Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Student protest comes home to Condi Rice



For a vivid tape of the vigorous student protest and questioning of a Rutgers Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, see here.

The Vice Chancellor's argument was that the decision had been made and would not be changed. In fact, however, Condi has backed out. If you feel the anger at torture and the Iraq aggression of these students and the faculty who condemned this whitewash "invitation," you will understand why.

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What has Condi to say about torture? That the President ordered it? What has she to say about the hundred who died, according to Pentagon statistics, in Pentagon custody? For the relevant international and American laws which the Bush administration violated, see here; for my debate with Republican State Senator Shawn Mitchell about whether Condi is a war criminal, see here; and for "A Performer Lost in her Performance," see here.

What has Condi to say about the illegal and immoral aggression against Iraq? There were many smoking guns and deaths; Condi's fantasies about a nuclear cloud and authority, as an official of the United States of America, strove to legitimize this.

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Condi has been at five Universities to speak. She has been at Southern Methodist University, home of the Bush library, and the University of Denver (her alma mater where many people who were appalled stayed away). She has been protested at Boston College in 2006 where many faculty and students turned their back on her and held up signs about war criminality below and at the University of Minnesota last month. But students and faculty at Rutgers found her giving a commencement speech too much; it betrayed what the search for truth, or as a student says, what all the hard work and massive debt to earn a degree today means.

This anger at the celebration of a war criminal - a role for some University administrations in return for raising money from rich donors, parents and alumni but also part of the elite attempt to smooth over American war crimes as if Obama can speak forcefully on human rights and yet shelter/become complicit with these criminals - is apt.

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These students and faculty spoke for international opinion, for the opinion of humankind. This well travelled Secretary of State cannot go abroad, nor can her fellow war criminals for fear of arrest. Below is my poem about this:

Poem: Er in ye s


blackwoman among whites

Madame Secretary

cannot g o

Mr. President

boxedtheSuperbowl

can not g o

Mr. Pentagon


thickarethechainsofspirit

bighousein Marylan d

Mr. Cheney

can not g o



a b r o a d"

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It was not the Chancellor or the Vice Chancellor who speaks as an adult (her phrase); it is those who stand up for international law and decency.

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The Vice Chancellor offered the thought that the demonstrators were violating the right to a quiet work environment of others. Nobody asked the people who worked at the Chancellor's office (some of them probably enjoyed it). But the main point is that aggressing against a country does massive harm (over a million Iraqis killed, several million displaced) and that Bush's torture and Obama's looking away have made America an outlaw state. Further, none of the students or faculty who opposed the invitation were consulted beforehand. That is a blow against democracy. Taken together, these crimes vastly override a supposed right - invoked by a boss yet, against widespread, reasonable - to a calm work atmosphere.

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Chancellor Barchi is also reported as saying that Condi is a leading "intellectual and politics figure" of the last 50 years. As an intellectual, this is a nonstarter (she has written a book about the Czech army under Soviet domination). As a politician, the first black woman who is Secretary of State, this might be true, except that she carried out massive war crimes. The latter as the students underline make the praise repulsive.

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That a man as arrogant and ignorant as Barchi is the Chancellor and that the Vice-Chancellor makes such silly, fatalistic and false arguments is a sad commentary on a University community becoming dominated by corporations ("privatization").

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That the students at Rutgers are so vigorous and dominated this issue intellectually (there is no question who on moral, intellectual and political grounds ought to be in charge) is, however, very heartening.

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Today, someone in the elite, even one of the torturers, needs to speak out in condemnation of torture, to make it clear that it is something America will not do again (except Rand Paul who is, sadly, awful on domestic issues, we could expect more torture from any Republican President, and continued sheltering of and apology for war criminals from Hillary Clinton). But crimes - as with drone murders of civilians including teenage Americans - are what the US government, in a bipartisan way, stands for (the ACLU-Senator Paul rightly objects to a lifetime judgeship for David Barron who refuses, along with the Obama administration, to release his memos on the supposed justification for taking out Anwar Al-Awlaki - a dishonorable opinion, morally and legally speaking. Has the Senator, however, objected to Obama's protection of war criminals?).

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A University President who sponsors Rice speaking - "murder, torture, it's just a figure of speech," a vapid postmodernism/relativism - is just part of a way that a ruling class spreads a criminal message.

