Each week, WW writer John Minervini brings you the latest in book reviews, author Q&A's and Portland literary gossip. Click here to join the Tome Raider mailing list.
“Now that you mention it, I am a hockey mom. I'm a hockey grandmom.” – Madeleine Albright
In case you missed Madeleine Albright's live appearance at the Bagdad on Thursday (Oct. 23), I've come up with a satisfactory way to recreate the experience. Simply hum “America the Beautiful” while playing baseball inside an enormous apple pie.
Yes, it was all flag-waving and no tough questions for former Secretary of State Albright, who was touring in connection with her new book, Memo to the President
(Harper Perennial, 313 pages, $14.95).
Why do you care?
Why should we be asking Madame Secretary tough questions about her roles in foreign policy debacles like Kosovo and Rwanda?
Simple. Albright has become the chief foreign policy advisor to Senator Barack Obama. That means she stands a decent chance of reprising her cabinet-level role on the international stage.
“I think that Iraq will go down as the greatest foreign policy disaster in the history of America. And that's really saying something” – Madeleine Albright
Before Albright is confirmed as Obama's Secretary of State, Americans might want to find out why she delayed UN intervention during the genocide in East Timor—a move that cost the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. That question has certainly stumped historians
As for me, I wanted to learn why Albright supported the devastating Iraq Sanctions (1990-2003). And what better time to ask than during her Q&A at the Bagdad?
So as not to screw it up, I spent most of last weekend researching the sanctions, then an entire afternoon working on my question for Madame Secretary. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to ask it. (To read the question, scroll to the bottom of the page).
That's because the ostensible “Q&A” actually constituted twenty minutes of mindless jingo
, during which noodle moderator and Oregon World Affairs Council President Maria Wulff improvised softball questions whose answers had been amply provided in Albright's book.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Oregon World Affairs Council president Maria Wulff at an Oct. 23 event at McMenamin's Bagdad Theater.
Toward the end, Wulff actually read approximately four questions from audience-submitted cards. However, the questions chosen were so insipid that she might as well have skipped it. "Madame Secretary, could you talk about the presidential decision-making process?... Madame Secretary, what in the world are we going to do about North Korea?... Madame Secretary, why are you so great?"
It must be said, Albright's remarks were greeted enthusiastically by a crowd who frequently interrupted her with cheers and applause. And I'll concede that she talks a good game, even if her checkered record as Secretary of State doesn't quite match up to her lofty ideals. Key themes from her address included democracy promotion, closing the wealth gap, rising powers (e.g. India, China) and the failures of the Bush administration.
“Our intelligence said that he was crazy and a pervert. Well I met him, and he is not crazy.” – Madeleine Albright, on Kim Zhong Il
But come on, Portland. Tickets to this event cost $15. For that kind of money, Albright should have had to put herself on the line for some real questions. Remember, it's only democracy if you're paying attention.
Oh, by the way, if you're interested, here's the question I was planning to ask Albright:
during your terms as US ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State, you were linked to maintaining strict sanctions against Iraq, a country whose infrastructure—including water pumping facilities and hospitals—the United States had destroyed during the Gulf War.
"These sanctions, which lasted from 1990-2003, were designed to remove Saddam Hussein from power, or at least to substantially weaken him. In fact, they had the opposite effect: a weakened Iraqi people were unable to offer up any resistance to the oppressive Hussein regime. Instead, they became dependent on Hussein for food rations.
"These sanctions also caused the death of 2 million Iraqis over thirteen years, including 567,000 Iraqi children. And when you went on Sixty Minutes in 1996, Madame Secretary, and Lesley Stahl asked you about the deaths of those 567,000 Iraqi children, you said, and I quote, 'It was worth it.'
"The rationale implicit in that statement is that it's worth sacrificing hundreds of thousands of innocent, civilian lives in order to achieve one's political ends. But, Madame Secretary, isn't that the same rationale employed by the terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11th?"
“You have to like to travel and eat.” – Madeleine Albright, asked what skills are essential to being US Secretary of State