Condoleezza Rice calls for continued military presence in Iraq in speech at Norwich

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Condoleezza Rice calls for continued military presence in Iraq in speech at Norwich

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 2:48pm -- tim

by Katie Jickling vtdigger.org Hours after President Barack Obama announced that armed troops will not return to combat in Iraq, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for a continued military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan from a stage at Norwich University. Rice talked about leadership, democracy, disruption and a range of international affairs issues in her address to an audience of 3,000 at Norwich on Thursday. Protesters disrupted the speech seconds after Rice came to the podium. Individuals dispersed throughout the audience stood up and yelled. One protester shouted “war criminal” as he was escorted from the room. Some members of the crowd booed the protesters.

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a screen shot from the Norwich University live stream.

“How incredible it is to live in a country where we defend people’s rights … including the right to be loud and disruptive and noisy,” Rice said to applause, as campus and contracted security officers removed the protesters from building. The protesters, about eight in all, according to Norwich’s Chief Administrative Officer David Magida, were escorted outside and driven to their vehicles.

About 20 people protested the appearance of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday at Norwich University in Northfield. Photo by Katie Jickling/VTDigger

About 20 people protested the appearance of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday at Norwich University in Northfield. Photo by Katie Jickling/VTDigger

“I think they were pretty organized,” said Magida, adding that he did not know who organized the demonstration. No arrests were made.

Rice is the 66th speaker for the university’s Todd Lecture Series, and the keynote speaker for the residency week for the online College of Graduate and Continuing Studies. About 529 students from nine departments attended the lecture.

Rice, a professor of political science at Stanford University, served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008. She was the second woman and first African-American woman to hold the position. She also served as Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term in office.

A strong supporter of the Iraq War in 2003, Rice noted the importance of recognizing the “serious problem we’ve got right now” with the Iraqi militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Looking back over her decisions as secretary of state, she said she would have focused American military intervention on the tribes and provinces of Iraq, rather than within Baghdad.

Nevertheless, Rice added, she supports an ongoing American counter-terrorism effort, which could include the use of drones.

“We do not want these people in charge of a swath of land the size of Indiana,” she said.

Rice used the conference theme of “leadership in action” to talk about the necessity of authoritative and visionary direction, for individuals and the nation.

“Of course the United States has to lead, the United States has to step up — why? Yes, because we’re the most powerful country in the world, because we have the most powerful military, the most powerful economy. But also because we represent an idea,” Rice said.

She spoke of the need for leaders to have integrity, optimism and to surround themselves with “truth-tellers.”

“I think that leaders are grown, not born,” she said.

Norwich established a designated protest zone for the event — on the other side of the campus.

Magida said about 20 protesters peacefully picketed within the designated zone.

At the Norwich entrance, Hinesburg resident Karl Novak held a sign reading “No War for Empire.” Novak said he’s a member of Veterans for Peace.

“The only people it (war) benefits is the corporations,” he said.

Rice alluded to the disruptions throughout her speech, embracing them as an essential part of the messy democratic process.

“We, more than anyone else, we need to be patient with the people who started the journey (of democracy),” she said. “Democracy is constantly reworked and under repair.”

Dr Rice speaks at Norwich University June 19, 2014. Photo by Tricia Sulva, Vermont Business Magazine.

Rice covered a range of foreign affairs topics, including development in Africa, the Arab Spring, and the “governance crisis” in China. “When people are seizing their rights instead of being handed them, it is disruptive and it is chaotic,” she said.

At points, her address took on a lighter tone, drawing applause and laughter.

Last fall, Rice explained, she was selected to the College Football Playoff Committee. The only child of a football and basketball coach, Rice described her father’s hope that he have son who would be an All-American linebacker.

Her father died in 2000, but Rice added with a laugh, “I think he finally actually thinks I’ve gotten an important job.”