John Kerry's primary victories are mounting and "anyone-but-Bush" voters are hankering for a show-down with the Resident. The Massachusetts Senator's "bring it on" victory speeches get big-d Democrats fired up, but when it comes to foreign policy, Kerry is hardly the anti-Bush many are longing for.
As the jockeying begins among those who fancy a government job should Kerry beat Bush in November, it's never too early to give the hopefuls currently advising the candidate a serious look.
Consider Kerry's foreign policy advisers. Ask the candidate's supporters, and the advisor they mention first is Joe Wilson, the Clinton-era National Security Council member who investigated claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy weapons-grade uranium from Niger. Wilson won battle stars from progressives for going public with his findings, which contradicted the Bush administration's claims. Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, was outed by a White House source or sources as a consequence.
Wilson may be a white hat, but it's hard to say the same about Richard Morningstar, Rand Beers and William Perry, three other members of Kerry's foreign policy team.
Morningstar, a former advisor to President Clinton on Caspian energy, was instrumental in pushing for the controversial Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. The plan has strong support on both sides of the political aisle.
A consortium of oil companies are deeply invested, including Britain's BP, and the U.S. firms Unocal and Amerada Hess. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration did all it could to clear the way for BTC, including extending U.S. Export-Import Bank financing, and recruiting Dick Cheney, James Baker and others to lobby local governments. James Baker's law firm, Baker Botts, represents BP. Dick Cheney's Halliburton, an oil-industry supplier, won the contract to build refineries for several Caspian states. As a member of its Board of Directors, Condoleezza Rice helped negotiate Chevron's deal to drill the Caspian's purportedly richest field, the Tengiz.
In 2003, Morningstar explained to the Harvard University Caspian Studies program that the pipeline, which would run through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, is expected to be used by Caspian Sea states to bring their oil west to market. As Morningstar explained to the Harvard project's members, it advances various regional policy goals, among them, promoting energy security and ensuring that neither Russia nor Iran can develop a monopoly over pipelines from the Caspian. (Harvard's Caspian Studies program is sponsored by, among others, Chevron, Unocal and Amerada Hess.)
With Turkey's agreement, work on the BTC pipeline began in September '02. The World Bank agreed last November to provide $250 million in financing, but human rights groups and environmentalists are still hoping it can be stopped. Last year, Amnesty International released a report noting that the project would violate the human rights of thousands of people and cause severe environmental damage. Amnesty International alleges that the pipeline's backers' agreement with the Turkish government strips local people and workers of their civil rights.
A Kerry administration with Morningstar as national security advisor could be expected to keep the BTC on track. Nothing much would change in the worlds of agribusiness and trade either. In 1999, as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Morningstar issued a scathing attack on EU policy barring genetically modified foods. "Politics and demagoguery have completely taken over the regulatory process," he said. Bush's Agriculture Secretary, Ann Veneman, uses virtually the same exact words.
Another of Kerry's foreign policy advisors is Rand Beers. Sean Donahue of the Massachusetts Anti-Corporate Clearinghouse wrote a revealing account of Beers'career for the Counterpunch Web site last month.
Suffice to say that Beers was the public face of Clinton's deadly crop-fumigation program in Colombia. He once said under oath that Columbian terrorists had received training in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. (A claim he later had to withdraw.) "If John Kerry lets Rand Beers continue to guide his foreign policy, a Kerry administration will be no better for rural Colombians than a Bush administration," wrote Donahue. Voters who want Sen. Kerry to offer a humane alternative to Bush should demand that the senator pledge now not to make Beers secretary of state.
Rounding out Kerry's team is William Perry. As Clinton-era secretary of defense, Perry spearheaded a post-cold war plan to restructure the defense industry, but the Perry plan wasn't quite the "peace dividend" Americans had in mind. Perry pushed a government program that paid military contractors to consolidate, arguing that only vast conglomerates would have what it takes to compete in the 21st Century. The Pentagon provided partial underwriting for defense industry mergers. In what critic Bernie Sanders, I-VT, dubbed "payoffs for layoffs," Perry's Pentagon picked up the costs of moving equipment, dismantling factories and providing golden parachutes for top executives. Foreign Policy in Focus reports that Perry had to get a conflict of interest waiver before he could greenlight the merger-subsidy program. He worked as a paid consultant for Martin Marietta immediately before joining the Clinton administration.
Today, Lockheed Martin, which was created in a merger announced just months after the start of Perry's policy, is the nation's top weapons maker. Its component parts include Martin Marietta, Loral Defense and General Dynamics. The mergers shrank company payrolls, but hugely expanded their political influence. When he retired in '98 Perry joined the board of one of the biggest—the Seattle-based Boeing Corporation. For those who are interested, Perry also joined the Carlyle group, the Saudi-based firm whose partners include no end of world leaders, including former British Prime Minster John Major, former secretary of state James Baker and the first President Bush.
Anyone but Bush maybe, but many voters might also want to see in government anyone but Morningstar, Perry and Beers.
Laura Flanders is the host of "Your Call" heard on KALW-FM in San Francisco, and on the Internet, and author of Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species, forthcoming from Verso Books in March 2004.