Condi chat at Beth El brings secret permit, First Amendment Area, dissing Goldstone & anti-torture demonstration
On Sunday, November 8th, Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park hosted former Secretary of State, National Security Adviser and oil company apparatchik Condoleezza Rice; Twin Cities Indymedia got footage of Rice attacking the Goldstone Report which exposed Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
Members of Beth El's congregation protested the offensive invitation for months, only to get refused access to the congregation newsletter and board discussions. Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) led the organizing of an anti-torture protest outside.
During the action, Beth El security and the police attempted to demand the protest relocate away from the nearest public sidewalk into a so-called "FIRST AMENDMENT AREA" because Beth El had obtained its own protest permit from the St Louis Park police, apparently a 'covert op' of sorts. (The police didn't indicate if free speech still existed in other 'areas'.) On two occasions beforehand the police refused to return calls about any possible permits, then they attempted to spring this setup on WAMM, merely proving further the hopeless corruption and futility of the entire demonstration permit system itself. Of course profits were involved for Rice, who netted cash from the high-price event. Below: more videos, photo stills, detailed notes on Rice's speech, and the fight inside Beth El.
WAMM dubbed the event "Tackle torture at the top" to push back against the numerous crimes of the Bush Administration that permanently damaged America's reputation in the world -- a disaster which Rice certainly accelerated through her work covering for violent crimes of state allies like Uzbekistan's barbaric dictator, the hordes of mercenaries under the American flag, and the violent occupations and coercive relationships with dozens of countries around the world. WAMM organizer and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley explained why Rice should face criminal charges.
Political pressure to maintain "decorum" at all costs reigned within Beth El (a protesting congregant got booted from their mailing list) and with the imprimatur of WCCO's mainstream media mandarin, Don Shelby, and corporate sponsorship from the Vikings, the Timberwolves, Lund's/Byerly's, and Best Buy. Best Buy's @15 program drafted a bunch of Minneapolis high school students into the scene.
Inside Beth El: Besides from the petty mailing list snubbing it was clear that the establishment wouldn't let anyone against Rice get fair access to an internal forum so the debate spilled out. Chuck Turchick (formerly part of Beth El) explained the basis of her crimes. Phil Freshman, a member of Beth El, took the argument to American Jewish World. A Synagogue officer, Tom Sanders, claimed Rice had been redeemed by opposing Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Turchick sent in a letter to the FBI saying they should charge Rice for all the ghastly acts she was complicit in.
Rice's Speech: Special to TC Indymedia by permission from Listener: The Persistent Press: Condoleezza Rice speaks about Iraq, Iran, Israel at Beth El Synagogue:
On Sunday night, November 8, Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park hosted Condoleezza Rice as this year's speaker in its National Speaker Series. She was National Security Adviser and then Secretary of State to the Bush administration, and was notably the first White House official to approve the torture, or 'harsh interrogation,' of 'enemy combatants' in 2002.
Anti-torture activists and dismayed Beth El congregants gathered on the sidewalk for a candle-lit vigil, remembering the victims of U.S.-sponsored torture. They chanted "Shame on Condi," waved anti-war signs and called for Condoleezza Rice's arrest for violating federal laws against torture. FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley was there to hand out the letters calling for Rice's arrest or questioning by the FBI. She tried to deliver this petition for arrest to local police who were monitoring protests, but they wouldn't take it.
Inside, Don Shelby, local news anchor, introduced Ms. Rice, drawing on his recent experience as a WCCO reporter embedded with the 34th Infantry Red Bull Division of the Minnesota National Guard. He spent 12 days in Iraq and kept an online blog for readers back at home. At the Beth El podium, he said that just 50 hours ago he was standing at the place where Abraham was born. He acknowledged Iraq as a holy place as well as the cradle of civilization, worth protecting-- militarily.
He then brought Ms. Rice to the stage facing a standing ovation in the packed bema room.
Ms. Rice said a special hello to "her friend" Norm Coleman, sitting in the third row, in the acknowledgement part of her speech. Coleman, a Republican who narrowly lost the race for U.S. Senator, was there with his wife, answering questions for the student press before the event began. High school students from St. Louis Park, Minneapolis and the private Benilde-St. Margaret's schools filled two rows in the student section in the back. Best Buy's @15 program paid for their seats, as Elliot Badzin announced at the very beginning of the event.
