Injustice of Rice’s career outweighs accomplishments
Recently, Rutgers’ New Brunswick Faculty Council has issued a resolution calling on the University’s Board of Governors to rescind its invitation to Condoleezza Rice as speaker for the commencement ceremony. She will accept a $35,000 honorarium and an honorary doctorate from the University.
There has been discourse that rescinding her invitation is a violation of free speech and academic freedom, that we should celebrate Rice for her accomplishments in academic and political worlds and not dispute her invitation due to “political differences.” What exactly are these (so apathetically summed up) political differences?
Rice contributed to the illegal invasion of Iraq, which was justified by Rice with false information that misled the American public and the international community. In order to justify the invasion of Iraq, Rice made statements that supported Iraq’s connection to 9/11, as well as the likelihood of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. These statements were proven to be false. In part due to Rice’s contribution, Iraq continues to endure the consequences of a destructive occupation. Rice has said more than once that she does not regret the invasion of Iraq. She has violated numerous human rights and was never held accountable.
The protest encircling the decision to have Rice speak is not about Rice herself — it’s about respecting the people who have endured an unjustified occupation for more than a decade. It’s about the 4.5 million refugees that fled their homes, the 4.5 million orphans who have lost parents and childhoods. It’s about women and girls like Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, who was raped, set on fire and murdered. It’s about the sons and fathers who were degraded and tortured in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It’s about the mothers who give birth to uranium deformed babies. It’s about the 1.5 million lives that have been forever silenced.
As an Iraqi-American, I find the equation of all this, to mere political differences, to be belittling toward the consequences of an atrocious war. It also perpetuates the dehumanization of millions of people who have suffered tremendously. It’s my family members who are physically, emotionally and mentally maimed. We must look at what matters more — and possessing humanity and respect trumps possessing success in the academic and political spheres every time — every single time.
I’m not going to say “Imagine if it was you in Iraq” because sayings like this are demoralizing. Why must we pretend that we are the ones who have suffered in order to feel or understand when something is undeniably wrong? Sympathy is part of being human, and humanity is not something that is manufactured, but something that we should feel innately. We should stand firm in protecting that humanity.
It doesn’t matter how influential or intellectual you are, when it comes to justice versus injustice, the answer is simple: Wrong is wrong, and immoral is immoral. It is problematic to downplay the malpractice of a person because of their history or accomplishments. An honorary degree is bestowed upon someone who is honorable. Not influential, not intellectual, not political — honorable. Keep this in mind when that honorable degree is tarnished by a war criminal with blood on her hands.
I implore everyone to open their eyes, ears and minds, and understand the magnitude of the injustices that were executed. I ask you to think about and remember those who suffer like they are nearby names, not just numbers. Having a role in the destruction of even one life is an injustice. We should not reward an individual who has played a major role in the destruction of an entire nation.
Alaa Al-Shujairi is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in nutritional sciences with a minor in business and technical writing.