FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Condi Weighs In

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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail