blacks, in openly celebrating Simpson's acquittal, were quick
to state the real rationale behind the verdict: that,
as several put it in news interviews, "it's payback time."
In other words, if we think of Nicole Brown Simpson as a human
sacrifice to the god of black victimology made in payment
for the injuries inflicted on blacks by racist whites
then her murder was justified. The jurors understood
the "the facts" and ignored them. Powell's defense
of their verdict was outrageous, and if such a ridiculous
explanation had come out of the mouth of, say, Louis Farrakhan
or Lenora Fulani, it would have been roundly condemned. But
the revered Powell gets a free pass, where others are held
accountable: the man is an icon, widely seen as living evidence
that we can, after all, live in a multi-cultural society.
Or, as Bruce Llewellyn, Powell's business partner and cousin,
you ever heard [Powell's] speeches? He gives a great speech.
He gets all of them white people coming up off the chairs,
clapping and feeling good about themselves. He talks about
America, the great land of opportunity, and how a poor West
Indian kid with Jamaican parents and living in the south Bronx
can work his way to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. . . . . They all love this shit. They all love the
idea that "Gee, we weren't prejudiced.' . . . White people
love to believe they're fair. One of the things that upsets
the living shit out of them is when you confront them with
the fact that they are really a bunch of racist, no-good motherfuckers."
[Cited in Henry Louis Gates, "Powell and the Black Elite,"
The New Yorker, September 25, 1995; p. 70.]
BANDWAGON THAT WENT OFF THE ROAD
great wave of Powell-mania that swept the country in 1996
included all too many conservatives who didn't care that their
candidate's views were considerably to left on many key issues
the sight of Bill Kristol and Arianna Huffington jumping
on the Powell-for-President bandwagon presaged the later defection
of these two intellectual lightweights to the McCainiac camp
and the wacko Left
respectively. Still, many veteran conservative leaders, such
as Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Weyrich, and others declared their
opposition. This year, with the Republican hard right
taking a back seat to the party's moderate-to-liberal wing,
putting Powell on the ticket, albeit in a secondary spot,
would have been provocative, to say the least. So it's the
Secretary of State's office, and not the White House or the
Vice-Presidential Residence, for Powell where his views
on affirmative action won't rub conservatives the wrong way.
But what kind of a Secretary of State would he make? What
are his foreign policy views? In light of Bush's pre-election
appointment, such questions need to be asked. The inspiring
saga of the Powell Myth, the General's by-his-bootstraps bio,
is a personal narrative with little relevance to the qualifications
for the Secretary's job. What are his qualifications,
anyway, aside from his immense popularity and his usefulness
in giving the GOP a (completely phony) multicultural gloss?
really scared the Republican right, back in 1996, when it
looked as if Powell might run for and take the
White House, was his self-designation as a "Rockefeller Republican."
Schlafly was particularly perturbed by this, and wrote:
is a puzzlement why Colin Powell identified himself as a 'Rockefeller
Republican,' when Nelson Rockefeller was the quintessential
representative of the eastern liberal establishment. To the
grassroots conservatives who are now the dominant majority
in the Republican Party, Rockefeller Republicanism means 'in
your face' Big Government liberalism."
identification with "Rockefeller Republicanism" is not just
ideological: Joseph Persico, who ghostwrote the General's
best-selling memoir, My
American Journey, was one of Nelson Rockefeller's
speechwriters, and author of The
Imperial Rockefeller (New York: Simon and Schuster,
1982), a hagiography of his former employer. In the days leading
up to Powell's anticlimactic announcement that he would not
run, an organization pushing his candidacy seemed to spring
out of nowhere, led by Eisenhower biographer and internationalist
blowhard Steven Ambrose. I remember seeing a television interview
at the height of the Powell boomlet in which a GOP political
consultant who claimed to have been in touch with Powell casually
brushed aside the question of how to raise enough money so
late in the political season: "Money," he averred, "is no
problem." Being a Rockefeller Republican has certain inherent
identification of Rockefeller Republicanism as the political
arm of the Money Power was the theme of Schlafly's classic
1964 book, A
Choice, Not an Echo, the seminal manifesto of the
Goldwater movement: that the struggle for the soul of the
Republican party between Goldwater and his enemies in the
Eastern Republican Establishment, which dates back to the
dark days of the New Deal, pits "the grassroots Republicans,
Main Street Americans, who labor in the precincts to elect
candidates they hope will be faithful after election" against
powerful people who fancy themselves as kingmakers, the wheelers
and dealers of the proverbial smoke- filled rooms, also known
as the New York or Wall Street or eastern liberal establishment.
