Late last week, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that she would no longer be the guest speaker at this year’s Rutgers University commencement ceremony. The statement came after 160 Rutgers students, identified as “erratic and irresponsible” by a school administrator, turned the campus into a place where not even a controversial Bush-era government official wanted to be seen.

The protesters, in an open letter to Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi, dredged up a decade-old gripe concerning Ms. Rice’s role in the Iraq War. Specifically, they objected to her approval of waterboarding: “Rice signed off to give the CIA authority to conduct their torture tactics for gathering information from detainees as well.” They also lamented being left out of the speaker selection procedures, accusing school administrators of using an “undemocratic, opaque process” that included a “blatant refusal to pay any heed to what Rutgers University students believe and feel.”

It is sad to discover that these believing, feeling children, despite having twelve years of basic education, and then voluntarily seeking higher education at one of the nation’s top universities, can still know so little. Like all college-aged rebels going back to the 1960s, these youths tell themselves that their generation understands the world in ways never contemplated before their births. In doing so, they call down condemnation on themselves every time their methods lead to a worsening of human suffering.

Despite having a rich selection of humanities courses at their disposal, the essential lessons of history elude the noisemakers. Perhaps their lack is brought about by the pleasing, manicured campus, or by the East coast comfort enjoyed by most families who are able to send their children to such a prominent school. Whatever the source, their rejection of Rice as someone who “justifies torture and debases humanity” is laughable in light of the tumult of history and human nature.

If George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice are guilty of torture, they are certainly some of the most inept torturers in recent memory. Despite having a military-industrial complex at their disposal, all that the administration managed to do was douse three known terrorists with water. If the demonstrators were really concerned about torture, they might consider carving time out of their busy protesting schedules to decry the regular killing of innocent Muslims by Al Qaeda, or the intentional starvation of tens of thousands of North Korean citizens, or the quarter million or more Iraqis abused and killed by Saddam Hussein. That would be the Saddam Hussein removed from power by “war criminal” Condoleezza Rice.

This miniscule segment of the Rutgers student body—not to mention the faculty members who called their own credentials into question by standing in solidarity with these scholars—also shows no educated understanding of human nature. Sitting in their tranquil classrooms on verdant taxpayer-funded campuses dulls them to the harsh realities that most of the world experiences, not because our nation is an oppressor, but because life is hard, and complex, and filled with wicked rulers who take pleasure in exercising malevolent power over their ill-fed and tortured citizens.

Waterboarding may be a grievous wrong. But if these sit-in protesters can’t differentiate between that act and the massive slaughter that its use sought to destroy, then the university leaders who confer advanced degrees on these uneducated kids are even stupider than their charges.

This article was posted on May 7, 2014. Related articles: Commentary, , , .

Footnotes for “The Stupidest College Graduates in the World”

  1. Very well said, er, written. Everyone demands justice, but frequently overlook common sense options and knowledge.

    The other day four Muslims were crying foul and racial discrimination for not being allowed ride at a kiddie go-kart play place. It was a safety issue not racism. No hats, loose clothing or, this case, no kafiyas can be worn. If any injury occured while wearing the potentially hazardous garments then an uproar would ensue regarding the evil business owners trying to knock off a specific religion. Phooey!

    I’m not saying we should all sing kum by ya at every event, but a smidgen of tolerance will go a long way. Don’t they have a tolerance class at Rutgers?

  2. Their philosophy department has a course on “Religion and Democracy” that discusses it, and the engineering department has a “Fault Tolerance” class. ;-) But sadly, no class named “Politicians You Hate and Tolerance.”

  3. How do we expect captured Americans to be treated if we violate international treaties?

    How would you get soldiers to volunteer to serve a country without ethics, knowing they can be expected to be tortured if captured?

    What are we showing our children if we abandon our principles to achieve our goals?

