Crimes of Clinton-Gore Foreign Policy

Berkeley Student Tells Off the Secretary of State

by Charles Walker

After Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on May 10 wrapped up her keynote speech to some 5,000 graduates, faculty, and guests at the University of California at Berkeley, Fadia Issam Rafeedie, the student commencement speaker, took the mike, tossed aside her reportedly “polite” prepared remarks, and eloquently blistered Albright for her conduct of foreign policy for American imperialism, or as Albright put it, “a larger strategy for bringing the world closer together around basic principles of democracy and the rule of law.”

Ms. Rafeedie conceded nothing to Albright, who, reported the Contra Costa Times on May 11, “briefly praised U.S. work in Kosovo and the Middle East, bringing a scattering of boos from the crowd.”

Fadia Rafeedie, who was born in the U.S., but is of Palestinian descent, has received many awards for her academic achievements while an undergraduate student.

Albright didn’t hang around to hear Fadia Rafeedie’s passionate condemnation of the U.S.-led trade embargo imposed on Iraq following the Gulf War and the embargo’s tragic consequences for the Iraqi civilian population, especially the children, the aged, and the ailing.

Instead, “Albright was hustled out by the Secret Service,” reported the May 11 Oakland Tribune, “before the main course: a rousing, militant speech criticizing Albright and the United States policy in Iraq by University Medallist Fadia Rafeedie, the top scholar in the graduating class of [5,000] seniors.”

The Tribune was the only one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s three major papers to give Fadia Rafeedie’s words even scant coverage.

One newspaper press reported that “59 protesters, most concerned with the U.S. trade embargo on Iraq, were evicted by police and the Secret Service before and during Albright’s speech.”

Other press reports indicated that at least several hundred protesters, inside and outside the campus site, condemned U.S. policies toward Iraq, and some of the graduating students wore orange armbands, symbols of their support for the protesters.

The press reported that Albright had the support of the majority of the crowd, but that didn’t stop Fadia Rafeedie from solidarizing herself with the protesters. What follows is a portion of Rafeedie’s remarks, pieced together from the Oakland Tribune and the Berkeley Daily Californian, a student paper.

“Actually, I share the feelings of a lot of my comrades who were arrested today. I am very fortunate that I am able to give them voice. There are about 5,000 people here today. About that many Iraqis will die before we graduate. Commencement means beginnings. Where civilization itself began, it’s now being destroyed.”

“I was looking at my grandmother, who came here from Palestine and was very unhappy about the protesters. A lot of you feel the same way. But I don’t believe they embarrassed the university. I think they dignified it.”

“Sometimes not saying things, not mentioning things, is like lying about them. I’m going to mention what she [Albright] didn’t mention at all. Iraq and U.S. policy. The cancer rate in Iraq has risen over 70% since the Gulf War. The children dying of malicious diseases weren’t even born when the Gulf War happened. You gave a standing ovation to a women who stands for everything I’m against. This woman is doing horrible things.”

The next day, Fadia Rafeedie wrote to the Daily Californian, responding to critics who charged her impromptu remarks were “completely inappropriate.”

“I couldn’t imagine addressing my class in the Spring of the new millennium,” she wrote in part, “without mentioning what I consider to be the greatest human tragedy of our time, where 2.5 million people have been bombed or starved to death, or who have died of perfectly preventable illnesses because of a U.S. policy intended not to promote democracy or to contain a dictator, but to recolonize the Arab World…[W]atching the protestors get expelled one by one, for speaking out about injustices to [oppose] which I am willing to commit my life, not only encouraged me to give that speech, but dictated that I do…The overwhelming support I’ve been receiving from classmates, professors, [and] perfect strangers…[is] confirming what I already knew: that following my heart up there was the right thing to do.”