FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Condi Weighs In

by STEVE BREYMAN

She couldn’t resist adding her voice to the current discussion over the Arab uprisings. As the popular revolt in Egypt drove Hosni Mubarak from power, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice lamented in a February 16 Washington Post op-ed, “It didn’t have to be this way.” The ironic thing is, she’s right.

When former high-level policymakers contribute to current debates over policy, a primary motivation is to show how on top of today’s issues they were when in power. Or how they saw the current problem clearly then, but their recommended course of action was overruled. Or how if the present administration would only stay the old course, all would turn out well.

For Rice, several factors (none of the above) explain her return to the fray. She has lessons to draw from her diplomatic experience. She needs to inform or remind us that she’s a fervent democrat. But most importantly, Rice’s intervention is about self-rehabilitation.

She was National Security Advisor, and then Secretary of State, when the US started two illegal wars, kidnapped and then tortured suspected terrorists, abused illegally-held detainees in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and secret hell-holes around the world, rejected the advice of old allies, ruined the country’s international standing, emptied the public coffers, and attacked civil liberties at home. She has more blood on her hands than fellow political scientists Zbigniew Brzezinski or Madeline Albright. During the postwar era, only Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger were party to more death and destruction than Rice.

She needs several rail cars to tote this baggage, so she harkens back to January and June 2005, the year Forbes called her the most powerful woman in the world. January marked President Bush’s second inaugural address; June, an address of hers to a gathering at the American University in Cairo.

The Bush speech was generally very nice (if you could overlook the glowing and thinly veiled reference to the freedom unleashed by the occupation of Iraq), hitting the high notes of human rights and liberty. It was filled with the lofty and moving rhetoric of American values and sacrifice. The speech was an absolute necessity for an administration that had just dragged the country˜ many of us kicking and screaming–through four years of war, hatred, and shame of its own making. It was mostly a rousing call for what US foreign policy ought to be but never was, especially through the Bush years.

Rice’s speech began with praise for the US relationship with Egypt, and its autocratic head:

“The United States values our strategic relationship . . . with Egypt. And American presidents since Ronald Reagan have benefited from the wisdom and the counsel of President Mubarak, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting earlier today.”

She also praised Egypt’s thorny relationship with its own liberal reformers, and tipped her hat to Anwar Sadat who had the good sense to make peace with Israel, and dump Arab statism for neoliberalism. She then dropped this bomb: “For 60 years . . . the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy . . . in the Middle East–and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”

I‚m not sure how many addresses like this Rice delivered during the second half of the Bush- Cheney era. It was the type of speech (if you excise the back slaps for the local autocrat) you want but don’t expect US Secretaries of State to give. The problem then was the problem now: freedom and democracy cannot be granted to some, but opposed for others. You can’t support them for preferred people(s), deny them to people(s) considered undeserving, and avoid hypocrisy corrosive to the values themselves.

The administration faced an excellent test of its Œfreedom agenda‚ a mere six months later following parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. No people in the region had been as abused, degraded, or humiliated. No people suffered more for the right to self- determination. Here was Rice’s chance to back fine words with courageous action.

Oops, Washington, we have a problem. Hamas won 76 of 132 seats in the Legislative Council. Rice’s reaction? A political party could not “have one foot in politics and the other in terror. Our position on Hamas has therefore not changed.” How could an American Secretary of State not recognize an occupied peoples‚ legally-sanctioned right to armed resistance (which does not extend to the deliberate targeting of civilians)? How could an American Secretary of State not recognize a democratic election, universally seen as free and fair, regardless of who won it?

The United States will never live up to the values and expectations of the Bush and Rice speeches until it breaks definitively with its double standards. And until it finally takes off the radioactive handcuffs of the US-Israel alliance. No critical US distance from Israel, no freedom or democracy for Palestine. Nor will we witness an end to American hypocrisy.

Rehabilitation time for Condi? Not even close. Until she comes clean about her personal responsibility for the Bush administration’s historic crimes, she should be left to languish comfortably at Stanford and the Hoover Institution. (I know, you can envision less cozy sinecures . Me too.)

You can do it, Prof. Rice. Start small–admit your central role in the Valerie Plame affair. You can move on to torture later. If she’s smart, she won’t wait as long as McNamara to make peace with her (and our) demons. She has demons, right?

STEVE BREYMAN teaches public policy to graduate students in the Department of Science and Technology Studies.

 

 

Steve Breyman was a William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the Clinton State Department, and serves as an advisor to Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail