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Madeleine Albright Dies at 84; Once Defended U.S. Sanctions Despite Deaths of 500K+ Iraqi Children

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Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has died of cancer at the age of 84. She served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 until 1997, when President Bill Clinton nominated her to become the first female secretary of state. Albright was a staunch supporter of U.S. power and a defender of authoritarian leaders around the world like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Indonesia’s Suharto. She was a key architect of NATO’s 78-day bombing of Serbia in 1999. Albright also repeatedly defended the Clinton administration’s devastating sanctions against Iraq, infamously saying in a 1996 “60 Minutes” interview that the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children from U.S. sanctions were “worth it.” Democracy Now! confronted Albright on those comments in 2004, when she acknowledged it was a “stupid statement,” but she denied the sanctions on Iraq laid the groundwork for the Bush administration’s invasion.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has died of cancer at the age of 84. Albright served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997, when President Bill Clinton nominated her to become the first female secretary of state. Albright was a staunch supporter of U.S. power and defender of authoritarian leaders including Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Indonesia’s Suharto. She was a key architect of NATO’s 78-day bombing of Serbia in 1999.

In 1998, she joined President Clinton’s foreign policy team in a live CNN event promoting the administration’s threat to bomb Iraq into complying with the demands of U.N. weapons inspectors. An exchange between Albright and Columbus public school teacher Jon Strange was later billed by the media as the “question heard around the world.”

JON STRANGE: What do you have to say about dictators of countries like Indonesia, who we sell weapons to, yet they are slaughtering people in East Timor? What do you have to say about Israel, who is slaughtering Palestinians, who impose martial law? What do you have to say about that? Those are our allies. Why do we sell weapons to these countries? Why do we support them? Why do we bomb Iraq when it commits similar problems?

SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The — there are various examples of things that are not right in this world, and the United States is trying —

AUDIENCE: [booing]

SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I really am surprised that people feel that it is necessary to defend the rights of Saddam Hussein, when what we ought to be thinking about is how to make sure that he does not use weapons of mass destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of State Albright defended the Clinton administration’s devastating sanctions against Iraq. In 1996, she was interviewed by Leslie Stahl on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

LESLEY STAHL: We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

AMBASSADOR MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2004, I had a chance to ask Madeleine Albright about those comments as she attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

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, the killing of children in Iraq?

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: Well, the sanctions against Iraq.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The sanctions against Iraq were put on because Saddam Hussein had 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: That was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaking to Democracy Now! in 2004. She died on Wednesday at the age of 84.

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