Ms. Rice said that, now that she's out of office, she likes to pick up the paper every day and not have to worry about doing something about the headlines. She said we all need to pay attention to work that's important, not just urgent. She said we need to consider history's judgments more than the latest headlines.
She admitted historic mistakes that the US has made in the Middle East, pushing for stability in the Middle East instead of democracy-- and the world saw neither develop in the Middle East. She referred to Saddam Hussein, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Muslim radicals in her condemnation of tyrants around the world who make the world less secure. She said that countries could not hate on Hussein while hugging Hezbollah, which she regarded an illegitimate, though democratically elected, government of Lebanon. She expressed faith that Hezbollah will lose in coming elections, as will any regime that doesn't deliver for its people. I couldn't help drawing parallels to our own American regime...
Ms. Rice called the U.S.A. the greatest and most compassionate nation of all time, unique for its fairness to immigrants, melting pot, and social mobility, and said how fortunate it is that it's also the most powerful nation. She told of travels to countries that don't like the U.S.; how those that resented its wealth were later glad for that wealth when people were hungry and AIDS needed fighting; how those that resented its military were later glad for protection from the 'bad guys.' It was strange to hear the term 'bad guys' in the middle of such intelligent, confident rhetoric. When Rice asked "What if the bad guys win an election?" she was being no more specific than Bush when he defined 'terrorists' as anyone using violence for political means.
She talked about right and wrong being cut and dry in regards to the violent tragedies of terrorism. Later she talked about the military's work in Afghanistan as shifting between war and peacework: "war and peace are a continuum."
She demonstrated an awareness of Palestinian, Israeli, Iraqi and Afghan people who do want to live in peace and cooperation. She addressed old stereotypes that have kept U.S. policy from encouraging democracy abroad, saying that there was a time when Latin America was deemed not yet ready for democracy-- as if the people preferred juntas. She said there was a time when Africa was considered not ready for democracy, because its people were 'too tribal,' and there was a time when black Americans weren't considered ready for democracy, because they were 'too childlike.' She came across as pro-democracy when she decalred such stances condescending, but didn't recognize how condescending it is for the U.S. to make such foreign policy decisions about which people are ready for what.
She rallied the applauding audience around her idea of a 'step up' that has happened in Iraq: a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian government on the horizon for the new Parliament that even includes four women. She described U.S. troops' work as reinforcing Iraq's security forces, fostering opportunities for governance, and building bridges and roads, as Mr. Shelby had described the Army National Guard unit he observed as humanitarians.
She spoke out against human rights abuses, yet she said that there is no place in the civilized world for suicidal terrorists. This was consistent with the former Bush administration's treatment of terrorists as 'enemy combatants,' a separate sort of people, sub-human, worth imprisoning and torturing and abusing after taking away their human rights.
She said that Iran does have nuclear ambitions beyond nuclear power, for acquiring the nuclear bomb option. She also said that it's important for the U.S. to keep all options on the table, including its own nuclear program.
She called Israel America's most important ally, appeasing the audience of AIPAC members and others who view Israel as religiously important and vindicated. Ms. Rice noted that visiting Israel as an official had felt like going home to a place she'd never been. Clearly, her relevance to the Synagogue was in her expertise in Middle East policy and politics, which directly impacts Jewish people who live there and their families here.
Ushers passed out note cards to the rows of audience members, and accepted a few of them as questions to present to Ms. Rice. The first question that Don Shelby, the moderator, read was that of whether or not war on Iraq was really part of the war on terror initiated by September 11 terrorist attacks. She quickly dived into her defense of targeting Iraq as the source of hate that fueled organized terrorist attacks, and her condemnation of Hussein as the main problem with Iraq. She said that she regretted that no WMDs were easily or quickly found there, as expected.
Other questions were just as pointed: Did she believe in the Human Rights Council's report on Israel's genocidal tactics, or was that report just another slam against Israel? ("I don't believe in anything the Human Rights Council does.") Did she think that China would eclipse America as an economic power? (No, but America "might eclipse itself.")
After an hour the speech and questions were over, the audience headed out to the parking lot, past chanting protesters, and VIP guests filed into the ballroom for private dinner with Ms. Rice.