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The European Union commissioner in charge of international relations attacked U.S. foreign policy under the Bush Administration as having a dangerously “absolutist and simplistic” attitude toward our allies and other members of the global community. Chris Patten, the EU commissioner, who is a former Conservative Party chairman in Britain, also told a London newspaper that it was time for EU governments to speak up and stop the U.S. before it goes into “unilateralist overdrive”. In an interview with the Guardian, Mr. Patten was particularly incensed by President Bush’s characterization of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address. He described the phrase as very “unhelpful” and hard to believe as a “thought-through policy”. The European Union is working on a trade and cooperation agreement with Iran and Mr. Patten emphasized that the long-standing European policy of “constructive engagement” with Iranian moderates and North Korea is more likely to bring results than the increasingly belligerent tone of Washington.
The European leader was critical of Washington’s insistence on destroying terrorism but not in ending terrorism’s causes. He said that “smart bombs have their place but smart development assistance seems to me even more significant”. Patten said the dramatic success of the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan has fed a new U.S. mood of “intense triumphalism” and he encouraged the EU states to go their own way on global issues from climate change to the Middle East.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia was also critical of Bush’s “axis of evil” rhetoric as applied to Iraq, and warned against the U.S. going it alone against Iraq. Putin told Wall Street Journal reporters in the Kremlin that Iraq is “completely different” from Afghanistan and must not become a target for unilateral U.S. military action. Russia has billions invested in the economy of Iraq and Mr. Putin said that Russia was willing to work on “problems” through the United Nations, where Russia has a permanent seat on the Security Council, but such “problems cannot be solved by one country alone”.
The Wall Street Journal also reported from northern Iraq, where the country’s 3.6 million Kurds reside, that the Kurdish population is wary of joining with the U.S. in military action against Iraq because the Kurds are prospering now. The region’s minister of reconstruction said, “It’s a golden age. It has never been better for the Kurds in 4,000 years”. The Kurds want assurances that they will receive formalization of their current autonomy but the U.S. will not give them such assurances because of Turkey’s bitter opposition. The Kurds would like to see Saddam Hussein deposed but they also remember that the U.S. turned its back on them in 1991 after promising them protection as we also did in 1975 after covertly supporting their rebellion. Massoud Barzani, the leader of one of the two Kurdish regions in northern Iraq said, “We will not be a party to any project that will endanger what we have achieved”.
In an article headlined “Armed to the Teeth” the London Observer questions the “awesome increase” in military spending championed by Bush when the U.S. now “enjoys military and cultural power unrivaled since the days of the Roman emperors”. It reports that Paul Kennedy of Yale University estimates the U.S. is already responsible for 40% of the world’s military spending-the equivalent of more each year than the next 9 largest national defense budgets combined. As the U.S. budget is busted by buying such wasteful weaponry, the Enron collapse is causing a crisis in confidence in corporate accounting for investors who won’t take the risks if they don’t believe the numbers.
Our government’s capability to curb corporate fraud and corruption was the issue when my U.S. Senator, Fritz Hollings, called for a Special Counsel to investigate Enron and said he had never “witnessed a corporation so extraordinarily committed to buying government” in his 35 years in the Senate. In the past ten years Enron gave contributions to 186 House members and 71 Senators, including $3,500 to Hollings. In the 2000 election, Enron gave over $700,000 to Mr. Bush and the Republicans. Senator Hollings candidly criticized the increasingly prevalent practice of corporate America “buying” our government with campaign contributions and cited serious conflicts of interest at the Justice Department and White House that justify the appointment of a Special Counsel. Aftershocks from the biggest bankruptcy in history at Enron caused questioning of accounting practices and market jitters that led to the bankruptcy of other companies like Global Crossing, the 4th largest in U. S. history with rumors rampant of more to come. Senator Hollings described a top executive’s suicide, the shredding of documents, and the taking of the 5th Amendment by other top executives as more of the “extraordinary circumstances” under which a Special Counsel can also be appointed.
The U.S. House of Representatives is taking up the Shays-Meehan Bill that is a step toward campaign finance reform by limiting large amounts of unlimited donations known as soft money. The White House is embroiled in the Enron imbroglio of campaign contribution corruption and needs cover on the bill. White House operatives are using the Republican Party, led by its chairman and former Enron lobbyist, Marc Racicot, in a back door attempt to scuttle the bill by encouraging Republican House members to make “poison pill” amendments that will finally weaken or kill the bill outright. The arrogant administration of George W. Bush is killing confidence in our government at home and abroad.
In Tehran, Iran, where just months ago pro-Western demonstrators marched and shouted “death to the mullahs”, millions of marchers galvanized by Bush’s “axis of evil” comments chanted “death to America” and “death to Bush”.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina. http://www.turnipseed.net