Monday, December 02, 2013

Enough Already

Do we really have to hear from her again?

Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under Bush 43, has four books available for purchase from the Amazon website.  None of the books is specifically about the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and, therefore, it might be harsh to conclude that she has written four books too many.  But this is Condoleezza Rice, and we have heard from her too much already.

"The main reason we went into Iraq," President Bush eventually would admit, "is we thought the had weapons of mass destruction. Turned out he didn't..."  Despite considerable evidence the Administration knew before the invasion that Saddaam Hussein did not possess nuclear weapons, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice eagerly frightened the American people in September 2002 by warning "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

But like a bad habit, "Condi" is back, or soon will be.   In March, exactly ten years after the USA invaded Iraq, Rice announced

She’s going to write a book. To be published by Henry Holt, it’s being billed as “an examination of democracy at home and abroad.

“My travels both at home and abroad have underscored the promise and the challenges of democracy,” Rice said in a news release issued by Henry Holt. “The task of building it is never done.  I look forward to further exploring these ideals and working with Holt to convey those messages.”

According to Henry Holt, the book will discuss “the never-ending process of building democracy as citizens -- and their governments -- strive to attain and secure the ideals of self-rule.”

After 4,000 American lives- and probably over a hundred thousand civilian deaths- were lost in war launched by the President still lauded by Condoleezza Rice, the situation in Iraq appears even worse than before Saddaam Hussein was deposed.

That applies especially, though not exclusively, to women.   In a special to CNN, Zainab Salbi, who is the founder of Women for Women International and was raised in Baghdad, writes

...women are no longer guaranteed equal treatment under one law in terms of marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody. That law, the Family Statutes Law, has been replaced one giving religious and tribal leaders the power to regulate family affairs in the areas they rule in accordance with their interpretation of religious laws.

This not only is making women more vulnerable, it is giving women from various sects (Sunni or Shia) or religion (Muslim or Christian) different legal treatments on the same issues.

Economically, women have gone from being visibly active in the Iraqi work force in the 1980s -- particularly in the farming, marketing and professional services sectors -- to being nearly non-existent in 2013.

The women who could afford it withdrew from the public space due the violence dominating the streets. 10 years ago Iraq produced much of its own food and had a productive industrial sector -- but now Iraq imports practically all of its food, and farmers and factory workers simply found themselves out of a job as industry ground to a halt. And while both women and men suffered as a result, the impact on women was greater due to their limited mobility in the face of poor security.

Iraq suffocates in cloak of sorrow.   Violence against women -- and the lack of legal protection for women -- is also on the rise. Women's rights groups blame the increase in violence on the social and economic pressure that families face, the lack of public and political will to stop it, and the increase religious conservatism that often justifies the violence.

The saddest part of the story is the lost memory of what Iraqi women once were. I grew up in Baghdad with a working mother who drove herself to the office and always told me that I could anything I wanted with my life. My mother's friends were factory managers, artists, principals and doctors.

It has been just over 20 years since I left Iraq. Today, female college students ask me if it is true that the streets of Baghdad were once full of women driving, that women could walk around in public at all times of the day without worry, that university campuses were once filled with women who did not wearing headscarves.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ultimatealy was given the boot by President George W. Bush.    Dick Cheney has been lambasted and berated for his performance as vice-president, in no small measure because of his effort at promoting the war.  And Mr.  Bush himself has wisely refrained from commenting about his successor's handling of foreign affairs, a reticence for which he ought to be lauded.

But Condoleezza Rice has escaped all but the slightest criticism for her role in a major foreign policy blunder. She is asked  for her opinions on international affairs (as on the Today show, from earlier this year; video below). Now she is planning a book.  She would do the nation a favor by just going away.

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