tv [untitled] June 29, 2012 10:30pm-11:00pm EDT
be forthright, but in a nondefensive way about our own domestic system. in the fall of 2010, harold and i and esther bremer were in geneva for the first iteration of what's called the universal periodic review. every country now under a new u.n. procedure has to evaluate its own performance and come before the human rights council and describe it. and in anticipation of that, we held about a dozen sessions with ngos of various stripes dealing with border issues, with race discrimination, with national security. we had close to 1,000 people participate. and what was great about the session was that we came there better prepared probably than any government, with more ngos following along with us, ready to be critical, and ready to in some cases give us praise. we had a town hall for ngos to talk to us. and in a way, we set a standard. and when i say, you know, we
want to lead by example, that's exactly what i mean. so it's possible for us to be both self-critical as we are, but it's also something the world looks at and they go, my god, you know, how many of the people that are standing up to criticize us have anything approaching what we have in terms of a lively public debate in their own countries. and that's part of, i think, the way we do lead by example. people see these are issues we don't shy away from. and that's part of why we can lead in trying to address these issues around the world. >> let me ask. this is a -- perhaps a truly naive question but i'm going to ask it, like many of my questions. i'll ask it to those of you from the hill again. that's the political process running up against owning what we do and taking responsibility for what goes wrong. lorne, you talked about mistakes, and i want to hear a bit more about that. but we're in an election year, and i remember this from reagan, you know, early reagan days, we were the new shining se on a hill. and that was something people
thought allowed him to be reelected -- well, elected the first time after jimmy carter, where carter was owning mistakes, one might say, particularly domestically. but for those of you who have come to us from capitol hill, it's about political will, when we want to hold ourselves accountable with american people. do you think they -- i get why the rest of the world is digging it, but what does that do for your bosses who have to face re-election, frankly? >> i actually don't think we're very good at holding ourselves accountable. i mean, we're good at what has been described, and i really agree with what lorne outlined just in terms of the complexities of this, and the fact that, you know, how people perceive us is really a function of a long tradition, and it really varies depending on where you are, and who they are, and
there is an expectation that we are going to live up to the values that we profess to believe in. and that we are going to lead by example and all that. but generally, while i do think that, you know, we're good about hauling members of the administration up to be questioned and all of that, ultimately we don't seem to be very good at actually holding anybody accountable for anything. with the exception of in some cases fairly low-level people. and it also seems to me that we don't learn a whole lot from our mistakes. we have a remarkable ability to repeat them. and so while some things have changed since the original reaction to 9/11, i don't think that much has changed, in fact. not nearly as much as what we
would have anticipated, or some of us hoped for. and we're still, as a result, struggling with this. and while i think it's true that most people are concerned that we -- you know, they want us to live up to the values that we set for ourselves as was mentioned. they really look to us for that. it has made it more difficult for us. i know that in my own conversations with whether it's ngos or foreign officials, these issues come up a lot. and i have to continually say, look, the fact that certain things happened on the part of our own government doesn't mean that we agree with them. we have differences within our own government, and we certainly express those differences, and just as we have concerns about the way your government treats its people, we don't always agree with the way our
government does. but it has definitely made it more difficult for us in terms of our own credibility and the example that we would like to set in our foreign policy. and at the same time, it has, i think, compelled us in a very bipartisan way to find as many opportunities as we can to support people in these countries who are working for democracy and human rights, whether it's through organizations like lorne's or others. we see this as hugely important. and a way that we, despite some of the policies that we have that may seem contradictory, that we can support those principles through people in these countries that are often risking their lives. >> tim, you with senator leahy designed a law, i don't know when the law was passed, that prohibits the u.s. and military from training soldiers who have
been involved in human rights issues, do i have that right? >> that's close. >> close enough? >> what it says is that, if the secretary of state has credible information that a unit of a foreign security force has committed a gross violation of human rights, then that unit is no longer eligible for u.s. assistance. whether it's training, or equipment, or other types of assistance, unless the government is taking effective steps to hold the individual members of that unit accountable, for whatever the violation was. >> when was that passed? >> initially in 1997. >> really? and has it been effective? >> that is a long conversation. >> all right. >> and certainly steve here could talk at great length on that subject. it has, i think, been hugely important. it has become institutionalized. it has become part of the workings of this building, and
our embassies around the world. it has been applied, i think, in a very uneven manner, depending on the country, depending on the circumstances. and it's a constant work in progress. but i do think that this administration, particularly, has taken significant steps to better define the policies and practices that underlie this law. which i think everybody agrees has real benefits for the united states and for our relations with other countries. but it is very much a work in progress. >> i would like to know how it applies to bahrain. but i'll ask that in a mist. >> i just want to say maybe two observations. first of all, our system was designed to be messy. it was not designed to be predictable. if you want a predict analysis tem, you have an authoritarian
