Editor’s note: The video above is a report by The UpTake’s Bill Sorem on last Thursday’s protest against the appearance by Condoleezza Rice at the University of Minnesota. The opinion below was written for The UpTake by peace activist and former FBI agent Coleen Rowley. The video at the bottom of Rowley’s post is a trailer for the documentary film, “American Faust,” which depicts how Condoleezza Rice became a neo-conservative war hawk in the service of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
By Coleen Rowley
The University of Minnesota has decided to promote former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by inviting Rice to deliver tomorrow’s (April 17) “Distinguished Carlson Lecture” at the U’s Northrop Auditorium.
Rice’s “free” speech (ironically costing the U $150,000), will help Rice revise history as University officials are gushing that Rice engaged in “a policy of transformational diplomacy and the development of political systems worldwide based on democratic principles” and “has proven to be a significant leader during a time of unprecedented and tumultuous world affairs, recognized for her effort to foster freedom and democracy. Her great love of America and her faith in its core values are the foundational strength of her presentations regarding foreign policy, education and the empowerment of women.”
The University apparently has a short and incomplete memory of Rice’s role as national security advisor and Secretary of State in the Administration of President George W. Bush. Nowhere in the U’s glowing description of Rice and her contributions can one find a hint of what Ms. Rice actually did while in power. There’s no mention at all of:
* Her lying about her own failures (and of others in the Bush White House) that enabled the 9/11 attacks to occur that killed nearly 3,000 people. Rice was warned urgently, even before the famous presidential briefing in August 2001, that an attack was imminent. Yet she did nothing, making little to no effort even to share information to thwart the attack, offering the excuse that she wasn’t informed of the exact date and time. Afterward, she repeatedly lied, saying that “no one could have predicted…” She amended her testimony to the 9/11 Commission to say, “I could not have predicted” instead of “no one could have predicted.” But that, too, was a lie. Rice, along with the President and his aides, had even moved to a naval vessel upon prior warnings that terrorists were planning to fly a plane into the Genoa G-8 conference they had previously attended. In fact there were so many warnings coming in during the spring and summer of 2001 that it was said by the 9/11 Commission that “the system was blinking red” and that U.S. intelligence directors had their “hair on fire.”
* Taking her cue from what George Bush once termed “catapulting the propaganda,” not even a year after 9-11, Rice began giving fear-mongering speeches that falsely alluded to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of and intent to use nuclear bombs. Rice knew there was no evidence for her “mushroom cloud” speeches but numerous firsthand accounts and memoirs, along with the “Downing Street Memo,” provide evidence that she, along with other key Administration figures, signed onto “fixing the intelligence around the policy” of their previously agreed-upon goal: Launching war on Iraq.
The false “intelligence” she and others so successfully conjured up, along with the 9-11 obfuscation, would end up confusing 70% of the American public that Iraq was behind the 9-11 attacks, not to mention make almost all US media falsely believe that Saddam possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” As a consequence of this deceit, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Iraqi civilians but also several thousand U.S. soldiers, would die or be seriously injured as a result of the US bombing, invasion and years of occupation. Iraq would be left with terrible ongoing sectarian hatred and violence, its infrastructure nearly destroyed and its land and water contaminated. The Kellogg-Briand Treaty, the U.N. Charter and other international law make it a war crime to launch such a “pre-emptive” war of aggression on other countries. In fact, Nuremberg Judges, prosecuting German war criminals after WWII, called such unjustified, illegal wars of aggression the “supreme crime,” as they carry the seeds of torture, massacres of civilians, and other war crimes.
* Condi Rice helped plan and order various illegal tortures as a kind of bizarre, cruel “experiment” which led to hundreds, perhaps thousands of incidents of cruel, inhumane abuse and dozens of deaths. Although Rice has continually denied complicity, even denying that water-boarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and other abuses are illegal or constitute “torture,” there is much evidence that she played an instrumental role. Retired Major Todd Pierce and myself wrote this letter a few days ago to University officials summarizing some of the following evidence but we have not received any response:
“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… 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.’
Is it therefore not obvious that the University’s promotion of Rice has turned “free speech” on its head? Especially since University officials refuse to give even five minutes of free speech in the form of “equal time” to those students who would tell the truth about Condi’s past criminal conduct. Officials refuse to ask Rice to discuss the hard questions about her involvement in war crimes and also refuse to let students meet freely with Rice (although a handpicked group of students apparently does get to meet with her). Dean Eric Schwartz of the Humphrey Institute who was responsible for inviting Rice even refused to meet with students about his decision!.
The powerful effort to rewrite Rice’s sordid history has raised the question of how to effectively get out information about Rice’s war crimes, especially since university officials and students seem mostly unaware of her past conduct. So please view the following film, share the info with others who might be interested in attending/participating.
Tomorrow, the day of Rice’s speech, beginning around 4 pm, a number of student and anti-torture groups will hold a demonstration outside Northrop Auditorium against the University‘s promotion of Rice and against Rice’s war crimes. Information about the issues of torture and war crimes will be available.
All are welcome to come and help hold signs and banners.
Coleen Rowley, a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, was legal counsel to the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis from 1990 to 2003. She wrote a “whistle-blower” memo in May, 2002 and testified to the Senate Judiciary on some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures. She retired at the end of 2004, and now writes and speaks on ethical decision-making and balancing civil liberties with the need for effective investigation. An outspoken defender of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Rowley was part of a delegation that met with Snowden in Moscow last fall to present him with the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.
Rowley received the same award in 2002.