The Grooming of Bill Richardson

New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson has a long way to go before he can call himself a peace candidate as he has been doing in his presidential campaign in the press and out east. He can’t do that back in his home state, not on peace nor on a range of other issues.

Ben Luce, the former head of New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy said this week in a series of interviews that the governor is more in the pocket of the energy corporations than his image machine presents. Luce, a ten year activist on environmental issues and a former insider in the Richardson camp spoke out to warn voters that Richardson had crafted policies in favor of energy corporations while claiming they were much different. He said Richardson’s laws make him look good as a presidential candidate but don’t do much else (Albuquerque Journal, 6-20-07).

On war and peace many of us in the grassroots anti-war movement know the governor is in the pocket of the military industrial complex, just as he sides with the energy industry on many pieces of legislation. He would have unknowing voters believe he was a big voice in the movement for social and economic justice when he is not. Richardson claims to be for human rights too but yielded his veto pen to prevent elimination of the death penalty in our last legislative session.

Richardson may criticize other Democratic Party presidential contenders for their past actions and votes on the war in Iraq but his record is much the same, not different enough to warrant notice. This is important because when a voter evaluates a public official for truth it is the experience and past record of the candidate that tells us a lot about future possible actions. Richardson’s man selling point is his experience in public service. If Richardson applied his yardstick to himself he would come up short and working more for the private sector than the public.

More and more New Mexicans are coming back dead from Bush’s wars in the middle east, especially Iraq where a lot of New Mexico citizens serve as guard and reserve troops. So, what has the governor done in his role as chief executive to stop this killing? Nothing really. The governor actually made it more likely our state citizens would be willing to go war by getting a hefty state death-in-combat supplement passed for those who get killed. This is his idea of bring the troops home.

The governor, a creative man could have come up with some new use of his executive power to stop the guard deployment right here and saved their lives. He could have even stood with the concerned public in front of the buses full of soldiers departing to the war as we have done several times over the years he has been in office.

He has not stood with ANY of the large anti-war demonstrations in the state over the past four years. He has not even sent a wave to the anti-war folks at key times of large gatherings, of which there have been many in Albuquerque, the main city of our state. He has been seen at many meetings of the war profiteers here though. Our state is full of war profiteers like Lockheed Martin, Northrop, Boeing, Honeywell, etc. The governor is always being seen in the newspapers as having been at some ribbon cutting or function put on by the people who profit from war.

In 2003, fifteen million people demonstrated around the world against the start of the war against Iraq, saying it was a hoax. Five thousand stood in Santa Fe at the governor’s office and was he there? No, and he could not then hear the massive voice of the people. Now he claims to be a leader in our movement.

The governor did not even send a solidarity message or anything to the crowd then or anytime later because he was supporting the war hawks but was afraid to speak out. How could we expect him to provide visionary leadership in the future on war and peace issues when he has no track record of that in the past in his home state?

We in the anti-war movement have marched and protested since before the war started in 2003 and the governor (like our city councilman Martin Heinrich who has jumped on the bandwagon to run for Congress as an anti-war leader) has been missing in action on this crucial front of struggle every single time.

We did see the governor break all kinds of land speed records to get over to Clovis, NM last year to stand with the Republicans who were complaining of the BRAC plan to close the obsolete Cold War Cannon AFB war base. As a result of bi-partisan high level lobbying it was kept open and turned into something even worse. The base is now to become a cover war training base for future wars in the fake war on terrorism.

This week a House committee has made major funding cuts for the nuclear weapons program at Los Alamos National Lab, our premier nuclear holocaust factory, and the governor is again calling to keep it open and growing (Albuquerque Journal, 6-16-07). In his speeches outside the state he has said he is for diversifying and not producing any new nuclear weapons, which sounds good, but here he says and works for the opposite. When he was head of the Department of Energy under the Clinton administration, at a time when he had some role of importance he never made any great changes. His tenure is marked by the racist scapegoating of Wen Ho Lee for a set of research labs drifting into a loss of mission.

The labs are a large government public works project for many high paid scientists and technicians who could not otherwise make a living. The governor always has their job interests in mind when he makes statements here in his state.

Here in Albuquerque, home to the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons the governor has never replied to repeated requests to make a statement about the great danger these weapons pose to our community of over 600,000 people. If he had any real message to give he could have pointed out in 2003 before President Bush launched the big war that Albuquerque had 2,000 WMDs here and Iraq had none. It would have been a welcome gesture to have said let’s talk of dismantling our WMDs and you do the same.

