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01 Dec 2004 00:00
Okay, so she likes invading countries, killing thousands of innocent civilians, and imposing United States-style capitalism across the globe. But, that aside, you have to admit it: Condoleezza Rice is one helluva lady.
Even the US president looked terrified of her as he gave her a nervous, faltering peck on the cheek at the announcement of his new secretary of state.
Condoleezza, aka the “Warrior Princess”, has struck fear into the most powerful people in the world.
It was she who declared, when they refused to back the Iraq invasion, that the US should “punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia”.
And, of course, what’s all the more remarkable is that “Condi” is black. Not “Uncle Tom” black, just doing the white man’s bidding. Not liberal-conscience black (trying desperately to change things from the inside, to make life a little less worse for the brothers and sisters). Not even martyr black (taking on the oppressors directly, but suffering a brutal backlash ending in prison, or death). No, she’s totally ass-kicking black — the like of which we’ve never seen before. Foxy Brown with weapons of mass destruction and a PhD.
She’s not playing to anyone’s agenda but her own. Which is why, in a way, she’s more powerful than any “role model” we black people have ever had. We liked her predecessor, Colin Powell, but his was a story of marginalisation and dignified silence. Someone obviously out of tune with the jackals around him, and only given a front-line role when forced to relay US lies to the world.
With Condi there’s no compromise. She loves war. Over the next four years, she’ll be pressing President George W Bush to do more bombings, to have more shows of brute force to cow the rest of the world into submission. She doesn’t represent, or even in the slightest claim to represent, her race. Her only mission is to prove how ruthlessly and efficiently she can do her job.
At this point, I have to admit something. Once Condi and I were very close. For three hours, in fact. In 1988 we sat next to each other on a flight to London from Sofia, Bulgaria.
I first spotted her as we sat in the transit lounge. She wasn’t difficult to notice: with her impeccable appearance and perfect Eighties hair, she was by far the most glamorous and striking traveller. And I couldn’t believe it, when I got on board the plane, to discover she was in the seat next to mine.
As we took off, she told me her innermost secrets: why that strange, misspelt name, for starters. We talked about US politics.
I remember her revealing, almost apologetically, that she’d probably be voting Republican: she was no Reaganite, she just thought that George Bush (the first) had the right blend of compassion and conservatism.
As we parted at London’s Heathrow, we exchanged business cards: hers, “Professor, Stanford University, California”; mine, “News reporter, The Voice, Brixton”. I was not worthy. We promised to keep in touch, and it remains the biggest regret of my professional career that I didn’t make that call. The next time I heard of her was in Ebony magazine a couple of years later, in a piece reporting how she had recently become Bush’s adviser on Soviet affairs. In status, there had always been a gulf between us; now it had just got a whole lot wider ...
Maybe, just maybe, there could still be a chance to make up for my major mistake. Condi, African-American queen, if you’re reading this, do you think we could hook up some time? You name the place. I’ll invade it. — Â
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