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Madeline Albright Protest, University of Winnipeg Oct 16th 05

On Sunday, October 16th, former US secretary of state Madeline Albright was a guest of honour at the University of Winnipeg, where she was giving an honourary degree.

The University of Winnipeg Students Association took exception to this, as did many students and facualty members. A protest was held outside of the school. The UWSA president wrote letters to the administration, as did retired professor of Geography and senior scholar John Ryan. You will find these letters and the public statement of the UWSA below the pictures.

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An Open Letter to University of Winnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy,

On behalf of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, I would to express my opposition to the decision of the University of Winnipeg to award and honorary degree on Madeleine Albright.

As Secretary of State in the administration of President Clinton, Albright was responsible for serious crimes against humanity and for upholding an unjust and brutal foreign policy.

Only a few examples are required to demonstrate the absurdity of this selection.

-The U.S-led sanctions campaign against Iraq, resulting in the deaths of over a half million children - a decision she defended on national television, saying that the price of the sanctions was ‘worth it’.
-The illegal, unprovoked and unjust war against the Republic of Yugoslavia, which ended with thousands of civilian deaths and NATO's illegal occupation of Kosovo.
-Supporting Indonesia’s infamous President Suharto whose dictatorial regime was responsible for the killing of tens of thousands of East Timorese civilians.

It is appalling that a university promoting ‘Global Citizenship’ could make such a gaffe. Indeed, honorary degrees are set aside for those we admire, whose values we respect, come through in their work and reflect the values of this institution, for those whose path graduates may aspire to follow as they leave university. Albright’s legacy hardly fits this description.

We ask the University administration to rescind the decision to grant Madeleine Albright an honorary degree and urge members of the community to sign on to this request.


Kate Sjoberg
University of Winnipeg Students’ Association

Public Statement from the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association on the Awarding of an honorary degree to Madeline Albright

On October 14, 2005 a letter was issued from the Office of the Corporate Secretary of the University of Winnipeg to Mathew Gagné, Vice President Advocate of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association. This letter impugned the integrity of Mr. Gagné and the Students’ Association, in relation to the University’s controversial decision to award an honorary degree to Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State.

Extraordinarily, the letter was circulated not only to faculty, but was later spread to media outlets as well. In it, the University alleged that Mathew Gagné and his colleague Sarah Amyot had actively participated in the “unanimous” decision of Senate to confer an honorary degree to Albright.

The letter suggested that, because of their attendance at these meetings as representatives of the UWSA, Mr. Gagne and Ms. Amyot supported the decision to grant Albright a degree. The letter also alleged that the UWSA was acting contrary to its voting record by now organizing in opposition to the Albright decision. The letter was clearly designed to call into question the integrity of the two individuals and of the Students’ Association. More insidiously, the letter seems to have been designed to intimidate and stifle opponents of the decision to confer an honorary degree to Madeleine Albright.

It has now been confirmed that the letter was based on incorrect information. Minutes from the University Senate meeting in question (March 1, 2005) indicate that neither Mathew Gagné nor Sarah Amyot were in attendance on this day.

Upon further investigation, it has also come to light that the process by which the recommendation to honour Ms. Albright was, in itself, flawed. Contrary to the usual practice, the committee recommendation for Ms. Albright’s nomination was not contained in the package of information given to Senators in preparation for the meeting. It was brought to Senate as a verbal amendment to the recommendations listed in the Senate package. No notice was provided to Senators about the controversial proposal.

It is disturbing that the letter accusing the Students’ Association was circulated so aggressively. It is outrageous that it was based on misinformation. The broader message is clear: dissenting opinions on campus will not be tolerated. This was made amply clear on the day of convocation, when three organizers of the effort to call into question the award to Albright were escorted out of Centennial Hall by security simply for circulating material before the commencement of the convocation ceremony.

The Students’ Association is not unfamiliar with the heavy-handed tactics of the University Administration. In the spring, the Students’ Association had a similar experience when it was summarily informed that its representatives would not be allowed access to its members, through classroom presentations informing students of an upcoming vote at the Board of Regents that would raise student fees.

