I’ve seen a lot of posts challenging some of what I and others have written about Hillary’s vast experience when it comes to foreign policy. So I thought I’d post some facts about what she’s done to help those caught in two areas of the world that have seen conflict and misery – Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
For anyone who might doubt Hillary's connection to Northern Ireland, take a look at this recent picture of her with two of the particpants in those peace talks in the mid-90s, (Big) Ian (blood & thunder) Paisley (DUP), and Martin McGuinnes(Sinn Fein). They used to hate each other (hell maybe they still do) but are now serviing as the top two members of the Belfast government. They came over to DC on a trip to promote investment in Northern Ireland and stopped by to visit their old friend, Hillary.
So without further ado...
The Facts: Hillary and Kosovo
3/8/2008 4:15:28 PM
Hillary has done the work of real diplomacy, visiting the front lines, meeting with world leaders, and working behind the scenes to make change.
In the midst of the air war over Kosovo, Hillary Clinton arrived in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on May 14, 1999. Despite concerns about security, she traveled to the international border on the edge of the war zone, and visited with refugees. She met separately with Prime Minister Georgievski and President Gligorov, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill, to emphasize America’s support for the stability and security of Macedonia. She discussed refugee policy in these meetings. Before she arrived the Macedonian government had an inconsistent policy that frequently severely restricted the flow of refugees. Indeed in the days leading up to her visit, the flow of refugees had slowed greatly. Hillary pressed these leaders to embrace a border policy that would open the way to allow many more Kosovar Albanians to escape the war zone. After talks between Hillary Clinton and the Macedonian leadership, which included the announcement of two million dollars in aid, the government opened the borders much wider, thereby saving many, many lives.
As a Senator, Hillary Clinton championed prompt recognition of Kosovo’s independence in the context of full protection of minority rights, especially for the Serbs. She has supported the full integration of the Western Balkans into Europe and the transatlantic community.
Statement of Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton Accords, and former permanent representative to the United Nations.
“It was dire in May 1999 when Hillary Clinton arrived in Macedonia. The government of Macedonia had slowed the flow of refugees from Kosovo to a trickle. After visiting refugees and gaining a first-hand assessment of the situation, the First Lady had intense talks with President Gligorov and Prime Minister Georgievski. In these talks, one in the Presidential Palace, another in the residence of the American Ambassador, Christopher Hill, Mrs. Clinton pressed the Macedonian government to fully open the border so that Kosovar Albanian refugees could flee the war zone to safety. She also committed herself to work with the government and people of Macedonia who also faced an emergency because of the threat to their own safety and stability. Hillary Clinton promised to take action to help the Macedonian economy. Returning to Washington, she pressed hard in the administration for action to support the Macedonians. She even contacted American business executives to ensure that American textile contracts in Macedonia were not canceled. There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the minds of those people I worked with in the Balkans at the time – that her intense efforts resulted in easing a crisis of significant dimensions and contributed to saving many lives.”Statement of Susan Braden, Director of Central and Eastern Europe, National Security Council, during Clinton Administration
“I was the Director of Central and Eastern Europe at the National Security Council, with responsibility for the states on the front-line of the conflict with Serbia, including Macedonia. The First Lady traveled to the region to bolster these fragile states at a precarious time. In May 1999, working with the Macedonians, we arranged meetings for Hillary with the Macedonian leadership for the purpose of demonstrating support and, in light of the growing refugee crisis, to persuade the government to allow in more Kosovar Albanian refugees. Hillary successfully pressed the Macedonian government to allow in many more refugees. This trip was enormously important in resolving this immediate crisis. It also reassured the Macedonian government, and other states in the region affected by this crisis, that America would support them.”“Statement from Melanne Verveer, Former Chief of Staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton
As her chief of staff, I traveled with Hillary to Macedonia and sat in on her meetings with the Macedonian leadership. The situation in Macedonia was fragile. There had been demonstrations against the U.S. Embassy, the Macedonian economy was faltering, and there were growing rifts in the Macedonian population over the conflict. In Macedonia, Hillary met with the President and Prime Minister, pushing them on the need to allow Kosovo refugees to flee to safety inside Macedonia. As a result of these talks, they changed their policies, and allowed in thousands of refugees. She spoke to the Macedonian people at the same time and told them that the United States stood with them, that we were grateful for their sacrifices, and she brought with her economic assistance to help Macedonia through this difficult period. Hillary’s diplomatic efforts averted a major refugee crisis and, at the same time, produced benefits for the people of Macedonia.”
