My awareness of the lies told and
wrongs committed by this president’s foreign policy team makes
it impossible for me to feel any connection with Dr. Rice, pushing
and shoving not withstanding. My opinion of her is no higher
than my opinion of any other administration official. The elevation
of Clarence Thomas and his ilk had long ago cured me of the
habitual feeling of pride that comes when colored people make
good. How many of us overlooked Thomas’ very public support
of conservative principles during his confirmation as a Supreme
Court justice? “Well, I’d rather have a black conservative than
a white one.” “He’ll probably be different once he gets on the
bench.” “He has that job for life. He’ll change.” The memory
of these desperate expressions of wishful thinking came flooding
back to me when I read press accounts of Rice’s keynote address
at the National Association of Black Journalists convention
on August 7, 2003.
In her speech Rice repeated the usual mix
of specious reasoning and suppositions stated as facts in defending
the decision to invade Iraq. She also added a little pandering
to a mostly black audience by noting the Bush proposal to spend
$15 billion to fight HIV in Africa. She neglected to mention
that congressional approval of the funding is far from certain
and that the Bush allegiance to the religious right requires
an abstinence based approach to HIV education that renders the
funding worthless, assuming that it ever comes to fruition.
The speech probably would not have been worthy
of discussion had she not added this little gem of self-serving
many of you, I grew up around the home-grown terrorism of
the 1960s. The bombing
of the church in Birmingham in 1963 is one that will forever
be in my memory because
one of the little girls who died was a friend of mine. Forty
years removed from that tragedy, I can honestly
say that Denise McNair and others didn't die in vain. They
and all who suffered and struggled for civil and human rights
reintroduce America to its founding ideals. And because of
their sacrifice, America is a better nation and a better example
to a world where difference is still often taken as a license
knowing what we know about the difficulties of our own history,
knowing what we know about how hard it is to build democracy,
we need to be humble in singing freedom's praises.
we should not let our voice waver in speaking out on the side
of people who are seeking freedom. And we must never, ever
indulge in the condescending voices who allege that some people
in Africa or in the Middle East are just not interested in
freedom, they're culturally just not ready for freedom or
they just aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities.
heard that argument before, and we, more than any, as a people,
should be ready to reject it. The view was wrong in 1963 in
Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the
rest of the Middle East."
know anyone who protested against this war because they believed
that Iraqis were not interested in democracy and freedom. I
am certain that the Iraqi people wanted freedom in 1983 when
the Reagan administration Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld,
met with our then friend Saddam Hussein. At that moment in history
Iran was the bogeyman in the region and the United States government
was all too pleased when Hussein invaded that nation. Rumsfeld
was in Baghdad again in 1984 when the United Nations concluded
that Iraq had used chemical weapons against Iranian military
targets. No condemnation or protest was forthcoming from Mr.
Rumsfeld or anyone else in the Reagan administration. In fact,
American arms sales to the Iraqi regime increased. Saddam Hussein
was an evil tyrant then, but because he was “our” evil tyrant
we turned a blind eye when he started a war that resulted in
the deaths of over one million Iraqis and Iranians.
was initially dismayed at Rice’s attempt to link American imperialism
with the human rights struggles of this country, but upon further
reflection I was not at all surprised. The modus operandi of
George W. Bush has always been to use black people at the most
opportune moments. Are poll numbers falling? Bring Ugandan AIDS
orphans to the White House. Is there a need to fool moderates
into believing that you are indeed the compassionate conservative?
Hold a Republican Party convention that features T.D. Jakes
and Chaka Khan. What to do on those all too rare occasions when
the Democrats find it within themselves to speak out against
the administration? Visit a black church, school or community
organization and create yet another photo opportunity with brown
for Mr. Bush there aren’t many people who will turn down the
chance to meet a sitting president, even one they don’t like
very much. It doesn’t even matter that they won’t vote for him.
The photo opportunity isn’t for their benefit. The same racism
that demonizes black people holds up our plight as the standard
by which all injustice is judged. The reasoning goes that anyone
who is kind to oppressed black people can’t be bad. This tacit
admission of guilt is at the very least ironic and at the very
worst an indictment of the sickness inherent in racism.
While Rice’s comments were not a surprise to Bush watchers they
should not go unchallenged. Does she really believe that those
who opposed the war in Iraq are comparable to those who kill
innocent children to further the cause of white supremacy?
should anyone be humble in singing freedom’s praises? Poor Condi
Rice and company are left unable to sing about freedom or little
else because our Iraq policy was based on lies and is now such
an obvious failure. It is difficult for the Bush administration
to build democracy in Iraq because that was never their true
intention. Had they been serious about bringing freedom to Iraqis
instead of profits to Halliburton we would have involved the
United Nations and Arab nations in bringing about positive change.
Instead we have both the sorry spectacle of continued killings
of Iraqi civilians and American troops and of a National Security
Adviser making ridiculous statements.
As for the martyred Denise McNair, she and the other children
killed by American evil doers deserve better than to be used
as cover for the worst that America has to offer. As an aside,
I have always found it offensive when victims like Denise McNair
are described as having “sacrificed” or “given their lives.”
Miss McNair’s life was taken from her. People who in all probability
called themselves Christians murdered her in her church.
The only thing crueler is for people in power to evoke her name
when telling us that peace is war and freedom is slavery.