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Powell the Star of Bush's "Façade Corps"
March 10, 2004
By Dennis Hans

The most successful department in the Bush administration is, without question, the Façade Corps.

This little-known operation is headquartered in the White House basement, but its personnel are scattered throughout the bureaucracies. The Façade Corps functions, in effect, as a theatre company. Much like an actor on a stage, an FC employee merely pretends to be, say, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency. If the de facto director holds views that citizens would find troublesome in an EPA director, the White House will wisely keep him away from the news-media spotlight while someone from the FC plays his part in public. Until recently, in fact, his part was played, quite effectively, by a her.

The FC is the brainchild of the president, but in keeping with the imperative of a false front, Karl Rove is listed as "Numero Uno" in the confidential FC staffing chart. Of course, it's impossible to say that the confidential chart is itself the real thing and not another false front, which is always possible in an administration headed by the ultimate false front: "straight shooter" George W. Bush.

But if the chart is what it purports to be, then Colin Powell holds the rank of "lead performer," at an annual salary of $3.1 million. The hefty price tag reflects Powell's strong bargaining position in the summer of 2000, when he was first offered the gig, pending a Bush victory that November. At the time, Powell was raking in big bucks as part of a traveling circus of "motivational speakers" that included Bill "Poppa Needs a New Pair of Shoes" Bennett, which was packing sports arenas around the country.

The FC chart shows that Powell is indeed merely playing the role of "Secretary of State," the real job of which is divided among a hodge-podge of extremists from various offices who handle different issues and regions. Powell was an inspired choice, for in real life he's hardly the yahoo that Bush, were he a true straight shooter, would prefer. Rather, Powell is a thoughtful, cautious and mainstream-establishment conservative who projects an (undeserved) image of trustworthiness, which plays considerably better with the American public and the international community than the qualities associated with the conniving creeps who actually run the various branches of the State Department.

Allow me to introduce some of the people who are the true formulators and implementers of U.S. foreign policy.

Latin America and the Caribbean are run by Roger Noriega, a coup-crazy protégé of Jesse Helms, and Otto Reich, renowned for his underhanded 1980s propaganda operation in the U.S. media on behalf of Ronald Reagan's beloved and bloodthirsty Nicaraguan contras. The Canadian account is handled by drug czar John Walters, who shares Bush's belief that the greatest non-WMD threat to the United States is Canada's insufficiently stiff marijuana laws. Arms "control" is the baby of neocon mad-bomber John Bolton.

Arab-Israeli issues are handled even-handedly by Elliott Abrams, an Ariel Sharon enthusiast who in the 1980s proudly deceived Congress about the Iran-Contra affair. Policies in the Persian Gulf region are fleshed out by pro-democracy poseurs Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby. Old Europe is charmed by Donald Rumsfeld and New Europe by Paul Wolfowitz. Africa is left to fend for itself, though Powell has been permitted to burnish his image with a modest AIDS-fighting package in return for performing the occasional dirty trick, such as putting out a fake "Fact Sheet" framing the government of Niger as Saddam's nuclear collaborator.

Speaking of Rumsfeld, one can tell he's the genuine Secretary of Defense, rather than an FC actor, because the Pentagon is not teeming with senior aides who reject Rummy's vision of the world or the Pentagon's role in it. Anyone found to be out of step soon finds himself out of a job.

What we know of Powell's actual views suggests that, were he truly in charge of the State Department, he wouldn't entrust any of these regions or issues to the men who are currently fashioning policy. Instead, he'd field a team of cautious, moderately conservative diplomats and ex-soldiers with area expertise and establishment credentials.

Of course, that's what makes Powell such an invaluable member of Bush's Façade Corps: Anyone can play a role he or she believes in 100 percent. But it takes a real pro to be convincing when you believe in few of the policies and positions you've been directed to promote.

Yes, Powell is one heck of an actor. As for how he rates as a public servant, well, that's another question entirely.


Dennis Hans (HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu) writes serious and humorous stuff for fun and profit. He has taught courses in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, and he has a habit of being right before most anyone else, having penned prior to the Iraq war the essays "Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His 'Techniques of Deceit'" and "The Disinformation Age".

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