    The CIA acknowledged three authorized cases of waterboarding. They did not acknowledge all reported cases, they outsourced some torture that they won’t acknowledge, and they destroyed video evidence. Are these the good guys?

  4. Also, much of your argument is based on a knowledge of history. Our history is that we’ve always prosecuted people who use waterboarding.
    http://dgarygrady.com/2012/05/28/waterboarding/

  5. You’re missing the point, Carl. It’s not about whether the US did something inappropriate. As I mentioned, waterboarding might be a grievous wrong, and I have no problem with anyone who argues for that view. The point is that these students are so poorly educated, they can’t differentiate between moral situations, or appreciate that elected leaders might be faced with a set of no-win options. They’ve been raised to believe that a six-year-old making a gun out of a peanut butter sandwich is worthy of arrest, or that calling someone fat is as horrifying as a terrorist blowing up a storefront in the Middle East. Is waterboarding torture? Perhaps. It is even in the same neighborhood as the efforts by Saddam Hussein to torture and murder tens of thousands of Kurdish peoples, as was standard fare for that dictator? No, it’s not.

    As for your comment about the CIA not revealing the full extent of their waterboarding efforts, I recommend the book Secrecy, by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, especially the introduction by Richard Gid Powers, which discusses this idea of making bold claims about classified content without knowing its content.

  6. You didn’t address my questions, you just gloss over it all and say I didn’t get the point.

  7. Well, you didn’t get the point. But I’ll answer your questions anyway. To your first three questions, the answer is: perhaps you’re right. I don’t see evidence of it, but if our position in the world is worse because of waterboarding, then we as a country will need to deal with it. And if the CIA covered things up, then shame on them. And if we used to prosecute waterboarding but don’t now, then shame on our leaders for being selective in what they choose to prosecute–although all administrations make these types of selective enforcement choices. I’ve answered your questions, but none of them change the core issue brought up in the article.

  8. I don’t think you clearly stated your point. Maybe if you did– in one sentence, I would “get” it.

    I will say this (and maybe this relates to your point): the kids are missing a big opportunity to learn. They don’t have to agree with her to learn from her.

  9. Exactly!

  10. Stop generalizing all evil and stupidity comes from the other side. It isn’t a plank in any party’s platform that kids get arrested at school for acting like they have a gun (peanut butter). That’s just plain overreaction (from parents, administrators and lawyers).

    Overreaction comes from fear and ignorance. If I were to generalize, I’d say that there is only one party whose tradition since the cold war is to keep people in a constant state of fear. But I’m not going to do that.

  11. Um, I never mentioned any “other side.” The article doesn’t really bring up political parties at all, and I didn’t identify the “miniscule segment of the Rutgers student body” as either left or right, although they are most certainly on the left. Are you sure you’re not having an “overreaction?”

    These students’ “stupidity” (I didn’t mention “evil”) stems from their political ideals, to be sure, but also (and perhaps primarily) from their privilege, their sense of self, and their lack of understanding about what life is like outside of their tiny sliver of it. That’s why their education failed them.

  12. I was wrong, you were not blaming the other side.

    These kids knew that they were sacrificing an educational opportunity in the interest of taking a stand against torture.

    They had tried to reason with the administrators, but they simply were not listened to. Here is one excerpt from their letter:

    Before the sit-in, we requested meetings with your administration, wrote letters and filed petitions, submitted op-eds in the press (nationally and locally) and attempted all means of communication with your administration, but to no avail. An “attempt” to request a meeting would be redundant given that we have already taken that path before with no results. It is important that you and everyone else realizes that this issue has gotten to this point only because of your blatant refusal to pay any heed to what Rutgers University students believe and feel. Time after time, you have ignored us, and as members of the student body you preside over, we demand and insist on having our voices heard and acknowledged by the governance of our University.

  13. Here is a related article from Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter, “Dear Class of 2014: Thanks for Not Disinviting Me.”

    http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-05-15/dear-class-of-2014-thanks-for-not-disinviting-me

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