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Who's running the war?

January 4, 2002 | Page 7

SOCIALIST WORKER'S guide to the chief war makers in Washington.

Rumsfeld | Ashcroft | Powell | Cheney


IF YOU wanted to pick one person as a symbol of the connection between the Washington elite and Corporate America, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would be your man. Rumsfeld has spent decades shuttling between the corridors of political power and corporate boardrooms.

He rose to prominence in the Nixon and Ford administrations, becoming defense secretary in 1975. Presiding over the rehabilitation of the Pentagon following the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War, "Rummy" laid the groundwork for a range of new weapons systems.

When the Republicans lost the White House in 1976, Rumsfeld started out his new corporate career at the top, taking over at drug giant G.D. Searle and later technology firm General Instrument.

As a CEO, the man who never met a proposed Pentagon weapons system he didn't like suddenly discovered the virtues of "cost-cutting"--and slashed 30 percent of the workforce at both companies.

Returning to his old job under Dubya, Rumsfeld's main role before September 11 was as the administration's most fanatical supporter of a Star Wars missile defense system--not to mention killer satellites, laser ray guns and assorted other space weapons.

Since the war on Afghanistan began, Rumsfeld has hogged the limelight with his daily press briefings--where his open contempt for all questions about military operations competes with his delight in detailing every barbaric aspect of the war.

Now, Rumsfeld is ready for more--rejecting his advisers' proposals for new countries to target after Afghanistan as "not radical enough."

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IS THERE anyone who cares less about your rights than Attorney General John Ashcroft?

Civil rights? Ashcroft built his political career in Missouri "out of opposing school desegregation in St. Louis and opposing African Americans for public office," wrote the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

A women's right to choose? As a senator, Ashcroft was one of three cosponsors of the Human Life Amendment, which would not only outlaw abortions but some forms of contraception.

Rights of defendants? Not if they get in the way of police and prosecutors fighting the "war on drugs."

Defeated for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2000 by a dead man, Ashcroft was bumped upstairs by Dubya. Though his nomination was widely opposed, Senate Democrats allowed Ashcroft to squeak through confirmation with his promises to "respect the Constitution."

But since September 11, Ashcroft has violated it, amendment by amendment. His Justice Department has detained more than 1,000 people in connection with the investigation into the air attacks. Yet America's chief witch-hunter can't say that a single person has been charged with a crime directly related to the September 11 attacks.

Still, Ashcroft isn't apologizing. When senators finally got him to explain himself in early December, the sullen attorney general denounced his critics as no better than terrorists themselves. "[T]o those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty," Ashcroft said, "my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."

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THE MAINSTREAM media have painted Secretary of State Colin Powell as the administration's "dove," fighting against "hawks" like Donald Rumsfeld for a more moderate war. Straw-grasping liberals latched onto the idea as well, hoping to discover the champion of a kinder, gentler "war against terrorism."

But when it comes to committing war crimes, Powell is second to none among the Bush gang. He has the experience.

As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Papa Bush, Powell presided over the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. An estimated 200,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians, were killed in Operation Desert Slaughter's saturation bombing campaign. Powell followed up the air strikes with a blitzkrieg ground offensive in which surrendering Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered by the thousands.

The media claim that Powell's primary concern has been "coalition-building" and winning an "international consensus" for U.S. military adventures. But Powell made his priorities clear after the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama: "We have to put a shingle outside our door saying 'superpower lives here.'"

When Powell was nominated as Bush Jr.'s secretary of state, he was greeted as a rock of integrity. But this "man of principle" didn't even flinch in wrecking the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, last summer--after delegates dared to raise criticisms of Israel.

If Powell isn't always reading from the same page as Rumsfeld and Co., you can be sure that they're all using the same book.

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VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney has kept a low profile during the U.S. war on Afghanistan. But don't think that he's out of the loop. By most accounts, Cheney has been pulling the strings since day one of President Moron's reign.

He's about as right wing as they come in Washington. As a member of Congress from Wyoming during the 1980s, Cheney racked up a right-wing record to rival the likes of Jesse Helms.

He was an opponent of "terrorism" back then, too--only he was fond of denouncing Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress as the world's main "terrorist" threat.

Cheney moved over to the Pentagon to become Papa Bush's defense secretary in 1989, where he helped to run the Gulf War.

When Bush was run out of Washington in 1992, Cheney followed his boss into the world of big oil. He became filthy rich as CEO of Halliburton, the world's largest oil services company.

No wonder Cheney took a hands-on approach to energy policy as vice president, organizing a special White House task force to "study" the issue, which he packed with old cronies from the oil industry. No one knows exactly who, though--because Cheney refused to disclose the names of task force members, even after Congressional investigators demanded the information.

Now Cheney is part of the hunt to find a new enemy in the "war against terrorism." Who's on his short list? Some "40 to 50" countries, stretching from North Korea and the Philippines in East Asia to Colombia on the other side of the globe.

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