You would think as head of the Dept. of Energy and all that research he had privy to on nuclear issues he would have known that of the obvious nuclear weapons dump in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is the third largest nuclear power in the world. He missed that little fact because he was busy cheerleading for the war for control of the middle east. His real problem with the war is that it has become messy and has gone on too long, longer than WW II for us.

Our governor has said nothing about the Department of Defense’s establishment of a major nuclear war planning center here at Kirtland AFB, in the center of Albuquerque, which is likely to make us another target in any global conflict era.

Nor has he questioned the most intensive industrial project in human history, much of it going on here in our state: the arms race in space. A real time Star Wars is being developed at a local military base, Kirtland AFB with help from our state universities. University faculty get big lucrative contracts to create the new weapons technologies for space war which is in violation of many treaties on space.

The university keeps some of the war profiteering money for overhead and all keep quiet. Richardson hand picked the CEO of the key university who in turn drove out critics of this large new Manhattan Project. In turn he was fired for his own malfeasance, costing the state taxpayers over a million in contract buy-outs.

Last fall (Sep. 29, 2007) Lockheed Martin held a symposium at the University of New Mexico to promote the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, which would be a violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and very costly to the nation. The one sided discussion was attended by many grassroots activists whom the university threw out of the meeting for speaking out against the RRW program and the privatization of the public university for war profits. The governor could have used an event like this to announce his position on the RRW and war profiteering if he had really any serious intention here in the weapons Mecca of the world. Did he speak out as the newspapers carried articles and discussions on the arrest at the meeting and debate that followed? No.

Also, at the same military base in Albuquerque he has not spoken out about the intentions of the new covert program such as the radical technology tilt-rotor Osprey. The CV-22 is an aircraft designed for covert insertion of assassins into other countries. This is a program that will only cause us more grief as a nation. We don’t need hidden and secret war machines anyway.

In his home city of Santa Fe local citizens have organized and called for his support to stop the military from placing a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters in the placid, peaceful town. Where has Richardson been on this issue? Like all the other times of grassroots struggle with the military industrial complex he has been silent and working behind the scenes to assist the other side.

Near Ft. Carson, Colorado where residents are opposed to closing an Army base he said he would take care of the Base Realignment and Closing process (Albuquerque Journal, 6-18-07). With Richardson as president we would have more of a war based economy than what we have now. Richardson has a message of hope and hype for all audiences. A sane person would have to wonder who he really is. Richardson is in the mold of his mentor, Bill Clinton, a New Democrat, one who talks values associated with the New Deal era of FDR but one who practices the neo-conservative economic and military polices of New Gingrich. Richardson is a neo-liberalist, a supporter of global interventions and expansion.

Richardson claims to be an enlightened leader with skills in international affairs and events. But it must be remembered he was dumb enough to go along with the Bush administration hoax of an Iraqi WMD threat. Why? He really agreed with the goal to support regime change in other countries, and has cheered on the Trojan Horse war on terrorism without missing a beat. Homeland Security has a large presence in our state thanks to his administration and the large war industry here.

As an experienced U.N. diplomat for our country, as he repeatedly reminds listeners, one would have expected enlightened dissent then, and a vision not so centered around war profiteers. And this is his same approach to health care. While our state is at the bottom of health care access lists for poor people his name was just painted on a huge ugly $300 million elite cancer treatment center here at the university hospital complex. His name will be up there in large font after he has long gone and the poor died from lack of treatment.

As this new center was being built over the last thee years, across the street hospital rank and file workers have been falling further and further behind in wages. Just last week they had to hold a picket as negotiators for the university tried to drive down again their demands for a living wage. Some workers have been there for 20 years and barley make a substandard wage. This is going on all the while Billy Sparks one of his spin doctors had a special job created at the same hospital to the tune of nearly $150,000. Richardson claims he has done a lot for labor and the poor here but don’t believe it. Richardson is in the pockets of the insurance corporations not working for the workers. He has opposed universal access to health care for our state’s poor time and again as just not feasible but he can year after year find tax cuts and roll backs for the corporate elite and global rich who reside in our state.

It is more likely the governor would still be for the war in Iraq if he saw it was a winner. His position on Iraq is basically the same as that of the Cato Institute’s Ethical Realism policy (same as the Baker Commission plan, talk and divide the country as we fight at the same time).

Richardson, like Henry Kissinger his former consulting business partner (see Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 7, 05), and Rep. Heather Wilson all would like to see Iraq broken up into three sub regions for better management by an outside superpower. This ethnic cleansing would be managed by a puppet government and backed up by an outside coalition of “peace” troops from other countries, or NATO or the U.N.

