Condoleezza Rice Asserts a Nixonesque Defense That Nothing the President Ordered Could Be a War Crime

225px-condoleezza_rice_cropped225px-richard_nixonThere is an interesting exchange that has surfaced between a Stanford student and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. The student confronted Rice about whether waterboarding is torture. She responded with a Nixonesque argument that, if the president ordered it, it cannot be a war crime. It sounds a lot like Nixon’s 1977 statement: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” I discussed the Rice comment on this segment of Hardball.

Here is the exchange:

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

RICE: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that’s — And by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

RICE: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

The exchange is fascinating from a number of perspectives. First, it shows Rice desperately trying to fall into Obama’s ever-increasing group of exempted people “just following orders.” Her role, however, was significant in establishing the torture program. She had an independent responsibility to refuse to participate in a war crime.

Second, most war crimes involve officials who order them under the claim that they are perfectly legal. The Germans, Japanese, Serbians, and now the Bush Administration have made such claims.

Rice can certainly try to convince the world that waterboarding is not torture — an admittedly unlikely prospect. However, she can hardly portray herself as a messenger girl for the president with no independent judgment or responsibilities. The Senate Intelligence and Armed Forces Committees have released reports that show a much greater role by Rice than she has ever admitted.

Article II, Section 3 of the Convention Against Torture expressly states “An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”

The fact is that Rice could do much better in studying the use of this defense by a professional, here.

For the video, click here and here.

46 thoughts on “Condoleezza Rice Asserts a Nixonesque Defense That Nothing the President Ordered Could Be a War Crime”

  1. Ms. Rice seems to be trying to set up a “Who, me? I’m much too stupid to be a war criminal!” defense.

    If she had followed her own advice and done some reading she would know that the UN Convention on Torture does not protect her in any way.

  2. Can you imagine being one of Professor Rice’s students!!
    You would get a very biased view of the Bush Administration and since she can not admit that anything she did was wrong, you would never be able to disagree with her interpretation of history. But, I sure would love to sit in on one of her classes to hear what she has to say!

  3. Jim,

    The operative word is Granted. It is much like the terminology the Bush Administration is using. “The Constitution grants me the Authority to ______” fill in the blank.

    Did she earn the degree is more of the question? Well now I am going to correct myself, Did Bybee earn a position on the 9th Circuit?

  4. i refuse to believe that she supposedly has the intelligence to have been granted a doctorate.

  5. I need to catch the Hardball when I have a faster connection at home, but since one of my greatest TV pleasures EVER was watching Frank Zappa call Pat “an asshole” on Crossfire, I’m sure this will be even more satisfying. While I agreed with Frank’s assessment, I’m sure the Prof did the one thing better than insult a bad man, which is to make them look like a fool.

    I’d also like to say that I recall reading an interview where they questioned Condi’s mom about her relationship to Bush. She said, “[Condi] just can’t say no to that man.”

    I’d especially like to hear Mike S’ take on that statement given his experience in psychology, but I’ll welcome any comments. I’ve heard the exact same thing said in defense of women in abusive relationships they were unwilling/unable to leave.

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