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Throwing Rice at the Benghazi problem


The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 followed a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, over a low-budget anti-Muslim film made in the United States. It initially appeared to the intelligence community around the world that the assault on the Benghazi consulate was another spontaneous response to that film, since Islamic individuals worldwide were screaming for revenge.

But senior U.S. officials and Middle East analysts raised questions later about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call that had been abuzz to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network.

Libyan officials and a witness said the attackers took advantage of a protest over the film to launch their assault. J. Christopher Stevens, 52, and three others–Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods–appear to have been killed inside the temporary consulate, possibly by a rocket-propelled grenade, according to officials briefed on the assault.

The Obama Administration insisted publicly days after the Sept. 11 attack that it was an unplanned assault that arose from a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the United States by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

On Sept. 16, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on five Sunday news shows at the request of the White House and the State Department to say that the assault was a “spontaneous protest” prompted by a “hateful video,” not a terror attack.

“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous–not a premeditated–response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice said.

That was all the Republicans needed.

Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for the Office of National Intelligence, told USA Today recently that “Ambassador Rice was speaking based on unclassified talking points provided by the intelligence community.”

This has led some members of the Republican Party to begin to stir opposition to Rice’s rumored nomination as a successor to Hilary Clinton for the position of secretary of state.

Susan Elizabeth Rice was born on Nov. 17, 1964, and is an American diplomat and former Brookings Institution fellow. Prior to becoming U.N. ambassador, she served on the staff of the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997 and as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs during President Bill Clinton’s second term. She also served on the Security Council during much of that period.

Rice was confirmed as U.N. Ambassador by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on Jan. 22, 2009, the first African American woman to hold that post.

From birth, Rice lived at the center of public policy; she was born in the nation’s capital to Emmett J. Rice, a Cornell University economics professor and the second Black governor of the Federal Reserve board, and Lois Dickson Fitt, an education policy scholar, currently at the Brookings Institution. Her parents divorced during Susan’s youth.

While at the National Cathedral School in Washington, a private girls’ day school, Rice was a three-sport athlete–playing point guard on the basketball team, acquiring the nickname “Spo,” short for “Sportin.”

Rice served as the student council president her senior year. She graduated with honors as the class valedictorian.

Rice said that her parents taught her to “never use race as an excuse or advantage,” and as a young girl she “dreamed of becoming the first U.S. senator from the District of Columbia.” She also held “lingering fears” that her accomplishments would be diminished by people who attributed them to affirmative action.

In reminiscing after her father’s death in 2011, she said, “He believed segregation had constrained him from being all he could be. The psychological hangover of that took him decades to overcome. His most fervent wish was that we [African Americans] not have that psychological baggage.”

Rice attended college at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and graduated with a bachelor’s
of art in history in 1986. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and also received a Truman Scholarship, which is awarded to college juniors for demonstrating leadership potential and commitment to public service.

Rice attended graduate school in the United Kingdom at New College University of Oxford, a Catholic University founded in 1379, as a Rhodes Scholar. The 700 students attending New College are surrounded by Old World charm. The campus has been described as architecturally striking with beautiful gardens, and a variety of modern and old buildings. Some structures date back to 1379.

Rice earned a master’s of philosophy degree in 1988 and a doctorate of philosophy in 1990. While attending New College, she was honored for her dissertation entitled, “Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping.” She was recognized by the UK’s most distinguished organization in international relations–the Chatham House-British International Studies Association. This dissertation may have been instrumental in Rice attaining her position with the Clinton Administration as senior director for African affairs.

Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a nonprofit non-governmental organization based in London whose mission is to analyze and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs.

Chatham House is classified as an international think tank and is ranked as the second most knowledgeable such institution in the world. The Brookings Institution is heralded as the first most knowledgeable.

In 2002, Rice became a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution foreign policy program and the same year was inducted into Stanford’s Black Alumni Hall of Fame.
A behind the scenes player up until her appointment by President Barack Obama, Rice was little known.

Sean D. Murphy, a law professor at George Washington University, a nominee by the U.S. State Department to the International Law Commission created by the United Nations and currently a consultant with the Rand Corp., was able to give Our Weekly clarity on a few questions involving the Susan Rice issue.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was criticized by Democrats in 2005 during her confirmation hearings for reporting intelligence information that was given to her while she served as national security adviser during the Bush administration. Intelligence agencies claimed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was manufacturing “weapons of mass destruction.” Charles Krauthammer, a conservative Washington Post columnist, defended Rice by writing that she “was not a generator of intelligence . . . [but] a consumer of a highly defective product.” The “highly defective product” was intelligence information provided by the Central Intelligence Agency. This same columnist, who supported Condoleezza, has criticized Susan Rice for relaying intelligence information that was provided to her at the time of the Benghazi embassy attack.
Do you think this creates a double standard when we should be more focused on our method of gathering and prioritizing intelligence?