government. we are not perfect but we remain the best. we need to keep that in mind. we can beat ourselves up over bad decisions we make, and we certainly do. but at the end of the day, the people that i worked with for eight years at iri, the issues that they had with the united states were not related to the major issues in the newspaper. frankly, it was related to aid cutting our funding. we can't get the ambassador to speak up on these i, for these parochial issues. not the major issues. i'm not -- we need to be smarter about how we approach things, no question. but our system of government was designed to be exactly what's happening today. and i think we can't lose sight of that. if we want a different government with predictability, be careful what we ask for. >> lorne, did you have something to say on this? >> i think what paul said is really, really important. i often found people in those
years, when we would -- when i would raise this subject, would say, look, you've made mistakes over many, many decades. you know, everything from watergate and the cia scandals to the present day. they said, what we find interesting is your institutions. for example, after 2000, a lot of people outside -- americans outside government said to me, they said, you won't be able to talk about democracy overseas. look at what's happening in our elections. you've got all these hanging chads, the dispute, the thing ended up in the supreme court. and i was a little sheepish around some of the folks we were helping. and they would bring it up. and i would think, oh, my god. and they said, that's all we want in our country. in your country there's no tanks out in the streets, no shooting from inside the white house to outside the white house. it's all calm. it's ended up with your supreme court. and the decision will probably be accepted by both candidates. and they said that's all we want
in our country. so there are certainly mistakes that have been made in every administration, on security issues, et cetera. and i -- clearly there's a need, as tim started off saying, for the pendulum to swing back. but i think there's only so much self-flaj lags that we ought to do, and we need to understand there are a lot of people around the world who would simply like a system that is a lot less predictable than the one they have. >> i so want to get into the arab spring, because there's so much there to cover. and it involves, in fact, all the issues we've talked about. tamara, i wanted to actually ask you, there was something specific you wanted to talk about with regard to the arab springs. why don't you -- egypt and the n grks o, for all of you who remember that situation, when the ngos were held in court, right? why don't you go ahead and talk about it for a minute. >> we can't speak about it in the past tense, unfortunately.
>> okay. >> you know, it was something i thought was worth addressing, in particular partly because the way in which the state department and the administration partnered with civil society in the middle east is, i think, illustrative of development here in drl, and in the way we do democracy diplomacy. but also to address a narrow issue. and so let me start by making note of what secretary clinton and mike posner have done on this issue of partnership with civil society, that the secretary's really launched a global agenda on freedom of association that i think is going to be a lasting legacy for the united states abroad. and both in articulating why civil society is important, what role it plays in free societies, and also setting up mechanisms
to support human rights organizations that are under threat, and new ways to partner with organizations in an ongoing manner. but what that meant is that in the years even before the arab spring began, we were expanding our partnerships. and it was also a speech, by the way, and president obama's to build relationships people to people. that meant people in my bureau, all of our embassies were tasked with expanding their relationships and reaching out to civil society. so when things started to happen on the ground, we had relationships, we had partners, we had sources of information, even when our embassy officers were stuck inside, because of protests and security reasons and couldn't get out themselves to see what was going on. that's only important from the diplomacy side that we have broader sources of information. it helps our political reporting, our analysis, our
policy formation. but as we look ahead to what's happening in the arab world now, in these states in transition, that are writing new rules for politics and building new institutions, when we think about societies that are still struggling for freedom, i think it's important to emphasize the critical role of political society going forward. we're at a moment in the arab awakening where there is a lot of anxiety in washington about what's happening. is this the arab winter. is that bad. and if we're anxious about authoritarian relapse, if we're anxious about the commitment of the electoral victors in some of these countries to democracy and pluralism, if we're anxious about majorityianism, overriding human rights, who's going to help ensure that those bad outcomes don't take place. who's going to promote public
accountability for public institutions. who's going to promote the values of compromise and dialogue. civil society will. that's what civil society does. before the egyptian revolution, it was civil society organizations that uncovered the truth behind the death of khalid said, which the anniversary we marked this week. and since the revolution, it's civil society organizations in egypt that got a court ruling against military trials of civilians. so, you know, if we are serious about the fundamental policy insight that i think you've heard from so many people today, that lasting stability in the region is going to require a thorough change to government that's marked by accountability, then we have to recognize the central role of civil society in making that possible. and, you know, i think part of what i hear right now, in the wake of this crisis, in
u.s.-egyptian relations over our funding of ngos, is a sense that this is about us. it's not about us. it's about what's happening in egypt. it's about a struggle for power on the ground in cairo, and an attempt to sideline a sector of egyptian society that's working for accountability. and, you know, i also hear people saying, these groups aren't popular. they're not winning majorities in the elections. look at our own ngos, you know? our own ngos do not have millions and millions of members. they have thousands, and if they're lucky they have a few hundred thousand. these groups are always marginal, but they're absolutely crucial. >> i actually would -- i don't think the women are marginal. i met a lot of the women this week. and have talked to so many women in the middle east who also came to women in the world, and they are so terribly frustrated. they say, we marched for this. we fought for this. we got hit for this. we got attacked for this.
