Condoleezza Rice, Charged with War Crimes at Rutgers, withdraws as Commencement Speaker

(By Juan Cole)

Condoleezza Rice on Saturday pulled out of giving the commencement address at Rutgers University after professor and student protests.

Rutgers historian Professor Rudy Bell argued that while it would be appropriate to have Rice on campus as part of an academic debate, she is unsuitable as a commencement speaker because of her role in an administration that launched an illegal and destructive war and practiced torture. He said, “Commencement is a day when we honor the graduates, who have accomplished so much. It’s a day when there should not be controversy.” He also pointed to her role in an administration that practiced torture.

Some 50 students occupied the offices of Rutgers University’s president last week in protest.

Professor Bell is being polite. Dr. Rice is a war criminal in international law. She played a key role in launching a war that contravenes the United Nations charter, which requires that use of force against another country come either in self-defense after an attack or be authorized by the United Nations Security Council (as was the case with the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Libya). Even if one took seriously the “responsibility to protect,” which some feel justifies a humanitarian intervention to stop an ongoing genocide, there was no massive humanitarian crisis in 2002 in Iraq that justified a foreign invasion. Nor did any large international organization back the war in Iraq– even the US’s NATO allies were almost universally opposed (excepting the UK and some recent Eastern European additions, who also cooperated with Bush’s torture program).

Not only did she back an illegal invasion and occupation, she did so on the basis of a set of falsehoods. She retailed 56 distinct falsehoods to the American people. She warned that we do not want the smoking gun for Iraq’s (non-existent) nuclear weapons program to be a mushroom cloud, a piece of war propaganda that would have caused Goebbels’ heart to swell with pride. As then Rep. Robert Wexler argued, Rice had at hand intelligence that contradicted her talking points, but always made a forceful case for war. She even had the US public convinced that poor, weak, ramshackle Iraq, lacking a navy or air force and under severe economic sanctions for a decade, posed an existential threat to the United States.

Rice’s actions established a precedent that has been cited by Vladimir Putin for his intervention in the Ukraine, and so contributed to a profound weakening and deterioration of the framework of international legality that the post-World War II generation, including Dwight Eisenhower, attempted to erect.

As for Iraq, she left it a broken country, with hundreds of thousands dead, 2 million displaced abroad, 4 million displaced internally, likely 400,000 badly wounded, where car bombings and sniping still take some 800 lives a month and where radical Sunni al-Qaeda affiliates have established themselves and Iran-linked radical Shiite militias have free play. She hinted around at an al-Qaeda link to Iraq before she invaded it, but there was none. She brought al-Qaeda to Iraq and it has killed far more Iraqis than the 3000 Americans whose lives it took on September 11. Iraq never had anything at all to do with al-Qaeda, but she made it a scapegoat so as to get at its petroleum resources.

I’m with Rudy Bell, that campuses should be open to all kinds of people. But when we bring war criminals, it should be at least in part to debate with them their criminal actions, not to honor them with a doctorate and give them $35,000. And graduating students at a liberal arts university deserve to hear from admirable people, like Foreign Service Officers John H. Brown and Peter Van Buren. High office does not mint a person as an exemplar. It is a platform for potential achievements, and where it is used for death and mayhem and illegality, it is a badge of dishonor.

Related videos:

Representative Press: “Condoleezza Rice: Liar, Secretary of State, War Criminal pt1”

Pt. 2:

Pt. 3

40 Responses

  1. First look at your site. Probably not be back. You are either naive or so far off reality to be saved. If pissing people off is your aim, the you are good.

    America will never survive your type of rabble rousing.

    • What utter gibberish. The administration in which Ms. Rice served for eight years not only launched an illegal war for no purpose whatsoever but if that were not enough engaged in torture. And people such as John “Grandpa Simpson” McCain and Lindsay “Butchmeup” Graham would have us do it all over again in Syria.

      Ms. Rice along with all of the other participants in the Bush Administration’s crimes against humanity should have been hauled off to The Hague to stand trial; most, if not all, of them would be languishing in cells and I fault Pres. Obama for not letting justice take its course.

    • On the off-change you check back, I’d invite you to lay down a simple, to-the-point, defense of Rice’s actions and any contribution she has made to the national/world’s well-being.

      It is easy to succumb to exasperation and hence you get a bit of hyperbole on this website about those who sold the Iraqi misadventure. But if you have any refutation about the essence of her criminality and culpability, or ANY sort of credible counterpoint, I’m open to be educated. How open-minded are you?

    • Mr huntsman, if your purpose in reading this article was to consider a different point of view and you disagreed with what you found, it would be useful to other readers if you pointed out where you think Professor Cole is wrong. Your accusation of ‘rabble rousing’ contributes nothing.

    • It helps to read the article…
      United Nations charter, which requires that use of force against another country come either in self-defense after an attack or be authorized by the United Nations Security Council (as was the case with the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Libya)

      The war was also based upon lies which Cheney and Bush have conceded that they did indeed lie.

