The Tall Tale of Susan Rice By Alemayehu G. Mariam
On September 2, 2012, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., delivered a nauseatingly sentimental oration at the funeral of Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi. She called Meles “selfless and tireless” and “totally dedicated to his work and family.” She said he was “tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding. And, of course, he had little patience for fools, or idiots, as he liked to call them.” The “fools” and “idiots” that Rice caricatured with rhetorical gusto and flair are Ethiopia’s independent journalists, opposition leaders, dissidents, political prisoners, civil society leaders and human rights advocates.Watching the video of her eulogy, one could easily say she “had gone native” completely. But it was clear that her aim was to deliver the last punch to the gut of Meles’ opponents as a sendoff present.
As the old saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together”. Rice, like Meles, likes to insult and humiliate those who disagree with her. She had a reputation in the State Department as boor and a bit of a bully; or as those who knew her say, she was a “bull-in-a-china-shop”. She is known for verbal pyrotechnics, shouting matches and finger wagging at meetings. On one occasion, she is reported to have flipped her middle finger at the late Richard Holbrooke, the dean of American diplomats, at a senior State Department staff meeting. Prior to the onset of the air campaign in Libya in March 2012, France’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, advised Rice that the European Union would seek a no-fly zone resolution from the Security Council regardless of U.S. support. She gave Araud the verbal equivalent of a kick in the rear end: “You’re not going to drag us into your shitty war.” She later tried to claim full credit for the effort: “We need to be prepared to contemplate steps that include, but perhaps go beyond, a no-fly zone at this point, as the situation on the ground has evolved, and as a no-fly zone has inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians at immediate risk.” This past July when China and Russia at the U.N. blocked adoption of language linking climate change to international security, she lambasted them as “pathetic” and “shortsighted” and accused them of “dereliction of duty.”
That was then. In the past several days, Rice was on the receiving end. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham virtually called Rice a fool and an idiot for her statements following the U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 in which four Americans were murdered. Rice appeared on five national Sunday talk shows five days after the attack and made the boldfaced claim that the attack on the consulate “was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo in response to this very offensive video that was disseminated”. According to Rice, the protest by a “small number of people who came to the consulate” was “hijacked” by “clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons.”
Senator McCain showed “little patience for fools, or idiots” and fairy tales when he angrily threatened to block Rice if she were nominated to become Secretary of State: “Susan Rice should have known better, and if she didn’t know better, she’s not qualified. She has proven that she either doesn’t understand or she is not willing to accept evidence on its face. There is no doubt five days later what this attack was and for.” Rice’s Benghazi story was reminiscent of the bedtime stories of the late Meles Zenawi.
Truth be told, only a “fool” or an “idiot” would not know or reasonably surmise the attack on the U.S. consulate was a terrorist act. CIA Director David Petraeus recently testified that from the moment he heard of the attack, he knew it was a terrorist act. He included this fact in the talking points he sent to the White House which somehow got redacted form Rice’s public statements. The experts and pundits also called it a terrorist act. For Rice, it was a protest gone wrong.
But there remain a number of puzzling questions: Why was Rice selected to become the point person on the attack in light of President Obama’s defense that Rice “had nothing to do with Benghazi.” Why didn’t Hilary Clinton step up to explain what happened? Did the White House throw Rice under the bus to save Hilary? Was Rice supposed to provide plausible deniability and political cover until the election was over by calling a manifest terrorist attack a protest over an offensive anti-Muslim video? Did Rice have to fall on the Benghazi sword to divert attention or delay accountability for the Administration’s failure to take appropriate preventive action in Benghazi as the price for nomination to the job of Secretary of State? Or was the White House trying to showcase Rice’s diplomatic adroitness and savvy in a futile attempt to bridge her unbridgeable competence and “stature gap” to become America’s foreign policy chief?
President Obama was ready to drive a lance through the heart of Republican villains hell bent on capturing and devouring his prevaricating damsel in distress. He told McCain and Graham to bring it on. If the Republican duo and their buddies “want to go after somebody, they should go after me. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador? Who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? To besmirch her reputation is outrageous.” That was great drama staged by “no drama Obama.”
