US students protest against Condoleezza Rice visit, accuse her of starting war in Iraq

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Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pulled out of delivering the commencement speech at Rutgers University in New Jersey on Saturday, following a months-long protest by students and faculty over her role in the Iraq war. The invitation to Rice was sent by university President Robert Barchi.

On getting this information, a whole number of students and teachers announced that they do not want to see the former secretary of state at the grand ceremony. They said that Rice who was a member of George Bush Jr.’s Administration is responsible for starting a war in Iraq in March 2003. Several students even arranged sit-ins.

Rice wrote in her statement circulated today that the graduation ceremony should be a happy event for the graduates and their families, while her speech would be unlikely to contribute to this. The former Secretary of State was to be paid $35,000 for her speech.

At present, 59-year-old Condoleezza Rice is a professor of political science at Stanford University where she was employed before her appointment to the post of US President George W. Bush’s national security advisor (2001-2005). Rice headed the US Department of State between 2005 and 2009.

In her statement, Rice said her role in the festivities had become a “distraction”.

“I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way,” she said.

Bush’s administration cited its belief that Iraqi Saddam Hussein’s government held weapons of mass destruction to justify the decision to go to war. US and allied forces later found that such stockpiles did not exist.

Rutgers University founded in 1766 is one of the oldest US universities where over 58,000 students are studying.

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