Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rummy's Fall on the Street Without Joy

In the two weeks since the elections, it has become obvious that there is a shift in the power base within the Executive branch, just as surely as in the House and Senate. The two most high-profile changes are the retirement of Donald Rumsfeld, and the return of James Baker III to an unofficial leadership position. These two changes are, of course, clearly related. Some journalists have reported that this relationship illustrates a shift of power away from the Office of Vice President Cheney. I would suggest that this is not necessarily true.

Another curious phenomenon is the very public "attacks" being waged by some neoconservatives against the administration, in which they attempt to distance themselves from the tragic results of the invasion of Iraq that they had advocated since the end of the first Gulf War. On one hand, we see snakes like Kenneth Adelman and Richard Perle publicly calling the war in Iraq a failure. However, from Seymour Hersch’s 11-20-06 "The Next Act," we know that VP Cheney continues to address AIPAC about his plans to advance the neoconservative agenda in regard to Iran. More, Hersch notes that the "main Middle East expert on the Vice-President’s staff is David Wurmser, a neoconservative who was a strident advocate for the invasion of Iraq and ….. (who) argue(s) that there can be no settlement that there can be no settlement of the Iraq war without regime change in Iran."

Another part of Hersch’s article that stood out was this: " …Bush and his immediate advisers in the White House understood by mid-October that Rumsfeld would have to resign if the result of the midterm election was a resounding defeat. Rumsfeld was involved in conversations about the timing of his departure with Cheney, Gates, and the President before the election…." It is safe to safe that the image that the "powers-that-be" are attempting to create publicly, are not a fair reflection of the actual shifts in power taking place behind the scenes. I thought it might be worth our while today to take a look closer at those powers that are not visible to the public.
In previous essays, I have mentioned two books that help us to understand that invisible power structure. The first is "JFK," by Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty. He notes what Winston Churchill called the "High Cabal," and which R. Buckminster Fuller described as the "invisible power structure." Prouty states, "It goes without saying that few, if any, credible historians are going to be able to name the individuals who comprise such an elite …. One of the strengths of this power elite is that they have learned to live anonymously." (page xxiii)

Oliver Stone would use Prouty’s book for parts of his movie "JFK." Prouty served as a technical adviser for the film. More, he was played by Donald Sutherland in perhaps the most important scene in the film, where as "Man X" he explains to Kevin Costner some of the financial implications of the "Cold War." Interestingly, the preface to the updated version of Prouty’s book includes a preface that notes that a 9-2-53 speech by John Foster Dulles to the American Legion Convention in St. Louis, about eight years of US involvement in the war in Vietnam. This is the war that cost $570 billion and 58,000 American lives. It’s the one that President Bush recently claimed we lost because we quit too soon.

The second book I’ve recommended is "Farewell America," by James Hepburn. By no coincidence, the book was in part the result of Jim Garrison’s search for truth in the late 1960s. The book was a best-seller in Europe, at a time when it was not available in the United States. John Kennedy did not believe in censorship; in fact, Prouty’s book opens with this 10-29-60 quote from Kennedy: "If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all – except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security, as well as our liberty."

One of the "controversial" ideas that "Farewell America" put forth was that the oil industry was the single most influential source of political and economic power in the world. Several chapters detail how oil runs the world. In fact, the authors note, even the military industrial states rely upon oil to run their "machines."

In earlier essays, I have stated that there are members of the "invisible power elite" who, from time to time, step out from behind the curtain to take political positions that make them visible. One example I’ve used of this type of person is W. Averell Harriman. A more recent one would be James Baker III. Today we will look at another: Paul Nitze.

Chris Floyd has described Nitze as "a Wall Street blue-blood turned high-level bureaucrat who served several presidents …" John Kenneth Galbraith called him "a Teutonic martinet happiest in a military hierarchy." Let’s look beneath those compliments. Nitze was born in 1907 in Massachusetts, into a family of means. His family was in Munich at the beginning of WW1, and would later write about being impressed by the German population’s patriotic preparations for the war.

