National Conference of Editorial Writers
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi. Good morning, everyone. (Applause.) Thanks very much. Well, I heard you were here. (Laughter.) Thought I would – thank you. I thought I would come down and say hello to – I’ll just talk loud, don’t worry. (Laughter.)
I’ll just say a few words. Obviously, there’s a lot going on today. It’s been an eventful 24 hours here at the State Department and the rest of the government. Bringing Usama bin Ladin to justice took a broad, sustained, concerted, intense effort. It involved troops in the field, intelligence experts, diplomats, and law enforcement officials. I was extremely gratified by the teamwork that was evidenced. One of the goals that we’ve had in this Administration is for people to work together on task without the usual interruptions that sometimes are caused by bureaucracy and other matters that too often have been a plague.
We’ve worked tirelessly to forge an anti-terror network here at the State Department, and I just came from a meeting where we’re putting all the different pieces together for our response, because obviously, the goal here is not just to have accomplished this very important mission, but to shape its meaning and create the narrative that will convince people he was a murderer, not a martyr, and that he murdered more Muslims than anyone else. He was a mass killer of Muslims.
For the United States, starting with the embassy bombings in Africa, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, through 9/11, there were many operations that bore the signature of bin Ladin and al-Qaida. But also in Madrid and London and Bali and Istanbul, there were similar operations, and probably the most severely impacted country was Pakistan. And we have a very close relationship with Pakistan, and it was crucial in finally leading us to bin Ladin. So the work that was done over many years had many contributors, including our partners in Pakistan.
As the President said last night, the effort to stop al-Qaida and its syndicate of terror – which is how I characterize it because that’s indeed what it is – will not end with the death of bin Ladin. In Afghanistan, we have to continue to take the fight to al-Qaida and its Taliban allies. Perhaps now they will take seriously the work that we are doing on trying to have some reconciliation process that resolves the insurgency. So our message to the Taliban hasn’t changed; it just has even greater resonance today. They can’t wait us out, they can’t defeat us; they need to come into the political process and denounce al-Qaida and renounce violence and agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan.
We’re going to be working to bolster our partnerships even now, particularly as people are digesting this news. We’re going to look for ways to put this into the context of the larger debate we’re having here at home about what it takes to stay engaged in the world. There are many who believe that the State Department and USAID – really, our entire national security apparatus – is just not affordable anymore. And yet the dangers and the threats are greater than they’ve ever been, so there’s a real mismatch between kind of where we are in any realistic assessment and the tools that we have to use now.
We can’t – part of the reason that we were successful, I would argue, is not because we and the Obama Administration were any more determined than everybody who came before, because every president’s been determined, everybody working in the military and intel and diplomacy and law enforcement – everybody’s been determined and very focused. But our tools were so much better and our relationships had evolved in a way that enabled us to obtain information that was actionable. So it takes funding and it takes resources, and it takes having those person-to-person connections that really make a difference when it’s on the line.
Obviously, we are – we know that we have to be more efficient, we have to be more effective. That’s why I commissioned the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the so-called QDDR, to say what could we do better and how fast could we do it. But the budget for State and USAID is so much smaller than many people think. I’m sure that you and many of your readers and others know that the usual response, when you go to a town hall or you do some kind of an outreach survey, is that foreign aid is 20 percent of our budget. And then you say to people, “Well, how much should it be?” “Well, no more than 10.” (Laughter.) In fact, it’s about 1 percent.
So there’s a huge gap between perception and reality in this, as in so many other areas of our lives, and people think that we can balance our budget on the back of our foreign operations. So if you look at what the final result was of the continuing resolution, State and USAID were down 8 billion and the Defense Department was up 5 billion. (Laughter.) And it’s just – it is so out of whack with what we have to be doing, being the practitioners of what I call smart power.
So I think part of my message today is that this budget not only supports diplomatic and development work that you’re hearing about today, but it obviously supports conflict prevention and conflict resolution, our work on nuclear proliferations, our efforts with Mexico – we just had a big meeting with Mexico; we’re seeing improvements in how they’re able to better understand the fight they’re in and improve their government responses to stop the violent drug cartels – improving global health, reducing hunger and stopping disease, advancing human rights, and obviously so much more.
We also play an important role in expanding trade and helping American businesses. I am one of the chief advocates for American business around the world and am constantly doing events to promote American products and American companies. And we have people in our Embassy and that’s all they do, and they’re – we’re going to have to make cuts and we’re going to have to make cuts in all kinds of areas. For example, in the past two years, we’ve signed eight new Open Skies agreements. I think there are – two people are from Dallas-Fort Worth here? Yeah.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, which supports 300,000 jobs, is going to see billions of dollars in new business. And you can tell the same story in Portland, Oregon or in Charlotte, North Carolina or in Pittsburgh, PA and so many other cities. And that’s the work that’s actually done in this building.
My very clever staff has said, for example -- (laughter) – the seven years since our trade agreement with Chile went into effect, Connecticut – who is from Connecticut? Connecticut’s exports to Chile have nearly doubled, and I’ll bet you did not know that. (Laughter.) Who is from Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania’s exports to Chile, just one little country, have nearly tripled. And who is from poor Alabama? I’m so sorry about what happened. I guess they’re not here --
QUESTION: He had to leave.
