Condoleezza Rice is all wrong on Ukraine crisis

By CLARENCE LUSANE | McClatchy-Tribune News Service | Published: April 18, 2014

Condoleezza Rice has re-emerged in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, and she is offering unhelpful advice.

Rice, who served as national security adviser and then secretary of state under President George W. Bush, is taking the neoconservative line on Ukraine. She is repeatedly criticizing President Obama for not responding more aggressively to Vladimir Putin.

This is reckless talk.

Russia still has thousands of nuclear weapons. The last thing we need is to return to the days of a nuclear standoff. Several times during the Cold War we were lucky to escape global annihilation.

Obama has been right to try not to turn the crisis in Ukraine into a military confrontation with Russia.

But Rice, who is the director of the Global Center for Business and the Economy at Stanford University, keeps egging the administration on.

Speaking to the California Republican Party in March, she said, “America has to lead.” She acknowledged that the American people “are tired ... after more than 10 years of war and terrorism and engagement abroad.”

But Rice and the other leaders of the Bush administration are the ones who are responsible for getting us tired of war and terrorism and military engagements abroad.

As national security adviser, she was the main person responsible in the period leading up to September 11 for identifying and responding to terrorist threats. She ignored warnings that an al-Qaida attack was coming, most infamously on Aug. 6, 2001, in the Presidential Daily Brief titled, “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US,” which Rice and Bush ignored.

Rice was also one of the chief propagandists for the disastrous war against Iraq. She was the one who first used the phrase that “the smoking gun could turn into a mushroom cloud.” And she insisted in an op-ed for the New York Times in January 2003 that Saddam Hussein was lying about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Of course, it was Rice and Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who weren’t telling the American people the truth about these weapons. The Iraq War, which they launched on a false pretense, ended up costing almost 4,500 U.S. soldiers their lives. It also killed between 100,000 and one million Iraqis, and drained the U.S. Treasury of more than a trillion dollars.

Rice and her neoconservative colleagues in the Bush administration are in no position to be criticizing Obama’s handling of the crisis in Ukraine.

That they are taken seriously is the only surprise, since they never have apologized for, or even acknowledged, the fundamentally wrong and misleading role they played when they were in power.

Disregarding the disaster they created in Iraq, they once again seek to brandish the military might of the United States to send the message that Washington is still the big dog on the world stage.

“Leaders can’t afford to get tired,” she said last month. “Leaders can’t afford to be weary.” Somehow she did not mention that leaders also can’t afford to ignore the facts, downplay the consequences of war or shamelessly scare the public.  

Clarence Lusane is a professor political science and international relations at American University. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

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