Let war criminals speak freely from their prison cells — not our campus.

It seems Condoleezza Rice will be giving a lecture at the University of Minnesota this month. We cannot let this go unchallenged. That is why I submitted a resolution to the university Senate that calls for her invitation to be rescinded.

This is not about the outrageous cost, the party politics, nor the freedom-of-speech issues so often invoked in popular discussions of this matter. This is simply an issue of human rights.

It remains unclear, in the court of law, whether Rice is personally culpable for Bush-era war crimes, specifically the design and approval of torture and rendition programs, as well as lying to the public about the presence of WMDs in Iraq. What is clear, however, is that many people, especially abroad, see Rice and others, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, as warmongers and unconvicted war criminals.

If the U wants to present itself as a globally conscious and competitive university, it cannot endorse these people nor legitimize their conduct by providing them opportunities to speak here.

A couple of years ago, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, spoke at the U. She said that when human rights standards fall in the United States, there are ramifications for human rights across the world.

She said that after 9/ 11, when she confronted governments around the world on rights abuses, they would tell her that “the standards have changed.” Her response was, “No they haven’t,” and they would say, “Look at Guantanamo.”

By providing Rice a forum, we are indirectly but strongly endorsing her conduct as national security adviser and secretary of state, and thereby the Bush Doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive war, and the global degradation of human rights standards pursuant to that doctrine.

Rice’s presence on campus cannot go unchallenged.


Nick Theis, of Minneapolis, is a member of Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Minnesota.