This is old fashion colonialism in the post-colonial era dressed up for the unwise as progressive politics. Richardson has been heard to now say he would get U.S. troops out of Iraq but his real intentions is like that of the neo-cons. He is not about to give up on the oil resources in the region. He would just do it in a more sophisticated manner. Richardson we must not forget was quietly paid nearly half-million dollars for being a trophy on the board of directors for Diamond Shamrock Oil Company (in Texas, now renamed Valero) until it became an embarrassment to his presidential image. In this mold he is more like Bush and Cheney than most people know.

Richardson is still in support of the larger goal of U.S. manifest destiny, of extending hegemony over Iran and other countries. A political cartoon appeared in the local paper shows him, holding a flag (as other presidential candidates held various types of flags to get noticed, Albuquerque Journal, 6-20-07) saying “my flag is whiter.” He is ok with interventions for regime change, just as are Bush and Cheney, as his comment on Iran makes clear.

On Iran Richardson has said he would use diplomacy first which means he would keep open the use of war machines if he felt it necessary. Noticeably absent from his message, especially as a former U.N ambassador is language to support the basic right of self determination and sovereignty for Iran, even if their people want a different leader or policy. Richardson is about how to make Iran bow to the empire not empowering national independence or a global community of equals.

On immigration as a border state governor he has appeared concerned but has not hesitated to help Bush militarize the border to appease the right wingers. Poor people now see more guns and armies on his soil as they try to find jobs. Thanks Bill.

One of the largest immigration detention centers, overcrowded to the max exists in downtown Albuquerque and he has said nothing. Protests have been held to get humane treatment for these people being held with out any legal rights. With his expertise at photo ops and getting hostages released it would be a great mission for him to undertake right here in his home state to do the same.

On his watch we could probably expect a much more brutal war of shock and awe against Iran than what Bush and company have unleashed against Iraq.

The governor still promotes the genocidal lie that Palestine was a desert vacant of people when Israel brought democracy to the region. He has said Israel, not the struggle for justice by Palestinians is our key ally in the middle east. As late as April of this year he was saying our relationship with this racist settler state is a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region (Albuquerque Journal, April 26, 2007).

This is a policy for more disaster, a position that will just exacerbate attacks on our country. He has offered no strategic critique of the failed U.S. policy of intervention, attacks on the many movements for Arab moderations and liberalization over the past 60 years in the region. While high school students learn of important events like the Sykes-Picot Treaty and the Kermit Roosevelt CIA coup in Iran Richardson offers just more of the same with a new twist. Richardson tries to play his diplomacy photo op image style of politics as a solution when the situation requires realistic proposals. Some of our high school students could offer a better foreign policy analysis and program than he does.

Richardson is just more of the same old thing dressed up for the grassroots revolt taking place across the country this election season to be misled by. The world is seeking vision and leaders that supports a world different than what we have had in the past. Richardson is late to the game and not a serious alternative.

What we need now is for some honest voices in the labor movement, health care and education movements to speak out like Ben Luce and tell the truth behind Richardson’s statements on how he has done so little for the working people of the state.

It is more accurate when he hear Forbes magazine, a capitalist tool, and the local chamber of commerce’s statements that they love him because he has made our state so favorable for the business community.

The corporate elite from large energy companies, to private aviation jet manufacturers, to expensive mattress firms, to space tourists promoters and entertainment moguls have had a run at New Mexico, much like the global elite do elsewhere when exploiting a colony with a weak political structure. Richardson has gone so far as to hand them hefty capital investments of public money for risky business ventures. Hundreds of millions from the state’s permanent and retirement funds have been diverted to assist the global rich by him. I am sure they will help him in his run for another office. This scheme must be something he learned while manager of Henry Kissinger’s consulting firm for large corporations which offers policies on how to plunder poor counties in the global economy.

Under Richardson’s watch Intel, the wealthiest and largest computer chip manufacture with a large non-union shop here was awarded a staggering $16 billion tax refund. This went down in a town where the plant is strategically located that can’t raise enough money to build all the high schools needed for the local children of its workers.

Richardson was again silent while this mega rip off of the state took place and corporations offered more charity to help the high schools.

Two other high schools in Albuquerque just had to turn to a private charity to find funds to operate in-school health clinics, which sever mainly poor families. The unmet infrastructure needs for New Mexico’s poverty population has grown by leaps and bounds under Richardson’s tenure but at the same time a high tech infrastructure for space militarization, high tech weapons research and global war has grown with the assistance of the governor.

At the rate at which Richardson is racing to get out in front of the growing, global peace movement we might expect him to soon say he was helping Bob Dylan write anti-war lyrics, when in reality he was in prep school being groomed for leadership of a poor state that he could use to launch a large political career.

BOB ANDERSON can be reached at: