Question & Answer

Ambassador Susan McCaw Answers Questions for The Vienna Review

News | Vienna Review | October 2006

Ambassador McCaw (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

Vienna Review: In his speech last year to the Webster Vienna graduation, U.S ambassador to Hungary, George Herbert Walker compared Hungary in 1956 to Iraq today, telling his audience he believed "freedom is on the march." President Bush used the same analogy in his speech in Budapest in June this year. Many of our students who come from central Europe and are Hungarians were upset about this comparison. How do the recent events in Budapest shape your opinion?


Ambassador McCaw:  I think democracy takes a long time to develop, in our country [the] US, our democracy is still evolving and it will continue to evolve. And I think the progression of democracy take its course based on individual countries and environments and the societies. I think it is hard to compare regions to regions, but we have to all agree that the promotion [of] human rights, giving support to the individual for free speech and beliefs is something we believe are universal values. But we leave it to those individual societies to determine how to protect those values.


Vienna Review:  Do you find it harder to transmit this message to the people in Austria or the people in Budapest, or is it an universal ideal that can be transmitted to anyone. 


Ambassador McCaw: If I can just step back and focus on the bigger picture, I think we are focusing a lot on what’s wrong and what were are not doing right. But what we have to realize is, this is a long and larger struggle, and there have been a lot of positives too. People and particularly the press tends to focus on the negatives aspects. But we have made a lot of progress


Vienna Review:  Where?


Ambassador McCaw: …Progress with regards to cooperation on intelligence, with regard to cooperation on some of these global issues that we are facing, specifically Iran is one the Europeans and Americans have worked very closely and well on – and continue to struggle with – but still at least we are working towards a solution, a dialogue….


Vienna Review:  But doesn’t it bother you that we lost so much of our moral high ground? At the time [Americans living in Austria find it] harder and harder to talk to people as an American, because the pride we used to feel, of who we are and what we stood for has been tarnished. The idea of America is unbeatable, a phenomenal project in liberty and progress…


Ambassador McCaw: You are exactly right, and I feel the same way, our whole foreign policy is built on pro-human rights, and if people question that we definitely take it as a serious affront. But the president’s goal and overarching mission is to protect Americans lives and the same time he is doing that for European lives to. And if we have terrorists who will kill indiscriminately, kill citizens just to get their ideology across, what do you do with these terrorists? Do you let them go? Do you not inquire? Do you not ask them, do you not try to gather information from them to save lives? Do you let the planes fly over the Atlantic, and let them blow up hundreds of bodies? No, I don’t.


Vienna Review:  So you are defending human rights by keeping people in prison for four years without any due process – even though we don’t have really no evidence against them. Is that defending American values?


Ambassador McCaw: I think what you’re trying to say is, that we are trying, [that we are] bending the rules, that we are trying to save lives, [trying to] find ways to stick to our beliefs, that is, our beliefs in human rights and civil rights. And these detainees in Guantanamo are being treated humanly, we do not condone torture…"

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