by Paul Smith
Condoleezza Rice has recently taken a job as a political science professor at Stanford University (a position I imagine she was given ironically) and got into a bit of trouble after taking some questions from a couple of students yesterday as evidenced by a recent YouTube video.
The short version of the story is that she committed numerous factual absurdities and may perhaps have admitted complicity in a serious crime. So, maybe we should take a look at the long version of the story, eh?
I suppose the easiest way to do this will be to go through her remarks basically line by line and point out each time she makes a factual error or says something that makes absolutely no sense.
The YouTube video starts halfway through the first question we see her answer. Here is the first part of their exchange:
Rice: … 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…
Student: Except that information that’s come out since then speaks against that.
Rice: No, no, no — the information that’s come out since then continues to say that Abu Ghraib was wrong. Abu Ghraib was. But in terms of the enhanced interrogation and so forth, anything that was legal and was going to make this country safer, the president wanted to do. Nothing that was illegal.
Okay, let’s start here. The student is referring to a recent report by the Senate Armed Service Committee called “Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” (read report here, summary here).
The student was attempting to correct her when she said that the abuses and interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib were not policy before she cut him off.
She flatly denies the student’s suggestion that the recent Senate report disputes her claim that the Abu Ghraib incident was not the result of policy. But the report absolutely does dispute this; here is what it said about Abu Ghraib:
“The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited Information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”
The report not only claims that “senior officials” were involved in the policy, but it says the policy was crafted to create the appearance of legality, obviously suggesting the policy was illegal.
She claims that the report says Abu Ghraib was “wrong.” However, the report does not just say it was wrong, the report says, “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”
Okay, moving on… She then, at one point, claims the World Trade Center Towers were 80-story-tall buildings. Hate to nitpick, sweetheart, but they were 110 stories.
Eventually the conversation turns to Guantanamo Bay:
Rice: And Guantanamo Bay, by the way, was considered a model “medium security prison” by representatives of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe who went there to see it. Did you know that?
Student: Were they present for the interrogations?
Rice: No. Did you know that the Organization — just answer me — did you know that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe said Guantanamo was a model medium security prison? … If you didn’t know that, maybe before you make allegations about Guantanamo you should read.
Here Rice makes another factual error.
What she is referring to is a comment made by Alain Grignard, who is the deputy head of a federal police anti-terrorism unit in Belgium and accompanied a group from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Guantanamo Bay. The statement was an off-the-cuff remark of his own and had no affiliation whatsoever with the OSCE. However, many newspapers incorrectly cited him as an OSCE expert at first.
But the OSCE issued a press release attempting to clarify issue (read press release here). The press release in part read, “… he was not employed or commissioned by the OSCE.”
The OSCE has yet to offer any official take on the situation at Guantanamo. So, it seems that Rice is the one who “should read” before making allegations.
Also, Grignard said that holding detainees for years without bringing formal charges or to trial was a form of “mental torture.”
Immediately following this factual error, she makes another one:
Rice: Now, the ICRC also had access to Guantanamo, and they made no allegations about interrogations at Guantanamo.
The ICRC is the International Committee of the Red Cross, and they have made repeated allegations about the interrogations at Guantanamo. For instance, in 2007, they said in a report, “The interrogation process is contrary to international law.”
And in 2004, the ICRC said, “[the interrogations methods] cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment and a form of torture.”
Well, that’s a little different than making “no allegations about interrogations,” isn’t it? This woman is unbelievable.
Now, this next exchange is perhaps the most absurd yet:
Rice: What [the ICRC] did say is that they believe indefinite detention, where people didn’t know whether they’d come up for trial, which is why we tried with the military commissions system to let people come up for trial. Those trials were stayed by whom? Who kept us from holding the trials?
Student: I can’t answer that question.
Rice: Do your homework first… The Supreme Court.
The amount of chutzpah and ludicrousness contained in this remark is absolutely staggering.
Rice is basically saying the Bush administration would have loved to let the wheels of justice turn and give each detainee a fair and speedy trial, if only it hadn’t been for that pesky ol’ Supreme Court gumming up the works.
I can only imagine she is referring to the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case in 2006 where the Supreme Court held that the Bush administration policy of trying detainees under military commissions or tribunals was unconstitutional. The Court also said the military commissions violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.
So, Rice is attempting to make an argument here, basically saying that the highest court in the land declared a Bush administration policy as unconstitutional, but that the problem was not with the policy, but with the Supreme Court for having the nerve to perform its function and adhere to the US Constitution.
She gives the clear intimation that the Bush administration – the same people who attempted to deny detainees the right of habeas corpus – would have loved for there to be a fair judicial process at Gitmo, but the Supreme Court – the arbiter of the Constitution – got in the way.
My head dizzies just trying to comprehend her twisted logic. If anyone needs to do some homework, it’s Ms. Rice. I would recommend a book report on the US Constitution.
Okay, here’s the final exchange between Rice and a different student, where she may have admitted to a serious crime:
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.
The student is referring to memos recently released by the Obama administration which detailed Rice’s involvement as basically a go-between from the White House to the CIA in the authorization of the use of torture – oh, excuse me – enhanced interrogation techniques.
First of all, notice that she dodges the question of whether waterboarding is torture (which the vast majority of legal experts agree it most certainly is).
But then notice that she admits she “conveyed the authorization of the administration to the [CIA].”
However, if waterboarding is torture (which it is), then even conveying the authorization would be a direct violation of the Convention Against Torture, which she cites.
The Convention Against Torture, a UN treaty of which the United States is a signatory party, explicitly states in Artice II that “an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.” (read the treaty here)
So, Rice basically just admitted complicity in a war crime.
Also, not only do her actions violate the Convention Against Torture, but many would argue her actions could be considered a violation of the federal statute banning torture, US Code: Title 18, Chapter 113 § 2340 (read statute here), as well as a violation of the War Crimes Act.
And then, to make matters worse, she makes the very bizarre claim that, by definition, if the President authorizes something, it is therefore not illegal.
This harkens back to the infamous gaffe made by President Nixon during his 1977 interview with David Frost when he said, “When the President does it that means that it is not illegal.”
The President is not a dictator, Condi, not matter how much you wish he were.
So, not only did Rice get almost everything wrong in her exchange with these two students, she may have admitted her role in a conspiracy to commit torture.
Condoleezza Rice should never speak in public again without her attorney present. In fact, maybe she should just never speak in public again.