QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you again for being with us. In the speech that you just gave at the UN, you said that the oppression of women is a national security threat to the United States and to the world. Why?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because, by definition, the denial of women their rights means that you don’t have a democracy. One of the things we’ve learned is that democracy doesn't guarantee peace, but it’s a pretty good criteria for determining whether you’re going to have a peaceful, stable relationship.
When you have women who are denied their rights, it’s often in cultures that are prone to extremism. We’ve seen that again and again. And generally, it is such a challenge to American values and American interests when you have half a population of a country denied the fundamental rights that we stand for.
And if you look across conflict zones, where we spend a lot of our time worrying, from Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Somalia to Yemen, every place that we worry about is a place where women are denied their rights.
QUESTION: Fifteen years ago, you were in Beijing making what turned out to be a very important speech. Today, another one in the (inaudible) here at the UN. What is different now that you’re Secretary of State?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, 15 years has seen some real changes, which I briefly summarized in my speech. Being Secretary of State gives me both a platform and the authority to make some decisions that I think will further that progress. And I’m delighted that the Obama Administration is committed to this, not as a nice thing to do, but as really integral and essential to our foreign policy objectives.
QUESTION: You mentioned violence against women, rape as a tool of war. And how do you change that mindset, the culture of abusing women? Because after all, in some conflict zones, you’ve even had UN staff raping women.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jill, this is one of the worst manifestations of the oppression and terrible abuse that women face around the world. I remember reading Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s autobiography. I admire her so much. She is the president of Liberia, the first woman elected to lead an African nation. And she went through this horrible period during the civil war in her country and, at one point really feared for her life and really feared that she was going to be attacked. And she tried to talk to these young men who were so menacing. And at one point, she said, “Well, think of your mothers.” She said to this day, she doesn't know why she wasn’t attacked.
And part of what I’m trying to figure out is how do we find the language that cuts across cultures, that tries to interrupt a rampage of violence, a sense of entitlement, of power that too often motivates the fighters in these various conflicts around the world so that they stop and think and they regain some sense of humanity.
So we have taken very seriously the whole issue of gender and sexual-based violence. I was privileged to chair the Security Council when they adopted a resolution condemning it and putting forth more United Nations efforts to try to combat it. But it’s gratuitous. You could go back in history and you can always find marauding armies that pillaged and raped along the way, but now it’s almost as though that’s the purpose of it. It is to subjugate women. It is to use women as a prize in armed conflict. And we just have to stand so strongly against that. It is just barbaric and inhuman.
QUESTION: Chelsea was in the (inaudible) tonight.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: How has Chelsea’s life changed because of what you have done to promote women’s rights?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to make some big claim about what I have done, but I think she came of age at a time when there was a growing awareness by not just women, but women and men, mothers and fathers, of the importance of continuing the march towards women’s equality. And she’s living now in a world and being able to make choices because she’s an American, but as an American woman she has so many more opportunities than women in our own country in the past had. Even in my own life, I’ve seen those changes.
And still today, one of the real things she knows is that she’s a very lucky person because still today, so many young girls who are smart as she is, who are motivated, never have that opportunity. So I think she has seen in her own life, because of the experiences she’s had and the travel she’s been able to, how fortunate we are in America and how, in a sense, we’re called to try to provide more opportunities for women everywhere.
QUESTION: Another thing you said was extremist voices are calling for women’s rights to be constricted and those voices are growing louder. How do you fight that, especially in countries – let’s look at Afghanistan, where the United States, right now, may be working with the people who are violently opposed to women’s rights?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is an issue I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, because as I said at the conference on Afghanistan in London, the United States is very committed to looking toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, but not at the expense of the rights of the women of Afghanistan.
The constitution of Afghanistan sets forth those rights. And what we have said is that we will support a process of reintegration and of reconciliation if the Taliban lay down their arms, renounce al-Qaida, commit to living peacefully in accordance with the constitution of their country. And the constitution guarantees that girls have a right to healthcare, they have a right to go to school. And that’s what we’re going to be really pressing, because we do not want to see a rejection of the progress that’s been made. For so many women now in Afghanistan who are in school that never were when the Taliban were there, they have a chance to go see a doctor that they were deprived of doing. They can go open a business.
