UW Alum Prompts Exchange With Condoleeza Rice

Anna Therese Day, who received her B.A. in political science and communications arts with minors in Middle East Studies and education policy and leadership from UW-Madison in 2010, has landed in a public exchange over U.S. foreign policy with Condoleeza Rice, who served as national security adviser and secretary of State under President George W. Bush.

Day is a freelance journalist covering the democratic upheavals of the Arab Spring and conflict in Israel/Palestine. Her work focuses on American foreign policy in the region, women’s issues, and regional youth movements and has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including CNN International, the BBC, Al Jazeera English, NPR, The Huffington Post, and numerous blogs.

The events she has covered include the Libyan War, the Bahraini crackdown, the Palestinian Statehood Bid, and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. She has spent extensive time in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Occupied Palestine. She is working on her master’s degree in politics and government at Ben Gurion University in Israel.

“I write for an online policy magazine, PolicyMic, in which Condoleeza Rice recently ran her 9/11 Op-Ed response,” Day explains. Rice is currently a professor of Political Economy in the Graduate School of Business; the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution; and a professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

Day was among those who commented on Rice’s piece, in which Rice says: “For 60 years, the U.S. sought stability at the expense of democracy in supporting authoritarian regimes. But we should have known better.”

Rice links the events of September 11, 2001, to the urgency of democratic reform in the Middle East.

In her comments, Day pointed to Bahraini opposition leader Matar Ibrahim Mattar, who told her in an interview that, when he confronted Rice about his government’s abuses, she responded: “America has its own interests in this region.”

Day said: “He, like many Bahrainis, was kidnapped, held in solitary confinement for weeks, beaten, and faced threats to his family’s safety. He, like many Bahrainis, still refuses to believe that America’s economic and security interests are best served by supporting undemocratic regimes. While I agree with her op-ed, why didn’t she apply these principles to the people of Bahrain? Moreover, why didn’t the administration of which she was a part apply these principles in Egypt, in Yemen, etc.?”

Of the many comments to Rice’s piece, Rice chose to respond to Day’s critique, in a follow-up published on PolicyMic on Monday, October 3.

Rice writes: “The United States is not an NGO, meaning it does not have a narrow set of interests that can be pursued at the expense of other policy objectives. Rather, on any given day, policymakers within the U.S. government face tradeoffs in decision-making and seek to develop a balanced approach.”

In Day’s subsequent response to Rice, posted October 7, she says: “America’s passive support for the vast and well-documented abuses of the Bahraini government is as inhumane as it is short-sighted …

“Torture has been a tactic of the United States throughout the War on Terror. It was Rice and the Bush administration that solidified it as a policy, accelerated its use, and had the audacity to defend it publicly. The majority of Americans do not support torture, and torture as a means of information gathering is ineffective (as it contaminates the pool of credible intelligence) and dangerous (as it sets a chilling precedent regarding the treatment of our own soldiers).”

Day encourages others to join in the debate.

“Any reader has the opportunity to “mic” or support comments, Day says, “and I’m hoping Wisconsin students and alums will sign-in to the site to support my stance or join the debate!”

Those interested also may follow Day’s work via Twitter (@AnnaOfArabia) or on AnnaThereseDay.com.

Day offered this background on Bahrain:

“Bahrain is one of the smallest countries in upheaval in the Arab Spring; however, the percentage of the population that has participated far exceeds the percentages of populations in any other Arab country this year. Bahrain is ruled by a minority that rules the majority through its monarchy that is supported by the United States due to the positioning of our 5th Fleet off the coast of Bahrain.

“The U.S. refuses to be as outspoken against the horrendous human rights abuses of the regime since February as it has in other countries with similar crackdowns, seemingly due to our military interests in the region; however, the opposition has made it very clear that their demands are for domestic reform and will not affect American interests in the country.

“One of my contacts, Matar Ibrahim Mattar, is a wildly popular opposition leader in Bahrain with whom I met in March – he’s the youngest leader to ever be elected to parliament, has a very reformist agenda, represents the largest constituency in Bahrain, was incredibly outspoken on the crackdown, and is incredibly well-connected internationally – which is why it was so shocking when he was kidnapped by masked plainclothes officers, held in solitary confinement for 45 days, beaten, his family threatened, starved, the list goes on. I’ve been in touch with his family since he was kidnapped (he’s now out of custody but faces very severe charges that are politically motivated).”

By Kerry G. Hill