Hillary Clinton fancies her, and millions of her admires concur, as the feminist icon of her generation. Since leaving office she picked up where she left off. In an appearance with Newsweek doyenne Tina Brown at the Women in the World Summit, she was in her old form, exhorting the crowd, “Giving women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to do, it’s a core imperative for every society.” She continued, “We need to make equal pay and equal opportunity for women and girls a reality, so women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”
You get the idea. But the strange thing is that she spent four years as secretary of State of the world’s only superpower and did, well very little, other than give an occasional speech or two on the subject.
The United States, under her tenure, decided to bug out of Afghanistan early, leaving Afghan women to fend for themselves. As Foreign Policy magazine observed, “Fearing that the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014 might be at least partially filled by the Taliban, Afghan women are following their ancestors and retreating. They are leaving work, government, and, in some instances, abandoning the public sphere.” Time magazine wanted to know “What happens if we leave Afghanistan?” We’re going to find out, in large part because the administration brushed aside concerns about human rights and women specifically in its rush to the exits.
The U.S. under Hillary Clinton’s stewardship was virtually mute during the Green
Revolution when a young woman, known as Neda, was beaten and killed, becoming the symbol of Iranian tyranny. She instead pursued “engagement” with Neda’s murders who torture and rape women in the hell hole of Evin prison.
She also was front and center in the reset effort and failed to speak up when President Vladimir Putin stole the presidential election and proceeded to crack down on human rights, including imprisoning the girl punk rock band Pussy Riot.
Under her tutelage the U.S. relaxed sanctions on Cuba. She did not stand up for the “Ladies in White,” to publicly condemn their abuse and imprisonment, making their cause that of the United States.
She and the president gushed over Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, but frankly her male successor John Kerry has done more to protest and condemn the ongoing sexual violence and discrimination against women.
She for months and months insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a “reformer.” Under her foreign policy oversight, tens of thousands of women and children died and rape on a massive scale is now an instrument of war.
And then there is China, where she famously announced in 2009 that human rights should not get in the way of relations between the two countries. Yet, when speaking to Chinese leaders and to Chinese business leaders, students and the like, did she condemn China’s one-child policy and the forced sterilization and abortions perpetrated on China’s women? At the time of her departure she insisted we had made progress with China. (“We keep saying that we want China to be a responsible stakeholder in a rules-based global order.”) China’s women however don’t seem to have been first on her list of priorities.
Perhaps in her book for which she will receive an advance of millions of dollars she will tell us where she was and what arguments she presented on these matters. Did she not try to take up the cause of oppressed women or was she simply ignored? And if advice was routinely rejected, putting women’s rights on the back burner, it would be interesting to hear why she didn’t quit. Maybe she could donate her book income to the these women; it might be the most she ever has done to ameliorate their suffering.
Hillary seems desirous of reclaiming her iconic stature within the Democratic Party and among liberal women. But now she has a record on which she can be judged. Her calls to do more to defend and support women ring hollow after four years in which she accomplished so little and the administration’s human rights record was widely panned by left and right. She can’t play the feminist spectator any longer; she was the most powerful woman in the world. A lot of good it did the women of Iran, China, Afghanistan, Russia, Cuba and Egypt.