I listened to the podcast “The Mighty and the Almighty” by Madeleine Albright today in the car, and I found her reflections and responses to questions from the audience insightful and thought provoking. Her view that the decision for the U.S. to go to war in Iraq was a decision of choice rather than necessity struck a chord with me. I was particularly interested to hear her discuss Rwanda and the mistake which the Clinton administration made at that time, to not attempt to do more to stop genocide– and the common ground she sees between US political parties on the issue of genocide now in Darfur and elsewhere. I agree with her view that the US response to 9-11 to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan was warranted, but not the subsequent attack on Iraq which was not linked to Al-Queda or the 9-11 attacks.
This podcast was published on the channel “World Beyond the Headlines” maintained by the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago. Secretary Albright was interviewed by Susan Thistlethwaite, President of the Chicago Theological Seminary. Many of the issues she addressed related to religion, faith, the role of faith in policymaking, the ongoing US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other topics. This was a long presentation (an hour and seventeen minutes, including the Q&A) but well worth a listen.
The part that interested me the most related to President Bush’s public statements that “God is on our side” in the war in Iraq. I was reminded of another podcast I heard this summer on the “Talking History” podcast channel about President Abraham Lincoln, and his thoughts about God during the US Civil War. I agree with Secretary Albright that as a nation, we should be more concerned with being on God’s side than assuring ourselves that He is on ours. The podcast I listened to was titled, “The Best of Talking History: Program #5: Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural.” I agree with Secretary Albright that the United States is an exceptional nation, but also that the Iraq war, the incidents at Abu Ghraib, and the ongoing situation at Guantanamo Bay have done significant damage to the moral authority of the United States throughout the world.
I love my country, I support our soldiers, but I regret many of the decisions of our Commander in Chief. It was good to hear the perspectives of Secretary Albright on these and many other issues of vital importance, especially since she has so much experience and insight into these complex topics. What a tremendous role model Secretary Albright is for the young women of our nation, as well as the young men! I do not think the foreign policy record of the Clinton administration was spotless either, and I was not a big fan of President Clinton when he was in office, but I do agree that government officials should admit wrongdoing when it has taken place. To date I don’t think US officials have done that adequately in the case of Abu Ghraib, and certainly not in the ongoing situations at Guantanamo and in Iraq.
Lastly, I agree with Secretary Albright that US government leaders should NOT announce that our nation is at war with Islam. This is a mistake. We are at war against terrorists, but not all Muslims are terrorists. To equate the war on terror with a war on Islam– to give the perception that the United States government is fighting a holy war in the Middle East, is to go down the wrong path which I do not support. I don’t think the crusades during the Middle Ages were defensible under any theory of just war, and I don’t think a 21st century crusade against Muslims is either.
President Bush sent the right message on Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly. He said:
My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false and its purpose is to confuse you and justify acts of terror. We respect Islam.
The original podcast I listened to and is linked above was from May 2006. Interestingly, the same article which quoted President Bush also quoted Secretary Albright:
While praising Bush’s freedom refrain, Madeleine Albright, secretary of state under President Clinton, said in an interview that the U.S.-led war in Iraq, not democratic reform, has destabilized the Middle East.
Albright said the Bush administration has not carried out its democratic initiative with uniformity. It denounces autocratic nations that are unfriendly toward the United States, then casts a blind eye to autocratic nations that are allies, she said. She mentioned Kazakhstan, whose leader will be honored at the White House Sept. 29, and Egypt.
The article also noted that President Bush’s tone and rhetoric is considerably changed from the past:
In his speech, Bush spoke directly to the people of Iran, not the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who did not attend the address. Bush said America respects Islam, the Iranian nation’s rich history and culture and that he looks to a day when the two peoples “can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace.” That’s very different from 2002 when Bush said Iran was part of an “axis of evil.”
I’m glad to read about this change, and these clarifications that the U.S. is NOT at war against Islam and the Muslim people. Now let’s hope the Bush administration can face up Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and take steps to correct those blights on the US diplomatic and foreign policy record.
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