They include the multinational corporations (whose most recent
accomplishment was the Mexican bailout) and the Business Roundtable
types, whose fingers of control slither through what is called
the media elite."
Dubya as its standard-bearer, this wing of the GOP is clearly
in the saddle and the choice of Powell for State, in
this context, makes perfect sense. As a good Rockefeller Republican,
Powell's commitment to continuing and expanding our policy
of global interventionism is unquestioned. The extra added
attraction is that Powell's internationalism comes wrapped
in the packaging of the "reluctant warrior." Super-hawks like
William Safire suspiciously note that the General favored
sanctions over war with Iraq. But as he makes clear in My
American Journey, Powell favored sanctions as a prelude
to an all-out attack: he argued that we needed more time to
build up an overwhelming force. When President Bush declared
that this was not a war for oil, or glory, but a struggle
to create a "New World Order," his clarion call was echoed
by Powell, who, in January of 1993, favored the midshipmen
at the US Naval Academy with the following exhortation:
are carrying the culture and the spirit and the lifeblood
of America. You are carrying it out to new generations of
Americans and you are carrying it out to help a new world
order get underway."
WITH A HUMAN FACE
big problem of the New World Order crowd has always been that
its constituency has been necessarily limited to a very select
group of people those who directly benefit in terms
of corporate profits and political power (the two being inextricably
intertwined). The elevation of Powell to head up the State
Department will give the policy of internationalism a human
face and widen its constituency considerably. As a
replacement for Madeleine Albright, with her overblown rhetoric
and overbearing arrogance, Powell will be a stylistic improvement
as what wouldn't? In terms of policy, however, Powell
could be even more dangerous than Mad Madeleine when it comes
to the question of when (and how) to intervene militarily.
begin with, Powell's criteria for calling out the troops,
enumerated in his book, are prefaced by an all-purpose escape
clause: "There is . . . no fixed set of rules for the use
of military force. To set one up is dangerous." So much for
the Christian concept of "just wars" versus wars of conquest:
the moral dimension, here, is entirely missing a disturbing
omission, to say the least. But Powell claims there is a tactical
reason for not setting up such a standard: "it destroys the
ambiguity we might want to exist in our enemy's mind regarding
our intentions." Here is the mentality of globalism on display
for all to see: the whole world must live in fear of the United
States. Haunted by the possibility that the Americans might
strike at any time, the rest of the world must quake in awe
and constant terror, groveling before our terrible majesty.
abjuring any truly definitive criteria, Powell list four questions
that must be asked before the decision to send in the troops
is made, starting with: "Is the political objective we seek
to achieve important, clearly defined and understood?" But
this begs the question: important to whom? It also
leaves out the key element of what is in America's national
interest as opposed to the corporate and other interests
that traditionally have determined the course of our foreign
policy. Powell wants to know if "all other nonviolent policy
means [have] failed" before he send is the troops but
every foreign policy disaster of recent years meets
this criteria. In the cases of Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, and
Somalia, military intervention was preceded by lengthy negotiations,
during which the US asserted its alleged right to intervene
anywhere and everywhere in the name of "human rights." When
this conceit was resisted, military action followed
a course of action completely consistent with Powell's criteria.
asks: "Will military force achieve its objective? At what
cost? Have the gains and risks been analyzed?" Coming from
someone who endorsed our intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo,
one can only wonder how Powell would answer his own inquiries.
"How might the situation that we seek to alter, once it is
altered by force, develop further and what might be the consequences?"
As the Kosovo "Liberation" Army rampages through the volatile
Balkans, unleashed by the forces of NATO, the disastrous consequences
of that war are all too obvious to a growing number of Americans.
Powell not only supported the Kosovo war, but he took the
McCainiac view that we should have sent in the ground troops.
During the war, Powell argued that by only punishing the Serbs,
instead of completely annihilating them and marching into
Belgrade, we were "holding back" a threat that was
liberally broadcast by the Voice
POWELL DOCTRINE AND ITS DISCONTENTS
much-heralded "Powell Doctrine" was contrasted, during the
Kosovo war, with NATO's all-air-strikes and no ground troops
strategy, which was dubbed the "Anti-Powell Doctrine" by Clintonista
wags. This is an argument over means, not ends: in terms of
broad policy objectives, the Powell Doctrine is only stylistically
distinguishable from the madcap Wilsonianism of the so-called
Clinton Doctrine, which exhorted us to intervene everywhere
on behalf of the worldwide struggle against "racism" and "intolerance."
