She Shattered the Glass Ceiling for War Crimes and Cruelty

Today, Madeleine Albright is remembered by few outside the U.S. elite.

But Albright, who died Wednesday at the age of 84, was a leading figure in “liberal internationalism,” a foreign policy school associated with President Woodrow Wilson and his dream of “making the world safe for democracy.” She played a central role in America’s foreign policy in the 1990s — first as a United Nations ambassador and then as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. That period of history, and its consequences for the war on terror, can’t be understood without understanding her actions.

In particular, Albright spearheaded Clinton’s disastrous stance toward Iraq. Albright’s approach was both vicious in its own right and helped lay the foundation for the 2003 Iraq War.

It was in her role as U.N. ambassador in 1996 that Albright uttered the most infamous words of her career, in an appearance on “60 Minutes.”

The show’s correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Albright about the effect that U.N. sanctions were having on Iraqi society, saying, “We have heard that a half-million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright responded with chilling equanimity: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

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