Misguided Honor for Condi Rice

U.S. officials lecture others about respecting international law and punishing human rights crimes, but those principles are ignored when the violators are U.S. officials. Offenders like ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice even get honors, as Coleen Rowley and Todd E. Pierce note.

By Coleen Rowley and Todd E. Pierce

Some of us predicted when Condi Rice left office that she would become intent on revising history. Faustian bargains don’t end that quickly!

It’s now come to pass that universities around the country, including Rutgers and the University of Minnesota, are willing to heap praise upon Rice and pay her huge speaking fees to hear her talk about her struggle for civil rights.

Ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Her speech is not entitled what she usually likes to talk about: why war is good, but rather “Keeping Faith with a Legacy of Justice: the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Does it sound like she’s hit upon another “noble cause” rationale for why she helped launch war on Iraq and initiate torture policies?

The University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute officials who arranged for Rice’s appearance cleverly framed their invitation as promoting academic freedom and free speech. But it’s not about free speech. A student group, which saw through this red herring, responded as follows:

“First, by rescinding her invitation, the university would not be limiting Dr. Rice’s free speech (ironically named, as she will be receiving $150,000 for the talk). We understand that university campuses are meant to be places where multiple viewpoints are heard, where students can be exposed to many opposing viewpoints. We firmly believe in this tradition.

“As you can imagine, given her prominent former positions as both the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Dr. Rice will have no shortage of platforms on which to express herself. Rescinding her invitation has nothing to do with limiting Dr. Rice’s right to free speech. Instead, it is about the University of Minnesota, continuously seeking to be perceived as a global university, tying itself to Dr. Rice’s abhorrent conduct on behalf of the American people.

“By extending this invitation, the University has condoned Dr. Rice’s authorization of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and her using the threat of a mushroom cloud to push the United States into war with Iraq. The only appropriate action regarding Dr. Rice’s invitation is to rescind it. Only this would send the correct message: that the University of Minnesota stands with the people of the world against torture and unjustified war.”

A few weeks ago, the Faculty Councils at two Rutgers University campuses voted in support of a resolution to rescind Dr. Rice’s invitation to deliver the commencement address there.
Anyway we have sent the following letter on Wednesday in an effort to educate and inform some of the faculty, students and administration at the University of Minnesota who have invited Condi Rice to give their “Distinguished Northrop Lecture” on April 17.

Some of the faculty and students will be voting Thursday afternoon on a resolution asking that Rice be disinvited and we thought it important that the facts about her involvement in planning and ordering torture, at least what is currently known, be shared. Our letter reads:

“Dear Humphrey School Faculty, Fellows, Staff and PASA members: Former Vice President Mondale is on record as saying there should be some form of accountability for government officials’ use of torture in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ He said that otherwise it’s like laying a ‘loaded gun’ on the table that in the future could be picked up and used again.

“Unfortunately by inviting Condi Rice to give a distinguished Northrop lecture, the University of Minnesota just reached over the table and cocked that loaded gun. Strong reasons exist to oppose University officials’ decision to give the distinguished podium to someone, albeit a former high official, so credibly accused of serious war crimes. Planning and ordering of torture is a jus cogens crime of the highest magnitude under both domestic and international law, not protected by the First Amendment or even academic freedom.

“This is not about politics. This is not about facilitating an educational discussion via controversial speakers. This IS about criminality and whether our country is willing to follow the rule of law or make exceptions for past (or in fact, future) leaders’ actions.

“Despite efforts to keep the facts secret, enough truth has come out to establish that beginning in 2002, Rice convened dozens of top secret meetings of the National Security Council’s ‘Principals Committee’ (whose members also included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet and John Ashcroft). The ‘Principals’ planned and approved the use of various tortures, even choreographing some, to include near drowning (waterboarding), sleep deprivation, physical assault, subjection to extremely cold temperatures to cause hypothermia and use of stress positions.

“At one point Attorney General Ashcroft even questioned the group, ‘Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.’

