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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Meredith Vieira of NBC's Today Show

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 14, 2010


QUESTION: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut short a planned overseas trip to deal with the crisis. Madame Secretary, good morning to you.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, Meredith.


QUESTION: You called the devastation in Haiti biblical, and certainly the pictures that we’re seeing from there bear that out. This morning, what reports, if any, are you getting about the loss of life there and the extent of the damage?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this calamity has affected 3 million people. It has caused the collapse of tens of thousands of buildings. We know that there will be tens of thousands of casualties. We don’t have any exact numbers now. I’m very proud of the U.S. Government response. The President ordered a swift, coordinated, aggressive effort. We’ve got the airport open, thanks to the U.S. military. We’ve got our civilian search-and-rescue teams on the ground, thanks to USAID and FEMA. We are doing all we can to figure out how best to attack the devastation all around.


And this is going to be a long-term effort. We have the immediate crisis of trying to save those lives that can be saved, to deal with the injured and the dead, to try to provide food, water, medical supplies, some semblance of shelter, and then to work with our Haitian partners, the Government of Haiti, NGOs, others to begin the rebuilding process.


QUESTION: You mentioned the Government of Haiti. Right now, we know that many government buildings were badly damaged or destroyed, including the presidential palace and parliament. The president is safe, but there are legislators and ministers who are still among the missing. Is the government effectively up and running at this point? Is there someone in charge? And are you concerned about that?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the president, thankfully, is safe. He has nowhere to live. His home was in the palace. He is working closely with those members of his government that can be located and communicated with. We have brought in communications systems to try to create some means for the government to function. We’re going to be working closely with the government as well as with the United Nations, which has equally been terribly affected by the loss of life and damage of their facilities, so that we can have authority, we can have government to coordinate the response.


QUESTION: But we are hearing now, Madame Secretary, reports of looting and potential violence. What is the American Government prepared to do to shore up security in Haiti?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thankfully, there already was on the ground about a 7,000-person peacekeeping mission from the United Nations under a Brazilian general’s command. The general was not in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. The United States facilitated his return. He is now back in charge. The peacekeeping force known as MINUSTAH is out on the streets. They’re clearing streets. They’re bringing law and order.


In a situation like this where people are injured, where people are hungry, where people are disoriented, there is often the aftermath of looting and other violence. There hasn’t been a lot of it until perhaps recently, but we’re going to do everything we can with our resources. The 82nd Airborne is getting to Haiti today. The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson will be on the horizon soon. The Coast Guard has performed magnificently in helping to evacuate the injured, particularly American citizens.


So we have a full-court press going on here at the President’s direction. But this is – I don’t want to mislead anybody. This is a devastating catastrophe, and just to figure out what steps to take so we don’t make the situation worse – I mean, it’s like – looking at these collapsed buildings, Meredith, you pull out one piece of wood, you may cause more damage than if you just let it stay there and went in a different way. This is incredibly complex work. We have some of the best people in the world from the United States down there. And we’re just going to do everything we can to be helpful.


QUESTION: All right. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we thank you so much.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Before you go, could I just say one last word?


QUESTION: Sure, certainly.


SECRETARY CLINTON: I know there are many people watching who are worried about loved ones or family members. For information, please call 1-888-407-4747. And if you wish to help, you can text Haiti, H-a-i-t-i, to 90999. We’ve collected about $3 million for the Red Cross and I thank the generosity of the people of our country.


QUESTION: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thank you so much for your time. And we’ll put those numbers on our website as well.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Great. Thanks a lot, Meredith.


QUESTION: Thank you.

PRN: 2010/045

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