I heard a news story the other week that horrified me. Our University has hired former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for a two-year stint at our business school. She is hoping, she says, to bring together her experience working with economically emerging Third World democracies and her experiences in human rights to help the William Davidson Institute, a branch of the School of Business Administration dedicated to helping such countries form economic policy. She is here to give us her experience on human rights. Human rights. Let me say it again. Human rights. And the scariest part is that I am not joking.
What is our university thinking? Does not our president understand that hiring someone who has such an abysmal history, especially in the realm of foreign policy and human rights, will do nothing more than hurt our own reputation as an internationally respected university?
Some of you may have no idea what I am talking about. And it is just this ignorance that the University administration is probably depending on when they decide to hire someone like Albright. First of all, it is important to note why our university hired her. Most probably, they thought it would bring some sort of stature, create valuable connections for the University, and so on. Most of all, I”m sure many administrators thought it would pretty cool to say we have a former secretary of state working for the University as a “distinguished scholar.” But some important elements of Albright”s recent past must be revealed in order for the University community to completely understand what kind of person we are allowing to represent us on the world scene.
We are talking about a woman who told Colin Powell, who felt that the U.S. should not commit military forces to Bosnia until there was a clear political objective: “What”s the point of having this superb military that you”re always talking about if we can”t use it?” Powell remarked in his book, My American Journey, “I thought I would have an aneurysm American G.I.s were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.” We are talking about a woman who, on May 12, 1996 on 60 Minutes, engaged in the following exchange with Leslie Stahl. Stahl, speaking of U.S. sanctions against Iraq, asked “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that”s more children than died in Hiroshima. And and you know, is the price worth it?” Our future faculty member replied, with no hesitation, “The price we think the price is worth it.” We are talking about a woman who stated publicly that it is not “good idea” to link trade issues with human rights issues (Washington Post, March 1, 1999). Are you kidding me? We are talking about a woman who, while giving an interview on the Today Show on NBC on February 19, 1998, stated, in relation to Iraq, “if we have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the future.” We are talking about a woman who, when asked if it is not hypocritical to punish Burma for human rights violations while refraining from sanctions on China for similar actions, stated in The Washington Post of April 23, 1997, “We have consistent principles and flexible tactics.” And she”s serious. We are talking about a woman who basically had no productive role in the premiere foreign policy issue of the Clinton administration, the Middle East “peace process,” because of her history in treating Arab nations, and her seeming unwillingness to admit her Jewish heritage until after news agencies broke it following her confirmation as secretary of state.
Who is our administration trying to kid? There have been, and will continue to be, outcries and protests against this hiring of someone who has taken no action against countries like China and Israel for the human right violations of their leaders, while punishing and making an example of the Iraqi population, of whom over 1.2 million have died due to an American sanction regime, for the human rights violations of their leaders. And now this woman, who has always held political expediency higher than human rights, who sacrificed international law and human rights in order to further “American interests,” is going to be an icon of our University. It should most probably make you very sick.
Amer G. Zahr”s column runs every other Wednesday. Give him feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum or via e-mail at email@example.com.