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Confessions of a flawed mind

 

SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | New Delhi, November 28, 2011 16:36
Tags : honour | condoleezza rice | harry belafonte | colin powell | dick cheney | ehud olmert | birth pangs |
 

No Higher Honour

Condoleezza Rice
Simon & Schuster
Edition: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780857208071
Pages: 785
Price: Rs 799

One can call Harry Belafonte several things, but not unreasonable. However, a few years ago, when this famous singer-social activist in one of his interviews put Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell in the famous “House Negro” analogy of Malcom X, eyebrows were raised.

He was variously called callous, harsh and, pray, unreasonable. I wanted to put Rice off the hook till the time she explained her position.

Therefore, it was not surprising that I read such a thick book from cover to cover the moment it landed at my door. And sorry to say, Belafonte was dead right, like all previous times.


In a post-Obama euphoric world, it is difficult to imagine a pretty simple fact that for the first eight tumultuous and bloody years of the last decade, the most powerful and influential African-Americans in the world were the Republicans. Till late 2008, when Obama came with his deceptive smile and ironic rhetoric, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice delineated the crest of Black America’s political accomplishment. They did manage to reach a place few African-Americans could dare to dream of just a generation before. But their achievements, sadly, stop there.

What follows is a deeply disturbing manifestation of their flawed minds.


No Higher Honour is Rice’s last attempt towards redemption before she is judged by history. And as luck would have it, she has presented a rather bleak case for herself. In a year when two of her former colleagues, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, came out with their own memoirs and went all guns blazing after everyone right, left and centre, one would have expected Rice to pay in kinds. However, she tries rather desperately to appear kind and mild and leaves us with little insight from those tumultuous years.


In fact, the problem with this kind of narrative is that you bring very little to the reader about the personalities you are talking about. For example, while Rice is categorical about Dick Cheney’s infuriating efforts to meddle into her role as national security advisor by creating a small pressure group for himself, she quickly makes the readers know that how terrific Cheney was and how hearty their relationship remained even after their days in the office were over. 


Similarly, while Rumsfeld’s memoir was brutal in levelling allegations and fixing responsiblities, Rice appears to have been clearly terrified of accusing anyone apart from herself. And no, I don’t see this effort of hers as either charitable or noble. When your actions are responsible for killing and injuring half a million people, any effort to look charitable is like Kim Kardashian trying to play a Coptic nun.


On the other hand, her typical American way of casually describing personalities of some of the world’s important statesmen gives a glimpse of a mind that is preconceived and takes itself too seriously. While referring to Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the crafty Iraqi national security advisor, Rice lets it known that she “wanted to punch him” and for Omar al-Bashir, she admits that she “loathed him.” The best she has reserved is for Émile Lahoud, the Lebanese president, for whom she says: “After I shook his hand, I felt like I needed a shower.” I couldn’t have agreed more with Belafonte. With such characterisations, she indeed comes out as Matilda ‘Tillie’ Binks in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. 

The only good words she seems to have reserved are for Tony Blair. She glorifies him as a statesman with a “willingness to do difficult and controversial things” and take actions, with Bush, “to radically change the status quo in world politics”. For the Trans-Atlantic ally, she adds that “it seems when the chips are down, the British never go wobbly”. Basically, she only confirms his poodle status in as many words. 


A interesting insight that readers were looking for was her take on President Bush. She admits that she was pretty close to the Bushes, who treated her as family. Now, it is perfectly understandable if she wanted to pay them back by painting a rather contrarian picture to what world thinks about them. She manages hard to break the Bush caricature through her rather Herculean and contrived looking efforts. But that picture can hardly be corroborated. Her portrayal of Bushes ends up looking plain stupid and dishonest.


At other places, she tries hard to bluff. It reaches its culmination when she starts talking about Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. She reveals the nitty-gritty of a secret peace deal offered by Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008 and tries to pretend that it was a missed opportunity. But Palestine watchers deem that deal as a major bluff with Rice as its perpetrator.


What makes this book a must read is that it gives a glimpse into what is definitely a flawed mind. Which woman with a sane mind would dismiss the indiscriminate killings of women and children as merely “birth-pangs of a new Middle-east”. Which woman will use a feminine analogy to describe such a masculine, gore, action? This woman does. 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017