And I swear I’m not trying to pick on Newsweek.com, but it was there that I first saw an article on Condoleezza Rice’s new book. I was laughing from the first sentence:
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that U.S.-led interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia were not about spreading democracy, but about addressing regional security issues.
Her recent public statements both are and are not part of a book tour: it’s likely many would say the tour is to promote her ideas, and the book is part of that effort, though I think that demeans the reasoning and efforts of others who write books, artificially ennobling Rice’s efforts to communicate her ideas and sell books at the same time while implicitly assigning a crass commercialism to others who write books and then accept lectures to speak about the same themes contained within the books. In any case, however, it’s undeniable that the public statements are part of an effort that is equally well reflected by the publication of her book, Democracy: The Long Road to Freedom.*1
It’s clear that the media are making some sort of mild attempt to become the purveyors of truth that they kinda wish they had been. Newsweek.com attempts to fact check Rice:
In addition to the regional threat of the al-Qaeda-allied Taliban government in Afghanistan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, later disproved, the White House defended its military action by touting a U.S.-led campaign to spread democracy to the region. In remarks referencing her latest book, however, Rice said otherwise.
“We didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to Iraq, we went to Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, who we thought was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction and who we knew had been a threat in the region. It was a security problem,” Rice said.
Though there is some element of challenge in this, some hint of journalistic spine, the portion in bold was not contested by Newsweek.com. It’s important, then, that someone stand up and shout, “No.”
The Bush administration did not think that Hussein was reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction. At most, if you believe the wholly unbelievable statements of the Bush administration from the time, the Bush administration believed Hussein was building up an infrastructure that could be used – maybe, someday – to create WMD. But we know that the Bush administration was in possession of information that conclusively disproved their own public case. To say that Rice or Colin Powell or Cheney or Bush actually believed the case proven false by their own information is to assert that these people are delusional. I don’t believe that Rice is delusional and therefore I cannot conclude that she actually thought this.
The article does clearly contravene Rice’s statements elsewhere, though it does so much too subtly for my taste:
She also said she regretted the notion that the U.S.’s first major military engagements of the 21st century were mixed up with the “freedom agenda” and emphasized that U.S.’s missions in Afghanistan, codenamed Operation Enduring Freedom, and in Iraq, codenamed Operation Iraqi Freedom, were strictly concerned with taking out U.S. foes.
Yeah. Rice regrets the mix-up? Maybe then she might apologize for the mix-up as she was quoted many times, even recorded on video many times, saying that the US war on Iraq was an attempt to bring democracy to that country. I went looking for the money quote, but there are simply so many given by the administration at the time that I couldn’t easily find one spoken by Rice herself: Bush is the speaker for the overwhelming number of easily internet-accessible quotes on the subject. For instance, you could try this one on for size:
President Bush today portrayed the war in Iraq as the latest front in the “global democratic revolution” led by the United States. … In a speech to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) described as a major policy address by the White House, Bush avoided issues such as preemptive attack, weapons of mass destruction and “gathering” dangers to the United States. … Rather, he put the war in a broader context of the “2,500-year old story of democracy,”
…he praised the governments of Egypt, which said [sic] “should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East,” and Saudi Arabia, which he said is “taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections.”
Thanks, Washington Post!
For those who want to believe that Rice may not have supported Bush’s framing because I’m not going to continue my research until I find the same statement attributed directly to her, well, she chose to support the Bush campaign, she chose to take the job in the Bush White House, and if she did harbor some secret dissent, it was so secret that Bush – known for prizing loyalty and ideology over competence – promoted her to Secretary of State after the Iraq War: she was National Security Advisor during it.
The whole piece is careless from beginning to end, starting with the assumption that the public should care what Rice has to say at all. Once they decided to publish something on Rice’s revisionist statements, it was inevitable that some revisionism would slip past unchallenged and that more would seep into the public consciousness whether challenged or not.
A pox on Rice for her bizarre mix of lies and facts presented together to put a noble face on the most ignoble of acts: launching a war.
But a pox on Newsweek.com for amplifying her propaganda and for treating her as a source of legitimate information: either Rice really was incompetent to recognize fact from fiction while working in the White House, or Rice collaborated in an evil so large it killed tens of thousands and created the conditions of ongoing war that continues to kill thousands more per year even today.
It really is difficult to decide who might be more blameworthy. I might be satisfied with the pox I’ve already laid on both their houses, but that might make it seem that, like the Montagues and Capulets, there is some sufficient number of killings that might make US Media and the US political establishment come to their senses and renounce the underlying behaviors that made so many deaths inevitable.
There simply is no curse worthy of their evils and their failures.
*1: For the record, it’s a book I’ve not read.