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… Condi Rice, who plans to go back to being a professor of political science at Stanford, got grilled by a student at a reception at a dorm there on Monday.

I’ve often wondered why students haven’t been more vocal in questioning the architects of the Iraq war and “legal” torture who landed plum spots at prestigious universities. Probably because it would have taken the draft, like the guillotine, to concentrate the mind. But finally, the young man at Stanford spoke up. Saying he had read that Ms. Rice authorized waterboarding, he asked her, “Is waterboarding torture?”

She replied: “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.”

This was precisely Condi’s problem. She simply relayed. She never stood up against Cheney and Rummy for either what was morally right or what was smart in terms of our national security.

The student pressed again about whether waterboarding was torture.

“By definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture,” Ms. Rice said, almost quoting Nixon’s logic: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

She also stressed that, “Unless you were there in a position of responsibility after Sept. 11, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans.”

Reyna Garcia, a Stanford sophomore who videotaped the exchange, said of Condi’s aria, “I wasn’t completely satisfied with her answers, to be honest,” adding that “President Obama went ahead and called it torture and she did everything she could not to do that.”…

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3 Responses to “Grilled Rice”

  1. mavprof Says:

    UD: Curious why you didn’t identify from the get-go this excerpt as issuing from Maureen Dowd, whose specialty niche is poisonously sarcastic political punditry cum gossipy character assassination. Aside from the "waterboarding is torture" canard, her apparent regret that not enough students challenge (or beleaguer?) former Bush officials like Condi Rice who’ve returned to academia may be because "it would have taken the draft, like the guillotine, to concentrate the mind." Perhaps, yes, the guillotine did help "concentrate the mind" of the accused and persecuted during Robespierre’s carnival of terror and death as well as during the time of the Vietnam-era draft (if indeed that is what Dowd refers to here). A mon avis, "concentrated" opposition to the draft (and the US military) among potential draftees in the 1960s stemmed from several sources. In order of importance, they most often were:

    1) Fear of death or injury in combat
    2) Aversion to taking orders and sacrificing one’s personal liberty to the requirements of military service
    3) Separation from friends and family
    4) Aversion to the opprobrium of peers and others opposed to the war
    5) Unwillingness to accept relatively low pay for a high-risk occupation
    6) Conscientious objection to war
    7) Opposition to military intervention in what seemed to some as a civil war
    And, finally, 8) Solidarity with the communist insurgency in South Vietnam

    Since Dowd’s background is well-known and mine is not, I’ll offer a short disclaimer here: After graduating early from college in 1968, I protested the anti-war movement by enlisting in the US Army and serving in Vietnam. The opprobrium from a number of students and faculty I was greeted with when I finished my tour of duty to take up graduate studies was of more concern to me then than now, but it didn’t deter me from pursuing an academic career, which I did. Only a miniscule number of my colleagues I’ve met over the years were in the military, and most of them were actively hostile towards it, so political exchanges on occasion were heated, though I took some pains to avoid them. But in Vietnam we had to be ready to call down air strikes on our own positions for the success our missions, and as a college prof that’s what I’ve done a number of times in calling out anti-military prejudice rife especially among humanities faculties (though thankfully, much less so among students in the last two decades).

    Dowd, like many faculty members who are veteran anti-war protesters, seem never to tire of bemoaning the general indifference of students to radical causes, so it’s not surprising she should extol efforts to target Bush administration officials like Condi Rice. While the "torture" and "illegal combatants" issues bear great legal complications, I suspect Dowd might be more inclined to resolve these questions in a more direct way, at least in her fantasy life qua Madame Defarge cheering on the tumbrels, drums, boodthirsty rabbles, and the instrument of punishment itself.

  2. theprofessor Says:

    “President Obama went ahead and called it torture and she did everything she could not to do that.” Gee, I don’t know, Mavprof. Ipse dixit, after all. The godlet himself has been involved in many tough decisions…like, you know, what brand of cigarettes to smoke, which sinecure to seize after Harvard Law, which corrupt real estate agent to work a kick-back scheme with, or the right dog for the White House. The Portuguese Water Dog? The Symbionese Liberation Hound? or a snuggly lap-dog, like David Brooks?

    Mo is, as always, fundamentally unserious. Every government, given the particular circumstance, will employ torture to extract information. Everyone should be able to accept that inflicting pain (and water-boarding certainly qualifies) on others is wrong. The issue is whether the circumstances warrant committing that wrong to prevent a much greater one. Please tell the good citizens of Peoria, for example, that while it’s unfortunate that 4800 of their fellow citizens died from an anthrax attack that you knew was coming against an American city, their consciences can be clear because you didn’t water-board the smirking ring-leader you had in custody. In the post 9/11 situation, I doubt that they had a compelling case to warrant torture, though. The fact that months elapsed while the issue was being debated suggests that the "ticking bomb" argument is not applicable. By withholding the classified information surrounding the interrogations, both the actionable intelligence used to justify them as well as the information gained and plots supposedly thwarted, the godlet does the American public a huge disservice. The Dark Prince, Cheney, is exactly correct in his request that ALL of the documentation be made public. Then we can make a proper assessment.

  3. mavprof Says:

    theprofessor: Spot-on and much more succintly put than in my posting. And you’ll probably understand (as several of my colleagues simply don’t when it comes to issuing Friday-night social invitations) why I regularly prefer the communis sensus I hear displayed by my mostly scantily-educated VFW comrades (there are welcome exceptions) as opposed to the regular faculty symposia featuring drunken bitch-outs of every American value and virtue. Thanks for your heartening contribution. Cheers,

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