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Albright’s Amnesia

Madeleine Albright writes in the Washington Post that she can’t figure out what our troops are fighting for in Iraq.

“A cynic might suggest that the military’s real mission is to enable President Bush to continue denying that his invasion has evolved into disaster,” she writes. She then goes on to suggest that the way out of this morass would be for President Bush to admit “what the world knows—that many prewar criticisms of the invasion were on target” and essentially throw himself on the mercy of the international community in the hopes that someone (France? India? The United Nations?) will come to our rescue.

Leave aside the issue of whether “a coordinated international effort” offers any real prospect of improving the on-the-ground situation in Iraq. (I address that question more fully in my COMMENTARY article, “How Not to Get Out of Iraq.”) What impresses me the most about Albright’s contribution is her selective memory loss—similar to that suffered by other liberals who were onetime hawks when it came to Iraq but have since changed their plumage.

Readers interested in recalling what Ms. Albright and other former Clinton officials once said about Saddam Hussein might want to read this, posted on the website of the now-defunct Project for a New American Century. In particular, anyone curious about why American troops are now in Iraq should turn to page iv:

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on February 19, 1998 told an audience at Tennessee State that the world had not seen “except maybe since Hitler, somebody who is quite as evil as Saddam Hussein.” In answering a question, she expressed concern about what Saddam Hussein might do if he were able to “break out of the box that we kept him in,” including the possibility that “he could in fact somehow use his weapons of mass destruction” or “could kind of become the salesman for weapons of mass destruction—that he could be the place that people come and get more weapons.” Arguing that action needed to be taken sooner rather than later, Albright noted that one of the “lessons of this century [is that] if you don’t stop a horrific dictator before he gets started too far . . . he can do untold damage . . . .” She continued: “If the world had been firmer with Hitler earlier, then chances are that we might not have needed to send Americans to Europe during the Second World War.”


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