At first I thought I was seeing an early April Fools’ joke – after all, admitting mistakes is the last thing I expect a member of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet to do. But the headline on the BBC’s Web site, “Rice admits multiple Iraq errors,” was not meant to be funny, even though everything even remotely touched by the war in Iraq is becoming more absurd by the day.
As part of a trip to England, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a speech in Blackburn. She said, “I know we’ve made tactical errors – thousands of them, I’m sure,” in regard to Iraq, but also said that on the whole the U.S. government had made “the right strategic decisions.”
The trip was off to a bad start when it became public Rice would not be visiting a local mosque as planned because of protests in the area.
But even with spin, such a hurdle can be taken. Rice simply called the demonstrators that chanted “Condoleezza Rice go home” an example of free speech. Obviously it was, but it’s also hard to deny that if her speech had been held in the United States, such protestors would have been forced to stand in a “free speech zone” (Bush-speak for “out of sight”).
It was soon after her speech in Blackburn that the trip became even more absurd. The press conference following Rice’s speech included some rather peculiar talking points, a list that may as well be distributed as an example of what’s wrong with U.S. foreign policy.
Rice stressed it was important for the world to know America continues to stand for justice, the rule of law and has no interest “to be the world’s jailer.”
Here is an idea: If that’s indeed how America wants to be seen in the world, how about not abducting foreign citizens (Bush terminology: “extraordinary rendition”) and holding them in secret prisons (“black sites”) where they are, at best, held without access to judicial systems without the knowledge of their families or governments and, at worst, tortured until dead? Or how about sticking to international agreements that were established to ensure human rights are upheld, such as the Geneva Convention?
It’s nice the U.S. secretary of state says she wants America to be a poster child of freedom and justice. But actual events paint a very different and very grim picture.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ assessment that the Geneva Convention is “quaint” and does “not apply to the president’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants” (Read: Anyone opposing us can be detained. Period.) remains in effect, no matter how eloquently Rice tries to spin it otherwise.
But what actually made me laugh out loud was Rice’s statement that a war with Iran “is not what is on the agenda now.”
To make such a statement on British soil took quite some chutzpah. For months, the European press has been reporting on a memo written shortly after a meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair had with President Bush on Jan. 31, 2003, five days before Colin Powell was to give a much-hyped presentation to the United Nations.
In the memo, David Manning, Blair’s foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote that the push for a second UN resolution was only a diversion. “Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning,” Manning wrote. After meetings with Bush and Blair, Manning wrote, “The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin.”
The memo has been verified as authentic and proves without a shadow of a doubt the president of the United States was telling his own constituents that “war is a last resort” while a war was a done deal. Even after the war was well under way, Bush stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, and said, “The use of force has been – and remains – our last resort.”
It’s no wonder the world is nervous, and it’s definitely not surprising Rice’s comments will be largely ignored. When the president himself has repeatedly been proven to be a liar, sending the secretary of state to save face doesn’t fix the problem.
Sebastian Meyer is a senior majoring in political geography and a former Oracle opinion editor.