Honoring Rice enables future human rights violations

As a University of Minnesota alumnus, I have been following the debate on whether it is appropriate to host Condoleezza Rice as part of the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series next week. I have read many articles and comments and also attended the discussion at the University Senate on April 3.

And I keep hearing and reading comments from people who say they opposed virtually all of the most notorious activities of the George W. Bush administration, but they still support Rice’s appearance. Their logic escapes me.

If they really opposed these practices — my main concern is torture — presumably they would want to do everything they could to prevent them from recurring. So I ask: Does honoring a key perpetrator in authorizing those policies — who has not yet been held accountable — help prevent or enable the recurrence of those practices?

This is not a case of “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend unto death your right to say it.” Rather, it’s “I disagree with what you did, but I will do what I can to make that behavior more likely to occur by government officials in some future U.S. administration or elsewhere in the world.”

When the government fails even to investigate such alleged perpetrators, against whom a strong prima facie case could be made, the responsibility falls on all of us to hold them accountable. I am not suggesting vigilante justice; I am only suggesting refraining from honoring them.

Some have claimed the University is not honoring Rice. It is not conferring to her an honorary degree, for example. This is myopic, if not hiding one’s head in the sand. How can someone deliver a Distinguished Carlson Lecture and not be honored? If Rice were to give the “War Criminals Carlson Lecture,” or even the “Alleged War Criminals Carlson Lecture,” I would probably not object.

The University and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, in honoring Rice with this invitation, are becoming enablers of future human rights violations. If that is part of the University’s mission, will someone please tell me where to return my two University diplomas?