The Young Politica: Dissecting The Susan Rice Conundrum

Before the November elections, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already forthrightly assumed responsibility for the Benghazi debacle that resulted in the death of four Americans including much-admired Ambassador Chris Stephens’

But neither her statements nor subsequent departures of State Department officials has quieted the echo chamber of blame.  The buck stops at the top, and an independent panel report  found plenty of buck to lay on Clinton’s desk. She must own and start to fix the problems of inadequate security at US embassies before she departs.

Still, it’s hard to see the trashing of Susan Rice and the subsequent GOP drumbeat about Hillary Clinton as anything other than blatantly intended to discredit her stellar performance on the world stage this past four years and to mortally wound her candidacy (previously declared unbeatable by Newt Gingrich should she make a second presidential run in 2016.

As Meagan Vazquez points out in her “Young Politica” column below about Susan Rice, the facts are never just the facts but rather come laden with political and cultural meaning.

And by the way, I’m thrilled to tell you that Maegan is going to continue her column into the new year! So if you are one of the many followers of this smart column from a student’s point of view, we’ll return to publishing it on Mondays in 2013. See you then!

After the initial boredom post-election, the political media immediately focused on the eminence of the fiscal cliff. Since those talks are still going nowhere, media sought a new subject to sink their teeth into: Susan Rice and the secretary of state bid. Rice, who was being vetted to take over Hilary Clinton’s role as Secretary of State, has been the subject of scrutiny by some for being the ill-informed messenger to national media after the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

Rice went on five political talk shows saying that the newest information linked the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam video protest in Cairo. Rice was relaying the message from that day’s intelligence brief, which was the same information given to Obama that morning. By the time she was on air, however, the link had been debunked. The attacks were not linked to the events in Cairo, but rather, they were premeditated events linked to al-Qaeda.

Soon after Rice relayed the information provided to her, Senator John McCain slammed her at the Washington Ideas Forum for claims she later learned were not correct.

Complications arose after McCain said that he would join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which  must first pass on nominations for secretary of state.

Even after Rice spoke to McCain and Linsey Graham, and admitted that her talk show statements were “partially incorrect,” Graham and McCain continued in their stance—they would not support Rice’s nomination.

In an effort to avoid any more complications, Rice withdrew her name from nomination. In a letter for the President, obtained by NBC News, Rice said:

“I didn’t want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive because there are so many things we need to get done as a country and the first several months of a second term president’s agenda is really the opportunity to get the crucial things done.”

It seems odd that these two senators in particular would choose to attack Rice, especially since both of them have made blatantly false statements in front of a political forum. Perhaps we should remember also some of the statements by Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice, too. The magnitude of their statements is infinitesimally greater than the slip up Susan Rice soon admitted was a mistake. Yet, their careers remain unblemished.

Maybe it was her race, maybe her gender, or maybe it was just bad timing. However, as pundit Keli Goff writes for The Root, there is some irony in seeing validity in “the man who presented Sarah Palin as presidential material labeled…a Ph.D., Rhodes scholar and former assistant secretary of state—unqualified.”

Michele Bachmann’s McCarthyism?

Geez, poor Huma Abedin. She has to bear the burden of being married to Anthony Weiner  — and now this. Anyone who has ever worked with Abedin (as I have) knows she is an extraordinarily loyal, honest, and capable public servant.

But Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) keeps drinking the Kool-aid of conspiracy theorists. And now she alleges that Abedin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s devoted aide for many years, has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore Bachmann says Abedin’s loyalty is in question.

It’s pathetic. Perhaps Bachmann really believes this stuff. More likely she misses the limelight she had when she was running for president. Like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who keeps whipping up the birther issue in the absence of anything else to call a press conference for, Bachmann is struggling for relevance in a political world where she has very little left. And this latest salvo calls her credibility into question once again, as she did when caught mangling the facts on health care and taxes when talking with Piers Morgan [link] recently.

It takes a lot to tip John McCain over the edge to speak on behalf of a Democrat. Members of his party would be well-served to listen to him. Bachmann’s unsubstantiated allegations are McCarthyism at its gutter level worst.

An excerpt from this article ran in the Politico Arena. Here is a link to my response to the Arena question.

Are You Angry Enough to Embrace Your Power To Act? (3 Signs You Are)

Get power-to without leaving home!

