CALGARY - There are days when former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice perhaps wishes she would have become the concert pianist that she dreamed of as a child.
One such day was last week, when a Grade 4 student at a Jewish primary school in Washington asked her about waterboarding at Guantanamo.
Another was Wednesday, when she was dogged by protesters in Calgary and a former aide testified at a U.S. congressional hearing that Bush administration officials engaged in a"collective failure" on the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists.
But Rice, dubbed "the Warrior Princess" for her role in the Bush administration, told a Calgary audience Wednesday night that she is not bothered by such short-term views.
"Today's headlines and history's judgment are rarely the same," she said, without referring directly to the accusations of torture against the Bush-era administration swirling in Washington.
As George W. Bush's national security adviser from 2001 to 2005, Rice was among top officials to approve so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" adopted by the CIA, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other coercive tactics, which critics have labelled as torture.
Rice declined to take questions at a photo op to open the University of Calgary's new School of Public Policy before her appearance as the keynote speaker at a $500-a-plate dinner for 1,100 people, which raised $1 million.
Later, in her first Canadian appearance since leaving her post as secretary of state in January, she told the crowd to "focus not on today's headlines, but on the principles and values that are sustaining the right outcomes later on."
No man or woman, she said, "should be condemned to live in tyranny."
After her 30-minute address, Rice took several questions including one on Alberta's "dirty oil."
She called Canadian oil necessary and said the answer to reducing carbon is technology and a "slow transition" to alternative energy.
Rice's appearance was opposed by critics on campus who circulated a petition urging the School of Public Policy to cancel her speech. At Stanford University, where Rice is a senior fellow of public policy and a member of the political science faculty, students want to run her off campus. Canadian activists unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government to have her and Bush, who spoke here in March, barred as people who stand"credibly accused" of war crimes.
But Jack Mintz, director of theUofC's School of Public Policy, defended its selection of Rice.
"The role of the school is to try to bring issues to bear that are subject to debate. I think that is very important," he said before Rice was presented a Flames jersey by Mayor Dave Bronconnier.
Premier Ed Stelmach went one better, telling the dinner crowd Wednesday that Rice is "a fine role model for our youth" whose "admirers are many"--a view at odds with the two dozen protesters outside the downtown hotel where Rice spoke.
Holding signs with messages such as "Condi War Criminal of the $ Empire" and "Blood and Oil," the activists took issue with the university's decision to invite Rice to speak.
"Frankly, I think it's an affront," Peggy Askin, a former Marxist-Leninist party candidate, said of Rice's Calgary appearance. "Why should war criminals be an example of who students should follow or our public policy should follow?"
Bush-era administration officials have been quick to note that the harsh interrogation tactics they employed were only undertaken after a review of their legality by the U. S. Justice Department.
Recently released Bush administration memos showed Justice Department officials argued that waterboarding and other interrogation methods did not violate U. S. laws against torture.
But one expert in legal ethics, professor David Luban of Georgetown University, has said that the Bush administration "cherry-picked sources" that "twisted and distorted the law."
Wednesday's hearings in Washington by the Senate judiciary subcommittee included testimony from a former interrogator who said the rough interrogation methods were "slow, ineffective and unreliable."
Philip Zelikow, who served as a top adviser to Rice from 2005 until 2007, told the hearing that the interrogation tactics were a "collective failure."
Zelikow said he did not comply with an order to destroy a memo in which he warned that some of the tactics used on suspected terrorists violated the U. S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Judiciary committee chair-man Patrick Leahy said at the hearing that the "rule of law in the United States means no one is above the law."