SECRETARY CLINTON: -- for obvious reasons.
QUESTION: He went home.
SECRETARY CLINTON: But Alabama’s exports have quadrupled. Now, we are pushing similar trade deals, as you know, with Korea, Panama, and Colombia. We think these are win-win for our people, our jobs, our future. And I think we’re also a pretty fantastic investment. Take Iraq, for example. Because of our withdrawing from Iraq, our military budget – the Defense Department budget for 2012, reduces its request for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan by $45 billion. We’ve increased our request by less than $4 billion, because we now have to man embassies. We obviously have to provide security because we no longer have the American military in Iraq to provide that security. So we think we’re pretty – a pretty good deal.
So, anyway, that’s my shtick here. And I think it’s important to look at the big issues like bin Ladin, the issues that hardly ever get any real public opinion coverage like Open Skies Agreements and realize the full range of everything that we’re doing here in Washington and around the world. And I think I have time for two questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Daniel.
QUESTION: Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
SECRETARY CLINTON: How are you?
QUESTION: Fine. How are you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good, good.
QUESTION: Nice to see you during the –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Nice to see you again. Yes, indeed.
QUESTION: I think we’re all scratching our heads this morning about what difference does this really make. Al-Qaida is somewhat decentralized as an organization. Our relations with Pakistan are all so horribly complex, as you know better than anyone else. Does this suggest any changes or new U.S. policies? And also, if you want to, does this have any implications for American politics?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll let the last question take care of itself because I’m out of American politics, and that’s as it should be. But on the first question, look, I think that this was unfinished business. I don’t think any country can permit someone to murder 3,000 people on our soil and hundreds more in other places, and do the same to our allies, friends, and partners around the world. So this was a relentless pursuit for justice, and I think people understand that. Many parts of the world look to America not only for our values, but our strength. And so, this was an important task that had to be accomplished and we finally achieved that.
But, secondly, there’s no doubt that al-Qaida is somewhat decentralized, but that bin Ladin remained the brains behind the operation and the inspiration. He was the person who people pledged loyalty to when they joined al-Qaida. It wasn’t to an organization; it was to an individual.
He had tremendous sway with so many impressionable people in many parts of the world. And we’re seeing already something of an effort by the al-Qaida remnants to decide, well, who comes next. And any succession crisis provides an opportunity. And there will – well, a lot of people say, well, al-Zawahiri will step into it. But that’s not so clear. He doesn’t have the same sense of loyalty or inspiration or track record. I mean, bin Ladin was viewed as a military warrior. He had fought in Afghanistan. He wasn’t an intellectual. He wasn’t just a talker. He had been a fighter, so he carried with him a quite significant mystique.
So I think his death, his removal from the leadership, along with two very important points that need to be remembered is that the Taliban did not give up al-Qaida when President Bush asked them to after 9/11, because of Mullah Omar’s personal relationship with bin Ladin. That’s gone, so I think it opens up possibilities for dealing with the Taliban that did not exist before.
And, finally, I think that if we are able to manage the after effects, because they will be profound, and draw distinctions between those who have legitimate aspirations for a better life, like we’ve seen on the streets of Cairo or Tunis, or the opposition in Libya or Yemen or Syria or wherever. And those who resort to violence, the extremist narrative that you can only bring about change through the use of violence will have been dealt an even greater blow with his loss. So I think it’s a very, very significant step.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Froma.
QUESTION: Yes, Froma Harrop, Providence Journal, Rhode Island. How do you – to follow up on what you just said, how do you think the demise of bin Ladin might change the dynamics of the Arab spring uprisings in these various countries?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Unpredictable at this point. I’ll be looking at that very closely. Already today, we had a statement from Hamas condemning our action killing bin Ladin, which is a very unusual development because they were moving in this last week toward reconciliation with Fatah. And the idea that there was going to be a united Palestinian Government – and not that they had renounced their resistance movement, but they had opted for something somewhat different that could have led to another outcome.
So I think we’re going to see all kinds of reactions, and managing those reactions is part of our task now. We’re not going to be able to manage them all. I mean, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. But we’re monitoring closely what’s happening on the Internet. And you have a lot of different comments being made, many of them on Islamic sites or from people who are self-identified as Muslim, saying that he didn’t represent me, he didn’t represent our aspirations, that was a different era and then others saying he is a martyr. So just watching how this plays out will be our task for the days ahead.
Up until now, the Middle East and North Africa have been very focused internally, what were they going to do in Egypt to navigate their revolution, what was finally going to happen in the other places. This is an event that breaks through that, but which way it breaks is not clear yet. If we can keep the emphasis on his extremist ideology, his use of violence is not what brought about the Arab spring, I think we can begin to shape how people think about it.
MODERATOR: I’m sorry. (Inaudible) Madam Secretary. Thank you all.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks for coming (inaudible) here. I really appreciate you’re willing to be part of briefing efforts here. Thank you –