Friday, January 21, 2005

Condi Rice

Jonathan Weiler provides excerpts from the recent exchange between Sen. Barbara Boxer and Condi Rice. The full transcript is here.
Commentary and perspective courtesy of Bill Gallagher.


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In the Clearing Stands a Boxer...
Jonathan Weiler (8:54AM) link

In what seems an increasing rarity these days, in yesterday's Senate confirmation hearings, Senator Barbara Boxer of California subjected soon-to-be Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to a line-by-line accounting of her statements in the run-up to the Iraq war.
Her remarks in front of Dr. Rice are worth reading in full, but here are several choice excerpts:

BOXER: So in your statement, it takes you to page three to mention the word Iraq. Then you mention it in the context of elections, which is fine. But you never even mentioned indirectly the 1,366 American troops that have died or the 10,372 who have been wounded…This from a war that was based on what everyone now says, including your own administration, were falsehoods about WMDs, weapons of mass destruction. And I've had tens of thousands of people from all over the country say that they disagree -- although they respect the president, they disagree that this administration and the people in it shouldn't be held accountable. And I think the way we should start is by trying to set the record straight on some of the things you said going into this war. Now, since 9/11, we've been engaged in a just fight against terror. And I, like Senator Feingold and everyone here who was in the Senate at the time, voted to go after Osama bin Laden and to go after the Taliban and to defeat Al Qaida.

BOXER: NIC Chairman Robert Hutchings said Iraq is, quote, a magnet for international terrorist activity. And this was not the case in '01. And I have great proof of it, including a State Department document that lists every country in which Al Qaida operated prior to 9/11, and you can see the countries. No mention of Iraq. And this booklet was signed off on by the president of the United States, George W. Bush -- was put out by George Bush's State Department and he signed it. There was no Al Qaida activity there. No cells. Now, the war was sold to the American people, as chief of staff to President Bush Andy Card said, like a new product. Those are his words. Remember, he said, You don't roll out a new product in the summer. Now, you rolled out the idea and then you had to convince the people as you made your case with the president. And I personally believe -- this is my personal view -- that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth. And I don't say it lightly. And I'm going to go into the documents that show your statements and the facts at the time. Now, I don't want the families of those 1,366 troops that were killed or the 10,372 that were wounded to believe for a minute that their lives and their bodies were given in vain.

Because when your commander in chief asks you to sacrifice yourself for your country, it is the most noble thing you can do to answer that call. I am giving their families, as we all are here, all the support they want and need. But I also will not shrink from questioning a war that was not built on the truth. Now, perhaps the most well-known statement you've made was the one about Saddam Hussein launching a nuclear weapon on America with the image of quote, quoting you, a mushroom cloud. That image had to frighten every American into believing that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of annihilating them if he was not stopped….And I continue to stand in awe of our founders, who understood that ultimately those of us in the highest positions of our government must be held accountable to the people we serve. So I want to show you some statements that you made regarding the nuclear threat and the ability of Saddam to attack us.

Now, on July 30th, 2003, you were asked by PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill, if you continue to stand by the claims you made about Saddam's nuclear program in the days and months leading up to the war. In what appears to be an effort to downplay the nuclear weapons scare tactics you used before the war, your answer was, and I quote: It was a case that said he was trying to reconstitute. He's trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody ever said that it was going to be the next year. So that's what you said to the American people on television: Nobody ever said it was going to be the next year. Well, that wasn't true. Because nine months before you said this to the American people, what had George Bush said? President Bush at his speech at the Cincinnati Museum Center: If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little longer than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.

So the president tells the people there could be a weapon. Nine months later, you said no one ever said he could have a weapon in a year, when, in fact, the president said it. And here's the real kicker: On October 10th, '04, on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, three months ago, you were asked about CIA Director Tenet's remark that prior to the war he had, quote, made it clear to the White House that he thought the nuclear weapons program was much weaker than the program to develop other WMDs. Your response was this: The intelligence assessment was that he was reconstituting his nuclear programs; that left unchecked he would have a nuclear weapon by the end of the year.

So here you are, first contradicting the president and then contradicting yourself. So it's hard to even ask you a question about this, because you are on the record basically taking two sides of an issue. And this does not serve the American people. If it served your purpose to downplay the threat of nuclear weapons, you said, No one said he's going to have it in a year. But then later, when you thought perhaps you were on more solid ground with the American people, because at the time the war was probably popular, or more popular, you say, We thought he was going to have a weapon within a year. And this is -- the question is, this is a pattern here of what I see from you on this issue, on the issue of the aluminum tubes, on the issue of whether Al Qaida was actually involved in Iraq, which you've said many times. And you don't seem to be willing to, A, admit a mistake, or give any indication of what you're going to do to forcefully involve others….So I am deeply troubled. Thank you.

RICE: Senator, may I respond?