In the late 1920s, Nitze worked as an investment banker for a Chicago firm. He worked in Europe. Wikipedia notes that "upon his return, he heard Clarence Dillion predict the depression and the decline of the importance of finance." Around this time, he married the daughter of a Standard Oil financier and a NYS Congresswoman.

During WW2, Nitze began working in the federal government for James Forrestal. He was instrumental in not only creating the "Cold War" political policies for the United States, but also in charting the militarization of our economy for generations to come. This combination of his influence was perhaps best outlined in the secret National Security Document (NSC-68) that set the course for the United States from the Truman administration until today.

During the Eisenhower years, he served in positions outside of the administration, both in the Foreign Service Educational Foundation, and at the Foreign Policy Research and Advanced International Studies centers at Johns Hopkins University. This is the type of moving from the executive branch to university and related positions that one might note in the gentleman being nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld today.

Speaking of Rummy, he plays a curious role in Nitze’s career. JFK had appointed Nitze to the position of assistant secretary of defense. As such, he played a role in the formative days of the administration, as we read in Arthur Schlesinger Jr’s "A Thousand Days," but then moves to the background. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, we find that he attended numerous important meetings, but that his advice to the President is exactly the opposite of what Kennedy decides to do to resolve the conflict without war. (See: "The Kennedy Tapes"; edited by May & Zelikow;Belknap Press; 1997)

In "House of War," James Carroll notes that , Failing to grasp how he alienated Kennedy, Paul Nitze had convinced himself that he would soon be promoted to the Pentagon’s number-two job. Sure enough, it opened up, but Kennedy named Nitze instead to the post of secretary of the Navy, a position on the margins of policymaking, a clear demotion. Humiliated, Nitze complained to the president, who essentially told him to take it or leave it." Carroll tells of how Nitze accepted the demotion, and almost was not confirmed.

A new republican congressman from Illinois was looking to make a reputation by attacking Nitze during the confirmation hearings. Donald Rumsfeld accused Nitze of being an advocate of disarmament, because he had attended a National Council of Churches meeting in the past. It is not clear if Rummy knew that then-secretary of state John Foster Dulles had given the keynote speech at that meeting. Carroll writes that although Rumsfeld would later try to befriend Nitze, the "wound of the insult would never quite heal." (See pages 280-1)

Nitze would go on to serve under LBJ, and republican presidents Nixon and Reagan. He would be involve in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) under Nixon, and an outspoken opponent of SALT II. As such, he did not consider even attempting to reduce the economic investment that the United States had in the arms race. Instead, he sought ways to promote new and more expensive weapons systems.

And, as most people who follow politics today know, along with Dean Acheson, Nitze helped guide the careers of some of the most powerful neoconservatives of the past 30 years. People like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. These are the people who put in place the neocon cells in the Pentagon that have challenged CIA intelligence estimates from the Reagan years until the George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney administration.

If one believed the reports coming from the corporate media, they would be convinced that Rumsfeld was fired, despite VP Cheney’s attempts to save his job. They would believe that the neocons have jumped ship, and are the Bush administration’s harshest critics. And that, because the Iraqi experience has been such a failure, that there is no way that President Bush would even consider attacking Iran. One might even take seriously one US Senator’s statement that we need to confirm Robert Gates immediately, so that Rumsfeld will be forced out as soon as possible.

But we don’t need to believe those things. We can follow the advice of JFK, and read controversial books and articles by controversial authors. We don’t need to listen to the latest White House attack on Seymour Hersch, and we don’t need to believe a single word out of a snake like Joshua Muravichik’s mouth, when he appears on MSNBC’s Tucker show, saying we need to bomb Iran. We can instead read the background of the American Institute he promotes, and look at what group it is an off-shoot from.

And then we should use all of our resources, such as internet political discussion forums, to inform other progressives of the need to lobby the members of the House and Senate to do things such as provide intensive oversight on the administration’s activities involving Iran. And, by all means, do not confirm Robert Gates.


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