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Rice: “If it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations”

Posted by Thomas Nephew on May 1st, 2009

Via Hullabaloo, here is some remarkable amateur footage of former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice being questioned (on Monday) by students in Stanford University’s Roble Hall dormitory.  The whole thing is worth watching — from between your fingers — as Rice puts on a surreal performance:

1ST QUESTIONER [3:30]: …even in World War II, as we faced Nazi Germany, probably the greatest threat that America has ever faced, even then…
RICE [3:37]: With all due respect, Nazi Germany never attacked the homeland of the United States.
1ST QUESTIONER [3:44]: They bombed our allies.
RICE [3:46]: Just a second. Three thousand Americans died in the Twin Towers and in the Pentagon.
1ST QUESTIONER [3:52]: Five hundred thousand died in World War II, and yet we did not torture the prisoners of war.
RICE [3:55] (waving finger no): …And we didn’t torture anybody here either.
1ST QUESTIONER [4:00]: We tortured them in Guantanamo Bay.
RICE [4:03]: No.  No, dear. You’re wrong. You’re wrong.  We did not. torture. anyone.  And Guantanamo Bay by the way was considered a model quote [makes air quotes] medium security prison by representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who went there to see it.  Did you know that?
1ST QUESTIONER [4:20]: Were they present for the interrogations?
RICE [4:22]: 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?
1ST QUESTIONER [4:20]: No, but I feel that changes nothing.
RICE [4:33]: No – did you know that?
1ST QUESTIONER [4:35]: I did not know that but that…
RICE [4:36]: All right, no,, now wait a second if you didn’t know that, maybe before you make allegations about Guantanamo you should read.  All right?  Now, the ICRC also had access to Guantanamo, and they made no allegations about interrogations at Guantanamo.  What they did say is that they believed that indefinite detention — where people didn’t know whether they could come up for trial — which is why we tried through the military commissions system to let people come up for trial.  Those trials were stayed by whom?  Who kept us from holding the trials?
1ST QUESTIONER [5:17]: I can’t answer that question.
RICE [5:18]: Do your homework first.

Passing over Rice’s implication that defeating Hitler was both optional and easy, it turns out (via 2PoliticalJunkies) that the alleged OSCE “stamp of approval” came from a guy who tagged along with an OSCE delegation, but  — according to the OSCE — was “not employed or commissioned by the OSCE” and whose views should “not be taken as being made on behalf of the 55-nation body.”

Of course, that was all way, way back in 2006; it’s harder to understand how she could still believe the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) “made no allegations about interrogations at Guantanamo,” when the opposite has been plastered all over a minor publication called the “New York Review of Books” for the past month, and when the leaked 2007 ICRC memorandum reported on in those articles states unequivocally: “the ICRC clearly considers that the allegations of the fourteen include descriptions of treatment and interrogation techniques — singly or in combination — that amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

It’s almost painful to see how important it is for Rice to believe she’s in the clear on all this, and how she’s succeeded in lying to herself to the point where she feels she can talk down to people (“did you know that? did you know that?”) telling her point blank that the emperor (clothes or no clothes) has been torturing.  One wouldn’t think it could get worse, but it does:

2D QUESTIONER [5:21]: I have a question.
RICE: Yeah.
2D QUESTIONER: So I read in a recent report recently that…
[RICE (aside to 1ST QUESTIONER): The Supreme Court.]
2D QUESTIONER: …said that you, in a memo, you were the one that authorized torture… [crosstalk] …sorry, not torture, I’m sorry — waterboarding!
RICE: Uh-huh.
2D QUESTIONER [5:36]: 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.
2D QUESTIONER [6:03]: OK. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?
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 Convention against Torture.
2D QUESTIONER: Thank you.

Got it? As Nixon once put it, “if the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

But even that’s not all.  Spencer Ackerman points out that Rice’s “by the way, I conveyed the authorization” may actually be the first time Bush himself has had a well-placed finger pointed at him.  From “Did Condi Implicate Bush for Torture?”: If she hadn’t made a decision on the part of the administration for the Abu Zubaydah interrogation plan, only one of these two men would have had the authority to do so. And all of this would have happened before the Justice Department determined the interrogation techniques to be legal.”

So I say way to go, Roble Hall!  Between two student questioners and one videographer, you’ve accomplished in one day what most of American journalism couldn’t be bothered to even try to do for eight years: not just expose Rice as a supercilious, inept liar, but also get her to give up Bush or Cheney as war criminals.

=====
UPDATE, 5/2: Natalie Davis gets to the point faster than I do with “Condi Rice Admits to Being a Tool.”
UPDATES, 5/3: Scott Horton fact-checks Rice’s Roble Hall assertions
(“Condi’s Really Bad Day“). His final point: “Whereas the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summary shows Rice giving authorization for waterboarding, Rice has a different recollection. “I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency.” This is dicing things very finely. But I think I know how Judge Garzón will understand this: Rice just confessed to a focal role in a joint criminal enterprise. Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who has a lot of first-hand experience with the legal issues in play, had the same take [video --ed.]: Rice just admitted to her role in a conspiracy to torture, a felony under 18 U.S.C. sec 2340A.” Also, Foreign Policy’s Annie Lowery provides a full transcript of Rice’s Roble Hall remarks.

4 Responses to “Rice: “If it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations””

  1. sven scholz - sagichdoch? » Schreibtischtäter Says:

    [...] Die interessanten Teile, auch in Hinblick auf Condies “Vergesslichkeit” gegenüber Aussagen des Roten Kreuzes (PDF) und ihrer Auslegung, wer bei ihr so alles die OSCE repräsentieren darf, hat Thomas hier nochmal schriftlich (englisch), aber weil ich oben etwas vom “seltsamen Geschichtsverständnis” schrob will ich diese Perle der Rice’schen Historiendeutung noch schnell nachliefern: 1ST QUESTIONER [3:30]: …even in World War II, as we faced Nazi Germany, probably the greatest threat that America has ever faced, even then… RICE [3:37]: With all due respect, Nazi Germany never attacked the homeland of the United States. 1ST QUESTIONER [3:44]: They bombed our allies. RICE [3:46]: Just a second. Three thousand Americans died in the Twin Towers and in the Pentagon. 1ST QUESTIONER [3:52]: Five hundred thousand died in World War II, and yet we did not torture the prisoners of war. […] [...]

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Sven Scholz (see above) reminds me of the concept of “Schreibtischtaeter” — “desk perpetrator” — that is, “someone who uses state power structures to have a crime carried out by another person.” German history and justice is all too familiar with the idea; Americans are all too ready to believe themselves immune to or removed from the possibility.

  3. mickarran Says:

    Apparently, a couple of days later Condi was questioned by 4th graders and didn’t do any better with them.

  4. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Yeah, I heard about that today. Misha Lerner for Torture Truth Commission!

    Interesting that the kid’s teachers had him tone down the question — he’d wanted “If you would work for Obama’s administration, would you push for torture?” and had to dial it down to asking her about “the things President Obama’s administration was saying about the methods the Bush administration had used to get information from detainees.” More at the Post, which reports the kid’s introduction to 21st century American “what the he11 just happened here?” politics was completed by Rice putting her arm around him and posing for the cameras.

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