RICE:… Senator, I have to say that I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything. It is not my nature. It is not my character. And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said, without impugning my credibility or my integrity. We went to war because this was the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a man against whom we had gone to war before, who threatened his neighbors, who threatened our interests, who was one of the world's most brutal dictators and it was high time to get rid of him. And I'm glad that we're rid of him….

BOXER: (referring to the Duelfer report): Which he says, Although Saddam clearly assigned a high value to the nuclear progress and talent that had been developed up to '91, the program ended and the intellectual capital decayed in the succeeding years. You sent them in there because of weapons of mass destruction. Later, the mission changed when there were none. I have your quotes on it. I have the president's quotes on it. And everybody admits it but you that that was the reason for the war. And then once we're in there, now it moved to a different mission. Which is great, we all want to give democracy and freedom everywhere we can possibly do it, but let's not rewrite history. It's too soon to do that.
RICE: We had problems with the intelligence. We are all, as a collective polity of the United States, trying to deal with ways to get better intelligence. But it wasn't just weapons of mass destruction….his territory was a place where terrorists were welcomed, where he paid suicide bombers to bomb Israel, where he had used Scuds against Israel in the past, and so we knew what his intentions were in the region, where he had attacked his neighbors before and, in fact, tried to annex Kuwait, where we'd gone to war against him twice in the past. It was the total picture, Senator, not just weapons of mass destruction, that caused us to decide that post-September 11th, it was finally time to deal with Saddam Hussein.

BOXER: Well, you should you read what we voted on when we voted to support the war, which I did not, but most of my colleagues did. It was WMD, period. That was the reason and the causation for that particular vote. But again, I just feel, you quote President Bush when it suits you, but you contradicted him when he said, Yes, Saddam could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. You go on television, nine months later, and said, Nobody ever said it was going to be.

RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.

RICE: Senator, I'm happy to continue the discussion. But I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.

What other conclusion is there to draw, really?

11:17 AM  
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11:29 AM  
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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- Rice pudding: Equal measures of glibness, obfuscation and self-righteousness stirred around the only interests she recognizes -- whatever President George W. Bush is thinking or wants.

Condoleezza Rice served up her favorite recipe to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at her confirmation hearing and, sadly, all but two were able to stomach the intellectual slop.

In an administration where the transparently disingenuous thrive, where sticking to the company line brings rewards and sucking up to the boss is the supreme virtue, Dr. Condoleezza Rice has no equal.

Stamped into her character is this simple truth: The truth doesn't matter. Her job, as she sees it, is blindly to carry out the will of George W. Bush.

Thus, the worst national security adviser in history -- with a record of failures, poor judgment, miscalculations and refusal to admit mistakes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- is set for Senate confirmation to become Secretary of State.

A few courageous Democrats are willing to take on Rice, stand up against her defense of the will of George W. and, casting her adoring worshipers in the Senate and media aside, question the competence, effectiveness, truthfulness and integrity of the "accomplished" Dr. Rice.

We've been told ad nauseam that she grew up in the segregated South, was an exceptional student, learned to play Brahms on the piano, got up early in the morning to practice figure skating, likes pro football, got a Ph.D., wrote a book about the Soviet Union, learned to speak Russian, became provost of Stanford University, did a few chores in the Bush I White House and, in a revealing tribute, Chevron named an oil tanker after her.

Mind you, all these great accomplishments occurred before she became candidate George W. Bush's foreign affairs tutor and, upon his selection as president, his national security adviser.

Rice's record and accomplishments in that office should be the measure of her fitness to become Secretary of State, and her fingerprints are all over some of the worst decisions and policies of our times. In a just world, she would have been fired in disgrace long ago. In Bushworld, she gets promoted and can look forward to a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a multi-million dollar book contract, seats on corporate boards, a fancy title back at Stanford, and a life of comfort, privilege and undeserved respectability.

Her failed policies and decisions have cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, encouraged terrorism, and made our nation less secure, distrusted and despised around the world. It's a tribute to her cunning that she usually escapes responsibility for her horrible negligence and the willful deeds that have resulted in violence and suffering.

On three important counts, Dr. Rice failed her nation as she covered for the man she serves. She ignored specific warnings about bin Laden's evil intentions and the threat of al-Qaeda terrorist attacks. She was a leading fabricator of the phony reasons for war in Iraq, helping shift attention from the real threat. She is responsible for overseeing the stabilization of Iraq and the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

Failure on any one of those counts would be career-enders for just about anyone, but Dr. Rice is not judged by conventional standards. Condi has George W.'s ear, and advancing and defending their shared failures assures her longevity in office.

