Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday telegraphed the State Department’s public relations strategy in light of the killing of Osama bin Laden: “Our goal is to give it meaning and shape a narrative that will convince people he was a murderer and not a martyr,” she said, noting that most of his victims were Muslims.
Clinton made the comments in a meeting with 15 members of the National Conference of Editorial Writers from around the country who received a long-scheduled briefing from State Department officials, an annual event. Clinton was not on the agenda, but the Sunday killing of bin Laden led to a somber Clinton delivering a morning statement to network cameras, followed by a surprise visit to the editorial writers.
She also said the department planned to use the U.S. success in dispatching bin Laden in the perennial budget battles that have grown more acute with demands to cut government spending. “We’re working to bolster our partnerships even more,” Clinton said. We’re going to look for ways to put this in a larger debate we’re having here at home on what it takes to stay engaged in the world. Many believe our security apparatus [isn’t] affordable any more.”
One reason Osama could be caught and killed was that “our tools were so much better and our relationships had evolved in such a way to obtain information that was actionable,” the secretary continued.
Administration officials have attributed the location of bin Laden’s hideout to intelligence work that involved multiple U.S. agencies.
The removal of bin Laden “opens up opportunities for dealing with the Taliban that did not exist before,” Clinton said. Now dead was “the person people pledged loyalty to when they joined the organization. It wasn’t to an organization; it was to an individual. Bin Laden was viewed as a military warrior. He wasn’t just a talker. He carried with him a quite significant mystique.”
The job of the United States will be to “draw distinctions between those who have legitimate aspirations and those who resort to violence. The extremist narrative will have been dealt an even greater blow with his death,” she said.
Paul Choiniere, the Day, New London, Conn.: Clinton: Seize the moment