and when it comes down to running a constitution, what comes down to the politics, we're out. i talked to an egyptian about this last night, one of the honorees at vital voices. she also talked about, with that, the cultural problem of discrimination against women anyway in so many of these countries. it's the ultimate human rights question for women. they are not safe. and i was in yemen actually with secretary clinton last year and then stayed. and what women go through in yemen is, again, i think the media failed there. i got into this in the last round. but it is slavery. and women in so many countries now are just literally enslaved. so my question for you is, you can talk about ngos being marginalized, but we have the cultural problems that we can't very well talk down and address from outside. even as wonderful as the drl is. what can drl do, i'm just going to jump to the women as an example, what do you do there, other than watch hillary clinton, and she did have -- i was there for the yemen town
hall with hillary clinton. and it will make history one day. not enough people saw it. but she had this town hall, and it turned out to be just ten days before they started marching. at first they were challenging her saying, what are you going to do to support us on human rights? she said, you do it, and i support you. we want reform. she said, you're right, i support you. it was raucous. but my point was, a few days later i'm in yemen and she's gone. i meet women who were forced into major at 5, 6, 7 years old and women are nothing there. they say, we're property, that's all we are. i'm asking you, an institution like drl, with culture particularly, what are the mechanisms? >> it's a huge and important question. and i think one of the things that dan fried said in the last panel that i think needs to be repeated over and over again, is that we have to be clear about our values. we have to be clear about our long-term interests. and we have to hold our nerve in
terms of exacting change. we had panels this morning talking about latin america. latin american change didn't occur overnight, it occurred because civil society groups, many of whom we worked with, many of them tied to the catholic church, built up a constituency that basically challenged governments that were behaving badly. we heard in the last panel about what happened throughout eastern europe and the soviet union. dick schifter, dan fried worked with the dissident community there that for years everybody ignored. they thought these people are really -- they're not going to get anywhere. where are we in the middle east? we're in the early stage of a very imperfect set of political transitions. women are, and other vulnerable groups are clearly marginalized. you hear from women all the time, you know, we were standing on the streets, we were arm in arm, and then when the political process starts, we're ignored.
>> right. >> and so the question of political empowerment of women is a critical piece of building sustainable democracies in the middle east. we're not going to make it happen alone. but we've got to be pushing for it. [ applause ] and i think, you know, the work that tammy did with drl is a piece of it. we start with the premise, these are not our revolutions. they're led by people in egypt, and libya, where i was last week, and bahrain. there are people in those countries who are going to demand change. they're going to demand dignity. we have to amplify their voices. and we do it all the time. we can protect them when they get in trouble. and they're always getting in trouble. we can throw a lifeline. >> but we didn't protect bahrain. >> no, the truth is, that we spent a lot of time -- everybody in these positions knows that we spend a lot of time, so much out of the headlines, dealing with
individuals who are on the firing line, who get in trouble. secretary clinton routinely meets with civil society groups. we constantly raise individual cases. sometimes it takes a year, sometimes we struggle on and on. but that is part of that's part of the mandate. that's part of the enterprise. >> help me understand libya versus syria. we're still in the middle of syria. mike, i'll put you on the hot seat right now. >> that's fine. i spend a lot of time there. >> let's just get to syria. . i know, lorne, you wanted to say something about this. i'll let you in just a minute. it is -- everyone i look to, you know, we all grew up having our parents say never again. never again. look at syria today, mike. >> look, you know, we can and do on a daily basis both denounce the atrocities, the outrages of the assad government. we've said and will continue to say he's lost the trust and faith of his own people, that he has to be replaced. those are the -- that's in a way
the simple part. we can all agree that it's a completely outrageous situation that has to change. as you heard from tom pickering and others in the previous panel, trying to figure out how to get there is more complicated. libya was a country divided geographically where a combination of the arab league and the security council of the united nations provided a basis for us to participate in a no-fly zone, which helped libyans take the part of the country that wasn't under their control. syria is a very different set of circumstances. it's a different opposition, it's different geography, the politics are different. that does not mean we're not resolute in what needs to be done. we're ramping up sanctions, working with friends of syria.
