Cartoon: Madeleine Albright-1937-2022 (medium) by Dragan tagged madeleine,albright
[Source: toonpool.com]

An acolyte of grand chess-master Zbigniew Brzezinski, Albright also championed lethal NATO bombings in Kosovo and devastating sanctions in Iraq that killed 500,000 children—a price she famously said was worth it to contain Saddam Hussein

Last Wednesday, Madeleine Albright died at the age of 84 after a bout with cancer. From 1993 to 1997 she served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN) and subsequently became the first female Secretary of State, a position that she held from 1997 to 2001.

The mainstream media heaped accolades on Albright after her death, calling her a “brilliant analyst of world affairs” with a “star quality” (The New York Times), “an ardent and effective advocate against mass atrocities” (The Washington Post), and a “champion of human rights and democracy” (CNN).

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks with former President Bill Clinton on Oct. 14, 1998.
Madeleine Albright with Bill Clinton in October 1998. [Source: foxnews.com]

But Albright supported atrocities in the Balkans and Iraq as Secretary of State that trampled on human rights. Peter Krogh, the Dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service when Albright taught there, said in 1999 that she promoted a “foreign policy of sermons and sanctimony accompanied by the brandishing of tomahawks.”[1]

Peter Krogh, Dean of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service from 1970-1995
Peter Krogh [Source: repository.library.georgetown.edu]

Instead of trying to advance U.S.-Russian relations with the end of the Cold War, Albright championed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion into Eastern Europe, which antagonized the Russians and sowed the seeds of a new Cold War.

Before her death, Albright supported expanding military aid to Ukraine in its fight to “preserve freedom and democracy,” though Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky had banned almost all opposition parties.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times on February 23, Albright called Russian President Vladimir Putin “reptilian.” This was a dehumanizing term that would be considered racist if an African or Middle Eastern leader were described in this way.

Albright meets Putin
Secretary of State with Russia’s new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in 2000. In an op-ed published before her death, Albright characterized Putin as “reptilian.” [Source: newsweek.com]

Chip Off the Old Block

Albright’s role in provoking a new Cold War was not surprising considering her family background and intellectual pedigree.

Born to Jewish parents in Prague in 1937, her family converted to Catholicism in World War II and fled to London to save themselves from the Nazis.

After returning to the Czechoslovakia, her father, Josef Korbel, was appointed ambassador to Yugoslavia, and served the chief of staff to Czechoslovakia’s anti-communist foreign minister, Jan Masaryk, who died under suspicious circumstances after the communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948.

Considered by the communists as a traitor, Korbel fled with his family to the U.S., where he received a Rockefeller Foundation grant and became a professor of international politics and dean at the University of Denver. One of his prized students was Condoleezza Rice.

Korbel’s first book, Tito’s Communism (1951) was critical of Tito, Yugoslavia’s communist ruler. His third book, The Communist Subversion of Czechoslovakia, 1938-1948: The Failure of Coexistence (1959), warned that communists could not be trusted as Lenin had urged his followers to “use any ruse, dodge, tricks, cunning, unlawful method, concealment and veiling of the truth” to achieve their ends.[2]

Albright followed in her father’s footsteps by writing her senior thesis at Wellesley College on Zdenêk Fierlinger, a leader of the social democrats, whom she portrayed as a villain comparable to Vidkun Quisling (Norwegian Nazi collaborator) because he led his party into partnership with the communists, resulting in the destruction of Czech democracy.[3]

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/...
Zdenêk Fierlinger [Source: wikipedia.org]

An Anti-communist Finds Her Intellectual Soulmate

After graduating from Wellesley in 1959, Albright married the son of a wealthy newspaper publisher and started a family, before returning to graduate school at Columbia University with a focus on Soviet studies.

Albright said that the best course that she took at Columbia was a seminar on comparative communism taught by Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Polish aristocrat who became National Security Adviser under Jimmy Carter. At the time, Brzezinski was a renowned Sovietologist who considered the Soviet Union an unreformable totalitarian state.