“It was Rice herself who personally conveyed this White House group’s order to the CIA to commence waterboarding of prisoners, telling the CIA: ‘Go do it. It’s your baby’ in July of 2002, even before [Bush administration] lawyer John Yoo was tasked with writing his famously faulty ‘torture memo’ to ‘legalize’ what they were doing. The torture memos were an attempt to provide what a later Department of Justice lawyer would label a ‘golden shield’ from future criminal accountability for everyone involved. Other lawyers aptly describe Yoo’s memos as a kind of ‘get out of jail free’ card.

“After photos leaked depicting horrible inhumane abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Major General Antonio Taguba was assigned to investigate, he called the ‘interrogation program’ that Rice and other officials had devised a ‘systemic regime of torture.’ The list of approved tortures for the CIA had migrated down the military chain of command via Donald Rumsfeld, one of the main ‘Principals’ at the White House meetings.

“In 2008, the top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial, retired Judge Susan J. Crawford, was forced to dismiss war crime charges against an important 9-11 suspect when she concluded that the U.S. military tortured the Saudi national by interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a ‘life-threatening condition.’

“The difficulty University officials experience in understanding these facts about Condi Rice’s sordid history probably stems from a political decision, however, the one made by Obama when he took office to ‘not look backward, only look forward.’ That decision was not based on adherence to the law, as all accountability for crime inherently requires examining past actions.

“As a result, infighting still persists between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee which has spent over $40 million of taxpayers’ money on a nearly five-year-long investigation that reviewed millions of government documents. The Senate investigation, launched after it was discovered the CIA illegally destroyed 92 videotapes of its waterboarding torture sessions, produced a 6,300 page report a year ago. It’s expected that a summary of that torture investigation will finally be released in the near future.

“In fact a declassification vote on the torture report will now likely occur on April 3 –coincidentally the very same day the University of Minnesota Faculty Senate votes whether to disinvite Condi Rice. But in the meantime, Senate Chair Diane Feinstein accused the CIA of having illegally removed documents from her Committee’s computers, apparently attempting to thwart legislative oversight. The torture investigation has thus reached a zenith in producing a constitutional crisis.  Clearly these issues are contentious and the full truth has not yet emerged but that’s because such serious crimes are implicated!

“Unfortunately the legal artifice of the torture memos has worked thus far to protect Ms. Rice so she remains unrepentant and even continues to publicly shill for more pre-emptive wars. But University and Carlson Foundation officials should not be endorsing her past actions. They shouldn’t help her bury the truth and revise history.

“Since in fact there has been almost no accountability on the use of torture whether through congressional investigation, appointed commission or independent prosecutor and the courts, perhaps the state of Minnesota can provide at least a small measure of accountability by withdrawing its invitation.”

Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel who writes on ethical and legal issues. Todd E. Pierce retired as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps in 2012. He was assigned as Defense Counsel in the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions from 2008-2012. [This article was written for Coleen Rowley’s blog at HuffingtonPost.]

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16 comments on “Misguided Honor for Condi Rice

  1. Imagine the scholarship that could be given a deserving student with the money from this war criminal’s 40-minute speech.

    • Gregory Kruse on said:

      Every bit of assets she gained by working for the federal government should be frozen, seized and bequeathed to victims of torture and their families.

  2. Coleen Rowley on said:

    Speaking of Rice’s Faustian bargain, here’s the trailer of the 87 minute award winning documentary: “American Faust: from Condi to Neo-Condi”: http://youtu.be/6SFGLtvVWO8 More than you ever wanted to know from Rice’s own biographers and immediate colleagues. There is strong evidence Rice is being rehabilitated to either run or be appointed again to a position of power in the U.S. government.

    • incontinent reader on said:

      A very interesting observation. I would not be surprised if she were being groomed to run as a Vice Presidential candidate- she fits the politically correct combination of a member of a minority, a woman, and a militarist. It is disgusting to contemplate, but the reality is that she does belong to a powerful bipartisan ‘political club’, which includes both the Bush family, and such Clintonites as Madeleine Albright- and she is a smooth talker. She needs to be confronted with her record and decimated in debate, again and again and again.