More and more, students across the country are finding that their expressions of dissent are being met with repression, intimidation and slander. A trend most poignantly highlighted at York University where student protestors have faced violence, detainment, and academic suspension.

On behalf of the Students’ Association, we firmly stand by our decision to oppose the conferral of an honorary degree on Madeleine Albright. Attached to this statement is an open letter to President Axworthy, outlining the position of the Students’ Association with respect to its concerns about the conferral. It was circulated prior to convocation. During Fall Convocation, the University was lauded as a place where freedom of speech should be respected. In this instance, the administration of the University has fallen far short.

We hope that, in the future, it will take more seriously the campus motto of Lux et veritas floreant.

Contact: Andriy Michalchyshyn,
Vice President Student Services,
University of Winnipeg Students’ Association
Ph: (204) 786- 9781

Letter by a retired professor
October 12, 2005

Dr. Carol Wylie
Chair, Board of Regents
University of Winnipeg

Dear Dr. Wylie:

I am astonished that the Honorary Degrees Committee selected Madeleine Albright as a candidate for an Honorary Degree and that the Senate and the Board approved the recommendation. Naturally in the course of her career she could be given credit for a range of positive accomplishments, but was there no one who was aware of some of her appalling shortcomings? The recipient of an Honorary Degree should have a truly exemplary record in all respects. It should not be someone whose laudatory achievements are more than counterbalanced by the person’s policies and actions, or support for policies and actions, which have led to catastrophic consequences resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Madeleine Albright, in the course of her career as US Ambassador to the United Nations and later as US Secretary of State, initiated or supported policies in several instances that negatively altered the course of history which in turn led the deaths of massive numbers of people.

The first instance deals with the Rwanda genocide in 1994. A report released in 2000 by an independent panel that had been commissioned by the Organization of African Unity charged that the USA, France, and Belgium, as well as the Catholic Church and Anglican churches, actively prevented peacekeepers from moving in to stop the mass killing of about 800,000 Rwandans in 1994. The report challenged President Clinton’s claim that the USA’s failure to act was due to ignorance of the extent of the atrocities unfolding in Rwanda. Moreover, the report specifically accuses Madeleine Albright, who represented the USA in the UN Security Council, of using “stalling tactics” to prevent a military rescue mission. This action by itself should have disqualified her for being considered for an Honorary Degree.

Her second ignoble performance was with the issue of sanctions on Iraq. Although she didn’t initiate the sanctions, as US Ambassador to the UN and later as Secretary of State, a good deal of her career, in both capacities, was linked to maintaining the sanctions. The unrelenting mean-minded toughness of her resolve was revealed in an interview on 60 Minutes, on May 12, 1996. The interviewer Lesley Stahl asked: “We have heard that half a million children have died [as a result of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima . . . . Is the price worth it?” Albright’s response: “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”

The draconian sanctions lasted some 13 years and were in their way as devastating to Iraq as the current Bush administration’s war on that country. The full impact of the sanctions on Iraq is hard to determine but UN and other reports indicate that within only the first eight years the sanctions resulted in the death of about two million Iraqis, including the death of perhaps a million children. In terms of lives lost, this ill-advised policy, headed and largely enforced by the USA, was far more devastating to Iraq than President Bush’s invasion and occupation of that country.

Through the years Madeleine Albright’s response to critics of the sanctions was that there had been no embargo on food or medicine and that it was Saddam Hussein’s misuse of resources that caused suffering for Iraq’s people. Her argument was disingenuous and essentially false. Members of the sanctions committee, primarily those from Britain and the USA, could veto or deny any shipment to Iraq if there was the slightest suspicion that an item could have a “dual use” and be converted to a warfare agent. On this basis, anti-cancer drugs, most basic medicines and critical vaccines for children, stethoscopes and X-ray equipment, scanners, all equipment and expertise to clean up depleted uranium battlefields, chorine for water purification, and even sanitary napkins and pencils were banned or lost in a cynical delaying process.

