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Perhaps one of the Post's purposes in publishing the letter was to allay fears that, at least in high school, she was inclined to flip the bird at those annoying her. Precisely this is what she is reported to have done -- literally as well as figuratively -- to the late Washington Establishment diplomatic fixture, Richard Holbrooke, well after her privileged education.
The story of her extended middle finger has been making the rounds again in recent weeks. Less known is her reported effort to keep Holbrooke out of Obama's inner circle. According to an account widely circulating before Holbrooke's death, Rice arranged a "peace breakfast" with Holbrooke, after which the highly touted diplomat gave her his private cell number and was crestfallen when she did not reciprocate. The don't-call-me-we'll-maybe-call-you brush-off was seen as a token of Rice's determination to keep Holbrooke away from Obama, since she saw her own ambitions reflected in the ambitious Holbrooke and felt threatened.
Like Rice's old history teacher, Obama laid it on a little too thick in publicly extolling her virtues on Nov. 14, insisting that Rice "has done exemplary work ... with skill and professionalism, and toughness and grace." All the more embarrassment for the President, should he deem a Senate confirmation game not worth the candle and decide to drop his apparent plan to nominate her for Secretary of State.
Rice and Africa
The more that comes to light about Susan Rice's career, the harder it will be for the President, or anyone else, to carry the fight on her behalf. Even the Washington Post may eventually join the New York Times in spreading the kind of truth that puts huge dents into Rice's Teflon armor. Last Sunday, the Times ran a damaging op-ed titled "Susan Rice and Africa's Despots," exposing how she has carried water for dictators in Africa.
Some Americans are already familiar with her caving in to President Clinton's reluctance to label "genocide" the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994. Less known is her coddling of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, who came into power in Rwanda after the massacre and has supported more violence across the border in the Congo.
As Times reporter Helene Cooper noted Monday in "U.N. Ambassador Questioned on U.S. Role in Congo Violence," more than three million people have died in the Congo in more than a decade of fighting there. Rwandan President Kagame is widely regarded as the main culprit because of his support for a rebel group known as M23. Diplomats at the U.N. say Rice has taken the lead in trying to shield the Rwandan government and Kagame himself.
Cooper reports, for example, that France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud met with Rice and their British counterpart two months ago to discuss Rwanda's support for the M23 rebel group. According to a Western diplomat with knowledge of the meeting, Ambassador Rice strongly objected to Araud's proposal for "naming and shaming" President Kagame and the Rwandan government and for considering sanctions to press Kagame to stop stoking the conflict in the Congo.
Rice's reply reportedly was dismissive. According to the diplomat quoted by Cooper in the Times, Rice replied: "Listen Gerard, this is the D. R. C. (Democratic Republic of the Congo). If it weren't the M23 doing this, it would be some other group." Yet, Ambassador Rice has continued to water down U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Rwanda's support for M23.
Why so much violence in the Congo? Since Congo is not in the news very much, it is easy to forget that what was once (1908-1960) the Belgian Congo is incredibly rich in natural resources (cobalt, copper, industrial diamonds, for example), while its 66 million citizens remain among the poorest in the world. The Congolese economy has been the antithesis of "trickle down."
An account of what has been going on in the Congo can be found in a piece titled "Kagame's Hidden War in the Congo" by Columbia University Professor (and former New York Times correspondent) Howard French in the Sept. 24, 2009, issue of the New York Review of Books. French recently noted that Susan Rice has played an influential role in adding a new generation of dictators in Africa.
It also turns out that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was a major client of Susan Rice at the "security analysis" firm Intellibridge, where Rice was a Managing Director from 2001 to 2002. Intellibridge is noted for its jobs program for former Clinton administration officials, providing them with out-of-government employment. But this kind of work can also create a clear conflict-of-interest over the longer term. (Rice moved on to the Brookings Institution for the rest of Bush's term.)
As ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar recently noted: "Consulting firms whose shingles feature former senior officials who recently left office are selling influence and access at least as much as they are selling expert advice. Relationships that are ones of advocacy, trust, and taking action on behalf of the client's interests are not relationships that can be turned on and off like a light switch."
The Children's Future
I sit here Wednesday evening, having just snuggled and story-read the two youngest of our eight grandchildren into bed. As I left the two precious little girls, I found myself even more saddened and concerned for their future.
My thoughts turned to the Obama administration's abnegation of responsibility at the recent U.N. conference on climate change in Doha and -- more to the point here -- the prospect that Obama may cave in to the corporations and banks expecting to reap huge profits from the Keystone XL pipeline.