Rwanda, sad legacy of Albright’s period of service


After the recent death of Madeleine Albright, many news outlets reported on her career without paying attention to the most troubling aspect of her legacy: the fact that she placed a Security Council veto against the dispatch of 3 000 UN peacekeepers in Rwanda to prevent the imminent hacking to death of 800,000 people in Rwanda. 100 days.

A hatred between two contingents of the population was stirred up by a radio demagogue who pleaded that their machetes be used to kill members of the other group.

Madeleine Albright, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks about her role as President of the Security Council for the month of August during a United Nations press conference in New York on August 4, 1993.

It was 1994, and I kept a record of New York Times editorials, which were against any American foreign aid unless America’s security was at stake. That was after the “Black Hawk Down” tragedy in Somalia, where eighteen US servicemen were brutally killed when their helicopter crashed.

President Bill Clinton was obviously moved by public opinion and UN Secretary Albright followed instructions.

I wanted to know how the Times had come to such an unsympathetic policy under these circumstances, and how Madeleine Albright, having witnessed so much death and suffering, could not tell Clinton that she would rather resign than veto it.

Albright’s veto is immortalized in “The Last Just Man”, the documentary version of “Hotel Rwanda”, where it was not covered.

I funded a screening of the documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival, where I was a board member. I brought in people from the UN for the discussion. Most of the 100 people in the theatre, myself included, felt sick watching it.

Then, in 2003, I had my wish to dive deep into the Times position and find out if it affected President Clinton’s cowardly approach to foreign affairs and saving lives.

Here in our beloved Palm Beach, at a dinner party, I met Abe Rosenthal, the Times editor responsible for editorials.

He had been in contact with President Clinton and admitted to pressuring the President not to get involved in the Rwandan tragedy that was about to unfold. I said over and over, “Abe, how could you do that!” No answer.

Shortly after the enormous human tragedy, Rosenthal received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Albright was promoted to Secretary of State.

I told UN Secretary General Kofi Annan what I learned. He said he always suspected Abe was pressuring Clinton, that Abe would turn the Times against Clinton if he tried to save someone who wasn’t American.

In the Times obituary on Albright, to his credit, the focus started with his regret for Rwanda in his book. Albright describes his feelings as follows: “. . . regretting. . . the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to end these crimes. But is this an adequate excuse?

Jeremy Wiesen, of West Palm Beach, retired as a professor of entrepreneurship at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is a former Chairman and CEO of the Financial News Network.


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