The fact that almost all water treatment facilities and dams were deliberately destroyed during the Gulf War bombing campaign, combined with the subsequent ban on chlorine and water and sewage treatment equipment and supplies, meant that there would be an explosion of infectious water-borne diseases. Moreover, all of Iraq’s vaccine facilities were destroyed and until 2001 most vaccines for common infectious diseases were blocked because of possible “dual use.” To deliberately create conditions for disease and then to withhold the treatment is little different morally from actually engaging in outright biological warfare. Despite all this, Madeleine Albright remained unmoved in her resolve to maintain the sanctions.

Some of the best documented evidence of the effects of the sanctions program was brought forward by a number of the highest ranking UN officials who had been stationed in Iraq. In August 1998 Scott Ritter, UNSCOM Chief Weapons Inspector, resigned from his position in protest of US foreign policy in Iraq. In a subsequent book, Endgame, he discussed the folly and immorality of the sanctions against Iraq. Denis Halliday, UN Assistant Secretary General and Humanitarian Aid Co-ordinator in Iraq, after 31 years of service with the UN, resigned in protest of the sanctions in September 1998. His replacement, Hans von Sponeck, a 36-year veteran of the UN, resigned for the same reason in February 2000, along with Dr. Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Program in Iraq.

In his resignation speech, Denis Halliday stated: “We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral.” He elaborated in a lengthy interview on April 17, 1999:

I consider sanctions have become in effect a form of warfare, a form of warfare that is incompatible with the Geneva Conventions and Protocols on targeting civilians. Sanctions do nothing but target civilians. . . . to describe the death of 1, possibly 1.5 million people, to describe the death of thousands of kids each month, to describe the death of almost 600,000 children since 1990 – what else is that but genocide? And it’s not a passive thing, it’s not neglect, it’s an act of decision making process of the member states of the Security Council. They know what they’re doing. And Madeleine Albright has been on CBS Television’s 60 Minutes programme (May 12, 1996) and has justified, in a sense, the killing of 500,000 children. She claims that it’s necessary, justified, to contain Saddam Hussein, the same Saddam Hussein who was an ally of the USA and the UK and others, who was bankrolled and provided military capacity by these countries, who was provided the ‘Seed Stock’ for biological weapons, provided by a company in Maryland and approved by the Pentagon and, I think, by the Treasury Department. This is the same Saddam Hussein, and now they can’t talk to him. They are going to punish the Iraqi people because they can’t deal with this man. I mean, this is all to me unjustified and unacceptable.

On February 13, 2000 Hans von Sponeck, as Humanitarian Aid Co-ordinator for Iraq, stated: “As a UN official, I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognize as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended. How long should the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all of this, be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?” Two days later he resigned in protest. In a subsequent interview, he pointed out that although the sanctions were imposed by the UN Security Council, of the total humanitarian supplies that had been blocked, 98 percent of them had been blocked by the USA.

If the sanctions were meant to somehow remove Saddam Hussein from power, they actually had the effect of strengthening his position. Because of the sanctions the bulk of the Iraqi population became totally dependent on rations provided by the Hussein government and they were so demoralized and weakened that there was no possibility of any revolt against the regime. In response to Hussein’s disastrous war in Iran, followed by the debacle of the Kuwait invasion, a strong grassroots opposition had emerged amongst the general Iraqi population. However, because of the sanctions, the people were powerless to act. Without the sanctions, the Iraqis may have deposed the Hussein regime, on their own, in exactly the way the people of the Philippines removed Marcos in 1986 and the way the Indonesians deposed Suharto in 1998 – despite US support for both dictators right to very end. So much for Madeleine Albright’s reputed strategic advice to President Clinton.

