The distortions and sabre-rattling that the world came to expect from the Bush Administration were on display last night in Tampa, Florida at the Republican convention. Condoleezza Rice’s speech, in particular, was a grade-A example of the sort of Neo-con nonsense that continue to infest the Grand Old Party, especially at the highest levels.
Rice began her speech with the day that history began, at least in the Neo-con alternative universe: September 11, 2001. She then told the room full of cheering Republicans that the world has never been the same since that day. Of course, there was no context to her narrative. There was no mention of the decades of US meddling, invasions, propping up dictators, etc. in the Middle East. In the Neo-con world, those planes came out of the clear blue sky for no reason and the terrorists ‘hate us for our freedom.’
The speech got no better from there. Rice went on to invoke the universalism that is central to the Neo-con world-view. She then distorted the situation in Middle East today saying, ‘Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and are a threat to regional security. Russia and China prevent a response, and everyone asks, where does America stand?’ Of course, Rice’s narrative here is deceitful, to say the least. First of all, US-backed dictators in places like Bahrain slaughter their people but Rice and the US Federal Government are unconcerned with this because in exchange for vast sums of US taxpayers’ money, the minority king of Bahrain allows the US to station their Fifth Fleet there in the Persian Gulf. Where does the US stand on Bahrain? It stands squarely with the dictator and against the people of Bahrain. As far as Syria and Iran, the US already has very tough sanctions on both countries which is making life difficult for the ordinary people there. Indeed, the US has an embargo on Iran and is supporting the Al Qaeda-backed militants in Syria. Of course, as hawk John McCain and others strong supporters of making war on Syria have admitted, the real reason they want to bomb and invade the country is because they believe it will weaken Iran. And why do these hawks hate Iran? They claim that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and might threaten Israel (which has hundreds of nuclear weapons already and refuses – along with India and Pakistan – to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) with them. However, US and Israeli intelligence both say that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. As for Rice’s claim about the the people in Syria being butchered – actually the Assad regime protects the Christian minority in the country, as well as other minority religious groups. The US-backed terrorists who are threatening to take over Syria have already begun killing Christians. As well, the so-called rebels have been killing Syrian border guards, blowing up cars and buildings and in general de-stabilising Syria and making life hell for the Syrian people. Clearly, the situation in Iran and Syria is much more complex and quite different from the Neo-con narrative given by Rice last night to cheering GOPers.
Rice then went on to claim that since WWII the US has stood for ‘free peoples and free markets.’ Of course, this is a highly selective reading of history. It leaves out US support today for the repressive monarchies in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and past support for the Shah of Iran. It leave out US opposition to self-determination in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It leaves out far too much to document in a short article like this.
After railing against China (as Neo-cons enjoy doing) she went on to project an image of the US as taking care of orphans, refugees and starving people in the Third World. Of course, most First World countries do these sorts of things without building military bases all over the planet and constantly invading or bombing foreign countries. However, Rice connected this humanitarianism to US imperial might. She said, ‘Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values.’ Ah, the world has a choice: chaos or US ‘leadership. Hasn’t every empire in all of history made pretty much the same argument in favour of its domination of the globe? Rice doubled down on this point, saying, ‘We cannot be reluctant to lead and you cannot lead from behind.’ Of course, by ‘leading’ Rice means operating a thousand foreign military bases, bombing Iran, setting up a puppet regime in Syria, patrolling the coasts of China with US warships, and so on. Domination is leadership to Rice and the Neo-cons.
From there, Rice went on to talk about government managed ‘free trade,’ American exceptionalism and the concept of the US as a universal, proposition nation. In promoting her vision of a universal USA, Rice said, ‘People have come here from all over because they have believed our creed of opportunity and limitless horizons.’ A little later she said, ‘We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us. In that way, we stay young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders, meet our economic needs, and yet show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.’ In Rice’s mind, we must ‘show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants’ by welcoming in the Third World. Of course, a ‘nation of immigrants’ is no nation at all; a collection of individuals from all over this planet is nothing more than an eclectic and dangerous mix of individuals and groups. We see from the deterioration of much of California, Chicago, Detroit, France and the UK, exactly what the Third World brings us: poverty, violence and destruction. Just like Romney and Obama, Condi Rice wants a Third World America.
The last thing I will note here about Rice’s speech is her take on US history. It is every bit as distorted and untrue as the rest of her speech. She said, ‘ Whenever you find yourself doubting us, just think about all those times that America made impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. Our revolutionary founding act as the greatest military power of the time, a civil war, brother against brother, hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, but we emerged a more perfect union. A second founding when impatient patriots were determined to overcome the birth defect of slavery and the scourge of segregation.’ It would take a lengthy history course to fully address all the gross inaccuracies in the above statements, but let’s correct at least a few of them. The colonial secessionists in the 1770s had the support of France and Spain, global military powers at the time. Without French naval support in particular, US independence probably never not have been won. Rice doesn’t even mention the powerful US allies in that war. She references a ‘civil war’ that never took place and makes the old claim that it was ‘brother against brother.’ This was perhaps true in a few places such as eastern Tennessee and in some areas of the Border States of the North and South. However, in general the conflict of the 1860s was a war of secession, not a civil war where both sides were competing to control a single central government. Nor did the US emerge from that horrible slaughter ‘a more perfect union.’ Burning down cities, killing half a million people, destroying farms, homes and churches – these things do not make ‘a more perfect union.’ Dr Thomas DiLorenzo and others have documented the gross violations of the rule of law and basic constitutional liberties engaged in by Lincoln and the Republican Administrations that followed him. Notice how Rice refers to ‘a second founding’ of the United States in the North’s conquest of the independent South and the abolition of African slavery that followed the war. This sort of rhetoric was typical of the Black Republicans of the 1860s and radical abolitionists who preceded them and stirred up violence in Missouri, Kansas and elsewhere. It is also typical of the Neo-cons, who project their socially-Leftist, pro-imperial views on history. One founding is not enough; a fixed people and culture is not sufficient; we must always be in an act of revolution, of becoming something different and more progressive. This sort of view is based on a false, linear interpretation of history, just as is that held by the Progressives. Much is left unsaid in Rice’s summation of history. There is, for example, the US takeover of the once-local school systems and the trampling of private property rights in order to force-assimilate the different races. The hundred years between the conquest and destruction of the South and the Second Reconstruction is not even mentioned. Rice jumps directly from the abolition of slavery to the so-called Civil Rights movement which abolished what was left of local autonomy, private property rights and local control of education. She conveniently leaves out the century in between and the ban on non-European immigration as well as the restoration of limited States’ rights. The conservative backlash against the destructive excesses of Reconstruction and the failed experiment with equality is not mentioned; it does not fit with Rice’s Neo-con narrative of a USA that is always becoming more inclusive, universal and Progressive. Nor is anything about the utter failure of universalism and equality in places like Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC mentioned. Rice is wonderful at offering platitudes, but short on historical understanding or any objective analysis of the United States, its history and what it has become.