Ridiculous Rice

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently been declared the most important person in the universe, or something like that, and is no doubt pleased to be so honored. But it is doubtful that any country in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) would endorse that status because she has insulted all ten of them, which is no mean feat.

She refused to attend their annual meeting that was held in Laos in July.

Many countries prefer Rice’s space to her presence, but when she chose to send Deputy Secretary Zoellick to represent her in Laos she sent a curt imperial signal to the effect that ‘You ASEAN countries aren’t important enough for me to attend your two-bit gathering.’

There has been no public explanation of why Rice refused to go to the meeting (because Empires don’t explain their insolence and arrogance), but the usual anonymous US officials briefed selected reporters that she didn’t go because it would be wrong to sit down alongside people from Burma (Myanmar) which has a lousy human rights record. And they said that anyway she had a busy schedule.

For a decade it has been customary for the US Secretary of State to attend the last two days of ASEAN gatherings, which in this case was from July 24 to 29. Deputy Zoellick left Washington July 26 and got back four days later. But before he arrived in Laos the ASEANs had solved the Burma problem through quiet diplomacy and had persuaded the Burmese that they should not chair next year’s meeting, although it would be their turn to do so. It was all arranged without fuss and without vulgar threats. This sort of solution is not understood by Cheney-Bush Washington which prefers confrontation and bullying, especially when dealing with those regarded as inferior.

Now, sure, Burma’s human rights record is grim. The nutty generals who try to run the country have gone berserk and the place is in ruins. Last year, according to Ms Rice’s State Department, the Burmese government “continued to restrict severely freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. [It] restricted freedom of religion, coercively promoted Buddhism over other religions, and imposed restrictions on religious minorities . . . Security forces continued to monitor systematically citizens’ movements and continued to restrict freedom of movement, in particular, foreign travel by young female citizens.” Obviously Ms Rice is shocked — shocked — about this.

While Mr Zoellick was away, Rice had a meeting on July 27 with Mr Tang Jiaxuan, State Councilor of the People’s Republic of China.

The State Department Human Rights Report 2005 notes that the government of Mr Tang, among other things, “continued to commit numerous and serious abuses. Citizens did not have the right to change their government, and many who openly expressed dissenting political views were harassed, detained, or imprisoned . . . Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings; torture and mistreatment of prisoners, leading to numerous deaths in custody; coerced confessions; arbitrary arrest and detention; and incommunicado detention . . . The Government regulated the establishment and management of publications, controlled broadcast and other electronic media . . . [There was] violence against women, including imposition of a coercive birth limitation policy that resulted in instances of forced abortion and forced sterilization . . .” and so on.

Does this remind you just a tiny bit of something rather similar that the State Department of Ms Condoleezza Rice had to say about Burma? (Mind you, the phrases “deaths in custody”, “incommunicado detention”, and “torture and mistreatment of prisoners” are painful reminders of the hellholes at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and heaven knows how many others, where the behavior of US citizens has been quite as illegal, brutal and murderous as that of their soul-mates in China.)

It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall when Mr Tang Jiaxuan called on Rice on July 27. You can imagine it : “Well Hey, Mr Tang! Great to see you! Just squat right there! I’m glad you could come by, and I’ve got to tell you I’m happy to be here rather than Laos at that trivial ASEAN meeting, just like your foreign minister must be. And the reason I didn’t go is because Burma has one lousy human rights record, and – – – Uh? . . . Oh; I see : so your foreign minister DID attend the ASEAN gathering but is leaving Laos this afternoon to visit Burma. – – – And he’s going to meet tomorrow with Burma’s dictator, Senior General Than Shwe and Prime Minister General Soe Win, is that so? Well, Mr Tang, that’s very interesting, and would you please avoid the media when you leave the building?”

Burma’s human rights violations are terrible. China’s are worse. The State Department says so. And China is a major supporter of Burma. Where does that leave Rice?

Up a ideological gum tree, that’s where ; along with her Israeli policy.

Condoleezza Rice is attempting to mediate between Israel and Palestine, but the chances of her being regarded as an honest broker or impartial referee in the Arab-Israeli dispute are zero. They could hardly be otherwise, given her effusively admiring comments about Israel :

“In an exclusive interview with Israel’s daily Yediot Aharonot . . . Dr Condoleezza Rice said that “the security of Israel is the key to security of the world.” Rice added that she feels “a deep bond to Israel.” Asked if her feelings toward Israel stem from her religious convictions, Dr. Rice said “That is a very deep question. I first visited Israel in 2000. I already then felt that I am returning home despite the fact that this was a place I never visited. I have a deep affinity with Israel. I have always admired the history of the State of Israel and the hardness and determination of the people that founded it . . . I think that we, Israel and the US, share common values. Israel is the only democracy in the region. That is also very important . . .”

And some people wonder why the Islamic world feels, oh, ever so slightly, that the closest associate of the President of the United States of America is just a little partial to Israel, at the expense of the Palestinians whose land has been stolen and who have been denied dignity and a decent life for half a century. Arabs from Morocco to the Gulf know that Washington will not lift a hand — a finger — to help the Palestinians if this would mean offending Israel.

Israel is the country that has citizens under investigation for alleged spying on the United States, as are some members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.

