California Sen. Barbara Boxer deserves much credit for her passionate and bold critique of Condoleezza Rice?s nomination for Secretary of State and the war in Iraq. Boxer could represent a new wave of questioning and dissent within the Democratic Party that demands an end to the war in Iraq.Of course, Rice was confirmed as the Secretary of State to succeed Colin Powell in the Bush administration. Rice?s confirmation was inevitable in a Senate with a Republican majority.
However, Boxer?s intense debate with Rice on the Senate floor during the confirmation hearings in January was unexpected, courageous, honest and deserving of applause by progressives. Boxer slammed Rice over the war in Iraq, and she accused Rice of manipulating and twisting the weapons of mass destruction threat to make Americans fearful enough to support the war.
When Boxer began her critique of Rice on the Senate floor during the confirmation hearings on Jan. 18, she immediately brought up the statements Rice said about the war. Boxer said she would “not shrink from questioning a war that was not built on truth.” Boxer used Rice?s exaggerated statements about weapons of mass destruction as examples of the false evidence that the Bush administration gave to Americans before the war began in March of 2003. “Perhaps the most well-known statement you have made was the one about Saddam Hussein launching a nuclear weapon on America, with the image of a mushroom cloud,” Boxer said to Rice during the hearings.
Boxer accused Rice of polluting the American conscious with fear and paranoia, which made it easier for the Bush administration to create a war against Iraq. “[The mushroom cloud] image had to frighten every American into believing that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of annihilating them if he was not stopped,” Boxer said to Rice during the hearings.
The most memorable aspect of Boxer?s critique of Rice came when she reminded Rice that she helped sell a war that has cost lives. “You rolled out the idea and then you had to convince the people. As you made your case, I personally believe that your loyalty to the mission you were given overwhelmed your respect for the truth,” Boxer said to Rice. “That was a great disservice to the American people. But worse than that, our young men and women are dying.”
After Boxer?s honest and overdue critique of Rice, the new Secretary of State had little to say in response. She merely said that she did not lie to sell the war, and that she had never manipulated facts because it was not part of her character. Yet Boxer hit Rice where it hurts, attacking her credibility and competence.
Boxer succeeded at bringing to light the distortions and false
information which Rice helped feed to the American public and that launched the war in Iraq, a war that has been costly and deadly.
Boxer?s outspokenness and dissent towards Rice?s nomination and the war influenced other Democrats, like Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who voted against Rice?s confirmation as Secretary of State. Even John Kerry, who ran a moderate campaign during the presidential election season and rarely voiced opposition to the war, did not vote for Rice to become the next Secretary of State.
Kerry has finally begun to criticize the war, and he stated recently and during Rice?s confirmation hearings that the Bush administration should work harder to train Iraqi forces so that American troops can leave Iraq.
Kerry hasn?t been the only Democrat to demand an exit strategy. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who was opposed to the war before it began, has called for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Kennedy wants the United Nations to take over the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, which would allow U.S. troops to begin leaving.
Boxer?s heart-felt statements against the war and administration have even influenced Democratic House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Recently, Reid and Pelosi havealso demanded an exit strategy from Iraq. Because of Boxer, Democrats have finally begun to pressure President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, especially since Iraqis have elected their own government now and have begun self-rule.
Brian Fanelli is a junior majoring in comparative literature with minors in creative writing and journalism.