All the Presidents 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
John D. Negroponte, Ambassador to the United
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,
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. Rumsfelds 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,
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
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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