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The students and faculty stood for what is decent. Sometimes, like Governor John Altgeld of Illinois who pardoned those framed for "the Haymarket massacre" in 1886 or Governor Ralph L. Carr of Colorado who was the lone federal official to speak out against the internment camps for Japanese-Amricans in World War II (the new judicial building in Denver is honorably named for Carr), officials do the right thing about great issues of peace, war and justice. It is rare.

Temporary applause is often loud. But here the students - and the truth - break through...

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The comment below by Juan Cole, though for some reason he understates laws against torture inscribes beautiful words in the stone of history. Condi stepped down Saturday because history will not look kindly at her, her administration or the foreign policy elite (many, many Democrats) for what was done in this time. The competing narrative, as we have seen about her debacle at Rutgers, is to try, with some desperation, to change the subject...

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"Torture

Condoleezza Rice, Charged with War Crimes at Rutgers, withdraws as Commencement Speaker
By Juan Cole | May. 4, 2014 |


Condoleezza Rice on Saturday pulled out of giving the commencement address at Rutgers University after professor and student protests.

Rutgers historian Professor Rudy Bell argued that while it would be appropriate to have Rice on campus as part of an academic debate, she is unsuitable as a commencement speaker because of her role in an administration that launched an illegal and destructive war and practiced torture. He said, “Commencement is a day when we honor the graduates, who have accomplished so much. It’s a day when there should not be controversy.” He also pointed to her role in an administration that practiced torture.

Some 50 students occupied the offices of Rutgers University’s president last week in protest.

Professor Bell is being polite. Dr. Rice is a war criminal in international law. She played a key role in launching a war that contravenes the United Nations charter, which requires that use of force against another country come either in self-defense after an attack or be authorized by the United Nations Security Council (as was the case with the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Libya). Even if one took seriously the “responsibility to protect,” which some feel justifies a humanitarian intervention to stop an ongoing genocide, there was no massive humanitarian crisis in 2002 in Iraq that justified a foreign invasion. Nor did any large international organization back the war in Iraq– even the US’s NATO allies were almost universally opposed (excepting the UK and some recent Eastern European additions, who also cooperated with Bush’s torture program).
Not only did she back an illegal invasion and occupation, she did so on the basis of a set of falsehoods. She retailed 56 distinct falsehoods to the American people. She warned that we do not want the smoking gun for Iraq’s (non-existent) nuclear weapons program to be a mushroom cloud, a piece of war propaganda that would have caused Goebbels’ heart to swell with pride. As then Rep. Robert Wexler argued, Rice had at hand intelligence that contradicted her talking points, but always made a forceful case for war. She even had the US public convinced that poor, weak, ramshackle Iraq, lacking a navy or air force and under severe economic sanctions for a decade, posed an existential threat to the United States.

Rice’s actions established a precedent that has been cited by Vladimir Putin for his intervention in the Ukraine, and so contributed to a profound weakening and deterioration of the framework of international legality that the post-World War II generation, including Dwight Eisenhower, attempted to erect.

As for Iraq, she left it a broken country, with hundreds of thousands dead, 2 million displaced abroad, 4 million displaced internally, likely 400,000 badly wounded, where car bombings and sniping still take some 800 lives a month and where radical Sunni al-Qaeda affiliates have established themselves and Iran-linked radical Shiite militias have free play. She hinted around at an al-Qaeda link to Iraq before she invaded it, but there was none. She brought al-Qaeda to Iraq and it has killed far more Iraqis than the 3000 Americans whose lives it took on September 11. Iraq never had anything at all to do with al-Qaeda, but she made it a scapegoat so as to get at its petroleum resources [though an oil woman, however, China among others cashed in on Iraqi oil contracts; the policy was ineffectual even from an imperialist point of view].

I’m with Rudy Bell, that campuses should be open to all kinds of people. But when we bring war criminals, it should be at least in part to debate with them their criminal actions, not to honor them with a doctorate and give them $35,000. And graduating students at a liberal arts university deserve to hear from admirable people, like Foreign Service Officers John H. Brown and Peter Van Buren {and Ann Wright]. High office does not mint a person as an exemplar. It is a platform for potential achievements, and where it is used for death and mayhem and illegality, it is a badge of dishonor.