Albright wrote that Brzezinski’s book, The Soviet Bloc (1960), was a “perceptive analysis of how Stalin put together his empire.”[4] She had similarly high regard for Brzezinski’s book, The Grand Chessboard (1997), which called for U.S. domination of Central Asia as a pathway to global domination, and said that morality should always be subordinate to power politics.

Albright’s pursuit of an advanced degree at Columbia coincided with the growth of the anti-Vietnam War movement on campus, which Albright said she considered to be an “irritation” that “drove her crazy” because protesters blocked her access to the library.[5]

Albright further wrote in her memoir that, as a young mother trying to get an advanced degree, she missed out on the 1960s. Even at the peak of the Vietnam War, she remained a strong anti-communist who saw a “stark moral clarity” in U.S. Cold War policy. “We were good, the communists were bad,” she wrote, “half of Europe was free, the other half imprisoned”—a view that was reinforced in Brzezinski’s seminar.[6]

Albright and Zbigniew Brzezinski. [Source: twitter.com]

On to Washington

In 1976, after completing her Ph.D. and serving as a fundraiser for Edmund Muskie (D-ME), Albright was appointed as a congressional aide to Brzezinski when he was Carter’s National Security Adviser.

Brzezinski’s mentorship later helped secure her appointment as UN Ambassador and then Secretary of State following a decade working as a professor at Georgetown and foreign policy adviser to Democratic Party presidential candidates Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis.

Madeleine Albright raises her arm in a vote at the United Nations
Albright voting at the UN as the U.S. Ambassador [Source: theconversation.com]

Albright believed firmly in American exceptionalism, considering the U.S. as the “indispensable nation.”[7]

She pushed for an expanded U.S. military presence in Somalia and, with Vice President Al Gore, for a repeal of an arms embargo and bombing of the former Yugoslavia.[8]

According to Albright, Serb leader Slobodan Milošević, the target of the U.S.-NATO bombing, was a “ruthless opportunist” whose “cruelty was manifested in his manipulative actions which spurred Serb forces to employ terror, rape and indiscriminate violence against his Balkan foes.”[9]

These Balkan foes, however, also employed indiscriminate violence and terror. Albright’s hostility to Milošević stemmed from his promotion of socialist policies and efforts to keep the Yugoslav federation together when U.S. policy was to break it up as part of a strategy of divide and conquer.[10]

Madeleine Albright: 'Why am I talking about fascism? Donald Trump' | The  Times Magazine | The Times
Albright shaking hands with Milošević. [Source: thetimes.co.uk]

Doing Her Best Colin Powell

On August 10, 1995, Albright provided a dazzling performance at the UN Security Council when she showed satellite photos drawn from a U-2 spy plane of areas near the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, the site of an alleged massacre of Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces.

One of the satellite photos displayed a large group of Muslim people assembled in a soccer stadium at Nova Kasaba, 14 miles outside Srebrenica, around July 13-14, and another, a cleared area with freshly dug earth where the ground was supposedly disturbed a few days later, indicating the possibility of a mass grave.

Ms. Albright told the Council that 2,000 to 2,700 people may have been killed there and hastily buried, though nothing definitive was proven. Albright repeated the phrase “We must not forget” five times, emphasizing the “magnitude of the suffering” caused by the Bosnian Serbs.[11]

Leadership in Action | Episode 2 | Madeleine Albright on the U.S. Response  to the Conflict in Kosovo - YouTube
[Source: youtube.com]

The timing of Ms. Albright’s presentation was opportune as it helped deflect attention away from a U.S.-backed Croat offensive against the Serbs in Krajina, Operation Storm, a mere few days before, which resulted in more than 100,000 Serb refugees, the largest act of ethnic cleansing in the entire Balkans War. Significantly, the satellite photos did not show any actual killing, dead bodies or the burial or transport of dead bodies, and Albright never actually made them available for public examination.[12]

