When Condoleezza Rice spoke at the Maritime Museum on Monday, September 11, a small group of demonstrators gathered on the street outside to greet her. Among the hand-lettered placards was a personal note to America’s chief diplomat. “Hey Condi,” the sign said, “the whole world hates you.”
Be that as it may, you’ve got to admire the Secretary of State’s political skills. By accepting an invitation from Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister Peter MacKay, she was able to leave her partisan homeland on the 9/11 anniversary and, in speeches thanking Canadians for accommodating the 224 airliners that suddenly arrived when American airspace closed, invoke some of the day’s least-awful memories.
“Here in Halifax that morning, local radio stations begged people to call the Red Cross and volunteer their homes,” Rice said at the museum. “Within hours, those same stations were begging people not to call anymore. The outpouring of support was just so overwhelming. One Haligonian called and left a message anyway, saying simply, ‘I only have one bed, but I can sleep on the sofa.’”
Her boss, George Bush, ended his Monday by making a televised speech that’s being excoriated for using a day of mourning to score political points for the war on Iraq. Meanwhile, Rice travelled with MacKay to his Central Nova riding, where activities included meeting his dad and staying overnight at the Pictou Lodge. In covering the Nova Scotia trip, the New York Times printed a story on the possibilities of Rice and MacKay hooking up for a different kind of diplomacy: “He has a tan and the build of someone who spends his time on the rugby field, not holed up reading G-8 communiqués. Sure, at 40 years old, he is younger than Ms. Rice, who is 51, but that did not stop gossips from engaging in baseless speculating.”
MacKay played his part well, mentioning a (possibly) intimate detail during an event in Stellarton. “Something else I’ve learned about Secretary Rice is she loves the cool Atlantic breezes here in Nova Scotia, and she left the window open last night.” How cute. And being flirty in the public eye is lots more fun than dredging up the more likely reason behind Rice’s attentions—that America wants more Canadian soldiers to join its fights. “There is no ‘ask’ as far as more troops at this point in time,” MacKay told reporters when the subject came up. “That’s not part of this visit whatsoever.”
Does that put your mind at ease?
As part of the media tidal wave that appeared this year for the fifth anniversary of September 11, CBC TV aired The Secret History of 9/11. The documentary gives a clear-eyed account of the events surrounding the fateful day, including some of the bureaucratic details that now look like missed opportunities. The fact that 16 of the 19 hijackers had incomplete travel documents, and should have been turned away by American border guards when they arrived to carry out their mission. The August 6, 2001, briefing Bush received titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US.” The 1995 intelligence report raising concerns of terrorists taking over airplanes and crashing them into US landmarks.
Yet eight months after 9/11, Rice made a televised statement from the White House, which The Secret History shows.
“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center,” Rice says, effectively getting across two messages at once. “These people are so evil, they come up with worse plans than any of us good folks can imagine.” And: “We were not asleep at the switch. This would have happened even if Al Gore had won the election.”
It’s an amazing, one-line performance that underscores her rise to the world stage. You’ve got to admire her political skills. Luckily we know better than to trust her.
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