      • Paul G. on said:

        Personally I am for a bipartisan ticket; she could run as vp with Hillary they certainly have a lot in common as liars and militarists and they both agreed on the Iraq war. Previously I thought McCain would make a good bipartisan running mate, but this is even better.

  3. Sue Ann on said:

    Say NO to Condi.

    • Sue Ann on said:

      As a graduate of the University of Minnesota and Minnesota resident, I do not support having a war criminal speak at land grant University that represents the whole state. Disgraceful.

  4. Sue Ann on said:

    There are problems with your WordPress account. As you can see, the antispan blocked my original attempts and finally was unblocked. However, I have a friend who is trying to post and gets the WordPress antispam message and is unable to post her comment.

    Evidently you have some techy kinks to work out with your new interface. She has a WordPress account and signed in there, but still cannot post her comment. However, one should not have to sign into WordPress to post, it seems to me.
    thanks

  5. Coleen Rowley and Todd Pierce thank you for so articulately expressing why Condi Rice should not be honored by the University of Minnesota. The rule of law is only able to keep a society together if the people have faith in the rule of law. That faith is endangered every time a public official breaks the oath to uphold the Constitution and commits illegal actions. And when people of political power or financial power are able to use their influence to gain special exceptions to the law then the faith of the people in the rule of law is eroded. Those who still have some prosecutor power need to do the right thing and not just look forward. Just looking forward when some in high places have done wrong gives those wrongdoers and others in high places greater latitude to do more wrong. When people are effectively above the law they are prone to do more wrongdoing. The University of Minnesota does not do itself or any of us good when they give honor to a war criminal. Condi Rice should not be welcome to speak in Minnesota without doing so in a Courtroom. If we are to heal this nation, if we are to save this nation, we will need to have some accountability.

  6. F. G. Sanford on said:

    The General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, or the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1925 remains a binding treaty under international law. Other laws broken during the tenure of Condi Rice include The United Nations Charter, Geneva Conventions Codes, and United States Public Law. Treaties ratified by the United States become the ‘law of the land’ under The Constitution. Condi and her cronies swore an oath to support, protect and defend that Constitution.

    As many as 100 detainees are claimed to have died under torture as a result of various Bush era practices. Some of these deaths may have occurred at so called ‘black sites’, while others occurred during officially condoned torture sessions. By inventing the slippery term, ‘unlawful combatant’, murder was made legal. Geneva Code protections were denied. But, the U.N. Charter and U.S. Public Law still apply.

    If 100 prisoners had been lined up against a wall and machine-gunned, international outrage would have been the result. Ironically, it would have been far more humane than the fate these individuals actually endured.

    Current legal mumbo-jumbo to evade release of the torture evidence to the Senate, which has both the legal responsibility and obligation to oversee all clandestine activity is, by definition, obstruction of justice. ‘Classification’ of documents does not make them exempt from Congressional review. Using ‘classification’ as an excuse to conceal incompetence or criminal activity is illegal. Supporting attempts to accomplish that amounts to suborning perjury. These are all impeachable offenses, whether they are committed by executive, legislative or judicial entities.

    “Speaking truth to power” has a nice ring, but so far, it hasn’t achieved anything. Vincent Bugliosi claimed that if just one Attorney General in the United States would launch a Grand Jury, he could get a conviction against George W. Bush for murder. I think it’s about time people stopped pretending that anything short of a conviction will deter our government officials from the lawless path they continue to travel. Otherwise, we are pretending we have a democracy.

