A breath of fresh air blew out of New Brunswick, N.J., when students at Rutgers University stopped former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from collecting $35,000 and an honorary law degree for speaking at that college’s commencement exercises.
Rice was arguably the most history-conscious official of the George W. Bush administration. She provided the most coherent public political rationale for the Bush gang’s war crimes in Iraq.
The others — Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his Associate Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, et al. — only get invited to speak at military colleges, if at all. They contributed imperialist arrogance to the Bush gang and genocide to the Iraqis. Their reliance on “shock and awe” exposed the weaknesses of the Pentagon’s tech-heavy destructive power.
They failed to make Iraq a compliant and stable colony. But they brought great misery to that country.
The Rutgers officials who invited Rice thought they could get away with inviting a Bush-era official who was also a learned and talented Black woman. They failed to derail the protest. The students accurately saw Rice as part of this criminal gang. As an imperialist warmonger, she was unwelcome.
The Iraq Commission lists Rice as one of the war criminals. This international group met in mid-April in Brussels as part of a conference of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Its goal was to find legal challenges that could make the Bush officials, plus Tony Blair in Britain, pay for their crimes and for surviving Iraqis to sue for at least some compensation for the enormous damages.
As Sabah al-Mukhtar, chairperson of the Iraq Commission and president of the Arab Lawyers Association, said in his opening remarks at the conference, “Aside from the targeted killings of academics, media professionals and ethnic or religious minorities, the legacy [of the invasion and occupation] is more than 4 million Iraqi refugees, more than 3 million orphans and more than a million widows.”
Dahr Jamail, a U.S. investigative journalist, wrote two extensive articles providing details of the commission’s two days of hearings on the crimes of U.S. imperialism in Iraq. Look for them at brussellstribunal.org and at dahrjamail.net with other information on today’s Iraq, in which 900 people a month are killed by the civil strife the U.S. occupation left behind. Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year starting in 2003 as one of the few heroic reporters “unembedded” with U.S. troops.
Dirk Andriaensens, a key organizer of the Brussels conference, emphasized that the legal initiative, “without the activism, won’t work because people won’t know that it is happening.”
We don’t know if the Rutgers students knew of the Iraq Commission, but they certainly provided the right kind of activism. They stopped Rice and targeted the Bush gang.
Between the lines, they exposed continued U.S. imperialist aggression: in Libya, in Syria and now, in an even more dangerous case for the world, in Ukraine.