“Yes it does. However, this is politics and it can get very nasty. Let’s bypass Charles Krauthammer and focus on the person that has been Susan Rice’s primary antagonist, (Senator) John McCain. He (McCain) used the same verbiage that Susan Rice used, I believe, on Sept. 14, three days after the Benghazi attack. McCain told reporters at a press conference that there had been demonstrations at the mission in Benghazi and that extremists had seized this opportunity to attack our consulate.

“I believe if McCain picked Sarah Palin for his running mate in 2008, he should be very happy with Susan Rice in 2013. If you look at a lot of secretaries of state’s past prior to taking office I am sure you will find skeletons. Accusations have surfaced about Susan Rice, but they are minor.  One of the most famous secretaries of state, John Foster Dulles, made more than a billion dollars with the Nazis prior to the Second World War.

Senate Republicans have attempted to make Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry a viable candidate for the position of secretary of state. Many political strategists believe this confirmation would give Scott Brown, who recently lost his office to Elizabeth Warren, a chance to run for the Senate seat Kerry would relinquish if nominated. What are your thoughts on this?

“There is a strong possibility that Scott Brown will attempt to reclaim a U.S. Senate seat if Kerry does join the Obama administration. State law calls for Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to appoint an interim senator to serve until a special election is held between 145 and 160 days of the seat being vacated. State Democrats already realize that Brown would be a strong competitor based on his popularity. Recently,  [there have been] rumors of Massachusetts grassroots Republican political organizations are attempting to estimate his chances at winning, if the opportunity presents itself.”

Ambassador Susan Rice’s office was notified by both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to go on the Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16, 2012, and give the best explanation of the intelligence that had been reported to the White House up to that point about the possible causes of the uprising in Benghazi. She did her duty within the limitations of what she knew and the intelligence that was provided by our CIA.

Wouldn’t it be standard protocol to have the secretary of state debrief members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the media, on Benghazi as opposed to a United States ambassador and, if so, do you think this focus on Susan Rice has shielded current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from questions in regards to responsibility in an attempt to eliminate any problems in 2016 if she decides to run for president?

“The secretary of state is responsible for the security of our embassies, and she should have addressed the media in regards to the incident. Clinton has been the least visible secretary of state in comparison to her predecessors when it comes to the news cameras. This could be due to Clinton constantly being out of the country conducting policy or a choice to be camera-absent as much as possible.

Although Clinton has not yet decided to run in 2016, if she does and whether that is the case in regards to the Obama Administration having Susan Rice shield Clinton from post-Benghazi ridicule and making Ambassador Susan Rice the sacrificial lamb, we will never know.”

Political columnist for the Daily Beast Sophia Nelson, and author of “Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama,” has made a comparison of Rice’s confirmation and the criticism Michelle Obama suffered.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was the summer of 2008 again, when the angry White men of Fox News and conservative talk radio were attacking an accomplished, smart, well-educated Black woman for not being ‘patriotic’ and ‘loving her country. Only this time, the punching bag is not the first lady; it’s U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.”

If ambassador Rice is nominated and confirmed for secretary of state, the United States of America would have its third African American secretary of state, and the most powerful nation in the world will be under the leadership of an African American president and an African American secretary of state. In essence, the most powerful offices in our nation will be controlled by individuals of African descent.

Do you think having an African American president and an African American secretary of state is  different from having Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell as secretary of state under President George Bush?

“I think these are fantastic times for women as well as African Americans in politics. When we look at the office of secretary of state in the last 16 years we have not had a White male holding that position. I think having African Americans as the POTUS and secretary of state does send a message about the changing face of power in the west wing.

“In reference to comparing the difference between C. Rice, Powell, and S. Rice and their benchmark in the office of secretary of state during the Bush II and Obama administrations and their impact on United States foreign policy, I think it depends on the POTUS. Years ago, the secretary of state tended to be as much a policy mastermind as a foreign diplomat.

“A string of Cold War secretaries of state were visionary figures with huge policymaking influence.

George Marshall oversaw the post-World War II reconstruction of Europe under President Harry S. Truman. Dean Acheson convinced President Harry Truman to go to war in Korea after North Korea invaded South Korea. John Foster Dulles propounded the theory of ‘brinksmanship’ with the Soviets. Dulles defined his policy of brinkmanship as ‘the ability to get to the verge of war without getting into a war as the necessary art.’

Henry Kissinger pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, orchestrated the opening of relations with the People’s Republic of China, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War.

“George W. Bush’s two secretaries had no significant achievements. Colin Powell’s influence often was cast aside by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and unfortunately he is best remembered for peddling flawed Iraq weapons of mass destruction intelligence to the United Nations.

“Powell’s situation with weapons of mass destruction is similar to Susan Rice, who relied on intelligence data when discussing Benghazi. Condoleezza Rice peddled Bush’s democracy agenda with mixed results and made a failed effort to jump-start the Middle East peace process. So I think Susan Rice’s power in that position, if she is confirmed, will depend solely on President Obama.”