In a slightly altered form, the following opinion piece appeared last week in the University of Minnesota student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. We hope a campus torture accountability group forms as a result of the Condi Rice appearance. We intend to call it “Root Out Torture Campaign.” We like the acronym.
This evening Beth El Synagogue will “proudly” present former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the latest luminary in its National Speaker Series. She will deliver her speech in the main sanctuary under a huge arch emblazoned with the Hebrew words for “Truth, Justice, Peace.” I wish this were an editorial cartoon. It isn’t. But those three words provide a good framework for an analysis of Rice’s government tenure.
Rice’s multiple appearances before House and Senate committees reveal a stunning lack of recall of events preceding and subsequent to Sept. 11. In a Jan. 23, 2003 New York Times op-ed, she wrote of “Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad,” when she had multiple reports that the story was not true. She also attempted to prohibit Department of State employees from appearing before staff of a Congressional committee investigating this false allegation. And knowing full well the British report had been based on forged documents, she approved the infamous 16 words in President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech about the Niger-uranium connection crucial to our invasion of Iraq.
Whether in the “justice” we have meted out or in the lack of accountability for our own perpetrators, the secretary’s record borders on criminal. She claimed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called Guantanamo a “model medium-security prison.” The OSCE said no such statement was made on its behalf.
On April 27, 2009, Rice said, “We did not torture anyone.” The International Committee of the Red Cross, the FBI, General Counsel to our armed services and our own Military Commission judges disagree. For example, in a Feb. 14, 2007 report, the ICRC said, “[I]n many cases, the ill-treatment to which [the detainees] were subjected while held in the CIA program, either singly or in combination, constituted torture.”
Rice claimed, “I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency that they had policy authorizations subject to the Justice Department’s clearance.” Documents released this April suggest her involvement in the approval of waterboarding – before the “torture memos” were even written – was much greater.
As a member of the elite White House Iraq Group, Rice was at the center of the spin/lies that led up to our invasion of Iraq. As a member of the administration, Rice stirred up the greatest of unfounded fears saying, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Now, hundreds of thousands of deaths later, she doesn’t want to take responsibility for her role. It is more than merely arguable that this war was illegal under even liberal readings of international law obligations. Rice was instrumental in ginning up support for the war with multiple misstatements, exaggerations and lies.
Rice has frequently defended her decisions with “unless you were there.” We and Beth El Synagogue leaders are there now. To give Rice a platform to justify immoral and illegal policies is to bury our heads in the sand. We are coming too close to being “good Germans.” This is not about second-guessing, not letting go or looking backward rather than forward. This is about justice; this is about not allowing the horrors of the past to continue now and in the future.
Tackling Torture at the Top, a committee of Women Against Military Madness, will be peacefully demonstrating for “Truth, Justice and Peace” at an anti-torture rally 5:15 p.m. Nov. 8 outside Beth El Synagogue, 5224 W. 26th St., St. Louis Park. Minnesota Veterans for Peace, National Lawyers Guild Minnesota and the Anti-War Committee, among others, have endorsed the demonstration. We especially welcome Beth El members who share our view and do not wish to contribute to Rice’s no-doubt extravagant fee to join us.