Join me for a No Excuses Facebook chat on my fanpage Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern, 2pm central, 1pm mountain, noon pacific, etc. I’ll be on video, you’ll be able to ask questions and talk with others via chat box. It’s easy. Really. And there will be giveaways! Let me know if you’re coming here.

In decades of experience as a women’s advocate, I’ve learned people can be inspired to action by one of two things: anger or aspiration.

A roiling, boiling anger is propelling women — even many who’ve never been activists before — to embrace their “power to” to take leadership and make change. They’re making their voices heard over the din of political rhetoric they might shun under other circumstances.

There was no one trigger, rather a succession of insults. I talked with Richard Lui about them this week on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. Here’s a smattering:

  • After 30-year-old Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke was denied the chance to speak about why contraceptives should be covered by insurance…
  • After the stunning optics of an all-male “expert” panel pontificating on women’s reproductive health before a Senate committee (also all-male because the women on the committee were so incensed they walked out)…
  • After shock jock Rush Limbaugh denigrated Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute (can one be both—don’t sluts give it away?) and demanding to see videos of her having sex…
  • After bills like those in Texas and Virginia forcing women seeking abortions to submit to 10″ ultrasound “shaming wands” (as Doonesbury dubbed them), an AZ bill requiring women to bring notes to their employers verifying they take birth control for health reasons not pregnancy prevention or risk being fired, and a Tennessee bill that mandates public reporting of the doctors by name and the demographics of each patient…

Women are rightly furious.

Why is this happening?

Writer Susan Swartz, who blogs at Juicy Tomatoes, notes, “It’s not just the warbling of a choir boy who believes that sex should only be for procreation and wants to turn the country into a theocracy. It’s a growing roar against women with one wild-eyed effort after another to attach new laws to women’s bodies.”

Hillary Clinton take at the Women in the World conference in New York recently was, “Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me. But they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.”

Have women finally stopped playing nice about all these “power over” affronts? Here are three signs that tell me the answer is a resounding YES!

  1. Individuals aren’t waiting for someone else to tell them to take action. They’re just doing it. Like Sandra Fluke—who now says she’d consider running for elected office. Go, Sandra, you’ve sure got my vote!
  2. Pro-woman legislators, previously silent, are filing in-your-face bills that smoke out those cruel and unjust measures that shame, blame, and make women barefoot and pregnant again. The antidotes? Requiring men seeking Viagra to first have a cardiac stress test and rectal exam or watch videos of treatment for prolonged erections to one that would restrict vasectomies to men who are at imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm.
  3. Between the spontaneous petitions, thousands of smart-ass but well taken questions on TX Gov. Rick Perry’s Facebook page (“What kind of tampons do you recommend, Gov. Perry?” “I’ve been researching chastity belts and would like your opinion.”), and constant chatter about the issues, I haven’t heard this decibel level of righteous anger since early 2001.

In my book No Excuses, I urge women to redefine power from the oppressive power over, rightly resisted by many women, to the expansive leadership implied by power to.

So yesterday on my Facebook page, I asked: “Are women finally getting angry enough to embrace their power to?”

Hong Kong spa director Shoshana Weinberg asked in response: “Why does it have to be anger? Can’t love get us there?”

My answer was:

Love without using our power to stand up for ourselves got us into this pickle. Anger is a good motivator to action. But you are right, anger isn’t enough. After we get riled up by anger, we need aspiration. Aspiration to use the “power to” for good. For me, that’s another, more intentional word for love.

More on aspiration in another post. But for now, I want to know:

What about you? Are you angry enough to embrace your power to? How?

And PS: Want to talk about the concept of power to and the Power tools in No Excuses? Join me this Sunday, March 25, at 3pm eastern for a chat on my Facebook page. It’s easy! Full info and instructions here.

This article originally ran in a blog post for FORBESWOMAN. Check it out here.

Another Year of the Woman? Really?

There was a short piece in Monday’s USA Today saying that 2012 is shaping up to be another “Year of the Woman.”   And they did have some very good news numbers to back that notion:

 …a notable number of candidates are running in potentially competitive races in both the House of Representatives and Senate that could send a wave of female lawmakers to Washington in November. If so, it would reverse the 2010 election trend that saw the first dip in female representation in the House since 1978 and only sent one woman, New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, to the Senate.

