Susan Rice will bring considerable baggage to her role as National Security Adviser.
In her diplomatic career, Rice has fronted for African strongmen. When Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi died last August, she eulogized him as a “true friend,” calling him “brilliant” and describing him as “a son of Ethiopia and a father to its rebirth.”
When she was assistant secretary of state in the late 1990s, she also hailed Eritrea’s Isaias Afewerki, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, along with Meles, as part of a “new generation” that would lead to an African renaissance.
“Her optimism was misplaced,” Salem Solomon, an Eritrean-American journalist, wrote in the New York Times. “In the fourteen years since, many of these leaders have tried on the strongman’s cloak and found that it fit nicely. Mr. Meles dismantled the rule of law, silenced political opponents and forged a single-party state. Mr. Isaias, Mr. Kagame and Mr. Museveni cling to their autocratic power.”
And it was Africa that provided an appalling low point for Rice. While the 1994 Rwandan Genocide unfolded, Rice downplayed the awfulness of the tragedy so that the United States could get away with inaction.
“If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] elections?” Rice unfeelingly asked during a Clinton Administration discussion, according to “A Problem from Hell,” by Samantha Power (ironically Rice’s proposed replacement as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations). So, the United States made sure that the world stood by and watched one of the worst atrocities of the modern era as it occurred in real time.
Perhaps as atonement, Rice has shown a special penchant for covering up for Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame, who took over in an armed uprising in the aftermath of the genocide. Kagame is a close ally for whom the United States has run interference time and again, especially for his role, through proxy armies, in the ravaging of the Congo, a horror that has taken the lives of millions over the years.
“The United States has continued to protect the Rwandan government at the United Nations,” reports Foreign Policy magazine. “Following the rebel assault on Goma [in the Congo], the Security Council passed a resolution condemning the group's actions. But at the urging of the United States [during Rice’s U.N. ambassadorship], mention of Rwanda was dropped from the resolution.”
And last November, when Israel bombed Gaza, Rice bamboozled the Security Council into inaction.
“One of the cliches of Susan Rice’s tenure at the U.N. Security Council is that she has criticized the Council for its paralysis,” wrote Professor Vijay Prashad. “She has suggested, notably around Syria, that the permanent members (Russia and China) have prevented a strong rebuke of the Assad regime, and therefore have tethered any international (meaning NATO) response to the grotesque violence in that country. In the case of Israel, the shoe is on the other foot.”
Talking of cover-ups, we come, last but not the least, to Benghazi and Libya. Even if you think that the entire affair was a bit overblown (as I do) by the Republicans to score political points off Obama and Hillary Clinton, there is no denying that Rice obfuscated in her initial “talking points” on the subject, leading her nomination as Secretary of State to be scuttled. That Obama is now using the backdoor to elevate her to a similarly powerful position that does not require Congressional confirmation is troubling. He has let his friendship cloud his judgment.
Susan Rice should not have been part of Obama’s new foreign policy team.
Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive and co-editor of the Progressive Media Project, is the author of “ ‘Islam’ Means Peace: Understanding the Muslim Principle of Nonviolence Today” (Praeger).