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July 27, 2006

Spasms In Rome


Condi-Arab-Meet2  Condi-Arab-Meet3

Yesterday in Rome, Condi stymied a whole contingent of Arab and European countries, arguing against almost any notion of a cease fire in Lebanon.  At the press briefing following the meeting, she took an emotional pummeling for it from an impassioned Lebanese Prime Minister, Fuad Siniora.

Keenly focused on facial expression, the visual media honed in on the resultant, and highly accentuated signs of strain.  In the top image, look at Condi’s neck muscles.  Bottom left, check out the cheek, nose and neck.  Bottom right, look at the forehead.  Stressful, yes.  But considering Rice’s extraordinary rigidity and self-control, to what, specifically, can we attribute this straining?

From what I saw of the briefing — and considering the defiant, “pre-recorded” and yet tremulous tone of her voice –  this looks like the emotional cost of the refusal to empathize.  In times of great harm, diplomats are required to extend to one another at least some degree of humanity.  If Rice is chafing, it’s because she rejects going there.

Listening closely to her response to Siniora, she made an interesting Freudian slip.  It was telling, I felt, in regards to empathy. Following the Lebanese leader’s anguished appeal, Condi attempted to simultaneously validate and patronize Siniora, stating how these wars reflect: “too many spasms of violence followed by more spasms of violence.”  The way the phrase came out, however, Condi said the word “fathered” instead of “followed” — at which point she paused, then corrected herself.

Others may speculate on the personal relevance.  I am focused on the political dynamics, though.  “Violence followed by violence” conveys the cynical, resigned (and far-right) notion that aggression and retribution is nothing we can help, it’s just matter of fact.  Violence that is “fathered,” on the other hand, implies an intimate origination, and a birthing process that is not only individual and uniquely motivated, but something we are all “a kin” to.

Personally, if I was watching two members of my extended family knocking the living crap out of each other — even if I was highly partial to one — and more reasonable members, bearing that pain in my presence, appealed to me — being the biggest and the strongest — to respond, I’m sure I’d be chafing too (quite possibly, in the form of spasms in my own neck and jaw) if all I had to offer them was pretense.

It’s hard to be human when you have mostly ice water in your veins.

(edited/slightly revised: 8:36 am PST)

(image 1: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP.  July 26, 2006.  Rome.  Via YahooNews.  image 2: Sandro Pace/A.P. July 26, 2006.  Rome.  Via YahooNews.  image 3: Riccardo De Luca/A.P. July 26, 2006.  Rome.  Via YahooNews.)

  • ray
  • ummabdulla

    I watched that news conference, and her head was bobbing up and down and left to right, like a marionette. According to the BBC, they spent one and a half hours arguing about whether or not they could put the word “immediate” in front of the word “ceasefire”. Condi said no. So they came up with some wording that included the word “immediate”, but not in front of “ceasefire”. (“determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a cease-fire that puts an end to the current violence and hostilities”)
    But give Condi a break. She has a lot on her mind; she’s preparing for the ASEAN Regional Forum. For her piano recital, that is.

  • Mad_nVT

    To some extent don’t Rice’s actions reflect that she IS just a marionette. If she were the architect of a policy she would have more control, more engagement– and perhaps even be able to show a tiny bit of empathy.
    But as a marionette she is trapped by her masters’ plans.
    In the third photo it looks like she is channeling Cheney.

  • readytoblowagasket

    The BAG said: “The anxiety here, I believe, comes not from a lack of confidence or a deficit in stature, so much as from a refusal (or, an inability) to empathize.”
    As a philosophical exercise, I’m trying to figure out if empathy is actually necessary to understand that saying no to a cease-fire is wrong.
    If Condi is squirming, however, she may personally have the ability to empathize. What’s being tested, to extend Mad_nVT’s marionette comment, is Condi’s ability to refuse (in other words, her ability to follow orders) in the face of empathy. Which is a much scarier prospect.
    But this is a trait required of many, not just of Condi: commanders in Iraq, representatives in Congress, editors at the New York Times.

  • Neal

    Everyone but this administration knows that the middle east has been cobbled together with temporary peace agreement from the biblical times until now. How can she call herself a diplomat and not understand that. The only lasting peace in the middle east is the graveyard. Sanctimonious liars and criminals, let the death continue. It’s for their own good, don’t they know. Who cares about a few lives (except blastocysts).

