She said the country is stronger when it works through an alliance structure.
ALLIANCE -- Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the U.S. invasion of Iraq "a war of choice," and said our presence there might help terrorist groups recruit new members.
Albright was openly critical of Bush administration policies that have "ignored United Nations guidelines" as she spoke to press gathered before her Tuesday night speech for Mount Union College's Schooler Lecture Series.
"I frankly thought that Iraq was a war of choice, not of necessity," Albright said. "The war in Afghanistan was one that was completely legitimate, we had been hit with the twin towers. But the connection with Iraq, I don't believe was a legitimate. There was no connection between Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The administration put that together and told us that there was."
Albright served in the administrations of Democratic Presidents Carter and Clinton. She served as a member of the National Security Council under Carter and as U.S. representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1996 under Clinton. In 1997, Albright became the nation's 64th secretary of state and the first woman to hold that position.
Her accomplishments include spearheading NATO's campaign to reverse ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the U.N. efforts toward peace in the Balkans and human rights initiatives in China. She said her experience with successful coalition efforts makes this unilateral move into Iraq even tougher to understand.
"The United States is actually stronger when we operate through an alliance structure," Albright said. "Our allies are not pygmies that are trying to weaken the United States. They are countries that can be very helpful and I think we showed that in Kosovo, which was a NATO action. Ad hoc coalition alliances like what we have done in Iraq are the last kind of resort in taking action military. That's why this concerns me."
Albright said that the hunt for bin Laden began with bold talk, but has faded as the administration battles the war of public opinion on Iraq and issues like Social Security.
"We haven't heard a lot about Osama bin Laden recently, and he's still somewhere," Albright said. "We don't hear much about that now. While there was no connection, what I'm worried about is that now as a result of the war, I think we are seeing that Iraq is becoming a recruiting ground not only for Al-Qaida but every other sub-group that really hates the United States. That really concerns me.
"I hope that we find bin Laden and hopefully we will. There seems to have been a pre-9/11 agenda about Iraq and some linkage has been made and I'm very worried about what our leaders were talking about."
She also cautioned on the dangers of genocide in the Sudan and said that much should be learned from mistakes made in Bosnia, during the Clinton years.
It wasn't all about foreign policy. Albright said she took pride in seeing Condoleezza Rice become the second woman secretary of state and other ground that women are now reaching. She even said that she thinks it could be time for a woman president.
"I would hope we could see that in 2008, but there are still things that this country still has issues with when it comes to women," Albright said. "There have been strides made and I'd like to think that the things that I accomplished had a small part in that.
"My daughter told me when Condoleezza Rice was named and no one said a word about her being a woman, 'Mom, that's because of you,'" Albright said. "That's a very satisfying feeling."
Albright, now 67, remains active as a speaker and is founder of the global strategy firm The Albright Group.