In Madeleine Albright’s 2003 memoirs, Madam Secretary, she regrets the response she made in the 1996 60 Minutes interview. She says, “. . . I should have answered the question by reframing it and pointing out the inherent flaws in the premise behind it. Saddam Hussein could have prevented any child from suffering simply by meeting his obligations” (p. 275). She then trots out the same tired flawed arguments she used throughout the years for maintaining the sanctions. It’s as if by “reframing” the question, she could have brought back to life the 500,000 children and thereby exonerated her policies. And furthermore, to have waited seven years before her “apology,” does it not indicate that perhaps her initial answer was sincere and that her belated apology was issued with her legacy in mind?

A further instance of her unsuitability for being awarded an Honorary Degree is the role she played in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the bombing of that country in 1999.

Although Slovenia and Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia reasonably peacefully, by March of 1992 it became evident that the secession of Bosnia would lead directly to war. Under pressure from the international diplomatic corps, the leaders of the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats met in Lisbon on March 18, 1992 and signed a compromise agreement, which would result in the cantonization of Bosnia on ethnic lines based on the Swiss model. As James Bissett, the Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia at the time, recounts (in a Winnipeg interview on May 29, 1999), “the entire diplomatic corps was very happy that the civil war had been avoided – except the Americans. The American Ambassador, William Zimmerman, immediately took off for Sarajevo to convince Izbetbegovic [the Bosnian Muslim leader] not to sign the agreement so that with the support of the US he could become the first head of a European Islamic state.” By this action, the US effectively skewered the peace deal. Izbetbegovic complied, withdrew his signature from the agreement, declared unilateral independence, and ignited the Bosnian civil war. The vicious 3 ½ year war ended with the Dayton Accords in November of 1995 on conditions much worse for all Bosnian ethnic groups, politically and economically, than those agreed to at Lisbon. This terrible and tragic war that was almost avoided killed and wounded thousands of people, caused billions of dollars of damage, destroyed the infrastructure of the country, and left people bitterly divided for the foreseeable future. The historical record places the responsibility squarely on the USA, but through American control of propaganda, the blame was somehow placed on the Serbs and on Milosevic.

So far it is not known on whose instructions Ambassador Zimmerman took the fateful action which brought about the civil war. In 1992 Madeleine Albright had been President of the Center for National Policy, but because Clinton had always considered her to be an expert on the Balkans, he may have sought her advice. However, from 1993 she had a decisive influence on the USA’s Balkan policies. Colin Powell reports in his book, My American Journey (p.576) that because there was no clear political objective, he resisted her pressure on him to commit US military forces to Bosnia. He cites her as saying to him: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” His comment on this: “I thought I would have an aneurysm. American GI’s were not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”

As for the bombing of Serbia in 1999, this was clearly the result of Madeleine Albright’s initiative. She managed to convince President Clinton, against the better judgement of the Pentagon, that a “little bombing” of Serbia would force Milosevic to sign the Rambouillet “peace accord,” which would allow NATO forces to occupy the entire country, including Kosovo. This critical feature of the document was never publicized in the West’s mainstream media. No country in the world would willingly agree to be militarily occupied by foreign forces, let alone Serbia with its still vivid memories of Nazi occupation. The Rambouillet accord served as an ultimatum for Serbia to surrender its sovereignty or be bombed into submission. The Serbs refused to sign – and the result was a merciless 78-day bombing campaign which killed and injured thousands of people and completely destroyed the country’s entire social and economic infrastructure. The Serbian resolve forced NATO to drop its Rambouillet objective, and it was only with Russia’s diplomatic efforts that a form of peace emerged and the bombing stopped.
The war on Serbia was bizarre in a number of wide-ranging respects. The bombing was carried out without the approval of the UN Security Council, it was in violation of the UN Charter, it was in violation of the US Constitution, and it was in violation of the NATO Treaty itself, which requires NATO to settle international disputes peacefully and to refrain from the threat or use of force “in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.” Not only was the launching of the aerial war on Serbia illegal, much of its actual conduct was equally illegal and in violation of Geneva Conventions. The bombing of civilian infrastructure is a violation of international law under various statutes.
To put this in a more stark perspective, Walter J. Rockler, in light of his experience as a former prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, had this to say to the American public (Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1999):

The bombing war also violates and shreds the basic provisions of the United Nations Charter and other conventions and treaties; the attack on Yugoslavia constitutes the most brazen international aggression since the Nazis attacked Poland to prevent ‘Polish atrocities’ against Germans. The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism run amok.