  • marysz

    Whenever I see pictures like these of Condi Rice, I’m always struck by her “matchy-matchy” wardrobe. How many no-iron suits does she own? Here her rigidly controlled persona is thrown askew by her bewildered and chaotic facial expressions. She’s a woman who always needs to feel she’s “in control.” The crisis in the Middle East is totally beyond her. Not only that, you can be sure that Rove, Bolton, Cheney and the rest of the neo-con weasels in the White House are scapegoating her like crazy for their own miscalculations (not that Condi’s exactly blameless herself).
    Condi has an intellectually rigid world view that skews towards outdated Cold War thinking. She’s also crazily compartmentalized. How can an African-American woman from Alabama talk about democracy around the world when black voters in her own home state and the rest of the south (and Ohio) are still not fully enfranchised to vote? She, like the rest of the Administration, has been promoted to her level of incompetence and far beyond. The world will be the worse for it for a long time to come.

  • margaret

    She’s having a hot flash, folks. It’s something that is intensified when one is under a great deal of stress: jet lag, heat; intolerable facts of reality facing one who is the face of a tyrannical super-power

  • rporter

    It may be cynical (but not right-wing, I trust) of me to say, but I don’t have much hope that the cycle of violence in the Middle East will be resolved for many decades to come. It’s useless to point to a particular party as the ”father” of the conflict, because peace will only come as result of a commitment by all the parties involved. Ms. Rice may recognize that, or perhaps she just sees the inadequacy of the conference as a way of addressing the conflict. In any case, she’s clearly showing signs of stress under what must be enormous pressure for her personally. It seems to me that if Condi is feeling tired and frustrated with this situation now, she’s really going to hate it two years from now, because this crisis is not going away any time soon.

  • black dog barking

    Pretending for a moment that these images document a moment between two ordinary people it looks like the women has just heard some bad news, serious enough to give her physical pause, not so bad she can’t continue. The man could be a professional, the family doctor or lawyer. He looks sympathetic to the woman’s problem in the “it’s my job to be sympathetic and strong” way. Without prior knowledge I don’t think I’d make the woman to be the highest diplomatic officer of the most powerful nation on earth responding to an international crisis.

  • boxcar

    “too many spasms of violence fathered by more spasms of violence.”
    nothing accidental about that. After all, you can’t have “birthpangs of the new middle east” without fathering the violence!

  • me

    About that matchy-matchy suit: check out the cuffs: white on the outside, black on the inside. Do her wardrobe assistants have a sense of humor?
    Touching one’s face usually signals one is at least considering accepting an idea. To touch one’s self so intimately in public indicates an alternate state of mind. no, not psychoactives, but either more subconscious than conscious, or deeply stressed. She may be recalling her precomposed lines or strategizing weakly against her handlers. Notice, too, her attention is not focused on her surroundings (eyes focused arbitrarily). Difficult for communication to take place.
    On the left, he’s all too clear with his body language: he’s disappointed and exhausted from people not listening to him.
    Notice his mouth is resting, but his hands are still held up. This is a call for a pause, for quiet.
    Notice too, the vector from his left hand shoots toward Ms. Rice’s forehead, pushing her back, a virtual blow which she defends with BOTH arms.
    Finally, both figures have highly assymetrical faces.

  • wiesseharre


  • Nezua-Limón Xoloquinta-Jonez

    What an insane age I live in, mamá. How is the human heart and mind supposed to deal with not only widespread murder and hate, but “leaders” that pretend to talk about it, but only make sounds that are meant to confuse? I’m dead serious when I confess that I just don’t understand this world one bit.
    I hope the strain pulls all her bones into a crumpled heap.

  • Cactus

    Yesterday I saw a photo of Condi at a press conference with (I think) Siniora (or Nazif), wherein he was pointing to her, obviously chastising her for what she said or didn’t say. It was priceless and I just spent two hours looking for it to no avail. Sorry, Bag. Lesson learned. If anyone can find it, please post. Rove probably had it wiped.
    I think it was Tom Oliphant who said that the first thing diplomats learn in diplomat school is not to touch any part of your body in public. The photographers are just hunkered down waiting for a hand to move because it could just be THAT photograph. She did, they did, THAT’s it.
    The strains are beginning to show. One cannot be that tightly wound, that public, that active, for that long without something giving. Will the next photo-op be Condi jumping the couch on “Oprah?”

  • K. Ron Silkwood

    “I hope the strain pulls all her bones into a crumpled heap.”
    Amen. May she collapse into the sack of shit she is.