      The war in Afghanistan was legitimate as it was the basis of operations for Al Qaeda which launched the attack on our nation.

      The Bush administration also went out of their way to construct lies to support torture. The use of torture reduced our stature as a nation considerably. It is also noteworthy that torture did not assist in assisting the US in finding bin laden.
      I am a very proud veteran and I love my country very much but I will not sit idle while Americans died in an unjust war and continue to die of suicide from PDST.
      Your remarks make it clear that you did not read the article. Bush, Cheney & Rice directed an unjust war on Iraq, killing American servicemen and women. They initiated torture which reduced our prestige in the world community. This admin also destroyed the economy of the world which we are still trying to recover from.

      There is a lot more to being a patriot.

    • Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out the door. Why are you here in the first place. Go back to Fox”News” where it’s all Benghazi all the time, bedtime stories for the gullible told by a bevy of identical NewsBarbies. (who are actually more plastic than Barbie herself)

  2. Hey, let’s be fair to the real example she sets: for being a world-class sycophant. This is the express route to career advancement, especially if one wants to be in the political game, where your willingness to enthusiastically peddle the values and agendas of your betters is the name of the game. To the extent corporations need alignment with common values there is a similarity, but it tends to be more a matter of getting along with the team to further evolving goals in the face of competition. Splitting hairs, I suppose. However, on that basis of ambition, maybe her example and what she has to say would be valued by some.

    I would give her a little slack. Like Alberto Gonzales, she was chosen due to her drive to fit-in and belong, and to transcend her background. Neither of these people have any inkling of how they have been used to serve the purposes of others; the first requirement for an effective salesman is the ability to con themselves and the power of delusion runs deep.

    These two high-tone lackeys I find kinda pitiful, even as they continue to rationalize their actions: to think they helped “make” policy and that they were every anything other than dupes. In his own way, The Bush Boy goes in the same bag, although his gift was knowing how to co-opt others: a sales manager and conman in-chief, as it were. Values completely aside, comparing his post-presidency with that of others, he really is nothing if not pathetic.

    Your should save your real scorn for Cheney (as you do), and the small and nameable group of manipulators who know their dark agenda is best managed by keeping to the shadows.

    • Hmmmm…I think your views of Gozalez and Rice are condescending. Do you actually think they were just trying to get ahead to rise above their background, ei because they are minorities? The should and will be help responsible for their actions just as the white male Vulcans will.

      • I’m not sure about Ms. Rice but I have no doubt that Alberto Gonzales was chosen by Bush The Younger to be attorney general to make it look as if he was running an “inclusive” administration. It’s why Mr. Bush put him on the Teas court.

      • I’ll confess to condescension along with a dose of sarcasm in that post. But my experience is that the exceptionally ambitious are often driven by something deeper, and very often unhealthy.

        Alberto was, if memory serves, the son of a migrant with nothing. Rice, it seems, was from a strong, established family. But when people don’t have what it takes to back away from something as WRONG as what was going on, their characters must have been fundamentally compromised in some manner. IMHO

        • Three of Alberto’s grandparents were illegal immigrants, but his father was born and raised in Texas. Becoming Attorney General, meant Gonzalez is the highest Mexican-American office holder in U.S. history.

          George also had not one, but two, black Secretaries of State. Both became WAR CRIMINALS.

          Bush Jr. wasn’t your typical good-old-boy from Texas. He had one of the most multicultural administrations in presidential history.

    • Totally agree. The Koch brothers are using the Bush/Cheney template to get the Tea Party and the Americans for Prosperity to do their ego drive and profiteering dirty work

  3. Why would an academic like Rice be demanding a speaking fee to appear at another academic institution? This speaks of corrupted values in academia; something vulgar and Republican about it.

    • The greater question is, “Why would these supposed institutions of higher learning even invite people accused with good reason of being war criminals to be guest speakers, never mind paying them ridiculous sums of money?

  4. Excellent! She revealed her ruthless designs on the Middle East in her infamous statement in July 2006, when Lebanon was being bombed to smithereens with her blessings: “What we’re seeing here is, in a sense, the growing—the birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old Middle East.” As if it were an American decision! Glad she is running away from Rutgers–out of fear, no doubt, as she knows no shame.

  5. Overall this article makes very important points. All the same I wish to make a few observations:

    1> The fact that the UN Security Council approves a particular military intervention does not necessarily make it a worthy action, in fact both Afghanistan and Lybia are two examples of where such interventions made things much worse, especially for the local population.

    2> The article suggests that the current problem in the Ukraine is basically the result of intervention by Mr Putin. I think it is well established that the origin of that conflict was a putsch by rightist elements which had full support of the US State Department, overthrowing a government no doubt corrupt but at least elected by the voters. The best discussion I have seen is

    link to

    (unfortunately available only in French and Spanish as far as I know) by the retired French Foriegn officer Pierre Charasse. He emphasises the immense campaign of misinformation in the established European and American press.

    • >in fact both Afghanistan and Lybia are two examples of where such interventions made things much worse, especially for the local population.

