Boutros and Me

16 02 2016

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali at a 1996 meeting in Cameroon. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

I had a special connection long ago to Boutros Boutros-Ghali.   It started at his apartment home in central Cairo one evening.    I was a very young journalist invited by the Egyptian government for an all-expenses paid three-week visit to Egypt which I accepted.   When I arrived that evening to have dinner with him and his wife Leah his title was Chairman of the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies.   But that evening something else happened….

We had spent a few hours talking together, just the two of us sometimes joined by his wife.   Dinner was about to be served.   But that’s when Boutros got a call to immediately come to see President Sadat.  I learned the next day that at that meeting, taking place when our dinner would have been, Boutros was appointed Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

There’s much more to be said about my own interactions and discussions with Boutros then and in the years after.   My last formal interview with him was in 1979 the year after the historic Camp David Accords where he played a historic, though in the end tragic, role.    For doing what the Americans and Israelis wanted then and in the years after Boutros was rewarded by being made U.N. Secretary-General in 1992.   Then for not doing everything they wanted and trying to at least present an image of U.N. independence the Americans in effect fired him in 1996 making him the only Sec-Gen not to have a second term.

I was Associate Editor of WORLDVIEW Magazine at the time and the title of the interview was:

“The Palestinians Will Have Their Independence!”
–an Interview With Butros Ghali, Egypt’s Minister
of State for Foreign Affairs

For the historical value it’s worth reading and pondering again on this day that Boutros has died.  On a very personal note, though he had said he would in a most unusual challenge, Boutros never did apologize to me as much as it was deserved.

 You’ll need to read the interview to the end to understand.   Suffice it to say for now that what happened as a result of the Camp David Accords was far more what I expected and predicted than what Boutros believed would result. The historic agreement Boutros helped mid-wife and that changed the course of Middle East and world history was certainly not his proudest moment.   And though he meant what he said in the headline about Palestinian Independence, his tragically mistaken advice to Sadat and his personal failings and vanity helped set Egypt and the entire Middle East on the horrific self-destructive course we are all witnessing today.

Here’s the link to the full interview: