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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2004

22 November 2004

LONDON - Miss Condoleezza Rice may be the apple of President George W. Bush's eye, but in Europe her nomination as Secretary of State is being met with disappointment and dismay.

The long-anticipated resignations of the respected state secretary, Colin Powell, and his tough, able deputy, Richard Armitage, leaves US foreign policy in the hands of bellicose VP Dick Cheney and his neocon Pentagon allies. The new National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadely, is a bland functionary well known for being under Cheney's thumb.

Powell, an honorable soldier and gentleman, was humiliated, ignored, and cynically used to sell the Iraq war. Tragically, he made a fool of himself before the world when his UN Philippic about Iraq's supposed arsenal of death turned out to be a total fabrication. Of course, no more a fool than the other senior members of the cabinet who rushed the US into a disastrous, totally unnecessary war that is now costing $5.8 billion a month.

Rice, an academic Soviet expert has been the worst National Security Advisor since the Reagan Administration's bumbling William Clark, whose only foreign affairs experience, wits said, came from eating at the International House of Pancakes.

But Rice, however shallow and waspish, is totally loyal to Bush, a consummate yes-woman in an administration prizing subservience and the party line. At least she will speak abroad with full presidential authority.

Prior to 9/11, Rice advocated cutting ant-terrorism spending and concentrating on anti-missile defense. She played a key role in misleading Americans into believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and Saddam posed a dire threat to mankind. She urged Bush to invade Iraq and plunge deeper into Afghanistan. Her ludicrous claims about Iraqi `mushroom clouds' panicked Americans to war. For this alone she should have been dismissed.

The most important function of national security advisor - and I can say this having myself been interviewed at the White House for a position on the National Security Council - is to coordinate all national security policy. But under Rice, Defense, State and CIA were at each other's throats. She allowed the president to humiliate himself over Iraq's non-existent weapons, including his comical claims about Saddam's uranium and `drones of death.'

After the European powers refused to join the trumped-up Iraq war, Rice famously advised Bush to `punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia.' Bush followed this amateurish, vindictive misadvice, seriously damaging US-Europe relations and helping advance dictatorship in Russia.

Bush's second term foreign policy may grow even more aggressive, unilateralist, and driven by rightwing ideology and religious zealotry. Powell's departure means the last shreds of civilized diplomacy could give way to populist, anti-intellectual foreign policy based on bizarre religious beliefs of Protestant cultists and Dick Cheney's dark, Stranegelovian fantasies.

Fortunately, Bush's declared intention to pursue his ideological crusading will be curtailed by the fact that he has run out of more soldiers and money for new military adventures. Iraq and Afghanistan have already bled the US military and treasury dry.

Educated Americans must yearn for foreign policy greats George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and Zib Brzesinski whose brilliant strategic minds ably guided the US through the Cold War.

Instead, we have Miss Condoleezza, who knows little about the outside world, but a lot about Bush, with whom she likes to belt out gospel hymns. At the Pentagon, that later-day Robert McNamara, Don Rumsfeld, is stuck in a lost war in Iraq engineered by the neocons.

CIA's new chief, Porter Goss, another Bush yes-man, whose agency is in revolt, just issued in best Soviet tradition a ukase to all CIA officers ordering them to obey Bush's party line or else. Such boot-licking is how Bush Administration I got everything wrong about Iraq.

Attorney General John Aschroft, blessedly took his leave. But further dashing hopes Bush would soften and upgrade his cabinet, Chief Inquisitor Ashcroft is to be replaced by an unknown lawyer, Alberto Gonzalez, whose sole claim to fame -a shocking, shameful one- is authoring a memo to the president justifying torture and violating the Geneva Conventions, an act more meriting disbarment and ignominy than elevation to high office.

The image of Condi Rice and George Bush sitting at the White House piano singing `Onward Christian Soldiers' is unsettling Europe, which thought Bush II might restore America to its traditional multilateral foreign policy. Even Tony Blair, Bush's faithful sidekick, is looking rather unhappy over the appointment of Rice, perhaps mindful of the old saying that a little knowledge can be more dangerous than none.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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    Eric Margolis
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