Like Colin Powell’s infamous presentation about Saddam Hussein and the alleged WMD, Albright’s presentation served as political theater which helped build momentum for American military intervention in the Balkans and, according to historian David N. Gibbs, “made it easier for Clinton to justify a hawkish stance.”[13]

Madeleine’s War

Within months, Clinton launched Operation Deliberate Force bombing campaign, a prelude to Operation Noble Anvil, a joint U.S.-NATO bombing of Kosovo from March to June 1999. Albright was so intimately involved that Time magazine writer Walter Isaacson dubbed it “Madeleine’s War.”

Madeleine Albright, First Woman to Serve as Secretary of State, Dies at 84  - The New York Times
Albright visiting American troops at Tuzla Air Base in Croatia in 1998. [Source: nytimes.com]

This war was carried out without congressional authorization in violation of the UN Charter. It resulted in the deaths of at least 500 civilians and destruction of 480 schools, 33 hospitals and 14 historic Serb monasteries (Kosovo was like Jerusalem for Serbs).[14] The adverse health consequences were felt in Serb towns like Pancevo where more than 100,000 tons of carcinogens were unleashed into the air, water and soil from bombed-out factories.[15]

The end result was to empower the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which had been on the State Department’s terrorist watch list mere months before the war started. The U.S. also acquired a huge military base, Camp Bondsteel, and Milošević was unseated in a CIA-backed “color revolution,” and put on trial at The Hague.[16]

Camp Bondsteel - Wikipedia
Camp Bondsteel. [Source: wikipedia.org]

Successful Scheme to Undermine UN Secretary-General

In 1996, Albright helped secure her appointment as Secretary of State by entering into a secret pact with Richard ClarkeMichael Sheehan, and James Rubin to replace UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali with the more pro-American Kofi Annan.

Albright claimed in her memoir that Boutros-Ghali had become corrupt, “doling out job appointments with the care and skill of a ward healer in New York’s old Tammany Hall.”[17]

However, the Clinton administration really wanted to undermine him because he was against the U.S. policy in the Balkans and in Iraq. Boutros-Ghali also claimed that the U.S. government was responsible for shooting down the plane of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana and precipitating the civil war that culminated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and Congo War.[18]

“We Think the Price Was Worth It”

Albright’s Brzezinskian instincts—in which concern for human rights is subordinated to geopolitical calculation—were evident in her attempts as Secretary of State to justify the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children through sanctions in Iraq that were designed to undermine the nationalist regime of Saddam Hussein.

In a now infamous 60 Minutes interview, airing on May 12, 1996, host Leslie Stahl asked Albright if the price of 500,000 Iraqi children—more than the number of people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined—was worth it. Albright callously replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”[19]

Albright was generally a hawk on Iraq: In February 1998, she participated in a town hall-style meeting at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio, where she, Defense Secretary William Cohen, and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger attempted to make the case for military action against Saddam.

The crowd was disruptive, repeatedly drowning out the discussion with boos and anti-war chants,[20] exemplifying a growing divide between public opinion and the U.S. foreign policy elite.

Albright, center, with William Cohen on her right and Sandy Berger on her left, trying to make the case for war in Iraq in 1998. [Source: cnn.com]

Support for Regime Change in Cuba

Albright carried out a deep hostility toward the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro, which she called an “embarrassment to the Western hemisphere.”

In March 1996, Albright was given a hero’s welcome by anti-communist Cubans in Miami’s Orange Bowl, when she eulogized four pilots whose jets the Cuban Air Force had shot down after they had encroached into Cuban airspace as part of an attempted terrorist attack on Cuba.

