Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended the Clinton administration”s record on fighting terrorism and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and expressed mild concern over President Bush”s tactics in fighting al-Qaida and other alleged terrorist groups as well as terrorist-supporting states yesterday.
Albright, who served as secretary from 1997-2001 and as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993-97, taped an episode of the locally-produced “Todd Mundt Show” for Michigan before an audience of about 200 people at the University Business School”s Hale Auditorium.
Albright currently serves as the distinguished scholar at the Business School”s William Davidson Institute.
Meeting Albright at the event was a group of several students holding signs bearing messages, including “No child killers for UM professor,” in reference to the sanctions posed on Iraq by Clinton. Prior to the event the group distributed handouts which say Albright is “wanted by the world community.”
Responding to a question from the audience which suggested that sanctions against Iraq imposed by the U.S. have caused the death of millions of people, Albright responded that the sanctions are not the cause of many Iraqis” starvation.
“It is not the U.S. that is starving the Iraqi people. It is Saddam Hussein who is starving the Iraqi people,” she said. She does favor a change of regime in Iraq.
Another audience member questioned why the U.S. “walked away” from the people of Rwanda during the 1994 genocide there, in which 800,000 civilians are believed to have died. Albright said she regrets what had happened but does not know how it could have been prevented.
She did, however, say they succeeded to some extent in getting the administration to take a more aggressive stance.
“I didn”t like my instructions,” she said, referring to those she received while serving at the U.N. “I went back to Washington and screamed that they give me better instructions.”
Albright also expressed caution about President Bush”s statement during his State of the Union address last month classifying Iran, Iraq and North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.”
“I think that while there is a problem with all of those countries, I don”t think they all belong together,” she said.
Albright”s remarks were made while President Bush continues his tour of Asia. He met with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung Wednesday and yesterday met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin. One of Kim”s stated goals is to improve relations with North Korea.
“We have to be careful with what we say because the North Koreans have a million-man army and the demilitarized zone is 35 kilometers from Seoul (South Korea”s capital),” she said.
Albright, who currently heads an international consulting group bearing her name, said she had feared that the U.S. was returning to a form of unilateralism after succeeding in removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. She said the U.S. should finish its work in Afghanistan before driving “a wedge” into our alliance with countries that are either ambivalent toward or against military action in Iraq.
The assassination of Afghanistan”s interim tourism and aviation minister last Thursday, Albright said, was an indication that the process of rebuilding the country is merely in its infant stages.
Responding to a question from the media, Albright said that during its War on Terror similar to its strategy during the Cold War the U.S. must sometimes support foreign governments, such as Pakistan, which are not chosen by a democratic process. The reason, she said, is those regimes are supportive of the United States in defending itself from terror.
“You do not often have the luxury of having such a clear choice,” she said. “You have to make some pragmatic choices in order to defend your own country.”
But, she added, the U.S. must also make sure that those countries fulfill their promises of holding free elections.
And does she have any interest in seeking the open position of University president?
“When I was secretary of state I made sure I did not get involved in the domestic politics of a country and I do not have any interest in getting involved in domestic politics at the University of Michigan,” she said.