What is mindboggling is the fact that Rice would believe and earnestly propagate such a cock-and-bull story about the Benghazi attack. Rice is a person with extraordinary credentials. She is a graduate of Stanford and Oxford Universities and a Rhodes scholar to boot! She was a top official in the National Security Agency and an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Clinton Administration. She has two decades of solid high level foreign policy experience. Yet five days after the attack, Rice shuttled from one news talk show to another telling the American people the Benghazi attack was not an act of terrorism. Is that willful ignorance, foolishness or idiocy?
The fact that the attack occurred on September 11 — a day that shall live in infamy in American history — and the attackers used their trademark “heavier weapons” (to use Rice’s words) of terrorism — pickup mounted machine guns, AK-47s, RPGs, hand grenades, mortars and IEDs — meant nothing to Rice. The fact that in Libya today there are all sorts of militias, rebel groups, Islamist radicals and terrorist cells are operating freely did not suggest the strong possibility of a terrorist attack for Rice. The fact that Gadhafi made Libya a state sponsor of terrorism for decades provided no historical context for Rice. Simply stated, in the Benghazi attack Rice saw something that looked like a duck, walked like a duck and quacked like a duck, but she concluded it was a giraffe.
The race card-ists and race baiters came out in full battle dress to defend Rice against charges of “incompetence”. Rep. Jim Clyburn, House Assistant Democratic Leader, was the first to strike a blow by politicizing Rice’s incompetence. “You know, these are code words. These kinds of terms that those of us — especially those of us who were grown and raised in the South — we’ve been hearing these little words and phrases all of our lives and we get insulted by them. Susan Rice is as competent as anybody you will find.” A group of democratic lawmakers delivered a second salvo charging “sexism and racism”. That was the shot across the bow and the message to the Republicans is clear:
Obama wants Rice as Secretary of State. He has won re-election. Rice will be nominated. Republicans who oppose her will be tarred and feathered as racists, sexists and misogynists persecuting a competent black woman. They will be demonized, dehumanized and discredited in the media. The democrats have 55 votes in the Senate and will be able to peel off at least 5 Republicans to end a filibuster. Rice will get the job of Secretary of State. Republicans will have eggs on their faces and will look like fools and idiots at the end of the day.
Such is the Democrat game plan and screenplay for victory and triumph in the Rice nomination. The Republicans will probably put up a nominal fight but will eventually fold under a withering Democrat attack. Rice will rise triumphant.
Rice’s confirmation as Secretary of State will be a sad day for American foreign policy because she is simply not qualified to be America’s diplomat-in-chief. Her confirmation will mark the saddest day for human rights throughout the world and particularly in Africa. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses of Africa yearning to breath free will continue to find themselves in the iron chokehold of African dictators for another four years as Rice turns a blind eye to massive human rights violations. African dictators will be beating their drums and dancing in the streets. They will be happier than pigs in mud. They know she will have their backs for another four years. With Rice at the helm, there will be more money, more aid and more loans for African dictators. But the truth must be told. Calling Rice “incompetent” is a fact, not a racially coded denigration of African Americans. To paraphrase Clyburn, Rice is as incompetent as you will find.
The Peter Principle essentially states that in an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, that organization’s members will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. In other words, “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” The Dilbert principle states organizations tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to higher management positions in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing. If Rice succeeds Hilary Clinton, she will be a living example of the fusion of the Peter and Dilbert Principles at the highest level of the American government.
Let the truth be told: Susan Rice is simply not competent to become U.S. Secretary of State! To be a competent diplomat-in-chief of a great country, fundamental moral integrity is a necessity. Rice is incompetent because she lacks not only the moral judgment to tell right from wrong and truth from falsehood, but she is also incapable of distinguishing between two wrongs. In March 2012, Rice scathingly condemned Iran, North Korea and Syria “for their mass violations of human rights”. On September 2, 2012, she delivered a canonizing oration at the funeral of one of the ruthless dictators in recent African history. Twelve days before Rice recited Meles’ hagiography, Human Rights Watch issued a report stating, “Ethiopia has seen a sharp deterioration in civil and political rights, with mounting restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The ruling party has increasingly consolidated its power, weakening the independence of core institutions such as the judiciary and the independent media that are crucial to the rule of law.”
