Hillary Clinton claims to have championed the cause of women and girls over her years in public service.
But as a woman and a journalist, I can’t forget what she didn’t do for CBS News journalist Lara Logan — when she was in the exact right position to do so much.
Clinton and the State Department cheered the outburst of “populist feeling” in Egypt. And left Logan by the wayside.
Clinton was secretary of state in February 2011 when Logan was sexually assaulted and beaten by 200-300 men in the middle of Cairo, Egypt. None of the attackers were ever caught, and Egypt did not lose a dollar in U.S. aid or experience any meaningful pressure to deliver justice for the horrific attack. Egypt remains to this day the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel.
Four years after the assault, Logan was still in and out of hospitals being treated for internal injuries. This year, she dropped out of journalism, and left the East Coast with her family to live in a small town in Texas.
So little has been written in the last five years about what happened to her in 2011, that some review is necessary.
Lara Logan was the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News in February 2011 when she went to Cairo to cover the celebrations following the fall of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. ally.
She went to Tahrir Square in Cairo on the night of Feb. 11, 2011, accompanied by her cameraman, a security guard, a producer, a translator, and two drivers, who also served as security guards. After an hour broadcasting in a tight crowd of mostly men, she was set upon by a large group. The group attacking her was so large, so strong, and so violent that it was able to separate her from the six men who accompanied her. Her clothes were torn off and she was assaulted and beaten by many Egyptian men so severely and for such a long time that she believed that she was “in the process of dying.”
Four days later, CBS News released a statement saying that Logan had “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault.”
A State Department spokesman, when asked about the attack on Logan at the department’s press briefing the next day, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was “obviously aware” of the case and “very concerned by it” but said he didn’t have any specific information about what was being done about it.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made no public comment about the attack on Logan that day.
The next day, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley, when asked about it, called the attack on Lara Logan “deplorable” and said the United States had called for an investigation. But in the same briefing, he called the protests in Tahrir Square “magnificent” and lauded the Egyptian government for not using force on the protesters, saying it was “vital” for Egypt and other nations in the Middle East to “respond to the needs and aspirations of their people.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still made no public comment about the attack on Logan.
Unbelievably, the same day as Crowley’s comments, Clinton announced that Egypt was going to get more money courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. Egypt would get, through the State Department, an additional $150 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money — in addition to its regular $1.3 billion for its military and $250 million in economic assistance. The new funds were ostensibly to help that nation with its transition to democracy, which ended up being a transition instead to rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Further, while there were reports that President Obama called Lara Logan to offer his sympathy, there is no report that Logan received any such call from Clinton, who as secretary of state managed our nation’s relationships with other countries, and who was in charge of the embassies that exist around the world to protect American interests and to help Americans in peril while traveling abroad.
It was as if Clinton’s focus as secretary of state was elsewhere, and the brutal rape of a prominent American journalist by a huge mass of men in the middle of a foreign capital was of no consequence.
None of the rapists were ever caught, though several of them likely appeared in the live CBS broadcast filmed just moments before the attack began. And it doesn’t seem that there was any investigation to speak of.
It would be fairly obvious that Egypt was never going to investigate this crime. Mubarak’s government had just been toppled, and America-hating rapists were roaming the streets. Who would do the investigating?
In fact, Egypt in the best of times is famous for not investigating rapes. U.S. news organizations have reported on this extensively. Not only do police not investigate rape, but they have a habit of turning on the rape victim, and sexually assaulting her themselves.
Egypt quite clearly wasn’t going to do anything at all, unless it feared losing its allotment of aid from the United States. And of course it didn’t, given that Clinton had promised more money just a day after the CBS announcement of the “brutal and sustained sexual assault” of Logan.
It wasn’t until a year later, when Egyptian police raided the offices of several organizations with offices in Cairo, including the U.S. party-related organizations the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, that the United States started to get seriously annoyed with Egypt.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in February 2012, one year after the assault on Logan, that if the issue of the raids on the offices wasn’t resolved soon, Egypt could lose the $1.3 billion in military aid it gets from the United States every year, and also maybe the $250 million in economic aid it gets from us.
And three U.S. senators — John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) — warned that the threat to the U.S.-Egypt relationship had “rarely been greater.” It was strange phrasing, unless it was hyperbole. Wouldn’t the U.S.-Egypt relationship have been in some danger after a huge mass of men at a public event in the middle of the capital almost raped a journalist to death?
How could raiding offices and rifling through papers possibly be worse?
Two months after the attack, at the end of April of 2011, Logan came forward to describe in detail what had been done to her in Cairo, telling how her bodyguard had been overpowered and pulled from her, but how she had clung to him with one hand as the men ripped off her clothes, beat her, ripped off chunks of her scalp, and raped her with their fingers so severely that she believed she was dying. She told how they had laughed and jeered at her, and how the more she screamed out in pain, the greater their glee, and how they took pictures with their cellphones as she was violated and beaten.
But neither Secretary Clinton nor the State Department issued any comment following this interview.
No leader of the free world stood and condemned this ugly attack in the middle of a foreign capital. No one so much as shook a finger in Egypt’s direction.
At the very least, aid to Egypt should have been suspended and every one of the rapists hunted down and taken into U.S. custody. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton would have been the person to demand this course of action.
But the act was so atrocious, with so many participants, that it really should have changed our relationship with Egypt forever. It shouldn’t have been treated as just a crime committed on foreign soil: It should have been considered an act of war.
They shouted “American B*tch!” at her just before the attack. So the target was clear: It was us. The nation. The act was extreme. Our response should have been strong, and swift.
All travel to and from Egypt should have been immediately suspended, all immigration from Egypt should have been shut down indefinitely and all aid stopped. The Egyptian ambassador should have been recalled, and the rapists should have been hunted down and captured, one by one, picked out of their beds at night, pulled out of their cars, ripped from their tea tables. Not to face an American judge who would address them as “sir,” and ask them kindly if they would be seated and wouldn’t mind too much answering such-and-such question — but to face some other end.
None of this, of course, happened. Clinton and the State Department cheered the outburst of “populist feeling” in Egypt. And left Logan by the wayside.
As a woman, and a journalist myself, one who has lived and traveled abroad, I can’t help wonder: How could a woman, who is serving as secretary of state, refuse to do anything, when she is in the exact right position to do so much?