  • mugatea

    The US is speeding delivery of bombs to Isreal while sending 30 million in cash to Lebanon for recovery. Ummm …
    Condi is something between a pawn and a bimbo. A political tool at the very best. It’s remarkable she is so loyal to political party that plays her with such little respect. She has not the power a SoS needs or deserves.
    As a US citizen I am ashamed of her performance.
    This collection of photos tells me she feels the same way.

  • have skunk

    Head On, apply directly to the forehead! Head On, apply directly to the forehead! Head On, apply directly to the forehead!

  • jt from BC

    Ms Rice is alternately *Dr*Rice or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by the MSM. On TV dependent on the situation or announcer the Dr. label is frequently voiced with more authority or solemnity than S of S.
    It is truly unfortunate she does not have a medical degree, and consequently held to a higher standard. [ no harm] or at least know something about responsibility, an ethical concept not possible to acquire from a PhD in Russian Studies.
    It is the opinion of many scholars that Hippocrates did, in fact, originate the phrase, but did so in his Epidemics, Bk. I, Sect. XI. One translation reads: “Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future; practice these acts. As to diseases, make a habit of two things to help, or at least to do no harm.” []

  • mdhatter

    looks like a sinus headache.

  • donna

    Maybe they showed her the photos of the headless Lebanese babies she’s helping to birth…

  • boxcar

    ATTN: Donna
    I am sure there are better ways to highlight the death and horrors without using a site that denies the holocaust as your source.
    Shame shame shame…

  • gmoke

    The Daily Show for Wednesday, July 26 unveiled the Condimeter to score a picture of her expression at this event. As I recall, it was somewhere between “Al Qaeda determined to attack US” and “smoking gun is a mushroom cloud” but I could be wrong.

  • Nezua-Limón Xoloquinta-Jonez

    boxcar: would the pictures be somehow more valid if she downloaded them and uploaded them to her own server? I say if the pictures are accurate (I haven’t looked at them…I’ve seen enough mutilated corpses for today), then the pictures are accurate, and have weight, despite the affiliation.
    See, this is exactly the problem with Israel shedding its “poor us” thing, and becoming the indisputable aggressors, slaughtering children and citizens without blinking. They put those of us who want to hate the holocaust-deniers in a tough situation, agreeing too much with Israel’s enemies. But I won’t cheer for any state/nation/people that indiscriminately bombs innocents. Not Israel, not the USA, not any nation.

    “Over here, everybody is the army,” one soldier said. “Everybody is Hezbollah. There’s no kids, women, nothing.”
    Another soldier put it plainly: “We’re going to shoot anything we see.”

  • boxcar

    My issue was not in pointing to pictures, that, at least folks who visit BAGNews, are fully aware exist — but it was a shameless plug to a holocaust denying site. There are countless ways Donna could have expressed the horror of the loss of life. She chose this way.
    Hate responding to Hate.
    The attempt to blend and blur cause and effect like this;” 9/11 = Saddam”, “War on Terror = Hamas” and Donna’s, “The Jews Are Bad = The Holocaust” must be resisted. You should never be in a “tough” position in hating a holocaust denier. But you should also never have to defend one because of sleight of hand!

  • jt from BC

    Watch and judge for yourself:
    Mosaic features selections from daily TV news programs produced by national broadcasters throughout the Middle East.
    Uncensored from Israel, Qatar Lebanon Palestine Iran

  • Earl Mardle

    I’m interested in the bottom right photo.
    To me it looks like she is covering her ear so as not to hear what is being said, and trying to keep a nasty smell out of her nose.

  • Daniel DiRito

    See a tongue-in-cheek visual of Condi’s “Neocon Concerto”…here:

  • Nezua-Limón Xoloquinta-Jonez

    Boxcar: I didnt know she was doing it on purpose, for “hate” reasons, as you said. I agree, hate should not be met with hate. Not unless one wants more of the same.

