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Democracy Now! Confronts Madeleine Albright on the Iraq Sanctions: Was It Worth the Price?

StoryJuly 30, 2004
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In May of 1996, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Madeleine Albright, who at the time was Clinton’s U.N. ambassador. Correspondent Leslie Stahl said to Albright, "We have heard that a half-million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and, you know, is the price worth it?" Democracy Now! bumped into Albright yesterday and asked for her response. [includes rush transcript]

This week here in Boston, much of the focus of discussion among the delegates on the floor has centered around opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. And while the sentiments among the delegates are overwhelmingly antiwar and anti-occupation, that has not been reflected from the speakers podium. In fact, both John Kerry and John Edwards gave speeches that could be characterized as pro-war. And while the Democratic base is antiwar, that has not been the record of John Kerry during this campaign. In fact, Kerry began his bid for the presidency running as a pro-war candidate. It was only after Howard Dean tapped into the antiwar sentiment that Kerry began adopting antiwar rhetoric.

Some veteran Iraq observers say that it was the Clinton administration that set the tone for the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq. It was Clinton who began the most sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam, when, in 1998, he began almost daily attacks on Iraq in the so-called no-fly zones. And in 1998, Clinton’s administration made so-called regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy.

During his presidency, Bill Clinton presided over the most devastating regime of economic sanctions in history, that the U.N. estimated took the lives of as many as a million Iraqis, the vast majority of them children. In May of 1996, 60 Minutes aired an interview with Madeleine Albright, who at the time was Clinton’s U.N. ambassador. Correspondent Leslie Stahl said to Albright, "We have heard that a half-million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and, you know, is the price worth it?"

Madeleine Albright replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it." Last night, as people filed out of the convention after John Kerry’s speech, we spotted Madeleine Albright.


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Albright, the question I have always wanted to ask: Do you regret having said, when asked do you think the price was worth it—

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I have said 5,000 times that I regret it. It was a stupid statement. I never should have made it, and if everybody else that has ever made a statement they regret would stand up, there would be a lot of people standing. I have many, many times said it, and I wish that people would report that I have said it. I wrote it in my book that it was a stupid statement.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it laid the groundwork for later being able to target Iraq and make it more acceptable on the part of the Bush administration?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: What? You’ve got to be kidding.

AMY GOODMAN: The sanctions against Iraq.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The sanctions against Iraq were put on because Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. But there never were sanctions against food and medicine. And you people need to know there never were sanctions against food and medicine, and I was responsible for getting food in there and getting Saddam Hussein to pump oil.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaking to us as she was leaving the convention center last night after John Kerry’s closing address, dozens of people remained in the FleetCenter arena.

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