Last week, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice withdrew as Rutgers University's commencement speaker.
Citing months of protest by faculty and students in stepping aside, Rice wrote: "Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers' invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time."
On the surface, it could appear that an institution of higher learning through narrow-mindedness successfully silenced, who at one time was, this country's most powerful woman of color, politically speaking. Would this have occurred if Rice's politics were left of center?
Should Rice's achievements as an African American female trump the egregious policies that she participated?
Whether these actions qualify as examples of embedded liberal racism and sexism, I will leave for those more qualified to identify that type of psychological misconduct.
Beyond melanin, gender and political philosophy, Iraq remains a dark cloud hovering over the Rice legacy. Without some understanding that goes beyond suppositions about her role in the Iraq war, protests like that at Rutgers are understandable.
Rice definitely warrants praise, growing up in Birmingham at the height of Jim Crow segregation, ascending to secretary of state. If one includes Rice's predecessor, General Colin Powell, former President George W. Bush also deserves praise for being the first commander in chief to appoint only African Americans as secretary of state.
But Iraq looms large in the Bush foreign policy narrative.
Was Iraq not an effort Americans supported by nearly 75 percent in the beginning? Was there not a number of Americans who believed that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11?
Was there not an intermingling of the amorphous term "weapons of mass destruction" with nuclear capabilities that prompted then-National Security Advisor Rice to state: "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly Saddam can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"?
Iraq, along with Afghanistan, had the dubious distinction of being promoted as pain-free military exercises that when one factors physical, mental, and economic costs, will be one of, if not the, most painful in US history. Was Rice not present at the genesis of both exercises, serving as National Security Advisor?
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs, according to a study by issued by the Kennedy School of Government.
Is it racist and sexist to ignore this painful side of the American adventure? Does being the first African American woman to serve as secretary of state mean that Iraq and Afghanistan be relegated to footnotes in the Rice biography?
Part of the dilemma in viewing the Rice legacy lies in the cowardliness of the government to find out how Iraq in particular was implemented. How could the certainty of Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Rice, et al, in the run up be so dreadfully wrong in actuality?
Being the first black woman selected as secretary of state is laudable, but at what point should one factor an individual's record? Or does Rice being an African American woman suffice?
Iraq, in my view, was America's worst foreign policy decision because it was preemptive. That decision led to the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis, 4,486 US soldiers. Moreover, the psychological damage sustained by returning veterans will not be known for decades, along with the impact Iraq and Afghanistan continues to have on the nation's economy.
It is uncertain if the protests that led to Rice forgoing her commencement speech are examples of liberal sexism and racism. But as long as Iraq continues to be the unanswered failed policy such protests should be expected.