Diplomat Jeane Kirkpatrick dies at 80
First woman to be U.N. ambassador praised for intellect
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick was named U.S. ambassador to the U.N. by President Reagan and served from 1981-85.
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, a political-science professor whose support for Ronald Reagan conservatism catapulted her into the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has died at 80. She was the first woman to hold the post.
Initially a liberal Democrat, Kirkpatrick championed human rights, opposed Soviet Union communism and supported Israel.
«She defended the cause of freedom at a pivotal time in world history,» President Bush said yesterday. «Jeane’s powerful intellect helped America win the Cold War.»
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called her a role model, «an academic who brought great intellectual power to her work.»
Kirkpatrick’s son, Stuart, said she died Thursday at her home in Bethesda, Md., where she was under hospice care. The cause of death was not immediately known.
U.N. Ambassador John Bolton asked for a moment of silence for her at a meeting of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. in New York.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised «her commitment to an effective United Nations» and said Kirkpatrick was «always ardent and often provocative.»
«Our country has lost a patriot and a class act,» said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif.
Kirkpatrick «helped change the course of history and bring down the Soviet Union,» said former Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y.
«She was a great believer in civil rights,» Kemp said. «She was a great fan of Dr. Martin Luther King.»
Named to the U.N. post by President Reagan in 1981, Kirkpatrick was known as a blunt advocate. She resigned in 1985.
She joined seven other former U.N. ambassadors in a letter advising Congress that a plan to withhold U.S. dues to force reform at the United Nations was misguided and would «create resentment, build animosity and actually strengthen opponents of reform.»
Kirkpatrick was a politicalscience professor at Georgetown University from 1957 until her appointment to the U.N.
In a pivotal story in Commentary Magazine, she sought to draw a distinction between authoritarian governments and more-extreme violators of human rights such as the Soviet Union. She acknowledged that authoritarian states did not meet democratic standards but wrote that they were far preferable to totalitarian regimes.
One of her more riveting moments at the United Nations occurred in 1983 when she commissioned an audiovisual presentation of the Soviet downing of a South Korean passenger plane, KAL007, that had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 269 persons aboard died.
Alvin A. Snyder, producer of the video, revealed in 1996 that unedited versions of the tape disclosed that the Soviets thought the aircraft was a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance plane.