Many Democrats are caught up in judging Rice more by the color of her skin than the content of her character. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced Rice to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with fawning praise more suitable for a Junior League tea than the serious business of Cabinet confirmation. A "remarkable woman," Feinstein gushed as she read off a list of Rice's achievements, all mentioned in the context of her race and gender. Not a single word about Iraq, but Feinstein assured her colleagues that "the problems we face abroad are complex and sizable. If Dr. Rice's past performance is any indication, though, we can rest easy." Rice's past performance is precisely why every thoughtful person shudders and the civilized world cannot rest easy with her hands in important matters.

Fortunately, not all Californians are enamored with Rice's "charm," Gatling-gun responses and incessant rationales. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) served our nation well and did what senators are supposed to when they offer "advice and consent" on presidential nominees. Eschewing the nauseating niceties of others on the panel, Boxer ripped off Rice's thin veil of respectability and pointed out what a deceptive, duplicitous and manipulative political operator Queen Condi truly is.

Rice's inconsistencies, exaggerations, misrepresentations, distortions and flat-out lies about Iraq and Saddam's Hussein's "threat" are voluminous. There should be a book out there, "Condi's Canards." Boxer was prepared to document the long litany of Rice's twisting of the truth.

Boxer told Rice pointedly that "your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell the war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth." The California senator proceeded to show, in great detail, Rice getting caught up in her own lies. It was a priceless moment. Watching Condi seethe as she was exposed for the fraud she is was a moment of great delight.

Fuming under the fine tuning, Rice cried foul, saying, "I have never, ever, lost respect for the truth in service of anything. It's not my nature, it's not my character." Then she snarled at Boxer, "I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before, and what went on before, and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity." Such a conversation is impossible without impugning Dr. Rice's credibility and integrity. Those are the very issues that make her unfit for office.

We know that prior to 9/11, Rice never publicly mentioned the threat of al-Qaeda. Richard Clarke, former White House anti-terrorism chief, has provided us with substantial evidence that Rice ignored his warnings that bin Laden was planning a spectacular attack on U.S. soil. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill provided additional information that also points to Rice's negligence in not focusing on al-Qaeda and shifting the national focus to Saddam Hussein.

Rice was an earnest and unflinching supporter of Bush's connived plan to morph the war on al-Qaeda terrorism into an attack on Iraq -- which, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. While publicly stating that war was a "last resort" and the administration was striving for a peaceful solution, Rice knew that was a lie.

In July 2002, Richard Hasse, the former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, had a meeting with Rice to discuss policy toward Iraq. Hasse told The New York Times he was concerned that the administration's fixation on Saddam Hussein and Iraq was distracting it from countering al-Qaeda, the real threat to national security. Hasse says Rice didn't even want to hear about it.

He said, "Basically she cut me off and said, 'Save your breath -- the president has already decided what he's going to do on this.'"

For the next nine months, Rice used plenty of breath lying to the American people and the world about Bush's quest for peace and what a terrible threat Saddam was and how everything possible was being done to avoid the war that was already decided upon. She was a reckless and effective fear-monger.

Because of her rapid-fire delivery and willingness to say anything, Rice -- more than Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz combined -- spread the lies that led the nation to war.

Pressed at her confirmation hearing, Rice reluctantly had to acknowledge what has been clear for some time -- that there were "bad decisions in Iraq." But in true Rice form, she doesn't tell us who made the bum decisions and whether anyone should be help accountable. But certainly, under no circumstances did George W. Bush make any mistakes in the decision to invade Iraq to "defend freedom."

Rice does have a knack for distancing herself from the messes she helped create. Does anyone remember the Iraq Stabilization Group? That was the organization that Bush named in October 2003. The group was given "direct control" over the occupation of Iraq and the rebuilding of Afghanistan. And who did the president name to head the Iraq Stabilization Group? Why none other than Dr. Condoleezza Rice.

Afghanistan is far from rebuilt. Much of the nation is under the control of war lords in territory where bin Laden can stroll around for exercise. Our overstretched troops don't have the resources to do the job there.

Iraq is in turmoil. Violence shows no signs of ending. Knight-Ridder Newspapers, an organization that has avoided the shameless cheerleading of most of the corporate media, reports the United States is "in danger of losing the war." That troubling trend is based on analysis of the U.S. government's own statistics on combat deaths and wounded, insurgent attacks, bombings and other factors.

The report finds the U.S. military steadily losing ground to the predominately Sunni Muslim insurgency, and concludes that, "short of a new-found will by Iraqis to reject the insurgency or a large escalation of U.S. troop strength, the United States won't win the war."

The president is entitled to his choices for Cabinet positions, unless serious questions exist over the nominee's competence or issues of moral turpitude exist. Rice's record is fraught with competence failures. And what's more immoral than crafting the lies to lead a nation into an unnecessary war?

Condoleezza Rice helped provide us with the recipe for the worst foreign relations disaster in U.S. history. Now the man she serves wants her to have bigger responsibilities and the Senate will confirm that horrible choice. Tragically, for our nation and the world, that means more disasters are sure to come.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is

1:09 PM  

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