As the Brookings Institute's Ivo Daalder and Michael E. O'Hanlon
put it in their essay, "Unlearning
the Lessons of Kosovo":
Powell Doctrine is often mentioned in the same breath as the
Weinberger Doctrine. However, even though General Colin Powell
had a hand in drafting both, they are not the same. Caspar
Weinberger, secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan,
insisted that force should be used solely in defense of vital
US interests. Powell was less concerned with limiting the
objectives than with defining them clearly and using force
decisively to achieve them. He vigorously defended the Bush
administration's uses of force to remove Manuel Noriega from
power in Panama and to protect democracy against coup attempts
in the Philippines. He also supported humanitarian relief
missions in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Iraq, Russia, and Somalia,
as well as the Clinton administration's later intervention
in Haiti." [Foreign Policy, Fall 1999]
argued against our initial intervention in the Balkans, then
later came out in favor of it: he has since taken the McCainiac
"since we're in it, we've gotta win it" line, which is why,
during the GOP primaries, McCain announced that he would appoint
Powell secretary of state. So much for the much-vaunted policy
differences between the two former rivals: there was no more
difference between the two GOP contenders on the vital foreign
policy issues of the day than there now is between the Republican
and Democratic nominees. For that matter, I wouldn't rule
out Al Gore declaring that he, too would appoint Powell secretary
of state.. It doesn't matter whom we elect we still
get the very same foreign policy. Isn't democracy wonderful?
OF THE PEACE
Bush in the White House, Powell at State, and McCain at Defense,
you can bet that we will not be out of Kosovo any time soon.
In a 1992 article published in Foreign Affairs, the
prestigious journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, Powell
declares "We are obligated to lead." But whom are we leading?
The General does not elaborate, but presumably the answer
is: the world. Powell lays out a blueprint for American foreign
and military policy in the post-cold war world that greatly
expands the role of the US as the nexus of an evolving world
authority. According to Powell, we must be ready not only
to fight major wars on two fronts, the Atlantic and the Pacific,
but US forces must also be prepared to fight and die putting
out minor brush-fires in Africa, Latin America, and other
trouble-spots. "I believe peacekeeping and humanitarian operations
are a given," writes Powell. "Likewise our forward presence
is a given to signal our commitment to our allies and
to give second thoughts to any disturber of the peace."
Pax Americana, eternal and inviolable, an empire in everything
but name: for Powell and cheerleaders, this is "a given"
and woe unto the "rogue nations" of the world who dare to
disturb the peace of US hegemony. Archaic claims of sovereignty,
either national or personal, have no place in the New World
Order. As the conqueror of Panama, and the triumphant hero
of the Gulf War, Powell will glamorize the office of secretary
of state and swathe it in military glory. Even more valuable,
from a public relations point of view, is his ethnicity, which
we aren't supposed to mention but which has significance beyond
his personal narrative: Powell's is the multicultural face
of Imperial America and what could be more multicultural
than a world-spanning empire?
COMPLEX OF VAUNTING AND FEAR"
Powell, and Team Bush, our "forward position" is most certainly
"a given," as the would-be secretary of state avers
and this is precisely what has to be challenged, this election
year. We are provoking a backlash of global proportions, a
Chalmers Johnson puts it) of such potential deadliness
that we are seriously contemplating a National Missile Defense
to guard against the threat of nuclear terrorism from our
accumulating enemies. Is this how we want to live? We vaunt
our power and claim with reckless arrogance
to be "the indispensable nation." But is this the kind of
nation we want to be-one that must keep the rest of the world
in a state of fearful suspense? Garet Garrett called our foreign
policy of global intervention "a complex of vaunting and fear"
a description that fits the Powellian policy, in style
and content, to a tee.
POWELL AND THE POWER ELITE READ THE BOOK!
Powell qualified to be secretary of state? Certainly he is
from the point of view of our ruling elites, who have built
up his career and his reputation to the status of a living
legend. They have backed him all the way, and at every step
of his career: it is a story too long to tell in a column.
Which brings me to the subject of my book: Colin Powell
and the Power Elite was written at the height of the Powell-for-President
hysteria, when Bill Kristol and Arianna Huffington were in
ecstasies at the thought of Powell in the Oval Office, and
this hot-air balloon desperately needed a little puncturing.
It is a short book, some 140 pages, that traces his rise as
a public figures and charts the development of his views on
a wide range of subjects; given my own interest in foreign
policy, and Powell's key role in virtually every major US
military intervention of the Reagan and Bush years, a good
part of this book analyzes his foreign policy views. Those
books were gathering dust in storage, but I guess now, in
view of recent developments, is the time to break them out.
can get Colin Powell and the Power Elite be making a $25 contribution
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here I thought that Colin Powell and the Power Elite
was no longer all that relevant! I couldn't have been more
mistaken. If the polls stand up through Election Day 2000,
this little book just may come in handy. Get your copy now,
while the supply lasts.