copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Students at Stanford stood still as they listened to former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice speak. As the scholars pondered the words of the prominent woman who presented her case for waterboarding, many mused; “Is it Richard Nixon, or Condoleezza Rice? Which person thinks a President is above the law?” One might wonder. Those who viewed a video taped classroom conversation with Secretary Rice, today express astonishment as well. In her defense for actions she took to advocate for this extreme interrogation techniques Condoleezza Rice both blamed her former boss, George W. Bush and justified his decision.
“The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”
Pupils in the room with the Bush Executive Branch envoy and the broader cyberspace community ponder this interpretation of law and recollect. More than three decades ago, past President, Nixon said, “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal,” Americans rejected the notion The United States Constitution was often cited. Yet, today, Miss Rice remembers the reference differently. Just as Richard M. Nixon was, once physically removed from the White House, citizen Rice has become the source of infinite fascination.
The erudite educator, former Secretary Rice may recall her history; nonetheless, her recollection is not as the recently released, exhaustive, Senate Intelligence Committee reports reveal. As National Security Adviser to former President George W. Bush, in July 2002, Condoleezza Rice verbally approved a request from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to waterboard the alleged al-Qaida terrorist, Abu Zubaydah.
Philip Zelikow, the policy representative to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the National Securities Council (NSC) Deputies Committee, remembers as the Senate narrative study states. Indeed, he expressed his concern for his role in intense “interrogation plans” only days before the Secretary offered her perspective at Stanford. In his tome, Mister Zelikow asserted the Administration, inclusive of Miss Rice, was well aware of the questionable legal parameters. The Bush Cabinet understood, how lives and limbs could be crushed. His knowledge of the macabre methods haunted Mister Zelikow for all these many years.
Today, the former National Securities Council policy commissioner feels he has stayed silent for too long. Now that light has begun to shine on the Bush Administration’s seek-to-destroy-detainees-will strategy the former dissenter from within the Bush White House believes he must speak of what he classifies as torture. He states, as is substantiated in the infamous “memos.”
(T)he program developed “interrogation plans” to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.
The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion. Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.
Mister Zelikow retraces as Miss Rice does not. In 2006, the United States Human Rights First organization revealed, since August 2002 almost 100 Iraq and Afghanistan detainees died, while in the custody of Americans. Accounts affirm, at least 34 of the these fatalities were suspected or confirmed homicides. Most attest, blood was spilled at the hands of the Bush Administration. How quickly those who approved such torturous measures forget the methods or the madness that allowed for murder.
As an expert in International Affairs; however, the Professor is likely extremely familiar with history further removed from her own personal reality. Condoleezza Rice could possibly recite the facts as they relate to the ratification of resolution 39/46 of 10, which was adopted and opened for signature on December 1984. On June 26, 1987, the General Assembly put into force what the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment advised.
The approved Articles clearly outline the definition of torture, regardless of country or who might reign. A casual reader need only peruse the first writ to understand what constitutes extreme persecution or a serious crime against humanity.
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
The second statement explicates without exception who might have the power to ignore the initial premise. In short, legally, the sanctioned rule, which the United States signed onto, states no man, women, child, Head of State, President, Premier, Prime Minister, or even autocrat can authorize the intentional infliction of agony. Nor can a National Security Adviser advocate for what is essentially illegal and inhumane.
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Yet, Secretary Rice avowed; her conveyance of a communiqué did not amount to a command for consent. She, personally condoned nothing. Condoleezza Rice, in her statement to Stanford students declared, “I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.”
With International Law in mind, and her own desire not to be implicated in a high crime or misdemeanor, the once top Diplomat, now Political Science Professor and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute proclaims.
“The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.” (emphasis added)
Perhaps, Condoleezza Rice feels a bit uncertain. She might think there is need to justify her actions. As the American people speak of a possible special prosecutor, Professor Rice may fear what the Obama Administration might do. The current President has yet to issue a pardon to Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, former Commander-In-Chief Bush or any of their cohorts. Miss Rice may hope her words will elicit the forgiveness Richard Milhous Nixon received from his successor, Gerald Ford.
