Honoring Rice as speaker is a dishonor to University
As we head down the road toward this year’s commencement ceremony, the focal point of the event so far has been the debate surrounding Condoleezza Rice, namely, whether or not Rutgers should allow Rice to speak at the 2014 Commencement Ceremony. Not only will Rice be the commencement speaker, but she will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the institution. A great number of students, myself included, believe that Rice should not be our commencement speaker. Why?
First and foremost, the person in question is a war criminal, responsible for one of the greatest travesties of justice in recent history: leading a charge against Iraq by inciting the emotions and sentiments of the American people to oppose an entire population of a country, their race and their religion on the basis of lies and deception.
The Iraq War was unjust and against the principles of America, regardless of what the Bush administration would have us believe. The rationale for the war provided to the world was the elimination of weapons of mass destruction assumed to be illegally in the possession of the Iraqi government, and the independence of the Iraqi people. A decade after the war, we now know that no such weapons were found. In January of 2005, the United States effectively terminated the search efforts for unconventional weaponry in Iraq, and the Iraq Intelligence Commission concluded that the judgments of the U.S. intelligence community about the continued existence of weapons of mass destruction and an associated military program were incorrect. If the aftermath of the Iraq War has taught us anything, it is that the Iraqi people have not been liberated — they are not free — and their lives have been wrongly disrupted and destroyed.
The country of Iraq is now in shambles. Women and girls forced into prostitution to feed their families, the men of the house, dead, children orphaned and mothers widowed. The Iraq War has been nothing more than outright carnage and slaughter of innocent civilians in the name of America, a country that is founded on the values of justice, freedom and liberty. There should be absolutely no doubt that Rice and the Bush administration do not stand for these important values. Soon-to-be graduates of this University, who will go on to become future leaders of this country, should not be made to believe that someone of Rice’s standpoint is by any means worthy of honor.
In honoring Rice as the commencement speaker of this year’s ceremony, Rutgers University does not only condone her actions and decisions that have cost the lives of half a million people — lives that Rice coined as “collateral damage” — but it also glorifies them.
What exactly are we honoring here? Are we honoring the meaningless deaths of half a million people? Are we honoring the decision to waterboard and torture people like Abu Zubaydah? Are we honoring the rape of Iraqi women, the murder of Iraqi children, the pillage of a nation based on false suppositions? And let us think of the war veterans and the soldiers who died in battle. Why were they sent to the gallows for no reason? What was really the end goal, and has it been met? No, unfortunately — it hasn’t.
The effects of the Iraq War are not only the literal deaths of the people involved but also the metaphorical deaths of two nations, not just Iraq but the United States as well. The United States is no longer seen as the beacon of justice and hope. Rather, it is now a country deeply entrenched in Islamophobia, responsible for the demonization of Arabs, South Asians and Muslims. Rice has been at best a complying bystander — and at worst, an active participant in this tragedy. One of the greatest tragedies, if Rice is allowed to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony, is that there will be students of Iraqi heritage graduating and they will have to bear the fact that the murderer of their fellow country-folk will be speaking at their graduation.
As a student of Rutgers and a proud Bangladeshi-American Muslim, I say that it is not too late for us to fall back on our values of justice and do the right thing. I urge each and every one of you to stand up against the decision to invite Condoleezza Rice to our great university. Please say no to this injustice.
Fahim Ferdous Promi is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in religion, political science and Middle Eastern studies.