When people lack a critical understanding of their reality, apprehending it in fragments which they do not perceive as interacting constituent elements of the whole, they cannot truly know that reality. Paulo Freire
Condi is back in the news. That is, Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State and before that Chief at the National Security Agency (NSA). She is back to set the record straight. She didn’t do it! Or she did it but with an understanding or under orders or—never mind! It was all legal! It’s Condi’s welcome home!
There’s a festive atmosphere with a little dinner, suited academics and administrators. Select photographers surround the former provost as she is welcomed to the research environment of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Then, there are the students. One student video tapes the encounter. It’s just like old times, except so much has happened since she left home.
Student: How are we supposed to continue promoting America as this guiding light of democracy and how are we supposed to win hearts and minds in the world as long as we continue with these actions?
Rice: Well, first of all, you do what’s right. That’s the most important thing — that you make a judgment of what’s right. And in terms of enhanced interrogation, and rendition, and all the issues around the detainees. Abu Ghraib is, and everyone said, Abu Ghraib was not policy. Abu Ghraib was wrong and nobody would argue with… Abu Ghraib was not a policy? What about Bagram and Gitmo? What about the history of detention for Native Indians and detention camps now for Haitian and Latin American immigrants awaiting deportation? What about the countless prisons housing a huge population of Black and Brown people?
When a student stated that the U.S, tortured detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Condi said, “No dear, you’re wrong!” In fact, according to Condi, Gitmo was considered a model “medium security prison”!! And torture?
Student: I read a recent report, recently, that said that you did a memo, you were the one who authorized torture to the — I’m sorry, not torture, waterboarding. Is waterboarding torture?
Rice: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention against torture. So that’s — and by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. That they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.
Student: Okay. Is waterboarding torture?
Rice: I just said — the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so, by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.
Student: Thank you.
But it’s not all right. Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture “prohibits torture.” It applies to all territories and no exception circumstances justify torture—and that includes war or the threat of war or terrorist acts. Torture can’t be justified as a means to protect public safety. Torture can’t be ordered by superior officers or public officials. Somehow, the now-professor of International Policy missed classes on the day the professor discussed Article 2 and the ban on torture. Kudos to those brave students who didn’t show up to stand in awe with pen and paper waiting for her autograph. These students actually wanted to know something. They wanted to confront an authority who supported and condoned torture, specifically water boarding, but they also wanted to know the truth.
Because it’s not all right.
According to Stanford University’s News Service, Condi plans to “reconnect with the academic policy communities,” something she claims to have been involved with for the “last 30 years.” That’s roughly the time in which the atmosphere on college campuses began to change. The targeting and purging of faculty on the Left and the shrinking or closing of Black, Red, Brown Studies departments in academia has stepped up since 9/11. Academia has the funding of Right-wing think tanks and Pentagon funding to protect, and in turn, these institutions control academic policy.
Condi will see to it that this academic policy continues.
How will your political experience translate into academic lessons, and how will you share what you’ve learned in Washington with the Stanford community?
I may not teach formal classes right away. But when I do, I hope to go back to teaching some of the courses on international politics, with a focus on decision-making and hard choices in decision-making. I taught a lot when I was at Stanford before by the use of decision simulations. I thought decision simulations pressed students really to think about not just the abstraction of policy but the actual operational questions and choices that you have to make.
Decision making? What? Would that mean students will learn to make snap-happy decisions—send troops in here, decimate the enemy over there—take action as if there are no consequences on the lives of millions of people and then fictionalizing the reasons and outcomes of those actions. Yes, “hard choices in decision making” will mean which tactics to continue to employ in order to finally achieve the goal of one corporate world under U.S. control. The young ones have to learn how the U.S. makes decisions about the lives of human beings, particularly when they get in the way or threaten to resist. This is the new faculty at the Hoover Institution!
Condi will go about collecting her memory of the Bush years and her service as Secretary of State. She’ll have good memories, of course. It’s her book, her story. “I would hope that it would be a book that tries to put the last eight years into a context that is more of an analytic framework.” Analytic framework? There will be anecdotes. I’m sure I’m going to tell some of the more interesting stories and discuss the characters I’ve met over the last eight years. I also, as an academic, will want to step back and really look at how the international system was impacted by the events of 9/11 and what new constraints and what new opportunities the United States faced as a result. I’m going to try to make this a book that’s analytic and not just storytelling.
“Analytical framework” means that 95 percent of you won’t be able to read my book, but it will sell because, well, I’m Condi Rice—and I have a story to tell for the historical record book!
Ninety-five percent of you will not know that with my writing I will determine what really happened and “how the international system was impacted by the events of 9/11.” After all, “I’m academic,” so I will influence and enlighten students about decision making. I will do so by dealing first with the historical account of my decisions and the decisions of the Bush administration. I will produce a text, a record of events, that generations will absorb and possess; the story of how an Empire fought the good battle against the evildoers in the world. But it won’t be simply “storytelling.” Oh, no. Analytical!
Work first and then play!
And criticism of you, Condi?
Criticism? Criticism is fine! “It’s perfectly legitimate to be critical of what’s been a complicated and sometimes controversial and always consequential last eight years.”
People must listen first to “how we went about it.” “Criticism is natural.”
Really, now criticism is oh, so “natural.” Well, Condi’s ears should be ringing!
The criticism is so “natural” that media didn’t bother to tell the American public that there is opposition to the arrival of Condi Rice at Stanford University. For Majorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, student and faculty activists at Stanford University, Condi Rice is not welcome.
This group of ex-VietNam protesters (Stanford alumni), current student and faculty members nailed the following petition on the campus president’s office door:
We, the undersigned students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other concerned members of the Stanford community, believe that high officials of the U.S. Government, including our former Provost, current Political Science Professor, and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, Condoleezza Rice, should be held accountable for any serious violations of the Law (included ratified treaties, statutes, and/or the U.S. Constitution) through investigation and, if the facts warrant, prosecution, by appropriate legal authorities.
The activists consider Condi Rice’s presence at Stanford criminal.
Writing in The Huffington Post, May 8, 2009, Cohn cites “the law and evidence of Condoleezza Rice’s responsibility for war crimes — including torture — and for selling the illegal Iraq War.”
To be sure, Condoleezza Rice is not the only Black American to turn her back on the liberation of human beings from tyranny to become an active participant in white supremacy. She isn’t the only Bush war-and-torture alumni to return to the halls of higher education without a challenge by administrators. Academia has sold its soul long ago. Truth is dangerous there—in this era of right is might! And unless concerned students and faculty at Stanford University and at every college and university don’t stand up to end to the corruption of knowledge, we will see many more Condi Rices on telescreens, holding up their books, and proclaiming victory over the zombies.