      Polling evidence from both countries has shown the opposite.

  6. Lorrie Cellini

    Congratulations & Gratitude To The Courage &Integrity of The Students At @RutgersU! @AliAbunimah {Maggie @Politico @CondoleezzaRice

    • Actually, it would have to be something you DO, not something you watch. If you wait around for it to show up on your DVR like some kind of spectator sport then it ain’t gonna happen. The status quo is on their side.

  7. “And graduating students at a liberal arts university deserve to hear from admirable people, like Foreign Service Officers John H. Brown and Peter Van Buren.”
    I’d also suggest Col. Ann Wright as an excellent commencement speaker !! Veterans For Peace will be happy to help arrange it, or to line up someone equally good.

  8. One hopes that the propagandist who invited her has been moved to another position, but this does suggest a right wing administration at Rutgers. It is good to see a lively and effective response.

  9. I’m fine with this as long as no one from the current administration gives commencement speeches either. But you know that it’s not the case…I mean the man whose murdered over one thousand civilians including 300 confirmed children has a Nobel peace prize…it’s all a big joke.

  10. The American people watched a President be held accountable for lying under oath about blow jobs. Yet we have not witnessed one war criminal out of the Bush administration be held accountable for a deadly intelligence snow job. So Rice is humiliated a bit…Cheney, Bush, Rice, Douglas Feith, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld etc should be dropped down butt ass naked in Baghdad and run for holes in the ground. War criminals…all of them

    • “Yet we have not witnessed one war criminal out of the Bush administration be held accountable …”

      Not only have they not been held accountable but what makes this story much more vile and sordid is the willingness and, in some cases, eagerness of countless people who would be friends with these villains.

      Recently, a Democratic Party operative claimed that Rice was a friend of hers and that she had a lot of respect for her. I have a thought about that but it probably wouldn’t pass the moderator.

  11. Good for Rutgers, giving this war criminal the heave-ho. Shame on them that she got that close in the first place. Rice and all the senior Bush administration lackeys ought to have shoes thrown at them wherever they go for the rest of their lives. It’s the least they should receive, since they seem likely to escape the legal prosecution at The Hague they so richly deserve.

  12. I remember reading one of the books critical of the Bush administration that paints a scene of Condi being in a meeting when W pokes his head in the door and asked, “Have you found me any proof that Saddam was associated with 9-11?” Afterwards Condi rolled her eyes and told those in the meeting….”He(Bush) is dead set on going to war with Iraq.”

    This is undeniable proof that Bush and his neocon cabal, including Rice, were planning to send our troops into a war regardless of the flimsy evidence. For this they should all be tried for crimes against humanity.

  13. Bravo, once again, to you, Professor Cole for this news article about Condi Rice status as a genuine war criminal. You’ve hit a bull-s eye with this news story.

    ( And I would also have to note that even though I’m a Vietnam veteran, Colin Powell’s sad charade at the UN Security Council meetings as a voice of reason has clearly tarnished his historical legacy in public service for our country. And let’s remember our current Secretary of State, John Kerry, also voted for the Junior the Boy Emperor’s resolution for a war in Iraq.)

    I was against the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq from day one. Even I could see by early autumn of 2002 that this war would eventually rival the foreign policy debacle I experienced as a young and naive medical corpsman during my tour of duty. And even Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser in Papa Bush’s administration and far to the right of Professor Noam Chomsky, wrote a prophetic op-ed piece in the WSJ entitled “Don’t Attack Saddam” which was published on August 15, 2002. He predicted this war would be a major foreign policy blunder for our country.

  14. “American hawks who never learn: The mainstream U.S. news media has taken great umbrage over President Obama’s defense of the more peaceful parts of his foreign policy, when he suggested lessons were not learned by the many pundits and pols who supported the disastrous Iraq War”, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains. – link to

  15. Perhaps the author ought to investigate Saddam Hussein’s litany of atrocities with equal vigour, then ask himself if we ought to have waited for the next one.

    • You do understand that the US was intimately involved in some of that litany, as will running interference for Saddam at the UN over his use of chemical weapons? A hard policy, to encourage a war on Iran that involved atrocities and to ally on that basis, and then to later use that as a basis for invasion of the former ally.

  16. I can’t believe that the chumps at the University of Minnesota not only invited war criminal Rice to speak, but paid her $150,000 for the privilege. SMH

  17. Rice is not the only facilitator of the Iraq war to give college commencement addresses. Search “colin powell commencement address” and you’ll find the welcome mat was also laid out for him in several instances with, apparently, no protests. Substitute other names and you’ll probably get similar results.

  18. Then there were, among others, four senators who were in the vanguard promoting the Iraq war: McCain, Kerry, Biden and Clinton. McCain and Kerry were nominated by their respective parties to run for president, Biden was elected vice president, and now Clinton is the reputed favorite to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 2016. If ever there was any doubt, these and other examples should prove conclusively that morality plays no role whatsoever in American politics and governance.

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