italy has found – the Italian Government has found its (inaudible) around the decision for some (inaudible) for the end of this war.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think everyone, including, of course, the United States, is working urgently to try to bring about a political solution. The obstacle is Colonel Qadhafi. He has refused to even have a legitimate, lasting ceasefire on which we could build a political discussion. But I think keeping the pressure on, as we decided yesterday – not just militarily, which is critical – but equally importantly, the diplomatic pressure, the financial pressure, is going to make a difference to how both Qadhafi and the people around him evaluate this.
I thought the Contact Meeting which Italy hosted yesterday was very successful because there were concrete actions that were pledged. The United States, for example – we’re looking at ways that we can take frozen assets from the Qadhafi regime and provide those to the Transitional National Council. We’re looking at ways we can facilitate oil exports so that they can receive their funding from that. On many specifics, I think the international community is unified and very committed, and I’m very pleased by that.
QUESTION: And yet, there are many reports on the ground and many perplexities – perplexity – on the strength of these rebels and the very consistence of their capability. Do you address – yet you have never addressed this issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, we have. We’ve addressed it very directly. I’ve met with five representatives of the Transitional National Council. I think on the civil organization side, on how they’re setting up a finance ministry; Mr. Jibril, the representative who is acting somewhat as a foreign minister, who has met many times with your leaders and I have met with now several times.
On the civil side, I think they are making progress. They still have a long way to go. On the military side, we and others have made clear they’ve got to get better organized. They need more of a command-and-control system on their side. And many countries, including Italy and the UK, France, and Arab countries are now intensely working with them to help them do that.
But I would just add that this has been going on for a little over a month, really. The outbreaks were in February and then the terrible crackdown started, and then of course, the international community responded at the United Nations. I think that for young men and even some older men who had no military training, many of whom had never fired a gun before, who are so determined to be free from the oppressive regime that Qadhafi has imposed for 42 years, to just run headlong into battle shows that they have the courage and they have the will, but frankly, they are not as disciplined as they need to be. But we’re seeing even some progress happening there. And again, Italy is playing a major role in helping to pinpoint that.
QUESTION: There is a sense in Europe, in certain (inaudible) public opinion, but I think I should ask you this – is that you have – American is using a double standard in – vis-à-vis Qadhafi and other people in the Middle East, other people in the Middle East. Are you tougher on Qadhafi than on other leaders? It should be – or should that be in?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I would point out that Europe led the way in our response on Libya, and they were fully supported by the Arab League. So with respect to Libya, the United States is very willing to be part of this coalition, and we have contributed a great deal. But it was concern from Arab leaders and European leaders at the United Nations that really moved us forward with respect to Libya.
I think with regard to the other countries in the region – Syria, for example --
QUESTION: Yes, actually.
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- which has unfortunately --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) they are big ethical case.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone has the same concerns – the United States, Italy, our other European and Arab partners – about what’s going on in Syria. And we have been absolutely outspoken on that. We have begun to sanction Syrian leaders. I know the EU is considering doing the same. But the situation in Syria is even more complex in many, many eyes. There are deep concerns about what is going on inside Syria, and we are pushing hard for the Government of Syria to live up to its own stated commitment to reforms. So I think it’s – it is fair to say --
QUESTION: But the Syria case is particularly poignant, the (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is poignant.
QUESTION: At this point, this is a country where they have killed most people in the street.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t have that comparison, but what I do know is that they have an opportunity still to bring about a reform agenda. Nobody believed Qadhafi would do that. People do believe there is a possible path forward with Syria. So we’re going to continue joining with all of our allies to keep pressing very hard on that.
QUESTION: I’m going to be very brusque. Is there possibility that Qadhafi might be killed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: There’s what?
QUESTION: A possibility that Qadhafi might be killed?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don't know. Honestly, that’s not the objective of the mission. The objective is to protect civilians. But there are legitimate targets like the command-and-control bunkers and facilities that we know he and his family control. This is a conflict and he could become a victim of the very violence that he initiated.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’m not about to ask you about what was going on in the war room at the moment --
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- but you have spoken about yourself, but – I mean, what was the mood there? What was the President --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well --
QUESTION: -- feeling? That picture is great. It’s going to go down in history in the United States and probably the world, but what was going on there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have to tell you I wasn’t even – I don’t even think I was aware there was a photographer there. I think we were all concentrating so intently on what we were doing and what we were learning about this very dangerous mission that the President had ordered.
I think any human being can appreciate the flood of feelings that one would experience. This was 38 minutes where we had no way to do anything other than – and then hope and pray that the men who were carrying it out would do so successfully and safely. Their professionalism, their courage was never in doubt, but we had tried to think through every contingency that could go wrong and plan for it. But you don’t know until it happens, and probably everybody in that room was holding their breath, waiting for the final word that the mission had been accomplished and that all of the Americans taking part in it had successfully left the scene.
QUESTION: My last question is: In this war, the – I’m (inaudible), which is a very interesting phenomenon – in this war, there has been a big role played by woman at different level – we have an admiral, we have a general, we have you, of course, and we have our guys at the United – now, what is happening? Is the war change nature or woman have changed nature? It’s an old feminist discussion on how women and war.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
QUESTION: I was curious to know your opinion.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’re referring to the American general --
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- who has been responsible for the airstrikes, which has never in our history occurred before, where – but we haven’t had the opportunity before for a woman to rise to that level, and for a woman to have the experience and the expertise required to carry out such an important mission.
I think as we look around the world now, women are still in many parts, as you know so well, oppressed, denied their rights. But we’re fortunate enough to have opportunities that our mothers and grandmothers could never have dreamed of. And so it’s now a great time to be a woman in the 21st century to --
QUESTION: You’re not afraid of being on the command of a war?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’m not afraid, but I think that’s an individual woman’s decision. There are men who wouldn’t want to do that, and there are lots of women who wouldn’t want to do that. But for women who are willing to do the work required in the military or in politics at the highest level, we should not have false barriers. A woman should be able to fulfill her own potential, and as long as she is qualified to do so, be given the respect and the responsibility that goes with that.
QUESTION: They are stealing you away from me, and I have lots of questions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’ll have to do this again. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And again – I would hope so and --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll take any excuse to come back to Rome.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) There are lots of excuses to get into Washington.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
QUESTION: So thank you very much, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.