Peter Galbraith March 23, 2022

Madeleine Albright led a remarkable life. She came to the US as a refugee from the Nazis and the Communists and became Secretary of State. We served together in the Clinton Administration. In the darkest days of the Bosnia War she was a powerful advocate—and for me an ally—for doing more to end the atrocities. I have no doubt that her horror at the crimes unfolding in Bosnia and Croatia were very much shaped by her own experience.

Madeleine Albright made three trips to Croatia when I was ambassador and in all three she went to the parts of the country that Milosevic-backed Serbs had seized. She was the only Cabinet member to go to any.

In the first trip, I took her to Vukovar and to Ovcara, the site of a mass grave where Serb forces took 200 patients from the Vukovar hospital, murdered them and buried them in garbage dump. Her anger and empathy came through as she stood at the edge of the dump—in what was still Serb held territory—and denounced the crime. Two years later, I signed the Erdut Agreement that ended the Croatia War and she negotiated the UN resolution that implemented it. She returned to Vukovar —then under UN Administration —and made a walking tour that ended up with local Serbs pelting our party with rocks. The UN Administrator—the irrepressible US diplomat and General Jacques Klein—then had T shirts printed reading “I got stoned with Madeleine Albright”.

Her last trip was a Secretary of State. She insisted on visiting a Serb family in Croatia’s Krajina Region, from which almost all Serbs had fled and where Croatia’s President Franjo Tudjman was determined they would not return. She denounced the Croatian position standing next to the minister, Jure Radic, responsible for its implementation. (This trip had some unplanned matchmaking as it is where Albright’s press spokesman Jamie Rubin connected with Christiane Amanpour).

Madeleine Albright often described the US as the indispensable nation and she had the good fortune to be Secretary of State when that was true. Under President Clinton, the US had no rivals and was a powerful force for good in the world. Madeleine Albright aspired to high office not only to fill a position but to make the world a better place. And she did.

John Shattuck, Madeleine Albright and Peter Galbraith 

Vukovar, Croatia in December 1993

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