How to Cook Rice
BBC takes a secretary out to lunch, has a blast
If only some BBC reporters would ply their trade on U.S. TV—a steady diet of steamed Condoleezza Rice, like the dish served up this morning after the London blasts, would give us energy to face the daze.
Rice chatted with the BBC's Jonathan Beale this a.m. and, smart as she is supposed to be, couldn't quite parry his thrusts. Along the way, Rice wound up in the sticky situation of telling us what's "normal" and "not normal." Hard to swallow.
U.S. TV reporters like Mitchell are the masters of the open-ended question: " … is there an intention to give Iran some incentive to cooperate?" That gives pols like Rice plenty of room to maneuver.
Beale properly started by giving Rice plenty of room to react to the London blasts. But then he started quizzing her about Iraq. From the transcript, here are two of his questions:
"People in Britain may be questioning their role in the war on terror, about their close relationship to the United States, their involvement in a war which was always deeply unpopular in Britain, in Iraq. What can you say to reassure them?"
"Do you think that Britain and America in Iraq are perhaps fighting the wrong war? They went to war to remove physical weapons of mass destruction but partly Saddam Hussein as well, but that hasn't stopped the terrorist attacks in Western cities like Madrid, in London today. It seems to have fueled those attacks."
Notice the progression here. The first question respectfully left Rice room to answer. After she did, ending her reply with "There is no other way to deal with them [terrorists] than through strength," Beale's following question was increasingly specific and narrow. Rice's reply:
Oh, I don't think that anything is being fueled here except the fact that the terrorists are finally being confronted. Again, they were—they've been doing this now for a couple of decades and for a while the world, going all the way back to Beirut and going back to the attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 or the attacks on American Embassies in 1998, this has been going on for a while. Now we're finally confronting them.
And of course they are concerned and of course Iraq has become a central front in the war on terrorism. But let's remember that if indeed extremism is to blame for what is going on in London, it is a part of a long line now of attacks that come out of an ideology of hatred that led people to fly airplanes into buildings. And that means that we're dealing with a region of the world, the Middle East, that is not normal. It's not normal for people to strap suicide belts on themselves and kill other innocent people. It's not normal for people to fly airplanes into buildings.
We'll return to the absurdity of Rice's rap about what's "normal" and "not normal." But first, here's the last part of her reply:
- We have to deal with the circumstances that are producing this ideology of hatred and with the ideology itself, and that's the Middle East. And that is the link to Iraq. Now, nobody suggests that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, but it's a rather narrow definition of what caused 9/11. This ideology of hatred has to be defeated. It has to be defeated by replacing it with an ideology of hope. And a free and democratic Iraq is going to be an important pillar of this new and different kind of Middle East.
To which Beale, pressing the issue, said:
- But what's going on in Iraq appears to be recruiting more people to carry out such attacks. We've seen attacks happen on a more regular basis in Iraq itself. We've seen [it] today in [the] London attacks.
At which point, Rice was done. Unable to answer Beale's pressing question, she started flying off course:
- Well, let's remember that these are terrorists who were training in Afghanistan, they were clearly penetrating into places like Saudi Arabia, they were involved in parts of Southeast Asia. These jihadists have been training for quite a long time. We have to confront them. And the notion that somehow if you just leave them alone, they'll go away, is just not right. We have to confront them.
Condi, let me ask you: Who poured billions of dollars into the training of terrorists in Afghanistan? We did, as Steve Coll and others have written. And who penetrated our buildings on 9/11? Saudis, not Iraqis.
Now let's talk about what's "normal" and "not normal." Menachem Begin and other Jews were terrorists in the '40s. Begin blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, killing 91 people, most of them civilians.
Begin later won a Nobel Peace Prize. You call that "normal"?
There's also plenty of state-sponsored terror that's not normal, like the terror of slavery, the grotesquely brutal socio-economic system that helped build our country. Come to think of it, slavery was normal: It was enshrined in our Constitution (see the distinction between "free persons" and "other persons" in Article 1, Section 2).
Lynching surely was not "normal," and neither was scalping. And certainly not the terror of the Trail of Tears, a U.S. government-ordered death march in 1838 during which 4,000 Cherokees died—a comparable number to the toll on 9/11.
God knows, the perpetrators of today's London blasts are scumbag terrorists. That's a given. But there's another given: You can't fight terrorists simply by blustering about "strength." You can't lock down the planet.
But what we can "confront" is the question of how to halt the creation of future jihadists. And what we're doing in Iraq—and what Israel is doing by erecting its apartheid wall—is instead breeding more of them.
Terror begets terror. Now that is the normal state of things.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.