Related videos:

Representative Press: 'Condoleezza Rice: Liar, Secretary of State, War Criminal'

pt1

For the videos, see here.


Pt. 2:

Pt. 3'

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DemoracyNow
"'War Criminals Shouldn’t Be Honored': Rutgers Students Nix Condoleezza Rice from Commencement Speech

For photos, see here.

GUESTS
Carmelo Cintrón Vivas, media spokesperson for the No Rice Campaign and a senior at Rutgers University. He was one of the organizers of the protests and was involved in every direct action that the university students staged.

Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has withdrawn as commencement speaker at Rutgers University following protests by faculty and students over her role in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Rutgers faculty had circulated a petition decrying the role Rice played in "efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Last week, Rutgers students occupied a campus building in a call for the invitation to be withdrawn. In a statement this weekend, Rice said her appearance "has become a distraction." We discuss the "No Rice Campaign" with Rutgers University student protester Carmelo Cintrón Vivas and Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has withdrawn as commencement speaker at Rutgers University in New Jersey following protests by faculty and students over her role in the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and U.S. interrogation policies. The Rutgers Board of Governors picked the former high-ranking Bush official in February. Rutgers faculty immediately circulated a petition decrying the role Rice played in, quote, "efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." In September of 2002, speaking to CNN, then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice uttered these famous words explaining the threat presented by Saddam Hussein.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire a nuclear weapon, but we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

AMY GOODMAN: In a statement posted on her official Facebook page on Saturday, Condoleezza Rice said, quote, "Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time," she wrote. Rutgers President Robert Barchi had refused to disinvite Rice after the protests and organized sit-ins at the university.

Well, to talk more about the protest, how it came to be known as the No Rice Campaign, we’re joined now by Carmelo Cintrón Vivas, a senior at Rutgers University, one of the organizers of the protest, involved in every direct action that the university students staged. And still with us, Baher Azmy. He is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Carmelo. So, your response to Condoleezza Rice withdrawing from the commencement address?

CARMELO CINTRÓN VIVAS: Well, first of all, thank you for having me and for covering us. I think that, speaking for the group, we are very happy. On Monday morning, we were—Saturday morning, we were very happy and very pleased when we heard the news that Condoleezza Rice herself decided to back out. We think that that might be even a more powerful statement than the university disinviting her, and we are proud that our direct actions and our pressure were felt and our voices were heard from the bottom up.

AMY GOODMAN: Why did you oppose her speaking at commencement?

CARMELO CINTRÓN VIVAS: Well, as a group of students—and I’m referring to the group of students protesting—we felt that war criminals shouldn’t be honored by our university. Someone who has such a tainted record as a public servant in this country should not go to our university, speak for 15 minutes, get an honorary law degree for trying to circumvent the law, and receive $35,000. We believe that that is wrongful, and that’s not fair to any student graduating or not graduating at Rutgers University.

AMY GOODMAN: So what did you do? And how widespread was the opposition?

CARMELO CINTRÓN VIVAS: Well, first of all, it was very small. This started about two weeks ago, and it was maybe—the actions started about two weeks ago. It was maybe about three or four people flyering at public activities. And all of a sudden, we decided that it was our chance to start creating direct actions. So we called for a rally and a sit-in on Monday, if we had the numbers. And luckily enough and hopefully enough, we had the numbers on Monday. So we staged a sit-in at the president’s office. And after that, it just grew exponentially, and it continues to grow. And we haven’t stopped working. We’re still on educating and making sure everyone knows why we protested this.

AMY GOODMAN: What was the process for her being selected? Who chose her?

CARMELO CINTRÓN VIVAS: Well, that is something the Board of Governors and the president have not been clear about. The process is normally one where there’s a 20-person committee, and they make different suggestions, and they vet different candidates. And admittedly, that process was changed when President Barchi first came into office, and that 20-person committee came down to two people. And after that, it’s very blurry. We have—the most information that we have from the whole process is a 96-email exchange between different function persons in the Board of Governors and the president that we acquired through OPRA, the Open Public Records Act. So it hasn’t been clear, and they haven’t really said anything. We have just been undigging the mystery of how she was invited.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me bring Baher Azmy into this conversation. You’ve long been dealing with Bush administration officials around the issue of accountability. The significance of Condoleezza Rice in the war with Iraq in—both as national security adviser and secretary of state?