In the 2012 Senate lineup, there are 10 female candidates — four Republicans and six Democrats — seeking office. Of the six states with female Democratic candidates — Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin — none has ever elected a woman to the Senate.

Republican women are running in Connecticut, Hawaii, Missouri and New Mexico.

I want to believe, oh how I want to believe. These numbers, though inching up, still represent a mere fractional increase—even if all of them are elected—a probability somewhere around that of hell freezing over.

At the rate we have been going for the last 20 years and since the first “Year of the Woman” in 1992, it will take 70 years to reach gender parity in Congress.

Still, the growing number of women running is a tribute to hard work by organizations like the Women’s Campaign Forum, White House Project, and Emily’s List over the last several decades, as well as newer groups such as Emerge America, Running Start, and the 2012 Project.

Let us also give a cheer for Hillary Clinton who put those 18 million cracks in the “highest and hardest” glass ceiling and showed young women once and for all that they really can grow up to be president.

The increase in women candidates also raises a new issue, heretofore swept under the rug. Whereas progressive, socially liberal women (Democrats and Republicans) opened the doors for all women to run for office, today woman run from across the political spectrum.

Candidates like right-wing Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin who oppose women’s reproductive rights, equal pay initiatives, and other policies that help women have a fair shot are indelible examples. In the past, women candidates of both parties were more likely to prioritize and support issues like education, health, child care, and reproductive justice. No more.

So no longer can women, or men who support women’s equality, blindly follow former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s admonition that “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Now, every responsible pro-woman voter must first check out female candidates’ agendas as well as their gender.

It’s time to be out of the closet about that fact and not fool ourselves that electing just any woman is good for women overall.

The solution to the problem always changes the problem.  Still, it’s a great problem to have.

And if 2012 brings about a measurable increase in women at the top of the policy making tree, it’ll be cheers all around. But let this also be a wake-up call to progressive women that this is the moment to step it up as voters, candidates, and activists.

State of the Union Speech: Almost the Obama We Voted For

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been a harsh critic of Obama’s leadership or lack of it since he took office, not because I supported Clinton (which I did but I got over it), but as someone who understands the responsibilities of a chief executive to create meaning, articulate a vision, and put forth an agenda for people to work from. From the time he was elected until now, his vision kept shrinking rather than expanding and his penchant for appeasing even the unappeasable has been nothing short of maddening.

That unwillingness to put a stake in the agenda ground left the Democrats in Congress adrift. The result has been that even when Obama scored accomplishments such as heath reform, it never felt like a victory. Because it was never clean cut, never a righteous fight.

But I have to say he knocked it out of the ballpark tonight in his State of the Union Address (full text here). His energetic delivery, piquant story telling, and frequent appeals to the highest American values made me remember the Obama I voted for in 2008 and thought had disappeared entirely.

It was brilliant to start and end with foreign policy and homage to the military, whose selflessness and teamwork contrast so sharply with the circular firing squad that is Congress.  “Imagine what we could achieve if we all had the selflessness of the troops.”

Best line of the speech IMHO: **Fight obstruction with action.**

Where have you been these last three years, Mr. President? Welcome back.

It was so smart (albeit a little smoke and mirrors) to connect the multiple wars people are so tired of with the post WW II economic boom and the rise of the middle class. Now, there is HOPE. “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that dream alive.” “Fair shot, fair share, everyone play by rules.” “Reclaim American values.” He took the mantle personally by talking about his own grandfather’s military service and using the GI Bill to get an education afterward.

I couldn’t help thinking how darn lucky Obama is that Hillary Clinton is such a team player. So many of these foreign policy victories were hers. He did acknowledge that though she had been his primary opponent, as Secretary of State, she was in the room when the decision to go for Bin Ladin was made. (I try not to be like the sexist media and comment on female politicians’ looks, but it was great to see her looking radiantly, authentically Hillary, with her longer hair and the return of her much-maligned headband.)

Segue to taking credit for creating 3million–or was it 4?–jobs after Bush lost so many. And for protecting consumers after the big bad banks screwed them. And for saving GM, which has shown once again that the American workers are the best. He touched the heart of every businessman, who has probably read the classic business book, Built to Last.