In her speech, Albright called the Cuban pilots cowards and advocated for a tightening of sanctions and adoption of a “diplomatic strategy designed to advance the transition to democracy [i.e., regime change],” which Albright championed throughout her career.[21]

Madeleine Albright giving speech to anti-Castro Cubans at Miami’s Orange Bowl in March 1996. [Source: digitalcollections.miami.edu]

On the Wrong Side of Kennan—NATO Expansion

In her memoir Madam Secretary, Albright promotes a sugar-coated history of the Cold War, crediting NATO for helping to “bring the former fascist nations, first Italy, then Germany and Spain, into the family of European democracies; it stabilized relations between Greece and Turkey and it helped tear down the Berlin Wall. All without firing a shot.”[22]

This assessment leaves out how NATO helped trigger a destructive arms race with the Soviet Union and deadly proxy wars and how NATO was used as a cover for clandestine operations.[23]

True to her cold warrior instincts, Albright became, within the Clinton administration, a leading champion of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe—which was carried out in violation of a pledge by the Bush administration that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” (Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1998 followed by 11 other countries including the Baltic States bordering Russia).

Albright argued that NATO expansion would help halt the spread of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and ethnic cleansing, advance European security and provide an incentive for Eastern European countries to liberalize their economies.[24]

With NATO military officers during NATO ceremony of accession of new members, 1999. [Source: wikipedia.org]

This view dovetailed nicely with the interests of Wall Street investors and America’s biggest military contractors, which spent $51 million lobbying for NATO expansion between 1996 and 1998.[25]

George F. Kennan, the architect of the Cold War containment doctrine, warned that NATO expansion would amount to a “strategic blunder of epic proportions” and the “most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” It would “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion, restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations” and “impel Russian foreign policy in a direction decidedly not to our liking.”[26] Which is exactly what happened.

Albright told Newsweek in 2016 though that she was “very proud of the NATO expansion. The United States [is] an indispensable nation which should do good all over the world.”

George F. Kennan in his office at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in the 1980s. [Source: russiamatters.org]

Worse Than Any Communist

Madeleine Albright was an intelligent and accomplished woman, but she helped advance destructive policies that could potentially result in a nuclear holocaust or world war.

Fashioning herself a Wilsonian internationalist, Albright appears to have been blinded by her belief in American exceptionalism and fervent anticommunism and Russophobia cultivated by her father and then reinforced by her mentor Brzezinski.

In embracing the credo that the “ends justify the means,” Albright ironically replicated what she and her father had condemned the communists for.

Albright and her contemporaries were on a whole other level though, as no communist ever suggested that starving and murdering half a million children in a distant land was a price worth paying to achieve political ends.


 

  1. Walter Isaacson, “Madeleine’s War,” Time, May 9, 1999.

  2. Madeleine Albright, with Bill Woodward, Madam Secretary: A Memoir (New York: Miramax Books, 2003), 68.

  3. Albright, Madam Secretary, 43, 67.

  4. Albright, Madam Secretary, 57.

  5. Albright, Madam Secretary, 96, 97.

  6. Albright, Madam Secretary, 68.

  7. Albright, Madam Secretary, 222.

  8. Albright, Madam Secretary, 279.

  9. Albright, Madam Secretary, 275, 276.

  10. See John Catalinotto and Sara Flounders, eds., Hidden Agenda: U.S./NATO Takeover of Yugoslavia, (New York: International Action Center, 2002).

  11. See Eric Schmitt, “Spy Photos Indicate Mass Grave at Serb-Held Town, U.S. Says,” The New York Times, August 10, 1995, A1; Barbara Crossette, “From Overrun Enclave New Evidence of Mass Killings,” The New York Times, August 19, 1995, 4; Stefan Karganović, et al., Deconstruction of a Virtual Genocide: An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Srebrenica (Belgrade-Den Haag: Srebrenica Historical Project, 2011), 29, 30.

