U.S. diplomat talks politics with students

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Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke visited the University of Calgary this past week as the speaker for this year's James S. Palmer lecture.

Holbrooke's lecture drew a diverse crowd to hear the seven-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee speak, Thur., March 22 in MacEwan Hall.

Holbrooke has played a crucial role in the development of U.S. policy towards the UN, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but is perhaps best known for his role as the architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war in Bosnia.

Holbrooke also took time to speak to a small gathering of U of C students, displaying his knowledge of international relations and daily workings of diplomacy around the world. He was also unafraid to express his opinion of today's current events, heavily criticizing the Iraq war.

"There's no question Iraq is sucking the energy out of the United States," he said simply. "I'm sure that things will eventually wind their way to a sorry, pitiful conclusion."

Holbrooke took questions regarding a variety of issues, including Kosovo's march to statehood following the 1999 NATO bombings of the province, the fate of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, the 2001 secession of East Timor from Indonesia and the current war in Afghanistan.

The tough-talking former assistant-secretary of state was forthright in his words, recalling many moments from his time in former president Bill Clinton's administration, including the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

"There are no excuses," he said. "Rwanda, by far, was the worst failure of the Clinton administration. [Clinton] has apologized many times for it, but it is a time when our country failed its role."

The student session closed with Holbrooke throwing his hat behind former first lady Hillary Clinton in the upcoming American presidential elections.

"I've worked with her and her husband," he said. "I think they're wonderful people and I wish her all the best."

The Palmer lectures are intended to promote discussion of public policy and public issues by exposing students, faculty and staff, as well as the wider community, to intellectuals of an international stature.

Past lecturers in the series have included former U.S.S.R. president Mikhail Gorbachev, linguist Noam Chomsky and economist John Kenneth Galbraith.