Democratic Underground

The New War Profiteers
October 22, 2001
by Christopher Harrison

Printer-friendly version of this article Tell a friend about this article Discuss this article

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 state.

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 another.

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 ruling elite.

The author is the trade issues lead for the Lower Hudson (NY) Sierra Club and an overly irate citizen.