the monitors, themselves, are not being attacked. we're looking at a transitional plan. we're putting pressure to the extent we can on the russians and the chinese, but they are not on our side on this. so let's be honest about where we are. we're in a very dire situation. the people of syria, again, mostly women and children, are being attacked every day by government forces in a way that's unconscionable. we're determined to change that. but the pathway forward at this moment depends not just on us, it depends on other actors. >> lorne, did you want to say something on this? how much has this challenge changed since you were here? doesn't this -- you and i were talking a few minutes ago about burma, but burma's gone the other direction the past year. how much has changed since the drl you were -- >> no, i think dan freed put it very, very well this morning. the tough job in this building is judging, you know, what i used to call the primary job of the united states government, which is to protect the american people versus the issue, the
issues of idealism that we have all, a lot of us have dedicated our lives to. it's how you balance them off. that's what drl is doing. >> but haven't we learned day are the same? that -- isn't that what we were talking about all morning? that they aren't -- i guess dan freed said they're not always the same, but they are more the same -- the human rights is in the national security interest, is it not? >> no, i don't think there's any question. i worked here under secretary baker under bush 41. it was a different time in terms of consideration of human rights issues. it was not as prominent an issue. and you have had a bipartisan series of secretaries of state, madeleine allbright, colin powell, secretary rice, secretary clinton, who care deeply about these issues. and there's no question in my mind. i find the culture very, very different on these issues when i came back in '01 than when i had left in 1992.
and the fact that you have secretaries of state who are saying, yes, these issues are important to the building, you need to pay attention to them, then you start seeing what tamara was talking about. where -- i don't think in dick schifter's time there were too many embassies going out talking to civil society groups. it was a very, very tough slog. over time the culture has changed. unfortunately, it's not only the case that, you know, our national security interests are identical, but they are certainly reinforced. >> did you want to say something on this? >> please, dick. i keep referring -- >> ambassador schifter. absolutely. a mike. >> one thing that has struck me in connection with the present situation regarding the concerns about syria is that in february
1982, 30 years ago, i represented the united states at the u.n. human rights commission. and assad's father killed in all likelihood more people than have been killed so far this year. the news came in. i did not have any instructions from the department on this. when we had our western caucus meeting the following day, i raised the issue of what we're going to do about syria. the response was zero. zero. nobody paid attention. this is all the europes and the canadians, australians.
the western clubs. nothing. no response. and then i kept pushing it, and if i may say so, a few days later i got the word from nea, stop it. >> stop it. >> i think dick's pointing out something really important which is, again, i said the culture of the building has changed. i think the culture of the world has changed. that in those days when you had a few dozen democracies out of 160-some countries, it was acceptable to be an authoritarian country. you were still part of the club. it was a little distasteful to deal with you, but it was okay. it's not okay anymore. and i think this is why, you know, a country like a burma begins to open up. you know, why they realize,
we're just not part of the 21st century if we're governing our people and treating our people like this. ultimately, i think that's going to have a lot of import. in terms of what's going on in china. obviously technology has affected that. people are able to see much more easily now than they could 30 years ago, that what's going on inside our country's not normal. but it isn't normal anymore. most countries are democratic. that's a huge development. >> i would love to get into that with any of you that want to jump in on the role of new technologies. didn't work for the green revolution, did it, in iran? it did for a moment, but it certainly hasn't yet. it seemed to work in egypt. we've traced that. right? tamara, any of you, why don't you tell me -- mike, i know you have a lot of thoughts on this on the role of new technologies and media in the new technology age. >> when you say "it," you know, i think our view has been always that technology doesn't cause revolutions or social change. people do. but it does aid them. and so our premise has been over
the last several years, and paul and tim have been incredibly helpful in supporting this, that we really ought to be approaching these internet issues from the perspective of reinforcing traditional human rights standards. this is about free speech, free assembly, free association. it's creating an open space for activists to use new technologies, to advance their causes. part of what we've learned over time, it's not just about opening up the space and creating less constraints as there are in places like iran or china, but it's also about protecting people who use these new technologies who don't really have a sense of some of the risks associated. so a lot of the support we've gotten from congress has gone to really reinforce the need for training and support for activists so they're a voice for democracy in their own society, equipped with tools that are safe and effective. it is transformational. take people where they are and recognize you're really empowering their voice, the voice is already there. >> let me ask you, you were in burma. everybody's been to burma. i thought when i went four weeks ago that i was the first person. i've come back. everybody says, i've just been to burma. my question to you on that,
lorne, there are no cell towers, no cell phones. blackberries don't work. i met a group of young women all working in the political realm who are pro democracy and were all on facebook. i'm told they represent the .002% who are on facebook. i couldn't get my internet up and running there. the past year with burma, we've seen the profound change i have to believe has a lot to do with how the state department has done this, but it happened without that. it happened without -- >> without technology. >> yeah. >> well, it's exactly what mike said. you know, i think -- i remember i had someone say to me iri ought to honor the founder of facebook. i was kind of like, why? well, because it was so important in the arab revolutions.