Did he read my blogpost? He did what I asked him to do–emphasize expanding jobs in the sectors that heavily employ women, in myriad ways. Lauding teachers, expanding community colleges, and on.

I won’t continue with the usual SOTU Christmas tree of mentions dangled before constituencies waiting anxiously for their personally important issues. The important thing is the overall effect. This Obama can demolish any of the current Republican candidates.

No wonder the pundits were speculating on whether the GOP would try to draft a faux moderate like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels since all their current choices are deeply flawed. They tried to soften their hard-edged image by putting Daniels  up to do the requisite retort. He started out statesmanly, then quickly shifted to blame everything from joblessness to the pox on Obama. The only interesting moment was when he coined a new phrase, “trickle down government” as tar to stick together his various disparagements. Otherwise, it was same old same old. Whine whine. Negative, bitter. Attack. No vision, no action.

What Obama left out:
Didn’t mention Paycheck Fairness Act though did mention equal pay to big cheers.
Didn’t mention putting the Freedom of Choice Act back into his priority list, or even the recent rulings expanding contraceptive coverage.
Didn’t talk much about health care at all.
If he mentioned major women’s initiatives such as the Executive Order Instituting a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, I missed it.

But there was great symbolism in the first time an openly gay military officer sat with the first lady and the end of Don’t Ask Don’t tell was lauded. Same with Warren Buffett’s secretary nodding approval when the president pointed out the unfairness of her paying a higher tax rate than her boss, and the camera panning Laurene Jobs each time the word “innovation” was mentioned. There was also the almost unbearable sadness of seeing the courageous but still wounded AZ Rep. Gabby Giffords bidding farewell for now to her Congressional colleagues.

All in all, I’m breathing out, relieved that the president performed so well. Commentators said that the State of the Union speech isn’t nearly as important or watched as it used to be. But I’m a sappy enough patriot to listen to every word, and to embrace the theater of it as an incredibly important declaration that our democracy lives for all of us to fight passionately another day for what we believe.

Pump Up the Passion: Why Dems Need a Bachmann!

I wrote this commentary for the Daily Beast and titled it “Pump Up the Passion.” Of course, they flamed it up and called it “Dems Need a Bachmann!” My point is that this is a moment of opportunity for progressive women to soar to leadership in a politics that sorely needs leadership, but we must a) learn from our adversaries and b) stake out a bold agenda to define and drive the debate. I value your opinions greatly, so tell me what you think about these ideas.

Passion! What a relief to see President Obama express some in his jobs speech Thursday. And for the first time that I can remember, a presidential proposal specifically addressed women’s essential role in driving the economic engine.

But the political narrative shifts awfully quickly these days. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s presidential candidacy, a hot ticket just a couple of weeks ago, is suddenly melting. And Sarah Palin is in her bus, hurtling full-speed toward self-parody as an attention-seeking political used-to-be. While women’s importance in the political landscape can no longer be overlooked, some might say that the much-hyped “year of the conservative women” is over.

To feminists, right-wing ideologues like Bachmann and Palin might seem like tools of the patriarchy, co-opted by their oppressors as mouthpieces for a party that would disempower women and return us to the days of back-alley abortions and economic discrimination. But you have to hand it to the women on the ideological right. What they lack in compassion they make up for with passion. They have the fire of moral certitude. You know where they stand. That kind of clarity connects with voters.

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Kevork Djansezian / Getty ImagesAnd so I say, learn from your adversaries. Progressive women could stand to emulate these characteristics of their sisters on the other side of the partisan aisle. I doubt fewer right-wing women will run in 2012, and that’s fine with me. But the dual Bachmann-Palin flameouts provide a critical window of opportunity for progressive women—whose numbers and experience in elective office are triple those of women on the right, and who have by and large been the unsung trailblazers for all women in politics—to kick their roles up a few notches and lead the nation forward from its current morass.

“Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have breezed through the door that Hillary painstakingly built.”

It’s great that barriers to all women in politics have fallen precipitously despite continuing media bias and unequal access to big-money donors. Voters are more likely to trust women candidates, and rightly so: women legislators work harder and bring home more results for their constituents. Though they make up just 17 percent of Congress, women are 51 percent of the U.S. population, 54 percent of voters, and upward of 60 percent of progressive voters. That’s voting power that, if mobilized collectively and strategically, could change everything.

