Thursday, October 25, 2007

A few tidbits out of the rice bowl

By Carol Gee

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not doing terribly well on the Middle East this week. Rice has barely gotten back into town and she is having to go before Congress.

Condoleezza Rice's relations with the Legislative branch have always been difficult. The Secretary has never been very interested in giving the Senators and Members of the House any more than she can get away with. Her typical testimony is what I call the "Rice stonewall." It consists of sentence after sentence of detail in answer to any question, leaving questioners time for very few beyond the first inquiry. Recently Congress has been inquiring into the actions of contractors in Iraq, and the Blackwater scandal may have some rather serious consequences for our head diplomat. The military may get control of the contractors in Iraq, according to MyWay News. To quote:

Congress is moving to put all armed contractors operating in combat zones under military control, acting on a Pentagon recommendation that could run into resistance at the State Department.

The Senate this month included such a requirement in its 2008 defense authorization bill. Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday he is confident the House will go along with the idea and include it in a final bill sent to President Bush.

. . . Rice was to testify Thursday about the subject before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Shades of the Cold War -- A Red Menace: Though Secretary Rice's expert credentials have always been heavy towards the Russian arena, this time I am not talking about Vladimir Putin. Secretary Rice's adversary in this event was a United States resident. However, according to the New York Post, Secretary Rice did pretty well yesterday when a Code Pink member and antiwar protester -- a 51 year old former teacher from Arlington , Texas -- accosted her yesterday prior to her appearance at a Congressional hearing. To quote:

Unflappable Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice kept her cool yesterday as a frightening war protester with "bloody" hands menacingly confronted her before a congressional hearing.

"The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands," Desiree Ali-Fairooz screamed in the packed committee room as she rushed Rice with her hands raised high.

When she reached Rice, Ali-Fairooz waved her blood red, dripping hands (actually, it was paint) within inches of the secretary of state's face.
Rice never flinched.

Rice warned that the two state solution for Israel and Palestine may be in jeopardy, during her testimony at the hearing . And it has been in jeopardy ever since the Bush administration came into power, because of the Neocons' bias towards Israel. If just a tiny fraction of the time, effort, thought and money poured down the black hole of Iraq had been put towards the peace effort between Palestinians and Israelis, the entire Middle East would now look vastly different. The Boston Globe had the story, from which I quote:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that a "two-state solution" in the Middle East is in jeopardy and described a narrow window of opportunity to push Israel and the Palestinians toward peace.

In a House hearing interrupted by antiwar protesters, Rice said an upcoming peace conference in Annapolis, Md., is needed to give hope to moderate Palestinian forces. She blamed Iran for fanning flames in the region, including what she called "troubling" new support for Hamas militants.

"Our concern is growing that without a serious political prospect for the Palestinians that gives to moderate leaders a horizon that they can show to their people that indeed there is a two-state solution that is possible, we will lose the window for a two-state solution," Rice said.

This administration is to be faulted because of the weak and ineffective diplomatic efforts it has mounted in the Middle East. The entire region is poorer for that. And no one has ever been held accountable in any way. At the very least there might be some chagrin in the State Department if this is jerked back to the military, where control always should have resided.

And not related to anything in particular, here is a great new resource. Thanks to Maud Newton for this heads up: One of my old favorites from abroad, Guardian Unlimited, is now in a U.S. edition.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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