04 May 2009

What else could she say?

Let's suppose you're in a position where you took a high level position in what turned out to be one of the most criminal administrations in U.S. history. In fact, while you could argue that Watergate (if not the carpetbombing of Cambodia) was a domestic fracas, and the Harding administration's indiscretions were confined to our shores, the Bush administration's criminality went international.

Now, let's suppose you entered that adminstration from a relatively comfy job in academia at a well-respected college and you had hopes of perhaps recovering what little is left of your dignity in those circles and perhaps others. It's obviously not a good thing to be so visibly associated with the criminal actions of the Bush administration, especially if you spent half of it as National Security Adviser. Most people might try to distance themselves from something so obviously criminal, so completely without regard to precedent, law, or treaty, but not Condi Rice. Oh, no. Like any true believer, she defends completely the Bush record on torture. In fact, for her, there was no torture. Never happened.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the Bush administration's policies on the interrogation of terrorism suspects Sunday, saying former President George W. Bush would not have authorized anything illegal.

"He was also very clear that we would do nothing -- nothing -- that was against the law or against our obligations internationally," Rice said during an appearance at a Washington school.
Oh, it would be so easy to fall into Godwin's Law right now, but I...will...resist....Needless to say, there have been plenty of rogue regimes in the past that justify their crimes through both a naive belief in the leadership and goodness of their leaders and through the "necessity" of the means to gain an end. Rice is nothing if not a good talker, and she manages to avoid talking about the actual charges, instead falling back on the repetitive talking point that George Bush would never authorize anything illegal:
"I hope people understand that it was a struggle, it was a difficult time," she said. "We were all terrified of another attack on this country because September 11 was the worst day of my life in government -- watching 3,000 Americans die because these people attacked us." But she added, "Even under those most difficult circumstances, the president was not prepared to do something illegal."
Right. That's why he had an army of lawyers working overtime to find ways to redefine practices that pretty much everyone in the world knew were torture. So her argument boils down to the most moral relativist argument you can possibly propose: it wasn't torture because we defined it as not-torture; it wasn't illegal because we said it wasn't illegal.

So much for international conventions. So much for moral certitude. So much for the Bush administration's constant invocation of "Axis of Evil" and "bad guys." Because Condoleeza Rice basically says you are what you say you are. There are no standards of judgement. Is Kim Jong-il a "bad guy"? Better ask him, find out how he defines his actions.

Let me reiterate: Condoleeza Rice is arguing that regimes can only be judged by their internal standards of conduct.

Or to put it another (also entirely useless) way, in the words of the immortal Dave Mason:
So let's leave it alone, 'cause we can't see eye to eye.
There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys.
There's only you and me and we just disagree.
Ooo - ooo - ooohoo oh - oh - o-whoa
Applicable perhaps for friendships and love affairs, but not so useful for world politics.

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