David Woo is a student in the Master of Arts in Urban Affairs program.
The images captured on March 20, 2003 are burned into the memories of many around the world. On that day, the Bush administration launched the invasion of Iraq, starting an eight-year war and expanding the United State’s military presence in the Middle East. One member of this administration, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, came to speak at our university last week. This decision to host Rice normalizes the atrocities committed under the Bush administration and greatly weakens USF’s commitment to social justice.
Almost 14 years after the invasion of Iraq and the formal end of the war, the United States is still involved in military operations in Iraq. Further, prominent U.S. and British officials, such as Lt. General Michael Flynn (former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency) and Tony Blair (former UK prime minister), have stated that the invasion of Iraq helped lead to the creation of groups such as the Islamic State.
The Iraq War also turned out to be based on questionable intel, eventually being deemed an illegal war by then acting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2004. Such has been much of the legacy of George W. Bush and the Bush administration. As history moves forward, those who presided over unpopular wars and widespread torture are at risk of being normalized and forgotten. And with the recent election of Donald Trump, the danger of normalizing and even longing for the times of past administrations creates the possibility of excusing the wars of both the Bush and Obama administrations.
The hosting of Condoleezza Rice at USF this past Jan. 30 worked to do just that – normalize the invasion of Iraq and obscure the realities of a destabilized Middle East due in large part to U.S. foreign influence. Condoleezza Rice served as national security advisor and later secretary of state under the Bush administration. In both these positions, Rice played an important role in trumpeting, promoting and defending the war in Iraq. Prior to the invasion, Rice engaged in a media campaign to drum up support for the war and, as secretary of state, presided over the war as part of the Bush cabinet. In response to questioning about the invasion of Iraq, Rice stated on CNN’s Piers Morgan show in 2011 that “the weapons of mass destruction were not as mature in Iraq as we were led to believe, or as we believed. But no, I don’t regret that we went to war against him [Saddam Hussein].” Not only were the supposed weapons of mass destruction not “mature,” they were completely nonexistent.
Condoleezza Rice’s visit to USF comes at an extremely precarious time for San Francisco, California and the nation. On the heels of a major presidential election, where concrete facts on issues such as climate change were invalidated, it is important for refuges of critical thinking and knowledge to be at the forefront of political, social and cultural discussions.
Unfortunately, the decision of USF to host Condoleezza Rice in such a shining and uncritical fashion works against the fight for truth and justice. Such rosy posturing of a former high-ranking U.S. political official who was part of overseeing one of the darkest and deadliest chapters in both American and Iraqi history is extremely dangerous to a university that viciously promotes social justice.