One of the most effective and damaging spies in American espionage history was Jonathan Pollard. He was jailed for life in 1987 because he sold Israel over a thousand highly classified documents about US operations while he was a US intelligence analyst. Some of those on submarine detection were of staggering importance, and putting things right took years and cost billions. And last month Pollard appealed against his sentence. (You didn’t hear much about that from the US media, did you? But it was on the BBC which tells us foreigners much more about America than American citizens are allowed to know by their own media — especially about Israel.) The appeal was rejected, but Pollard, the US intelligence analyst jailed for being a traitor to America, was with fanfare made an Israeli citizen by a grateful Israeli government in 1995.

Here is the message to Washington from Israel’s parliament about the spy Pollard : “The Knesset sends blessings of strength and courage to Israeli citizen Jonathan Pollard who has been incarcerated in an American prison . . . The Knesset calls upon the American President to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard at once and to release him from prison.”

And the US Secretary of State declares that “I have a deep affinity with Israel” whose spy Pollard continues to be supported unequivocally by the foreign power that employed him to spy on her country. Is she crazy?

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is the organization that declares “America must continue to stand by Israel’s side politically, diplomatically and economically . . . AIPAC trains and educates pro-Israel students across America and develops their leadership skills so that they become effective citizen lobbyists today and pro-Israel leaders tomorrow.”

So who was honored as a guest speaker at the AIPAC celebrations on May 23? Why, the US Secretary of State, who restated enthusiastically that “Israel has no greater friend and no stronger supporter than the United States of America.” (Applause.) Then she went on to say that “. . . . the Government of Iran . . . is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. (Applause.) The United States has focused the world’s attention on Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And along with our allies, we are working to gain full disclosure of Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) Nor can it tolerate Iran’s efforts to subvert democratic governments through terrorism. (Applause.)”

The Washington Post recorded that “during the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference yesterday, a fleet of police cars, sirens wailing, blocked intersections and formed a motorcade to escort buses carrying its conventioneers — to lunch”. It is obvious that AIPAC has massive influence in Washington, and lots of friends in the State Department and the Pentagon. It is interesting that a foreign political lobby group of which two (former) senior staff members have been charged with spying on America can order Washington officials to block off roads for their lunchtime convenience.

Israel is the country for which the US Secretary of State declares she has a “deep affinity”. Given this blatant partiality, it is impossible to believe for one instant that Palestinians will get a fair deal from Bush-Cheney-Rice. And the signal she sent to Israel and the world about Iran was stark and brutal. In her speech, Rice declared Iran to be “the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism . . . .” and that “[it is developing] weapons of mass destruction . . .” (Where have we heard this before? The alarm bells are ringing around the world.)

The writing is on the wall for Iran, and Rice chose a meeting of 5000 cheering supporters of Israel to announce the fact, as did the farcical and financially intriguing Richard Perle who got “cheers from the crowd when he favored a military raid on Iran, saying that ‘if Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weapon, I think we will have no choice but to take decisive action’.” Don’t you love that “We”?

Just who is ‘We’ to Perle and AIPAC and Rice? America? Or America and Israel? Or Israel? Where does their loyalty lie?

Perhaps it would help to understand Ms Rice were she able to express herself coherently in her unrehearsed public statements. Take the interview in Moscow when she was asked if she would run for president of the US. She replied “da, da”, which means yes, yes. Then she realized she had meant ‘No’ rather than ‘Yes’, so fired off seven ‘nyets’. You might think that someone who has been declared the most important person in the universe (or something) by Forbes Magazine might be able to differentiate between ‘da’ and ‘nyet’ even if they weren’t experts on Russia. But we shouldn’t really be surprised, because in Bush Heaven, in which Rice is an angelic exemplar of unconditional loyalty, ‘Yes’ can mean ‘No’ whenever it is convenient for that to apply.

Rice is even less coherent when talking about Iraq. Try as one might, it is difficult to understand just what line she espouses about that unfortunate country that Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush have wrecked beyond repair. On one of the days on which she should have been at the ASEAN conference she appeared on The NewsHour with Tim Lehrer and threw darkness on US policy and the Rice approach to women’s rights in Iraq. The exchange was fascinating :

Lehrer : In a general way, though, is it conceivable that the United States, in the interest of bowing out and letting the Iraqi people have their way, you may have to swallow a constitution that, whatever it is, has to do with rights of women or whatever, has some things in it that go against the grain of the United States? [Not that this is well-expressed, but we get the general idea.]

Rice : Well, we are going to stand for the principles that we’re standing for around the world, and most especially in Iraq, where America has sacrificed and sacrificed lives and treasure. And so, of course, we’re going to stand and stand strongly for the rights of women. We’re making that very clear to the Iraqi Government. But again, if the Iraqis themselves, who want to live in a society in which there are — in which citizens of both male and female and where they recognize that the trend in the world is not to move away from women’s rights but to move in the other direction. [End.]

This pathetic gibberish was spouted by the Secretary of State of the United States of America who chose to be interviewed on a news program rather than attend Asia’s most important gathering. (The Asians didn’t miss much, obviously.) She capped her grotesque performance by stating on August 8 that “It’s a lot easier to see the violence and suicide bombing [in Iraq] than to see the rather quiet political progress that’s going on in parallel”, which was a comment of mind-boggling absurdity.

Condoleezza Rice says she doesn’t want to be president, but she will want some sort of job when she leaves the State Department. So here’s an idea for her : there is a high-powered organization called the International Crisis Group, whose experts round the world produce excellent analyses of critical areas. It “works through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.”

They might employ Rice as a clerk, if she asked nicely.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes on military and political affairs. He can be reached through his website www.briancloughley.com


















Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.