One of the most important stories of the past few months was buried last week–not just accidentally, in the wake of Abdul’s abdication and astroturf, but deliberately and securely. If you saw anything of Hillary Clinton’s trip to the Congo on MSM, it was probably the Secretary of State’s thinly veiled contempt for a questioner who asked her what “her husband thought” (sic) about some issue.
Yet last week Clinton set down one of the most clear markers that (on the international front, at least) there will be “change we can believe in.” Aside from passing references in progressive blogs, the act–and its significance–passed unnoticed.
We have an obligation to look not only at what Clinton did and said, but on the underlying forces that caused it to be buried.
Last week Hillary Clinton made one of the most important statements of her short-but-notable tenure as Secretary of State, when she confronted the warlords and cowardly leaders of some African nations with respect to rape as a weapon of war. This year alone, some 3500 women have been raped in the Congo. In a study of small towns, UN representatives found that children as young as 4 had been raped in half of them. A BBC report has this tragic anecdote:
“I came across a woman who said she was with her children in her house – they were 12 and 14,” she told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
“She begged the rebels to rape her children first and finish with her because she had HIV/Aids. But she was crying because they didn’t listen.”
This is not just an act of violence–it’s genocide. Woman who have been raped in Muslim countries are often outcast for life. There is almost no health care for them. Many live with vaginal lacerations and serious urinary and rectal injuries for years. They have no way to make a living, and (because we have not provided the simpest of solar cooking devices) risk repeated violation every time they leave a camp to find firewood.
Her statements did threaten “serious consequences” but did not enumerate. The very fact that she was clear and didn’t mince words was amazing. Here’s one clip:
Clinton met with DRC President Joseph Kabila while in Goma, and described her “very frank discussions about sexual violence,” which included urging the Congolese government to prosecute and punish all who commit such crimes. “That is particularly important when those who commit such acts are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military,” she said.
To confront the military (an authority in itself) in a country like this takes cajones and that lady has them!
In a sense, Clinton’s militancy in this issue might be seen as recompense for (Bill Clinton’s admittedly) slow action over a decade ago. From AP via Wall Street Journal: this report:
The conflict has raged for about 15 years in this vast nation. It began when Tutsi forces pursued Hutu perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide over the Congolese border, but has since devolved into clashes among several armed groups over the valuable minerals in the region. The Congolese people are caught in the middle. Tens of thousands of women and girls, and some men, have been raped.
Why have we remained silent so long? Why was her confrontation of the Congolese military buried? A significant part of the question involves oil–and war for oil. In a global game of Stratego, the Chinese have planted their flags on most of Africa. We owe them so much money (over $2 trillion) for our Iraq war that previous administrations have hesitated to stand up for any sort of change in the region.
So when with her characteristic energy and courage–and the support of Obama–Clinton goes to the Congo and stares the abettors down, she is not just defending defenseless women, but she is signalling that the United States will not have its ethical and moral stands blackmailed by its Chinese and Middle Eastern “credit card companies.”
Is Africa truly low priority to Americans? Even if that is true, the implications of this move extend far beyond that continent to our relationships with China and the Arab world. Which leaves the issue: “How did our bankers manage to insure that there was almost no coverage?” When we say we will not be muzzled, we indicate that we are a different nation than we were a year ago. This is an amazing development, and one for which Secretary Clinton should be receiving far more attention.