A competent Secretary of State must have a working knowledge of military operations. Rice is clueless about military and paramilitary operations. She said the Benghazi attackers used “heavier weapons” but she could not connect the signature weapons of terrorists to the attackers who used them. Cluelessly or disingenuously, she tried to convince Americans and the world that a coordinated assault on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi was caused by “a small number of people” whose “protest” had gone awry!
A competent Secretary of State must have sound political judgment. Despite her stellar education and broad experience in foreign policy, Rice has traded intellectual integrity and prudence for blind political ambition. She seems incapable of discerning truth from falsehood even when it is obvious. She seems to have little concern for the truth or falsity of what she says; and evidently, she will say anything to advance her political ambitions in reckless disregard for the manifest truth. As Senator McCain perceptively observed, “she either doesn’t understand or she is not willing to accept evidence on its face”. She also does not seem to understand or appreciate the fact that a high level public official in her position has an obligation to undertake due diligence to find out what is true and what is false before swaggering in public peddling boldfaced lies.
A competent Secretary of State diplomat must subordinate his/her political ambitions to his/her patriotic duty to those who put their lives on the line to defend American values. Rice is incompetent because she will put her own political ambitions and loyalties to her political party above her patriotic duty to her fallen compatriots. She is a person for whom political expediency and opportunism are the creed of life. She will blindly tow the party line and support a policy without regard to principles or scruples. In other words, Susan Rice is a party hack and not material for the job of America’s diplomat-in-chief.
A competent Secretary of State must have intellectual courage and conviction. Rice is incompetent because she lacks intellectual courage, commitment and conviction. In a scholarly writing in 2006, Rice energetically argued that “Mali [as] an example of a well-governed country that suffers from capacity gaps that extremist groups have been able to exploit. Mali cooperates fully with the United States on counterterrorism matters.” In April 2012, when radical Islamist rebels took over Northern Mali and split the country in half, all she could offer was an empty statement calling on “all parties in Mali (including murderous terrorists) to seek a peaceful solution through appropriate political dialogue.” She folded her hands and watched for nearly four years doing nothing as Mali spiraled from a “well-governed country” to a divided strife-stricken country half of which today is a haven for murderous terrorists. Rice will talk the talk but not walk the talk.
A competent Secretary of State must be tempered in language and demeanor. Rice is incompetent because she lacks diplomatic temperament and thrives on being antagonistic, condescending and disrespectful to colleagues and other diplomats. A bullying and loose cannon Secretary of State cannot perform his/her job competently. She has a disgusting scatological lexicon. She is intolerant and arrogant and will try to vilify into submission those who disagree with her.
It is said that “stupid is as stupid does”; so “incompetent is as incompetent does”. I hope President Obama will not nominate Rice to replace Clinton. But I believe he will and we will all get to see a Shakespearean mini-drama at the confirmation hearings: “To be, or not to be (Secretary of State): that is the question (for Rice):/Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer (for all the lies she has told)/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (in a Senate confirmation hearing),/ Or to take arms against a sea of troubles (by coming clean and telling the truth)…/.
I believe Rice will be will be exposed for what she really is at the confirmation hearing– a grand obfuscator of the truth, an artful dodger and a masterful artist of political expediency and intrigue. In 1994, when the Clinton Administration pretended to be ignorant of the terror in Rwanda and the death toll continued to rise by the thousands, Rice’s concern was not taking immediate action to stop the genocide and saving lives but the political consequences of calling the Rwandan tragedy a “genocide” and saving her job and others in her party. She had the audacity, moral depravity and sheer callous indifference to ask, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”
Did Rice avoid using the word “terrorism” in explaining the Benghazi attack because she was concerned about the political costs the President would have to pay in the November election if the voters were to see him as doing nothing to prevent it?
At the end of the day, what Rice told the American people five days after the Benghazi attack, to quote Shakespeare, “is a (tall) tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”