The illegality of the aerial war on Serbia, along with the way in which it was conducted, is a matter of solid documented fact. Serbia’s refusal to sign the scandalous Rambouillet document was the technical pretext for the bombing, and to get around the awkward fact of the war’s illegality and to get the general public on side the war was billed as “humanitarian intervention.” This was enabled by shrill reports that Slobobdan Milosevic’s military were conducting a campaign of genocide and that at least 100,000 Kosovo-Albanians had been exterminated and buried in mass graves in Kosovo. This deliberate propaganda was so convincing that even progressive-minded people and journals supported this “just war” against the demonic Serbs.

I am fully aware of the complexity of this issue since for the past six months I have been conducting intensive research on all aspects of the dismemberment and destruction of Yugoslavia and I am well launched on a book on this topic. This letter is already far too lengthy for its purposes, so I can’t dwell on further analysis and documentation. However, I would like to conclude this section with some comments by Canada’s General Lewis Mackenzie from his article “We bombed the wrong side?” (National Post, April 6, 2004):

Those of us who warned that the West was being sucked in on the side of an extremist, militant, Kosovo-Albanian independence movement were dismissed as appeasers. The fact that the lead organization spearheading the fight for independence, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was universally designated a terrorist organization and known to be receiving support from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored. . . .

Since the NATO/UN intervention in 1999, Kosovo has become the crime capital of Europe. The sex slave trade is flourishing. The province has become an invaluable transit point for drugs en route to Europe and North America. Ironically, the majority of the drugs come from another state "liberated" by the West, Afghanistan. Members of the demobilized, but not eliminated, KLA are intimately involved in organized crime and the government. . . The objective of the Albanians is to purge all non-Albanians, including the international community's representatives, from Kosovo and ultimately link up with mother Albania thereby achieving the goal of "Greater Albania." The campaign started with their attacks on Serbian security forces in the early 1990s and they were successful in turning Milosevic's heavy-handed response into worldwide sympathy for their cause. There was no genocide as claimed by the West -- the 100,000 allegedly buried in mass graves turned out to be around 2,000, of all ethnic origins, including those killed in combat during the war itself. . . .

The Kosovo-Albanians have played us like a Stradivarius. We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure and independent Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early '90s and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary.

For people who really want to know what happened in Yugoslavia, there is ample evidence to show that the pretext to bomb that country had been fabricated in the same way as the weapons of mass destruction pretext was fabricated for Iraq. Since Madeleine Albright engineered the bombing of Serbia, she continues to support the decision in exactly the way she continues to support the sanctions on Iraq. The festering issue of Kosovo is far from resolution and the undying Albanian dream of creating a “Greater Albania” may yet plunge this area into a series of Lebensraum wars with neighbouring states. The reality of the frightening ugliness in Kosovo hasn’t registered on Madeleine Albright because this past summer, while there, she declared, “I love the people of Kosovo!”

Knowing what I do, I simply could not remain silent while the University of Winnipeg bestows an Honorary Degree on Madeleine Albright and allows her to address the graduands. It still astounds me that during the involved vetting process no one seems to have questioned anything beyond her official paper credentials. Since my retirement I have attended many of the University’s convocations and I have been generally pleased with the choices made for Honorary Degrees. I was especially pleased with the selection of Dr. John Polanyi at the Spring Convocation. But with the choice of Madeleine Albright, are we now to look forward to the selection of other American politicians, for example Henry Kissinger, and perhaps even President Bush some day? Needless to say, I will not be attending the Fall Convocation.

John Ryan, Ph.D.
Retired Professor of Geography and Senior Scholar
cc. Dr.Pamela Harrod, Secretary of Senate; Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President

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