BAHER AZMY: Oh, she was critical in promotion of the lies that led up to the war and the selling of the war to the American people. And I just—I want to congratulate Carmelo and his colleagues. I mean, I think it’s so heartening that this generation is reminded and thinking about the crimes of the Bush administration officials and not letting them get away with these sort of gauzy histories about what happened from 2001 to 2008. And I get discouraged when the sort of younger generation thinks things like war is normal or Guantánamo is normal or indefinite detention is normal. And this is an important step by this group.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Carmelo, the argument of the university, the issue of free speech and other issues that they put forward?

CARMELO CINTRÓN VIVAS: We have always—we have been receiving since the beginning our main backlash, if we can say it’s that, is that, "Well, she’s a minority. It’s a woman. Why are you protesting this? This is supposed to be something that you’re always for. And she has free speech." We think that those are a really valid question, but you have to go beyond that. You have to go beyond reducing a person to their race or to their gender and looking into their actions. Just because I am a minority—because I am, I’m Puerto Rican, I’ve only been here in the United States for two-and-a-half years—doesn’t mean that I’m not to be held to the same standards as everyone else and that I can break the law whenever I want to.

AMY GOODMAN: And your response to the arguments that her academic achievements outweigh her political positions?

CARMELO CINTRÓN VIVAS: That’s just ludicrous. If we look into a lot of criminals and we look into a lot of international criminals and just bad people in history, a lot of them had great academic careers or great medical careers or great—your career is one thing, and the way you act as a person, as a human being, is another one. And that’s why you make this an issue about human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, and I want to thank you very much for being with us, Carmelo Cintrón Vivas, media spokesperson for the No Rice Campaign, a senior at Rutgers University who will be graduating and won’t be hearing the commencement address of Condoleezza Rice because she has withdrawn from giving that address as a result of the protests. And, Baher Azmy, thanks so much for being with us, from the Center for Constitutional Rights."

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"New York Times
N.Y. / REGION

Condoleezza Rice Backs Out of Rutgers Speech After Student Protests
By EMMA G. FITZSIMMONS MAY 3, 2014

For a photograph of the Boston College protest, see here.

Protests during former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech at Boston College in 2006. Credit Brian Snyder/Reuters

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had been invited to give the commencement address at Rutgers University in New Jersey this month, said on Saturday that she would no longer give the speech. Her announcement came after weeks of protests by some students and faculty members over the university’s decision to invite her.

Protesters had argued that Ms. Rice should not have been selected as the speaker because of her involvement in the Iraq war during the Bush administration. Students staged a sit-in last week outside the office of the university’s president, Robert L. Barchi, to protest the speech, scheduled for May 18th.

On Saturday, Ms. Rice released a statement saying that she did not want to detract from the day’s festivities.

“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” the statement said. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”

“I am honored to have served my country,” she added. “I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy.”

Photo

Condoleezza Rice was to give the commencement speech at Rutgers University on May 18. Credit Ben Margot/Associated Press

Mr. Barchi had defended the university’s selection of Ms. Rice, saying that it was important for Rutgers to protect free speech and academic freedom.

“Whatever your personal feelings or political views about our commencement speaker, there can be no doubt that Condoleezza Rice is one of the most influential intellectual and political figures of the last 50 years,” Mr. Barchi wrote in a letter to the university community in March.

On Saturday, Mr. Barchi said that the university “stands fully behind the invitation” to Ms. Rice but respected her decision not to participate. The university, which is a state university, said it would soon announce who would replace her.

The fee for the speech, which Ms. Rice will not collect, was $35,000.

Ms. Rice, who is on the faculty at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009 and was President George W. Bush’s national security adviser from 2001 to 2004.

Students confronted Mr. Barchi on campus on Friday, chanting “Cancel Condi” as he walked out of a meeting.

In late February, the faculty council for the university’s New Brunswick campus approved a resolution asking officials to rescind the invitation because Ms. Rice, the council charged, had played a prominent role in misleading the public about the reasons for the war in Iraq.

Two years ago, Ms. Rice gave a commencement address to a friendly audience at Southern Methodist University, the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

But in 2006, when she gave the commencement address at Boston College, dozens of students and professors turned their backs to her and held up signs protesting the Iraq war."

1 comment:

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