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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Official portrait, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Op-ed: Protest Madeleine Albright’s October visit to AU

The Kennedy Political Union brought former vice president Dick Cheney to address the AU community in March 2014. Cheney’s controversial remarks, denial of torture and defense of Guantánamo Bay formed the basis of leftist protests on campus. I was fortunate enough to meet Cheney and call him a war criminal to his face.

KPU announced last Monday that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would address the AU community during All American Weekend in October. But Albright’s upcoming visit gives one pause for thought

Will AU students protest the first female secretary of state? They should, but I would bet money they will not.

Madeleine Albright openly supported the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s intervention in Kosovo, where troops carpet-bombed large sections of the territory without United Nations Security Council authorization. NATO air campaigns aimed to end the Serbian oppression of ethnic Albanians but ended up killing an estimated 500 civilians and wounding another 6,000. Other studies suggest that another 500 civilians died as a result of landmines, cluster bombs and other explosives left after the conflict.

NATO’s intervention in Kosovo to end a humanitarian crisis is generally regarded as a failure. Aside from causing widespread destruction, “Madeleine’s War” was the first time violence was used on such a large scale to enforce a UN Security Council resolution. Albright’s role in the NATO intervention violated the laws of war at a point in time before the international community developed the Responsibility to Protect doctrine for humanitarian crises.

Albright's involvement in Kosovo extends beyond sponsoring military force. The former Secretary of State's investment group, Albright Capital Management, bid on 75 percent of shares of the country's state-owned telecommunications company, Post and Telecom (PTK), in 2012. After a bidding process mired in corruption allegations and legal challenges directed at both Kosovo’s government and Albright Capital, the Washington-based firm pulled its bid.

But Albright’s firm retracting its bid does little more than to acknowledge the conflict of interests involved in attempting to privatize a major sector of Kosovo's economy. It also does little in the way of explaining why Albright Stonebridge Group (chaired by the former secretary) owned shares in PTK's only competitor, the privately-owned IPKO. War crimes aside, Albright's 2012 investment interests represent a corporate monopoly and a deliberate attempt to disrupt market competition in what was one of the poorest countries in Europe at the time.

“60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl famously asked Albright about economic sanctions in Iraq, which are estimated to have led to the deaths of over 200,000 children. In our next KPU speaker’s opinion, sanctions were “worth the price” of innocent Iraqi lives in achieving US foreign policy objectives.

Albright has since expressed regret over her comments but maintains that “sanctions cannot be ruled out” in foreign policy. Sanctions may not count as war crimes, but I dare anyone to count them as less violent and more acceptable than outright killing. The fact is that, on Oct. 17, AU will hear from a speaker who has condoned our government’s complicity in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.

The subject of Albright’s speech is anyone’s guess, but it seems almost certain to me that she will escape the scrutiny of protest that she is due from AU students. Albright currently enjoys relief from the instant vitriol that deservedly greeted Cheney over a year ago.

However, her status as the first female Secretary of State, a Democrat and an intellectual does not absolve her of war crimes and immoral foreign policy.

AU community, I turn to address you. We did not sit idly by while KPU side-stepped our morals by hosting a white, male, Republican war criminal. If we allow ourselves to sit by and accept a white, female, Democratic war criminal to speak without hearing our protest, then we surely betray our convictions.

Seek the courage to stand up for the values that you righteously defend. Protest Madeleine Albright.


Bill Kakenmaster is a junior in the School of International Service.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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