So many progressive policy initiatives and social movements since the 19th-century suffragists have been led by progressive women that it’s no wonder we get cognitive dissonance from the possibility that the first female president might be a right-wing Republican. Progressive women’s groups have led the way to recruit, train, and support women to run for office. Most of those groups are nonpartisan, such as the Women’s Campaign Forum, The White House Project, Women Under Forty, the 2012 Project, Running Start, and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Without them, we would not have had Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for president, after which voters understood that leadership is as likely come in a yellow pantsuit as in navy gabardine with a yellow tie. But as Siobhan “Sam” Bennett, CEO of the Women’s Campaign Forum, the oldest organization financially supporting women candidates, wryly told me, “Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have breezed through the door that Hillary painstakingly built.”

That’s what we get for playing too nice. So let’s face down the progressive elephant in the room once and for all and nix the idea that any woman in political office is a net plus. Although complicated policies that work for the country are harder to communicate than simplistic antigovernment nastiness, women like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) show it’s quite possible to employ passionate progressive arguments without the negative aspects of zealotry. More progressive women need to step up just as boldly—now.

See Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s new initiative to get more women into politics. But which women?  YouTube Preview Image

Because with lockstep “just say no” partisanship on the Republican side as the new normal and Democratic leaders too often supinely begging for crumbs of compromise, talk of bold change on the progressive side has gone mute. Yet small ideas will never be able to increment the nation’s economy into a future that’s emerging faster than Andrew Breitbart can whip up the blogosphere to bring down a member of Congress who tweeted inappropriately—sex scandals being one of the few truly bipartisan endeavors. And, by the way, haven’t those guys all been, well, guys?

This is exactly the breech into which progressive women should step. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) took a stab at it and her vision, the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, substantively informed the president’s proposals. Feminist economists like Nancy Folbre have long advocated many of the ideas that the president has now urged Congress to pass.

For progressive women, seizing this opportune moment to assert our own authentic moral strength, strong language that inspires our base, and courage to advance bold policy initiatives is nothing less than a profound responsibility.

It’s time to pump up the passion and let it rip.

Does Libya Success Vindicate Obama’s Leadership or Clinton’s?

The other day I tweeted:

“Love Traister’s writing http://t.co/GPYXI1X but it misses key #leadership lesson: executive responsibility C gets, O doesn’t.”

I was immediately flooded with retweets and comments both there and on my Facebook page. Some disagreed but most concurred–strongly. As I see a preponderance of the comments on the Times post do.

Have you read this article? What are your thoughts?

In case you didn’t see it yet, the article referenced is a New York Times Magazine piece speculating “What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?”  by one of my favorite feminist writers, Rebecca Traister. The intent of the article was to suggest people stop speculating, whereupon she speculates that there would have been little difference because the two candidates were both center-right in political philosophy.

I have to disagree strongly with my friend Traister this time. Full disclosure: she interviewed me and quoted me extensively in her book Big Girls Don’t Cry, which analyzes Clinton’s run for the presidency and chronicles Traister’s own slow shift from supporting Obama to Clinton as she considered the gender, racial, and socio-political implications of her voting choices.

So when I received the Politico Arena question, the answer came easily. Their query was: Is President Obama vindicated on Libya?

The answer to the question, it seems to me, is rooted in the same missing piece of analysis as that in Traister’s article. Executive leadership requires setting an agenda, having a strongly articulated point of view and teaching/arguing/inspiring/politicking/leading the people and then the Congress to it.

That is something Clinton understands because of her time in the White House and lengthier experience in national political leadership in general. These toughened her up for the fray. It taught her valuable lessons in how to use diplomacy in the service of an authentic agenda. It’s a quality that can surely be learned, but Obama seems to shrink from the executive role rather than embracing it. His emphasis on “the deal” and penchant for striking pre-emptive bargains against himself have seriously diminished his leadership stature. More troubling, it has given the Republicans way more campaign fodder than they deserve–bereft as they are of caring about anything beyond lining their own cronies’ pockets so they can hold onto their threadbare political power.

I do think getting Qadhafi out of power is a net positive for Obama (though one could argue even here that Clinton is the strength behind the president’s victory). But until he gives America a new economic vision and jobs agenda, I’m afraid the benefit to his presidency will be short lived.

