‘Rising’ to Empire, Falling From Grace
by William Norman Grigg
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”
This panegyric to what is commonly called “American Exceptionalism” could have been composed by any of a number of GOP-aligned media figures, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, or their legions of local imitators. Those words were actually spoken by Madeleine Albright in 1998, when she was the Clinton administration’s Secretary of State. She was defending the U.S. role in enforcing an embargo on Iraq in the aftermath of the first Gulf War in 1991.
Albright had memorably addressed that issue in a different fashion three years earlier during an interview on the CBS program 60 Minutes.
“We have heard that a half million children have died,” observed interviewer Leslie Stahl. “I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Without challenging the statistics, or displaying even a tremor of remorse, Albright replied: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
By reconciling Albright’s statements we learn that when “we have to” impose policies that result in the avoidable death, through starvation and disease, of hundreds of thousands of children, “it is because we are America…. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”
For some reason, the self-styled seers and visionaries who defended the Iraqi embargo didn’t foresee how that policy, coupled with decades of U.S. meddling in the Middle East, would cultivate and nurture the seeds that bore murderous fruit on September 11, 2001.