Likely, the former Secretary of State now wonders whether her word may be a greater source of “fascination” to someone such as Sir David Frost. She has no desire to confronted or to accidentally confess to an anchor. Contrite is not Condie’s style. For now, she, as other American’s can only reflect on a transcript and wonder, “Is it Condoleezza Rice or Richard Nixon who better channels a uncertain confidence?
Please ponder the program that, were it not for the officially certified clemency, might have done another Administration in.
Frost: The wave of dissent, occasionally violent, which followed in the wake of the Cambodian incursion, prompted President Nixon to demand better intelligence about the people who were opposing him. To this end, the Deputy White House Counsel, Tom Huston, arranged a series of meetings with representatives of the CIA, the FBI, and other police and intelligence agencies.
These meetings produced a plan, the Huston Plan, which advocated the systematic use of wiretappings, burglaries, or so-called black bag jobs, mail openings and infiltration against antiwar groups and others. Some of these activities, as Huston emphasized to Nixon, were clearly illegal. Nevertheless, the president approved the plan. Five days later, after opposition from J. Edgar Hoover, the plan was withdrawn, but the president’s approval was later to be listed in the Articles of Impeachment as an alleged abuse of presidential power.
Frost: So what in a sense, you’re saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.
Nixon: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.
Frost: By definition.
Nixon: Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president’s decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law. Otherwise they’re in an impossible position.
Frost: So, that in other words, really you were saying in that answer, really, between the burglary and murder, again, there’s no subtle way to say that there was murder of a dissenter in this country because I don’t know any evidence to that effect at all. But, the point is: just the dividing line, is that in fact, the dividing line is the president’s judgment?
Nixon: Yes, and the dividing line and, just so that one does not get the impression, that a president can run amok in this country and get away with it, we have to have in mind that a president has to come up before the electorate. We also have to have in mind, that a president has to get appropriations from the Congress. We have to have in mind, for example, that as far as the CIA’s covert operations are concerned, as far as the FBI’s covert operations are concerned, through the years, they have been disclosed on a very, very limited basis to trusted members of Congress. I don’t know whether it can be done today or not.
Frost: Pulling some of our discussions together, as it were; speaking of the Presidency and in an interrogatory filed with the Church Committee, you stated, quote, “It’s quite obvious that there are certain inherently government activities, which, if undertaken by the sovereign in protection of the interests of the nation’s security are lawful, but which if undertaken by private persons, are not.” What, at root, did you have in mind there?
Nixon: Well, what I, at root I had in mind I think was perhaps much better stated by Lincoln during the War between the States. Lincoln said, and I think I can remember the quote almost exactly, he said, “Actions which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the Nation.”
Now that’s the kind of action I’m referring to. Of course in Lincoln’s case it was the survival of the Union in wartime, it’s the defense of the nation and, who knows, perhaps the survival of the nation.
References for a “reasonable” Nixon/Rice reality . . .
- Condi Rice Pulls A Nixon: When the President Does It, That Means It is Not Illegal, By Cenk Uygur. Huffington Post. April 30, 2009
- Rice delivered OK to waterboarding. MSNBC News. April 24, 2009
- The OLC “torture memos”: thoughts from a dissenter, By Philip Zelikow. Foreign Policy. April 21, 2009
- Report probes US custody deaths. British Broadcasting Company. February 21, 2006
- Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
- Nixon’s Views on Presidential Power: Excerpts from an Interview with David Frost. Landmark Supreme Court Cases. May 19, 1977
- Justice Department Releases Bush Administration Torture Memos. Bradbury And Bybee Memos Are Released In Response To Long-Running ACLU Lawsuits. American Civil Liberties Union. April 16, 2001
- Torture Memorandums. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Legal Counsel. The New York Times.
- Condoleezza Rice on returning to campus, By Adam Gorlick. Stanford News Service. January 28, 2009
- Context of ‘April 6, 1977: Nixon: ‘If the President Does It, That Means It’s Not Illegal.’ History Commons.
- Real David Frost remembers ‘fascinating’ Nixon. Cable News Network. January 5, 2009