Hillary met with the Macedonian President and Prime Minister offering an economic development package. (Hillary) "Clinton heard her story Friday morning on her trip to Macedonia, which was aimed at highlighting the plight of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo and assuring the poor Balkan nation that the United States understands the stress the influx has placed on it. Aid officials say Macedonia has taken about 233,000 of the nearly 800,000 refugees. Clinton met with Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov and Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. She announced the release of the first $ 2 million in a $ 21 million economic development package for Macedonia that is designed to help the fledgling democracy create new small businesses." [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/99]Hillary met with Macedonian officials 'trying to diffuse any anti-American sentiment and to bolster Macedonia's fragile coalition government. "Hillary Rodham Clinton swept through Macedonia on Friday on a visit that illustrated the Clinton administration's continuing struggle to balance the diverse strands of its Kosovo policy...Ethnic Macedonians, who make up roughly two-thirds of this country's population, generally oppose NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia. They also fear that if ethnic Albanians -- who made up roughly one-third of Macedonia's population before the crisis -- continue to pour in from Kosovo, Macedonians will be reduced to a minority in their own country. So although Clinton spent the morning addressing the suffering of the refugees, she spent the rest of the day trying to defuse any anti-American sentiment and to bolster Macedonia's fragile coalition government, a mix of Macedonian and Albanian parties." [Austin American-Statesman, 5/15/99]The Washington Post: "First Lady Brings Publicity, Aid to Macedonia:" First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first high-ranking American to visit here since the Kosovo crisis began, brought two messages to Macedonia today. Touring a refugee camp of 18,000 people, Clinton urged Americans not to become "immune" to the plight of more than 740,000 Kosovo Albanians expelled from their homeland since NATO began its air war against Yugoslavia on March 24. "We are trying to do everything possible to make these lives and stories real, not to let them fade into the background," she said... And she soothed the irritated government of Macedonia, which has taken in the refugees only reluctantly and at the price of more foreign aid. Clinton today added another $ 2 million to the pot -- the first installment of a $ 21 million reallocation of funds for Macedonia... Even as Clinton toured the camp, a few refugees were entering Macedonia from Kosovo. For 10 days, almost no one has crossed the frontier -- initially because Macedonian border guards were blocking refugees, then because Serbian authorities were not allowing them to leave... After her camp tour, Clinton met with Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, parliamentary president Savo Klimovski and local aid officials, and her message could not have been more straightforward: "I want to clearly express our appreciation to the government of Macedonia for the efforts they have made. It has been an incredible burden on Macedonia." [Washington Post, 5/15/99]
Now I actually cut my teeth blogging back in the mid-90s on an old CNN discussion board about Northern Ireland. I used to know people from both sides of the divide up in the North so I learned a lot from them on a more personal level. And a friend here in Maryland traveled to the North with Sen. Clinton - can't recall which trip.
I read whatever I could get my hands on back then - books (current affairs and history), newspapers, on line information. You name it – I read and absorbed it.
I followed the whole process very closely and lobbied hard for the Good Friday Agreement's passage via a website I built back in the day. I still look at it sometimes and marvel at all that went on back then. Marching season. Ormagh. The Quinn boys. So many suffered and today we see Big (blood & thunder) Ian Paisly sharing power with of all people - Martin McGuinness! (see the other attached picture).
John Hume represented the SDLP in the peace talks. He and the rest of the people who helped make the GFA possible sacrificed so much! He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with David Trimble (who represented the Ulster Unionist Party (Protestants) in the negotiations) in 1998. For more information you can check out the who’s who page from my old website, IrishPeace.com to get an idea as to how closely I followed all this. So when I say Hillary played a part in helping to bring peace to the North, believe it.
The Facts: Hillary and Northern IrelandThis is real experience folks – and it’s gained over years and years of involvement in real issues and the lives of real people. It’s not something someone can gain by making last minute trips overseas.
3/8/2008 3:12:25 PM
Hillary traveled to Northern Ireland seven times between 1995 and 2004, and gave what Northern Irish leader and Nobel Laureate John Hume recently described as “decisive support” to the peace process in Northern Ireland. She focused especially on encouraging the emergence of women in the political process. In addition, Hillary's work at the grass roots and behind-the-scenes helped cultivate the conditions necessary for the peace to take hold and last.
As political leaders on all sides of the process have attested, Hillary made important contributions in a wide variety of ways. She made private calls to the negotiating parties on all sides and at all levels to encourage them towards peace. She gave advice and technical assistance to Northern Ireland leaders on a range of governance issues. She used the bully pulpit to inspire and to challenge at a major address in 1998 before leaders from the contending sides.
In 1998 under the auspices of the U.S.-led Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, established by Hillary and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright the previous year – Hillary brought together 400 women in Belfast, Northern Ireland to foster their rise to prominence and leadership and to ensure that their success helped support peace. She met with community workers and with women politicians in Northern Ireland to encourage them to take on a larger role. She carried a pledge to the government of Ireland that the United States would remain a partner in the peace process.
Senator George Mitchell said that “She was very much involved in encouraging the emergence of women in the political process in Northern Ireland, which was a significant factor in ultimately getting an agreement.”
Hillary’s efforts have continued as Senator. She visited the Republic of Ireland on her first trip during her Senate term, and Northern Ireland on her second trip, where she spoke with all of the major leaders in Northern Ireland.
