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Boutros-Ghali's Book Says

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By Paul Lewis

New York Times
May 24, 1999

United Nations -- In a new book, former Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali lashes out at what he perceives was a betrayal by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the Clinton administration for denying him a second term.


Albright, who was America's U.N. representative at the time, comes in for the harshest treatment, not only for diplomatic double-face but also for what Boutros-Ghali sees as her lack of diplomatic skills. She campaigned to oust him from his job, he says, "with determination, letting pass no opportunity to demolish my authority and tarnish my image all the while showing a serene face, wearing a friendly smile and repeating expressions of friendship and admiration." He adds that her efforts to remove him from the post made him recall "what a Hindu scholar once said to me: There is no difference between diplomacy and deception."

The central thesis of Boutros-Ghali's book -- titled "Unvanquished: a U.S.-U.N. Saga" (Random House) -- is that Clinton felt obliged to deny him a second term early in the 1996 presidential election campaign because Sen. Bob Dole, the leading Republican candidate, was accusing the administration of putting the United Nations in charge of the American military by giving the secretary general a veto over air strikes against the Serbs in Bosnia.

"His mocking pronunciation of my name -- Boo-trus, Boo-trus -- sounded like a jeering mob, and his claim that American troops served under my 'command' invariably aroused his audiences," Boutros-Ghali, a former Egyptian foreign minister, wrote. "Only once in every two decades did a U.N. and the U.S. presidential election fall in the same year," he added. "I knew that the U.N. decision might get caught up in American politics. It did."

But the book also makes clear that Boutros-Ghali believed passionately in the independence of his office and that this led to frequent disagreements with Albright and the Clinton administration over issues ranging from the administration's distaste for the Bosnia peace plan put together by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Britain's Lord Owen, its refusal to intervene more forcibly to stop the genocide in Rwanda and America's failure to pay its United Nations dues.

Boutros-Ghali is scathing in his assessment of Albright's diplomatic skills. She seemed to have, he writes, "little interest in the difficult diplomatic work of persuading her foreign counterparts to go along with the positions of her government, preferring to lecture or speak in declarative sentences, or simply to read verbatim from her briefing books." "She seemed to assume," he continues, "that her mere assertion of a U.S. policy should be sufficient to achieve the support of other nations." He also found her unusually sensitive to criticism, saying, "She tended to react to discussions of problems between the United Nations and the United States as if they were criticisms specifically directed at her performance."

But Boutros-Ghali admits he underestimated her as an opponent. When Joseph Verner Reed, an American who was an under secretary general, reported hearing her say, "I will make Boutros think I am his friend: then I will break his legs," he dismissed the story as "ridiculous," only to conclude later that he had been naive. "Fortune is a woman, Machiavelli said, and should be treated roughly," he wrote, "but in this case it was the woman who was rough, and fortune favored her."

Responding to the book, Albright's spokesman, James Rubin, who said he discussed the issues with her, defended her treatment of the former secretary general and added that Albright had acted not only in the best American interest but also in the interest of American political support for the United Nations. "She did what she thought was right, and she thought she did it effectively," he said. He laid the blame for Boutros-Ghali's ouster with the former secretary general himself. "It was always unfortunate that Boutros-Ghali did not have the skills to successfully manage the most important relationship for any secretary general, which is smooth cooperation with the United States," Rubin said. "It led to his downfall, so it is not surprising that he is bitter." He added that Boutros Ghali envisioned a "grandiose role" for himself at the United Nations, which the Clinton administration could not support. He also called it "ironic" to hear that Boutros-Ghali thought Albright was unduly sensitive to criticism, given the tone of his remarks in the book. He said she "always viewed him as intelligent and thoughtful, and wishes him well."

In the book, Boutros-Ghali strongly criticizes the Clinton administration's legacy at the United Nations and its performance in key areas, like Bosnia during its 1992-95 war. When the United Nations was allowed to do its work without substantial U.S. involvement, as in Mozambique, the operation succeeded, he says. The world body also did well, he says, when the United States needed its help, as in Haiti. But when the United States "wanted to appear actively involved while in reality avoiding hard decisions, as in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda, the United Nations was abused, or blamed by the United States and the operations failed, tragically and horribly," he concludes.

During their campaign to block his re-election, Boutros-Ghali says that neither Secretary of State Warren Christopher nor Albright would tell him why they were doing so. Even after Kofi Annan's election in his stead, Boutros-Ghali wrote, Albright was studiously vague on the subject. At their final dinner together in the secretary general's Sutton Place residence, Albright would only say that he symbolized the United Nations, which was unpopular in Congress and was "blamed for trying to control American military power" through the "dual key"' system that gave him veto power over NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs. Boutros-Ghali vainly protested that she knew perfectly well it was the commanders of the U.N. peacekeeping force on the ground in Bosnia who opposed air strikes, fearing they would turn the Bosnian Serbs against their soldiers. But he glumly concludes: "It was useless to pursue the subject. She had no intention of telling me the truth behind Washington's decision. I changed the subject again."



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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.