    • Coleen Rowley on said:

      As for any liability for violating “Kellogg-Briand Treaty” (or the Nuremberg Principle of “supreme crime” of war of aggression based on Kellogg-Briand), one lawsuit to my knowledge has been filed but will likely be dismissed. The following update is from the attorney filing that lawsuit:

      “The court hearing scheduled for today on the Saleh v. Bush matter was vacated last week by the Northern District of California, without comment (court order attached). Mr. Inder Comar, who represents plaintiff Sundus Saleh, provides a video update here.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsHAVGcAfeQ&feature=youtu.be

      Last March, Ms. Saleh filed a complaint for civil damages she incurred as a result of the Iraq War against George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz, alleging that the planning and waging of the Iraq War constituted the crime of aggression, the “supreme international crime” as defined by the Nuremberg Trials more than sixty years ago. Ms. Saleh has invoked the Alien Tort Statute, a law from 1789 that permits a non US citizen to sue for civil damages for a violation of the “law of nations,” in order to press her claim.

      In August of last year, the Obama Department of Justice petitioned the court to grant civil immunity to the six defendants. Whether these defendants are in fact immune from civil suit, and whether the lawsuit can proceed, will be the subject of this court’s eventual order, which could come down any day.

      There’s always been a debate as to whether Nuremberg only amounted to “victors’ justice.” I’m afraid we’re witnessing the answer to that question from those currently in power in the U.S.

      • F. G. Sanford on said:

        Thanks for taking the time to reply, depressing though it is. I can’t help but think that petitioning the court makes the Obama DoJ “accessories after the fact”.

        • Coleen Rowley on said:

          Yes of course. It makes me recall all those debates I used to have with my Univ of Iowa law prof Burns Weston (who was a close colleague of and co-author of Richard Falk’s international law textbook). There used to be much discussion (and actually much well-intentioned warning for this not to happen) as to whether the Nuremberg Principles were simply “victors’ justice.” I think we’re witnessing the answer to that question right now although it’s still not the end of the story.

  7. longtail on said:

    It’s interesting that it’s OK for Condi Rice to oversee killing and torture but Hillary Clinton is pilloried for not chasing a roving ambassador around with an infantry division.

    • Coleen Rowley on said:

      Hillary and Condi are mirror images of each other they are so much alike. Ironically, the Republicans may well be rehabilitating Condi for a run against Hillary, or more likely to become a VP candidate. When comments, polls (and the MN “faculty-student” vote) in “liberal” Minnesota run over 5 to 1 in Rice’s favor, there’s obviously a lot of momentum and perhaps even more momentum than with Hillary as Condi possesses two of the “identity politics” on her side with mostly low information voters whereas Hillary only has one. I wrote a long time ago to debunk the myth naïve folks have about females being somehow kinder and gentler: http://consortiumnews.com/2012/05/14/reflecting-on-mothers-day-and-war/ “The war-hawkishness (and some would add ruthless cruelty) of the first three female Secretaries of State and the two on Obama’s short list to become next Secretary of State (but who are already powerful, as advisors on Obama’s National Security Council, his UN Ambassador and chair of his new “humanitarian war” program) would probably make the founder of “Mothers Day for Peace” turn over in her grave.”

  8. Coleen Rowley on said:

    Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Minnesota University student body which has been extremely militarized in recent years and who knows very little about Rice’s actual background except that she became one of the most powerful women in U.S. history, came out solidly in support of her. Yesterday’s vote of the Minnesota Faculty Student Senate came out 122 to 21 to reject the resolution critical of Rice. http://www.startribune.com/local/253814771.html

    The ignorance and fixation with celebrity allows Rice to repackage herself as a crusader for civil rights instead of someone who lied the U.S. into an illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

    University officials have refused to give even 5 minutes of “equal time” to those students who wanted to provide some facts about her past actions. Nor would they allow these students to meet with Rice-although the University has a handpicked group of students that gets to have a private meeting with her. Finally the University refused to ask her to participate in any discussion about torture or war crimes. She will only tout her role in promoting civil rights. Some free speech!

    The only option, if the University permits this limited form of “free speech” (which they haven’t yet agreed to), will be to hold a protest outside–see flyer at: http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2014/03/31/community-voices-condoleeza-rice-and-humphrey-school-its-not-about-free-speech

    Wow. Has the entire country followed Ms. Rice to the dark side as Minnesota apparently has?!