Condoleezza Rice “would make a great middle school social studies teacher,” according to the late Don Askew, a retired Green Beret colonel and Middle East advisor to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
“Incompetent” was about the kindest thing I ever heard him say about Rice and her boss over the mess they made in Iraq.
My guess is Askew, who was also a Pentagon planner for Operation Desert Storm, would be even less charitable toward the now ex-secretary of state since she suggested al Qaeda was a worse threat to our country today than Adolf Hitler was in World War II. After all, Rice added, “Nazi Germany never attacked the homeland of the United States.”
The Nazis did, but more on that in a minute.
Askew retired to his hometown in deep southern Illinois, not far from where I live in far western Kentucky. He was not what we call a “Yellow Dog Democrat” in the Bluegrass State. I don’t know which party he favored.
I do know he was the consummate soldier who did his duty in Vietnam and elsewhere his country put him in harm’s way. While he was in uniform, he properly left politics to the politicians.
After he retired, Askew was a popular guest lecturer at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, Ky., where I teach history. He didn’t pull punches.
Askew said the Iraq war – which Bush and Rice are still gung-ho for – “was the single biggest foreign policy mistake in U.S. history,” according to Gerald Watkins, a political science professor who had the colonel speak to his classes many times.
Askew said Rice was way out of her league when she was secretary of state. “He told my students that she would make a great middle school social studies teacher,” Watkins said.
Askew was also a keen student of history. He even read The Campaigns of Alexander (the Great) as background for the Desert Storm attack.
So I can imagine his reaction to Rice’s remarks about al Qaeda and Hitler, which she made to some students at Stanford University, where she used to teach.
Rice has a Ph.D. in political science. Maybe she cut history class the day the professor lectured on World War II.
Nazi submarines spilled American blood in American waters, which are part of our “homeland.” U-boats ranged close to our east coast. They torpedoed and sank many ships, killing and wounding many sailors. Rice ought to read Torpedo Junction by Homer Hickam. He’s the guy who wrote Rocket Boys, the inspiration for the movie “October Sky.”
Also, Rice should visit Hampton National Cemetery in Virginia. It contains the graves of several German submariners killed when a U.S. warship sank their U-boat off North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 1942.
Hitler wanted to attack us from the sky, too. The Nazis tried to develop super long range four-engine bombers that could hit our Atlantic seaboard. In addition, Hitler hoped the V-2 rockets that terrorized London late in the war could be put aboard submarines and fired at U.S. coastal cities.
Neither German warplanes nor rockets rained death and destruction on our side of the Atlantic because we and our allies beat Hitler in Europe.
Rice’s comments are more than absurd. They are an insult to our servicemen and servicewomen who helped stop Hitler before he could go global with his homicidal mania, which included the murder of six million European Jews.
Al Qaeda is master of remote sections of Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. Before his downfall, Hitler was master of Europe from France all the way to the gates of Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad.
About 3,000 people, including 500 citizens of other countries, died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. But 182,524 Americans perished fighting Hitler and his Italian allies, according to Charles B. McDonald’s book, The Mighty Endeavor: American Armed Forces in the European Theater in World War II.
I wouldn’t for a minute minimize the tragedy of Sept. 11 and the innocent lives lost to al Qaeda murderers. But for Rice – or anybody else – to claim Osama bin Laden and his two-bit terrorists are a greater menace to us than Hitler and the German Blitzkrieg were to our World War II forebears reveals an abysmal lack of knowledge of even basic history.
Maybe Rice said what she did as yet another attempt to justify Bush’s bloody and seemingly endless fiasco in Iraq. Either way it’s a foolish analogy.
If Col. Askew were alive, I doubt he would now even propose Rice as a sixth-, seventh- or eight-grade teacher. But he might suggest she at least read a middle school social studies book.