Every year, she meets with the Taoiseach and other party leaders from Ireland. She continues to take calls from all parties to provide help behind the scenes and to keep the process moving forward. And she has held meetings in her office at the request of Northern Irish officials on job creation, trade, agriculture, autism, policing, economic development – and of course reconciliation.
In December 2007, when Martin McGuiness and Ian Paisley were in Washington, they met with President Bush and Hillary, thanking Hillary for her contribution to the peace process.
Statement from John Hume former MP MEP, founder of the SDLP and an architect of the Good Friday Agreement. He is the only person to win the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Ghandi Peace Award and the Martin Luther King Peace Prize.
“I am quite surprised that anyone would suggest that Hillary Clinton did not perform important foreign policy work as First Lady. I can state from firsthand experience that she played a positive role for over a decade in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
She visited Northern Ireland, met with very many people and gave very decisive support to the peace process. There is no doubt that the people of Northern Ireland think very positively of Hillary Clinton’s support for our peace process, due to her visits to Northern Ireland and her meetings with so many people. In private she made countless calls and contacts, speaking to leaders and opinion makers on all sides, urging them to keep moving forward.
Anyone criticizing her foreign policy involvement should look at her very active and positive approach to Northern Ireland and speak with the people of Northern Ireland who have the highest regard for her and are very grateful for her very active support for our peace process.”Inez McCormack, first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions:
"Hillary Clinton took risks for peace in asking me and others to bring women and communities from both traditions to affirm their capacity to work for common purpose and to assert, when there was no public dialogue which supported it, that working for common purpose on the basis of mutual respect was the core of effective peace building. She used her immense influence to give women like me space to develop this work and validated it every step of the way. This approach is now taken for granted bit it wasn't then. She told us that if we take risks for peace, she would stay with us on that journey. In my experience, it took hard work, attention to detail and a commitment of time and energy which she delivered steadily and where it was needed over the last decade."Baroness May Blood of the House of Lords, who worked for many years as a community leader in Shankill area of West Belfast
"The First Lady sent the message that the work and influence that grassroots women were undertaking within their communities was just as important as anything else that was taking place. I witnessed her building new confidence in women at the grassroots level and their statue grew within Northern Ireland as a consequence. All of a sudden they were being taken more seriously. The message we were also told by Hillary Clinton was that this work needed a political focus."Geraldine McAteer, Chief Executive of West Belfast Partnership Board
"As First Lady, Hillary Clinton was extremely supportive of the peace process in Northern Ireland, and in particular, of the women who live here. In her visits during the peace process negotiations she met with women from a range of backgrounds and she recognized there was a real need to strengthen and support the voices of women in the post conflict context and get the needs of women and communities to the forefront of the new political agenda. She recognized that this would be best done through building the skillls of women here. Through her Vital Voices Conference in September 1998, I and others were able to develop our skills for the betterment of our communities."
2007: Hillary honored for her work on the Northern Ireland Peace process. Irish American Magazine named Hillary “Person of the Year”, celebrating “her work on the Northern Ireland peace process”. [Irish American Magazine, April/May 07]2007: Hillary met with Irish leaders who wanted to 'pay their respects to Hillary' for her work on behalf of peace in Northern Ireland. Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley recently traveled to Washington on behalf of the fledging Northern Ireland government, and they specifically requested two personal meetings: one with President George W. Bush and one with Senator Hillary Clinton. They wanted to “pay their respects to Hillary” for her long and varied role in promoting and working for peace in Northern Ireland. [Guardian, December 8, 2007]. As McGuinness put it, “these are wonderfully exciting times for all of us back home, not least because of the contributions made by President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton.” [AP, December 7, 2007].1999: Northern Ireland Secretary: ‘Hillary is one of the essential reasons’ Ireland had peace. An August 1999 issue of Talk Magazine quotes Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam: "Hillary is one of the essential reasons we've had 18 months of relative peace. Without her we would have no economic boom."1999: Hillary made frequent trips to Northern Ireland where she was 'not just in the humdrum affairs of state...but in the nitty gritty of the political scene'. “A few years back the notion of an American First Lady speaking out on any aspect of life in Northern Ireland would have been taboo. Now it is accepted that not just this First Lady but also her husband make frequent trips to the North, and that they become involved not just in the humdrum affairs of state such as opening a new training center or mouthing niceties at a conference, but in the nitty gritty of the political scene too." [Irish Voice, May 25, 1999]
U P D A T E
Tucker’s such an asshole but Jamie Rubin sets him straight on Hillary’s work in Northern Ireland.
Oh – and to the person below who tried to lecture me on the peace process or anything to do with the North of Ireland – the person who really drove and made these talks possible was NOT Jim Mitchell. The man’s name was Sen. GEORGE MITCHELL and I got to meet him and shake his hand at a conference once.