There is much discussion in Washington, D.C., these days about the statements that UN Ambassador Susan Rice made about the September 11, 2012, events in Benghazi on five separate talk shows on September 16 of this year. During a CBS Face the Nation interview, she stated, “we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this [attack] was premeditated or pre-planned … we’ve decimated al-Qaeda.” Rice made similar statements on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Meet the Press, State of the Union with Candy Crowley and Fox News Sunday.
Some claim that Rice deliberately misrepresented the events that led to the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. Despite the fact that some information was already available to the CIA and the Libyan authorities that Al Qaeda may have been involved, it is best to give Rice the benefit of doubt and ignore the possibility that she misrepresented the facts. But, then, two questions arise:
1. If she was merely reading an intelligence briefing prepared by the CIA and she had no first-hand knowledge of the events, why was she chosen to present it to five different media sources? Why didn’t the White House merely issue a press release or have a low-level official read the CIA report?
2. Assuming that she would be the point person to become the face of the Administration about this unfortunate event, why did she not dig deeper into the matter and find out more about the background of the situation. A senior diplomat does not just read talking points by technicians. He or she must try to understand the problem and as Senator Lindsey Graham of North Carolina said about Susan Rice, “If you don’t know what happened, just say you don’t know what happened.”
There are a number other reasons that Susan Rice would be a poor choice for U.S. Secretary of State at this time. As New York Time columnist Maureen Dowd has written, Rice “has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation.” It seems that at this time in world history, such an attitude would be not helpful at all in trying to resolve various conflicts around the world.
When the sanctions on Syria were being considered, Rice stated that “The U.S. was disgusted,” by the opposition of Russia and China to the sanctions resolution on Syria. This type of language is not appropriate in diplomatic parlance. It should be noted that many other countries expressed reservations about the sanctions resolution on Syria. In particular, South Africa, which voted in favor, said the resolution should have been tougher on the Syrian opposition. In fact, while the Assad forces have been brutal, some of the rebels have descended to the lowest depths of depravity on more than one occasion. An amateur video posted on YouTube, shows the brutal execution by the rebels of 20 captured Syrian soldiers. (WARNING: This video contains very graphic scenes.)
Besides the issue of sanctions on Syria, Susan Rice has also been the champion of sanctions on Libya and Iran. On Iran, for the last four years she has continuously repeated the same demands and threats. In an MSNBC interview, she stated, “They better come serious, ready to deal, and give up their nuclear program. The window is finite.” To make an outright demand that Iran “give up” its nuclear program is simply impractical and simple-minded. There is no chance that Iran will give up its nuclear program entirely. So, Rice’s pronouncements are simply not diplomatic.
There are two other events in Susan Rice’s past that are troubling. Rice supported the multinational force that invaded Zaire from Rwanda in 1996 and overthrew the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, when many criticized the U.S. complicity in the violation of the Congo’s borders as destabilizing and dangerous. Also, a Washington Post article claims that Rice was instrumental in missing an opportunity to neutralize Osama bin Laden while he was still in Sudan in 1996. The article says, “Sudan and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were ready to cooperate on intelligence potentially leading to Bin Laden, but that Rice and [former counter-terrorism czar Richard] Clarke persuaded National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to overrule Albright.”
It is not clear if President Obama will still nominate Susan Rice to be the next Secretary of State. But, her background and performance at the UN raise many flags that should of serious concern beyond the current partisan fights with the Republicans. There are many other worthy candidates who would be more suitable and could work with other countries to promote peace rather than take the decidedly confrontational approach that is characteristic of Ambassador Rice.