  12. To this day, the facts surrounding the actual scope of killing at Srebrenica remain murky, with conflicting beliefs about the numbers killed. The official figure of 8,000 appears to be significantly inflated. Also, it was never reported that Serb killings followed large-scale killing of Serbs by Muslim militias backed by the U.S. and UN. See Edward S. Herman, ed., foreword by Phillip Corwin, The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics (Evergreen Park, Ill: Alphabet Soup, 2011).

  13. David N. Gibbs, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), 162. Albright was convinced that her testimony helped persuade Britain and France—which had long been gun-shy about taking decisive military action in Bosnia—to authorize a broad campaign of NATO bombing later in August. Michael Dobbs and R. Jeffrey Smith, “New Proof Offered of Serb Atrocities,” The Washington Post, October 29, 1995, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1995/10/29/new-proof-offered-of-serb-atrocities/56a684eb-7b54-4a9f-934d-4129d02d4070/

  14. Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 197-98; Robert Fisk, “Serbs Murdered by the Hundred Since ‘Liberation,’” The Independent, November 24, 1999; Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War (New York: Skyhorse, 2013), 148; Diana Johnstone, Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary Clinton (Petrolia, CA: Counterpunch Books, 2015), 64. The Monastery of the Holy Mother and Monastery of St. Nicholas in Kursumlija, which were both built in the 12th century, were among those destroyed.

  15. Chris Hedges, “Serbian Town Bombed by NATO Fears Effects of Toxic Chemicals,” The New York Times, July 14, 1999.

  16. Sara Flounders, “Washington Gets a New Colony in the Balkans,” Workers World, February 21, 2008, https://www.workers.org/2008/world/kosovo_0228/; Diana Johnstone, “NATO’s Kosovo Colony,” Counterpunch, February 18, 2008, https://www.counterpunch.org/2008/02/18/nato-s-kosovo-colony/; Michael Dobbs, “U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition,” The Washington Post, December 11, 2000.

  17. Albright, Madam Secretary, 322.

  18. See Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga (New York: Random House, 1999).

  19. Albright, Madam Secretary, 427. Albright claimed that her response was a terrible mistake because of the public relations fallout and that, in hindsight, she should have reminded viewers that Saddam was responsible for the suffering of his people.

  20. Audience members chanted: “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your racist war.” According to CNN, one heckler who made his way to a microphone, asked “how Albright, Cohen and Berger could sleep at night, knowing that innocent Iraqis would be killed and injured by any military strike.”

  21. Albright, Madam Secretary, 319, 320, 520-25.

  22. Albright, Madam Secretary, 389.

  23. See Jeremy Kuzmarov and John Marciano, The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018).

  24. Albright, Madam Secretary, 258, 389, 390. See also https://1997-2001.state.gov/statements/970423.html

  25. Katharine Q. Seelye, “Arms Contractors Spend to Promote an Expanded NATO,” The New York Times, March 30, 1998.

  26. George F. Kennan, “A Fateful Error,” The New York Times, February 5, 1997. See also Branko Marcetic, “The Mysteriously Vanished NATO Critique,” Jacobin, July 16, 2018; John Dumbrell, Clinton’s Foreign Policy: Between the Bushes, 1992-2000 (New York: Routledge, 2009), 125. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) presciently warned that NATO expansion might “redivide Europe and again poison relations with Russia.” Jack Matlock, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, further echoed Kennan in considering NATO expansion “the most profound strategic blunder made since the end of the Cold War,” threatening to “precipitate a buildup of arms and a competition, an armed competition, then. But there was no reason to do it at that time. Russia was not threatening any East European country. Actually, the Soviet Union in its last years was not, because Gorbachev had accepted the democratization of the East European countries. The Soviet Union in its last years was not threatening any East European country.” Jack Matlock, Jr., “I was there: NATO and the origins of the Ukraine crisis,” Responsible Statecraft, February 15, 2022, https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/02/15/the-origins-of-the-ukraine-crisis-and-how-conflict-can-be-avoided/


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