No Comment — May 1, 2009, 12:34 pm

Condi’s Really Bad Day

For eight years, Condoleezza Rice dealt with the Beltway punditry and the access-craving White House press corps. The reception she got, with a handful of exceptions, was fawning. Which leaves her totally unprepared for a return to an academy populated with the Daily Show generation: bright young minds with a very critical attitude towards the last eight years. In a meeting with Stanford students at a dormitory reception on April 27, the school’s former provost got off to a shaky start and ended in a train wreck. She may in fact have her last words in the exchange quoted back to her some day in a law court.

Let’s fact-check Rice’s claims:

(1) She perpetuates the Abu Ghraib myth (“Abu Ghraib was not policy”), even as the Senate Armed Services Committee report demolishes it. The words she uses are essentially identical to those she uttered to me at a group meeting in the White House in May 2004. But the efforts to delink the abuses in Iraq from the formation of policy in Washington—a process in which Rice played a focal role—have gone flat. The Senate report makes clear that the abuses at Abu Ghraib flowed directly from policy choices made in the National Security Council that Condi ran.

(2) In Condiworld, the threat of Al Qaeda was greater than the threat faced by the United States in World War II, as demonstrated by the 9/11 attacks. This suggestion demonstrates an astonishing failure of reasoned judgment. U.S. fatalities in World War II totaled 405,400. The student’s point was that in the face of what might legitimately be termed an existential threat (World War II), the American government did not turn to torture. That’s correct, and Rice doesn’t seem able to come to grips with it.

(3) Rice insists that no one was tortured at Guantánamo. She cites an OSCE report that called it a “model medium security prison.” But, as the report’s author stressed, this was a characterization of the physical facility. How about the treatment of the prisoners? On that score, the OSCE had a different conclusion: it was “mental torture.” The Red Cross did complete two studies of detainees at Guantánamo, and Condi’s characterization of them is false. The first report concluded that the treatment of prisoners, particularly isolation treatment, was “tantamount to torture.” The second examined the use of the Bush Program and concluded it was “torture,” no qualifications. Rice was furnished copies of these reports. Did she take the time to read them?

(4) Rice claims that the Bush Administration’s efforts to try the Guantánamo prisoners were blocked by the Supreme Court. In fact, the years of delay in bringing charges resulted from the Bush Administration’s own policies. The Supreme Court concluded that the jury-rigged military commissions system the Bush Administration put in place without Congressional authority violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions—the view that the overwhelming majority of legal authorities in the United States advanced. Had the Bush Administration followed the recommendation of career military lawyers and proceeded to military commissions based on the U.S. court-martial system, no Supreme Court review would have been necessary. So the cause of the delay rests squarely with the Bush Administration, not with the Supreme Court.

(5) Rice insists that waterboarding is not torture. Why? Rice pulls a Nixon. It was not torture because the president authorized it. In Condiworld, apparently, “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” What lawyer was advising Rice through this process? That’s a pressing question–the Senate Intelligence Committee suggests that legal counsel at the National Security Council was guiding her at every step–and evidently giving her some very peculiar ideas about the law.

(6) 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: Rice just admitted to her role in a conspiracy to torture, a felony under 18 U.S.C. sec 2340A. Catch Dean’s comments:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

So I score this: Stanford student 6, Rice 0. Rice needs to do some homework before her next appearance on campus. But first perhaps she’d better hire a good lawyer.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2016

The Ideology of Isolation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Idle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

My Holy Land Vacation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The City That Bleeds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

El Bloqueo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Vladivostok Station

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
My Holy Land Vacation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"I wanted to more fully understand why conservative politics had become synonymous with no-questions-asked support of Israel."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Post
Inside the July Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.

The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.

Artwork: Camels, Jerusalem (detail) copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
Post
Europe’s Hamilton Moment·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"We all know in France that as soon as a politician starts saying that some problem will be solved at the European level, that means no one is going to do anything."
Photograph (detail) by Stefan Boness
[Report]
How to Make Your Own AR-15·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Even if federal gun-control advocates got everything they wanted, they couldn’t prevent America’s most popular rifle from being made, sold, and used. Understanding why this is true requires an examination of how the firearm is made.
Illustration by Jeremy Traum
Article
The City That Bleeds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing."
Photograph (detail) © Wil Sands/Fractures Collective

Minimum number of cats fitted with high-tech listening equipment in a 1967 CIA project:

1

Zoologists suggested that apes and humans share an ancestor who laughed.

A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today