 

 

Different Approaches to Controversy Yield Different Results

I can’t think of a better example of controversy well-taken than then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s thoughtful speech exploring the role of race in American history, delivered in Philadelphia in the spring of 2008. In response to exploding controversy around his relationship with his pastor and mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who had made inflammatory (and frankly racist) remarks in his sermons, Obama rode directly into the wave of controversy. He didn’t deflect or minimize it, but took the festering issue of race in America head-on, thus defusing criticism, positioning himself as a courageous truth-teller, and building respect and enthusiasm for his candidacy among voters hungry for change. He turned a powder keg of a controversy that could have exploded his presidential campaign into a brilliant platform to teach about a subject so sensitive that it is often avoided in public discourse.

I sincerely doubt Obama or his campaign advisers would have sought out this controversy, but when it came up, they realized they had been handed a priceless moment to demonstrate genuine leadership. I believe this was the turning point that led him to victory, and that if Clinton had treated the equally vicious sexism thrown at her with the same directness and candor that Obama confronted race, the outcome might well have been different.

Sometimes we embrace controversies that have turned up on their own. And at other times, we need to create our own controversies in order to get things moving. In other words, there are controversies we make and controversies we take.

What are your own examples of embracing controversy? Did you make the controversy or did you take a controversy that came to you? What did you learn from your experiences?

At the UN, Criminalizing Rape as a Weapon

By Bia Assevero, a dual French-American citizen and a graduate of the American University of Paris with degrees in international politics and international communications.

A Women’s Media Center exclusive, reprinted here  with permission of the WMC.

In the last week of October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines and sparked anger in travels to Israel and Pakistan. Her role some weeks earlier was less controversial yet critically important, as she led UN diplomats forward in an action that could ease the suffering of countless women and girls living in conflict zones around the world.

Last year, the United Nations classified the deliberate use of rape as a tactic of war and a major threat to international security. On September 30, 2009, the Security Council went one step further.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired the session as the Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S. sponsored resolution (S/Res/1888) that called for the appointment of a special envoy charged with coordinating the efforts to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war and assist governments in ending impunity for the perpetrators. Having met with women who survived rape and violence in her recent visit to the Congo, Clinton said in remarks to the council, “The dehumanizing nature of sexual violence doesn’t just harm a single individual or a single family or even a single village or a single group. It shreds the fabric that weaves us together as human beings.”

Violence against women and young girls in conflict zones is not a new phenomenon. In the Rwanda genocide of 1994, up to half a million women suffered sexual violence. Sixty thousand women were victimized during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and a further 60,000 plus in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2001.

Today, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the calculated use of violence against women and girls claims an average of 36 women and girls a day. The numbers are staggering, and it is too easy for those of us far removed from the horrors to forget that these women are mothers, daughters and sisters who laugh and cry, rejoice and mourn just like the rest of us.

Resolution 1888 is a significant step towards meeting what the Security Council acknowledges as the UN’s special obligation to protect women and children who are “war’s most vulnerable and violated victims.” It is designed to create the legal framework, both nationally and internationally, to ensure that those responsible for war related sexual violence are prosecuted and punished.

Conflict zones are by definition politically unstable. If, as was the case in Guinea recently, those in political power are responsible for the atrocities, holding them responsible is complicated to say the least. This makes the legal framework outlined in the resolution even more critical.
Given these considerations, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon must appoint a special envoy with not only a comprehensive understanding of the challenges but also the courage of her or his convictions.

“It is time for all of us to assume our responsibility to go beyond condemning this behavior to taking concrete steps to end it, to make it socially unacceptable, to recognize it is not cultural, it is criminal,” Secretary Clinton told the council. “We must act now to end this crisis.”

The issues will not be resolved overnight. Progress will undoubtedly be measured incrementally over months, years or even decades. But the international community, starting with whomever is appointed as special envoy, must never lose sight of the ultimate objective.

We are not merely dealing with statistics and legalities. We are dealing in the reality of human lives—lives that are lost or traumatized by brutal violence. It is unacceptable that a large majority of the criminals who commit these acts escape unscathed. The women who suffer at their hands are left to survive through sheer force of will and human resilience.

If resolution 1888 is successfully implemented, it will open a door for these women. It will solidify their resolve and offer hope for a life that is free from fear and free from violence.

That’s a life that every single one of them deserves.