And yet we know that culture is a very powerful force. We respect that. We know that we don’t want to homogenize the world, that there’s going to be a difference in view, some of it historical, some of it religious. But at the same time, there should be a basic recognition that every girl child is entitled to certain rights. And we feel strongly about that.
QUESTION: Another question on Afghanistan. A key part of the mission right now of the United States is not only military but civilian, that it’s not going to work, you would say, without the civilian side of it. That includes women, of course. But when you have this new report, a disturbing new report that came out about the Embassy in Kabul – low morale, overcrowding, people working exhausted – isn’t that going to really – how can you sustain that civilian surge under those conditions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s why we are bringing in more people all the time, because it is the fact – and I’ve been there several times, as you have – the work is so intense. I mean, it’s important work and the people who do it are very committed to it. But you can only work so many 100-hour weeks. You can only worry about your safety when you drive down a road so many times. You can only wonder whether you’re going to get somebody you can trust who can help you build that school or provide that healthcare or help that farmer plant his crops. It’s very demanding and intense work.
And we know we have to do it because there is no military solution. Our military is doing a great job. Their offensive in Marjah was very successful. But they’re the first to tell you that as soon as they clear out the Taliban, they need a civilian presence, they need an Afghan Government presence, and they need the United States and our other international partners. So we’re working as hard as we can. We’ve tripled the number of people who are on the ground in our civilian forces in Afghanistan. We’ll be adding more.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about the Middle East. You had what we understand was a very tough conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A lot of it had to do with the settlement activity that came at the very moment that Vice President Biden was visiting Israel. Is the U.S.-Israeli relationship at risk now because of this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, it’s not at risk. I mean, our relationship is durable and strong. It’s rooted in common values. But we have to make clear to our Israeli friends and partner that the two-state solution, which we support, which the prime minister himself has said he supports, requires confidence-building measures on both sides. And the announcement of the settlements on the very day that the Vice President was there was insulting. I mean, it was just really a very unfortunate and difficult moment for everyone – the United States, our Vice President, who had gone to reassert America’s strong support for Israeli security – and I regret deeply that that occurred and made that view known.
QUESTION: Do you blame him for that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t have any reason to believe he knew about it, but he is the prime minister. It’s like the President or the Secretary of State; when you have certain responsibilities, ultimately, you are responsible.
QUESTION: But who’s behind it, then? Is there some group that wants to undermine this entire process?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think on both sides there are people who do not favor the two-state solution, who do not favor a peaceful path toward the resolution of the issues that divide the Israelis and the Palestinians. There are a lot of outside actors who agitate, as we know. But I think that the resumption of the talks, which we are very committed to, is the most important goal. And we want to see that take place and we want to get about the difficult negotiations that will lead to the two-state solution.
QUESTION: If I could, a quick question on Iran. Right now, obviously, pushing for sanctions at the UN, but there is – there’s a certain doubt among the unity – about the unity – there’s a certain doubt about the unity of the members of the Security Council. You have Brazil saying let’s continue to try diplomacy. You have the Chinese still not committing. You have a relationship with Turkey which is not very good at this point. Doesn't – what kind of a symbol or message about unity does that send to Iran?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the process that we’re engaged in right now at the United Nations is to narrow the differences and to arrive at a resolution that can be adopted by the Security Council that will have teeth, that will set forth consequences for Iran’s violations of regulations that they agreed to under the Nonproliferation Treaty, ignoring the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as resolutions by the United Nations.
I mean, our argument with Iran is not the United States versus Iran. It’s the international community versus Iran. It’s not the United States which issued a report about a week ago setting forth in great detail all the evidence which points toward Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. It was the International Atomic Energy Agency.
And the Security Council members have been united up till now. Now, some of the members, both the permanent and the non-permanent members, believe that they can, through their efforts, persuade Iran to take action that Iran so far has shown no inclination to take. We respect their commitment to diplomacy and negotiation, but we think the time has come for the international community to express itself that unilateral actions on the diplomacy track or unilateral actions that could lead to an arms race in the Middle East, that could lead to conflict in the Middle East, are not a very good outcome.
So that’s why we want to get this unity in order to send the message to Iran and make it clear to all the neighbors that the international community is acting.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for being with us on this important day here at the UN.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Jill. It’s great to be with you again.