New War Profiteers
by Christopher Harrison
Opportunism seems to be the mood of the hour in Washington
these days. While the majority of the people of the country
live in a spirit of alternating fear, uncertainty, frustration
and anger; there is a group of people trying to use the tragedy
of September 11 for their own advantage. In past times, war
profiteers would often be prosecuted by the government as
enemies of the state. This time, the war profiteers ARE the
First, we need to look no further than our Attorney General,
John Ashcroft. It was no secret that Mr. Ashcroft was a right-wing
extremist, a "law and order" Republican before he was narrowly
confirmed as Attorney General. At the time, although many
took issue with his militant stance on issues such as protection
of civil liberties and abortion, he was confirmed anyway.
The belief was, as expressed by Senator Russell Feingold of
Wisconsin, that he would put his duties as Attorney General
above his personal beliefs – and if he didn't, there were
always the Senate Democrats to bring him back into line. Of
course, this was all before the events of September 11.
Now, Ashcroft is using this tragedy to advance his agenda
of rolling back civil liberties. He has pushed for, and received,
increased wiretapping and surveillance authority for law enforcement.
In everyone's rush to wrap themselves in the flag, virtually
no one outside of Senator Feingold and Georgia Representative
Bob Barr (now THERE is an example of how politics makes strange
bedfellows) spoke out against this open assault on the First
and Fourth Amendments. Forget the fact that the reasoning
behind Ashcroft's plea for increased powers granted to law
enforcement was essentially a strawman argument – rolling
wiretaps and increased surveillance had already been covered
under the controversial 1996 Anti Terrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act – it was pushed through with only token
resistance amidst an atmosphere of fear, panic and uber-patriotism.
The 2001 Act expands the parameters of the 1996 Act even further,
effectively eliminating provisions of due process and protections
against unreasonable search and seizure. The irony is, this
assault on our civil liberties was all done in the name of
protecting freedom and democracy.
The next suspect is the "military-industrial complex" comprised
of the Pentagon, private defense contractors and the hawks
in the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government.
This is the same "military-industrial complex" of which President
Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against their undue influence
during his 1960 farewell address. A substantial increase in
defense spending was immediately approved after 9/11 with
a minimum of debate. That truly is a shame, because a debate
might have allowed us to see where this money was truly going.
High-level officials and advisors in the Bush Administration,
including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have stated our
need to revise our armed forces from a Cold War mentality
to a modern one. But this statement is belied by the programs
earmarked for this additional spending – some of them include
the F-22 fighter and a National Missile Defense shield – programs
essentially useless in a "War on Terrorism." One only wonders
how long it will be before additional funding is requested
for the problem-plagued V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Instead
of these funds being dedicated to weapons systems and training
enabling our troops to more effectively fight on the modern
battlefield of urban centers, inhospitable mountain terrain
and enemies who operate in the shadows; the money is instead
being used to subsidize the coffers of defense contractors
by building unneeded Cold War relics.
Finally, the Bush Administration has attempted to use this
tragedy to advance their agenda of "Free Trade" and Trade
Promotion Authority. This cause has been shamelessly championed
by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, President Bush
himself, and most recently Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In using the deaths of some 5,000 Americans to advance the
cause of corporate domination of the globe, they have sunk
to the lowest depths of political opportunism. In their argument,
they cite the need to use free trade as a means of combatting
terrorism. The fact is, the two have nothing to do with one
The Bush Administration is fighting for Trade Promotion Authority
– also known as Fast Track – at this time because they know
there will be very little debate on it. To call it into question
now may cause one to be branded as "unpatriotic." But this
is precisely the kind of issue which requires a vast amount
of public debate due to its very nature and far-reaching implications.
Secretary of State Powell wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal
Op-Ed that free trade has "given Americans high-quality goods
at lower prices, a boon especially for lower-income families,"
and that "international trade creates wealth. Studies have
shown that developing countries with open trading systems
have seen large drops in poverty. History gives us proof."
What he fails to mention is how these "free trade" practices
have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs
in the US manufacturing sector, led a direct assault against
government-imposed environmental protection measures both
here and abroad, and actually lowered wages and the standard
of living for the majority of workers in poorer countries
such as Mexico. He also fails to mention that this provision
would circumvent Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution
which authorizes Congress "To regulate Commerce with foreign
Nations..." This power would instead be placed in the Executive
branch, allowing only a simple yea or nay vote from Congress
without the possibility of amendment. Implications of Fast
Track would include a shifting of the checks and balances
which were enacted by our Founding Fathers for the specific
purpose of preventing one branch of government from becoming
too powerful over the others. Trade Promotion Authority would
violate the very principles of freedom and democracy on which
this nation was founded.
The Bush Administration has acted as a group of war profiteers
during this time of national mourning and crisis. They have
attempted to use September 11 as a Trojan Horse to advance
their right wing agenda. It is the patriotic duty of the people
of this great nation to stand and denounce their opportunism
for what it truly is. It is time for us to stand together
and maintain control of our own government, in the true spirit
of freedom and democracy, before all that remains of that
spirit is nothing more than empty rhetoric espoused by the
author is the trade issues lead for the Lower Hudson (NY)
Sierra Club and an overly irate citizen.