“All the President’s Men.”

Listed below are some of the main figures in the Bush Administration who will likely play a major role in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001. Almost all of them have been associated with prior administrations in various capacities, many as veterans of previous US international wars, both overt and covert. Collectively hundreds of thousands of people were tortured, maimed, or killed in these conflicts. The positions they held then and the roles they played during their tenures, especially in some of those conflicts, raise serious questions with regard to human rights, international law, and peace and justice. We briefly outline the positions these men occupied and provide links to articles detailing some of the concerns about their roles because we worry that the urgency of this moment will discourage a thorough review of who is conducting the response to the attacks of September 11th.

John D. Negroponte, Ambassador to the United Nations 2001—

Background: Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985. Under his watch U.S. military aid to Honduras, which was the primary beachhead for U.S. covert action against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the FMLN in El Salvador, soared from $4 million to $77.4 million. Negroponte worked with General Alvarez, then Chief of Armed Forces of Honduras in enabling the Honduran military support for the Contras. The Honduran Human Rights Commission named Negroponte in a 1994 report on the torture and disappearance of 184 political opponents.


Elliott Abrams, Senior Director, Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations, National Security Council 2001—

Background: Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs from 1981-1985, later appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs in 1985. Abrams consistently mislead the public and government with regard to human rights abuses in Latin America during the Reagan administration by U.S. allies such as the military and governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. He further withheld information from Congress regarding the true nature of the U.S. involvement with and links to the Contras in Nicaragua. Faced with a multiple felony indictment by the Independent Counsel in 1991, Abrams signed a guilty plea agreement on a number of counts. In 1992 President George Bush pardoned him, along with others involved in the Iran/Contra scandal.


Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 2001—

Background: Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 1982-86, Ambassador to Indonesia, 1986-89, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, 1989-93. During the Reagan and Bush administrations Wolfowitz played a significant role in helping shape U.S. foreign policy in Asia, where the US for decades backed dictators like Suharto (Indonesia), Chun Doo Hwan (South Korea), and Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), looking the other way as they perpetrated human rights abuses.


Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, 2001—

Background: Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 1973-74, Chief of Staff in the Ford Administration, 1974-75, Secretary of Defense, 1975-77, Chairman, Commission on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, 1998-99. As Secretary of Defense for Ford, Rumsfeld played a role in impairing the negotiations on the SALT II treaty then being conducted by Henry Kissinger. A number of people associated with him formed the core of the “Team B” group of “experts” who disputed official U.S. government data to reflect their ideological positions on disarmament. Rumsfeld’s report in his role as chair of the commission appointed to ascertain the ballistic missile threat to the US has been severely contested, and Rumsfeld himself dismissed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in his confirmation hearings.


Colin L. Powell, Secretary of State, 2001—

Background: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1989-93. Powell is widely seen as a moderate and a model, a minority in the parade of conservatives that make up the Bush cabinet. Yet, this angle often overlooks his role in past U.S. conflicts in Vietnam, Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Iran/Contra.


Richard B. “Dick” Cheney, Vice President, 2001—

Background: Chief of Staff of the Ford Administration, 1975-76, Representative from Wyoming, U.S. Congress, 1977-89, Secretary of Defense, 1989-92. Cheney was a consistent supporter of Reagan's domestic and foreign policies, including “Star Wars,” the funding of the Contras, the Afghan mujahideen, and the Angolan right-wing rebels UNITA. As vice-chairman of the committee investigating Iran-Contra, he declared in 1987 that there was no evidence to show that Reagan knew about the rerouting of profits from arms sales to Iran to what he called the “Nicaraguan democratic resistance."


John D. Ashcroft, Attorney-General, 2001—

Background: Governor, Missouri, 1984-93, U.S. Senator from Missouri, 1994-00. When nominated for his current post, Ashcroft drew widespread opposition from a host of progressive and liberal groups on a broad range of issues. In terms of civil liberties, in the past, he has espoused an amendment to the constitution to enable a ban on destroying the American flag in political protests, and has also supported limits on free speech on the Internet through legislation attempting to censor Internet communications. Under Ashcroft, the Justice Department in a case against a lecturer who was jailed for not handing over research to the FBI claimed that only “legitimate” journalists and reporters are covered by the First Amendment regarding a free press. In the wake of the events of September 11th, Ashcroft has sought expanded powers in the name of clamping down on terrorism that will be seriously detrimental to civil liberties in the U.S., particularly for immigrants.


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