  • ummabdulla

    JT, I’ve also noticed that she’s not often referred to as “Dr.” Rice. As a comparison, I was trying to remember whether Madeleine Albright was referred to more frequently as “Dr.” Albright. I can’t remember exactly, but I think she might have been.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Secretary of State RICE: “What we’re seeing here, in a sense, is the … the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
    “birth pangs,” indeed.
    i am reminded of Mary Shelley’s novel: “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus“…
    …where Frankenstein = the creator, not the creature; and, Prometheus being the mythic, forever cursed bringer of the immortals’ Fire to mortal mankind.
    The novel (1831) is almost entirely obscured by 20th Century films’ re-interpretation of Shelley’s original intent and inherent, literary ironies, including: our modern re-naming, and henceforth false association of “the creature” after its creator, Victor Frankenstein; and the “birth pangs” process of creation, written, perhaps as only a woman could ~ interpreted, as somehow “horrible” beyond imagination, and “grotesque” to behold (to the male/father’s psyche?)
    “…the creature was not an “evil creation”. It was born an innocent blank slate; it was Frankenstein’s REJECTION of the creature that taught it to be evil.”
    We could apply Shelley’s allegory to either “the creature” of Judaism, ISRAEL, or the latest “creatures” of ISLAM ~ with equal facility: both Theocracies, both REJECTED as “evil”, thus.
    Ancient animosities, base race instincts notwithstanding, i tend to view ‘Our Struggle’ as that of Humanism vs Fundamentalism (whether Judeo-, Christo- or Islamo- flavor).
    and, perhaps ~ though more difficult for me to adequately express, their alter-egos: heterogeneous Democracy vs homogeneous Theocracy :-/

  • Karen

    Bag: Thanks for this posting. Very elegant and eloquent. I had such a busy day yesterday, I wasn’t able to surf by. But I saw a version of the top photo on a copy of the NYT in a newstand and listened to radio accounts of Rice being “under siege” during this meeting. Just amazing.

  • tired of this mess we’re in

    Regarding the “matchy matchy suits”. Condoleeza Rice seems to be a clothes horse who is more focused on image than anything else. This all has to do with how truly unauthentic she is. She is all surface and no substance. Her outfits are TOO put together – matching shoes, purse, earings, necklace, etc… Its all done out of an inner anxiety she has to appear as if she is really together, and in a sense, reveals a little too much vanity (which comes from insecurity). This is what I thought a while ago when Bag did “The It Girl” post. She really is a pathetic creature.

  • Scotty

    Great montage ! I see this all the time where I work – people have to get in front of a crowd and talk about something. The ones that know what they’re talking about – normal. The ones that are experiencing fear – they always touch their face. If they’re not sure what they are saying is right, or if they’re worried it won’t be well recieved, they touch their face.
    She is afraid of something.

  • cfinstr

    C. Rice appears to me to be a person who would love to fire back but she is under stress because she knows that her mission requires that she “take it like a man.”
    I think that she is angry at the idiocy and lies being spouted off by the almost pathological mental midgets that she was discoursing with. She is completely competent to carry out her job.
    Too bad so many others on this site do not seem to care that the islamic imperialist movement is trying to kill every non-muslim. If you are not a muslim and if you have no intention of becoming a muslim then you had better wake up to the FACT that you are not “INNOCENT” and you are a target for muslim terrorists. You are an infidel.
    Time to either stand against evil or suffer the continual attacks of evil.

  • donna

    Yeah, I should’ve checked for a better source – bad me for being in a hurry.
    But I do think the Israelis tend to misuse the holocaust. Every time I hear about it, I want to ask about what happened to the Canaanites, after all.
    It’s not like Germany invented genocide.

  • cfinstr

    No Donna Genocide permeates the filthy thing we call human history….
    And by the way… The Holocaust happened not only to the Jew in World War II, but to Christians, Gypsies, mentally “defectives” (including political prisoners of Nazi Germany)…. The Jew was simply the single largest category and they have gotten the best “press”….
    That is not to belittle the loss to the Jews, or to any other group which lost lives to the merciless onslaught of the Nazis.

  • momly

    First photo Rice thinks: Uh, oh. I’m outta ammo. What do I do?
    Second photo: Think, girl, think!!!
    Third photo: Condi to Home Base, Condi to Home Base! What the f*** do I do now?
    And yes, cfinstr, she is totally incompetent. If you weren’t thrashing around so hard in your own pool of fear you’d see it.

  • Jo

    as empathy fades ambitions takes the center stage. We just got her in the fight at which one would win.

  • db

    Jews “misuse” the Holocaust? Then what, pray, do Arabs and their apologists do with (classify it any way you want) the “Palestinians”‘ situation? Your “It’s not like Germany invented genocide” is quite the nasty insousciance.
    Of course, it’s not “in” to tell the Arabs to “kwitcherbellyakin’”, is it? Just the Jews should suck it up and deal when it comes to bombings of cafes, airports, and schoolyards.
    As for Jews’ not being the sole victims of Nazi extermination: true enough. But they were the primary targets; hence, to make the Lebensraum “Judenfrei”. Was the “Final Solution” per Eichmann directed explicitly at other groups?
    American Liberalism, from human rights to Civil Rights, has profound connections to American Jews.
    Disparate thoughts….

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