Albright & Powell to Speak at the NAFSA 2019 Annual Conference: Say What?

What Were They Thinking?

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

The Buddha’s Fifth Remembrance from his Five Remembrances (PDF download)

I’m pretty sure What Were They Thinking? is going to be the subtitle of an article about the morally odious decision to invite Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell to speak at the 2019 annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which takes place in late May, fittingly, in Washington, D.C.  The last time I used this phrase was when I first wrote about the disastrous appointment of Bob Kerrey as chairman of the Fulbright University Vietnam board of trustees in 2016.  I had the exact same gut reaction to this message, which appeared in my inbox earlier this year.  

Dr. Madeleine K. Albright and General Colin L. Powell to Speak at NAFSA 2019

NAFSA is pleased to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright and General Colin L. Powell (retired) will be the Opening Plenary of the NAFSA 2019 Annual Conference & Expo in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 28.

unnamedAs one of the world’s most respected diplomats, Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, continues to advocate for democracy and human rights across the world, while also championing the important impact international relations and educational exchanges have on the United States today. In 1997 under President Bill Clinton, Dr. Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.

unnamed (1)General Colin L. Powell, USA (retired) has devoted his life to public service having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations. Under President George W. Bush, Powell was appointed the 65th Secretary of State and led the State Department in major efforts to address and solve regional and civil conflicts throughout the world. He also worked at the forefront of American efforts to advance economic and social development worldwide.

Say it ain’t so, NAFSA!  Surely, you can do better than the likes of Albright and Powell.  As one colleague opined, “They’re aiming to impress NAFSA attendees with Albright and Powell’s ‘star power’, lies and callousness notwithstanding.  You can bet your bottom dollar that no questions from the audience that are not pre-screened will be taken.”  Yes, yes, sadly but not surprisingly.  

If you know anything about the background of “one of the world’s most respected diplomats” and someone who “has devoted his life to public service having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations,” you know that I will highlight at least some of the following issues:  

Albright, a nationally televised interview, and 500,000 Iraqi children who died because of US-led sanctions against that country.  Death due to malnutrition and disease falls into the category of “ultimate human rights violation,” doesn’t it?  In the same role, Albright did her utmost to prevent the UN from entering Rwanda to prevent the genocide that occurred in spring 1994.  She is a junior varsity member of Team USA.  

Powell, weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, the UN, and some shocking examples from his time as a high-ranking Army officer in the US war in Viet Nam.   He is a varsity member of Team USA.  

If the truth can hurt, the truth about the two of them, in particular, Colin Powell, is especially painful.  

Two questions to ponder between now and then:  

  1. With a rather large pool of outstanding speakers spanning the globe who are doing cutting-edge work in their fields, why did NAFSA choose Albright and Powell?  
  2. What do these two have to offer to a group of international educators from the US and around the world, aside from what not to say and do, i.e., their status as negative role models?  

Stay tuned! 

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“Three-year-old girl dies after being stabbed at Idaho birthday party”

Girl’s death comes two days after man invaded her party and attacked nine people with knife

Source:  Associated Press

How sad is that?  I’m not sure how much coverage this story received in the US but it was all over the international media.  I fully expected the assailant to be another angry, xenophobic, hate-filled white guy but this time it was an African-American man, presumably batshit crazy.  Even though the victims are refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Ethiopia, the local police chief says the evidence does not suggest the knife attack was a hate crime.  

This reminds me a little of Linh Dinh’s spot-on 2010 article House Slave Syndrome, which he begins with this thought:  A recent article declares, “Tired of war, thousands of Iraqis want to go to U.S.”  What it fails to mention is who triggered all the bloodshed. Who made conditions in Iraq so intolerable that these people must flee?

In addition to Iraq, that is also the case with Syria.  They make their way to the US only to be murdered in cold-blood.  They had to flee their home countries to the source of their suffering, a place where they thought they could find peace and rebuild their lives only to experience more bloodshed, this time their own, at the hands of a deranged killer.  

Peace, MAA

First EducationUSA Fair in Iraq Attracts More Than 1,000 Students

 A recent article declares, “Tired of war, thousands of Iraqis want to go to U.S.” What it fails to mention is who triggered all the bloodshed. Who made conditions in Iraq so intolerable that these people must flee?

You know who. Over and over again, the U.S. has instigated mayhem or carnage overseas, generating thousands if not millions of refugees, many of whom longing to escape, paradoxically, it seems, to the source of their suffering. You beat and humiliate me, so can I move in?

(From House Slave Syndrome by Vietnamese-American writer, Linh Dinh)

Photo: IIE

This is exactly what flashed through my mind as I read this EducationUSA Tweet First EducationUSA Fair in Iraq Attracts More Than 1,000 Students.  According to an Institute of International Education (IIE) press release (note: the US State Department outsources EducationUSA marketing and other tasks to IIE), “More than 1,000 Iraqi students, eager to pursue their graduate studies in the United States, attended the first EducationUSA University Fair in Iraq last week. Students traveled from all across Iraq to meet representatives from 21 U.S. higher education institutions. The fair, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and implemented by the Institute of International Education (IIE), took place in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan Region) from October 14-15, 2011. With the goal of increasing the number of Iraqi students at colleges and universities in the United States, this fair provided participating institutions with an opportunity to talk directly with interested students and share with them the programs and academic options available at American campuses.”  Here is a copy of the fair guide

While I’m all in favor of overseas study for all of the usual reasons and maybe then some, and have spent my entire career in international education, I couldn’t help but wonder about the many ironies at play here.  Invade and occupy a country under false pretenses, destabilize its society, murder innocent civilians, wreak havoc on its economy, preside over a mass exodus of said country’s middle and upper classes and, now, EducationUSA to the rescue! 

Here are the rhetorical questions of the week.  Of those 1,000 young Iraqis who want to go to the US, I wonder what their post-graduation plans are?  I wonder how many of them can honestly answer the consular officer’s question about their post-graduation plans?  (I’m planning to go home to contribute to the development of my country.)  How many will be in compliance with section 214(b) of the Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which reads Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status…  Can you spell e-m-i-g-r-a-t-i-o-n and b-r-a-i-n d-r-a-i-n?  Can you blame them?

Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

NOTE:  Iraq – from ally to enemy to national security threat and back to ally in two decades.  I seem to recall that then Special Envoy Donald Rumsfeld’s December 1983 visit to Baghdad led to the normalization of relations between the US and Iraq.   I also seem to recall that the administrations of President Reagan and the first President Bush provided Iraq with intelligence and logistical support and authorized the sale of “dual use items” – those with military and civilian applications, including chemicals and germs (e.g., anthrax and bubonic plague).

In October 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed National Security Directive 26, which begins, “Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to U.S. national security.” With respect to Iraq, the directive stated, “Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer term interests and promote stability in both the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.”

A  year later:  Iraq transitions from ally to perennial thorn in the geopolitical side of the U.S. with the latter’s invasion of Kuwait and Saddam Hussein’s subsequent alleged plot to assassinate President George H. W. Bush.  Bombing and devastating economic sanctions commence.  Remember Madeleine Albright’s quote about the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? 

“We have heard that a half million children have died,” said “60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl, speaking of US sanctions against Iraq. “I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And — and you know, is the price worth it?” Her guest, in May 1996, U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, responded: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

Pardon the digression, dear reader, but this is an issue that deserves some reflection. 


P.S.:  Speaking of Iraq, I highly recommend this blog, Baghdad Burning, much of which was later published in book form.