Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told about 100 students at the University of Nevada Las Vegas today that the war in Iraq will go down in history as "the greatest disaster in American foreign policy."
In Las Vegas to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who opposed the invasion of Iraq, Albright said the Iraq war is worse than American involvement in Vietnam, not in terms of Americans who died in combat or Iraqis versus Vietnamese, but in terms of the conflict's unintended consequences.
Not only has Iran grown stronger because of unrest and a balance of power shift in the region, but the United States has now lost its moral authority in much of the world, said the 71-year-old diplomat who served in the Clinton administration.
The first woman to ever lead the U.S. State Department said what makes Obama a strong candidate for president is that he understands that the U.S. should "promote democracy, not impose it."
In addition to eliminating Saddam Hussein and terrorists, one of the other reasons President Bush gave for invading Iraq was to bring Iraqis democracy -- all arguments embraced by Obama's opponent for president, Sen. John McCain.
Albright said no leader in the world who entertains the idea of democracy now eyes Iraq and says, "That's the way I want my country to look."
The truth is, she said, that the terrorists who hit the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, were not based in Iraq, but rather Afghanistan.
An immigrant from Czechoslovakia who calls herself a child of World War II and the Cold War, she said that in the past the words associated with the U.S. were positive ones, particularly "Omaha Beach" and "the Marshall Plan."
Omaha Beach was one of the principal landing points in the American-led D-Day invasion of German-occupied France during World War II and the Marshall Plan constituted the widely-praised U.S.-led reconstruction of a devastated Europe after that war.
Now, Albright said, because of Iraq too many people around the world associate America with either Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq where Americans tortured and abused prisoners, or Guantanamo, the American naval base in Cuba where hundreds of suspected terrorists have been imprisoned by the Bush administration for years without the right to due process.
In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners should have the right to challenge their detention in federal court.
Albright, an Obama adviser who seldom referred to McCain by name during her appearance, said she has been impressed with Obama's ability to study several foreign policy issues at once "from all sides."
She said that is a distinct difference from Bush, whom she accused of running an "unidimensional foreign policy" that focused only on Iraq.
She said the problem with Bush's widely publicized "Road Map to Peace in the Middle East" is that he "never took it out of the glove compartment."
Asked by a member of the audience whether she thought change would come to Cuba, she said she doesn't make a lot of predictions about changes in foreign countries, but did feel comfortable making one: "Castro will die."
Change could be possible then because there are people who believe in democracy now living in the authoritarian state that Fidel Castro has ruled with an iron fist since the 1960s, she said.
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at email@example.com or 702-387-2908.