by Mark Ostapiak
Condoleeza Rice’s nomination as secretary of state awaits certain Senate approval and has created quite a stir among those who worry that her replacing Colin Powell is a harbinger of a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy. That sentiment is propped up by the myth that if Powell’s views had prevailed, the war in Iraq would have been somehow softened.
However, Powell never supported an antiwar policy; he merely called for internationalizing the U.S.-led war in Iraq. His “dovish” image in the mainstream press is unchallenged as long as spokespersons for the ruling class keep silent about his past record.
As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1991 Gulf War, Powell oversaw the two-week saturation bombing campaign that massacred 250,000 Iraqis. Later, as a member of Clinton’s National Security Council Staff, he fully supported the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, from which more than 1.5 million civilians perished, according to the UN.
Counting the thousands of dead civilians as a result of the invasion of Afghanistan and the more than 100,000 killed since the invasion/occupation began in Iraq, it would be more accurate to describe Powell’s legacy as one of mass terror and violence.
Highly exaggerated differences of opinion aside, both Rice and Powell have used their government posts to dutifully defend U.S. capitalism from what the right-wing think tank, Project for a New American Century, calls “challenges to our fundamental interests.”
Those interests are those of America’s ruling class, which seeks every available opportunity to gain strategic competitive control over vital markets and sources of materials, such as the key energy resources of the embattled Middle East and Central Asia.
That is why before the course of the war had been settled in Afghanistan, pro-Western Hamid Karzai was installed to negotiate, according the British Broadcasting Company in May of 2002, “the construction of the 850-kilometre pipeline [that] had been previously discussed between Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime, U.S. oil company Unocal, and Bridas of Argentina.”
Similar criteria applied to the invasion of Iraq, where the stakes for the U.S. energy interests are high, especially in relation to the interests of its imperialist competitors in Japan and Western Europe. In a crucial moment for U.S. interests, Powell, side by side with Rice, emerged as the spokesman in the UN for the case to invade Iraq: the patently false assertion that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
That’s not to say that the ruling class doesn’t have differences in opinion. One wing, represented by Powell, wanted to nominally internationalize the Iraq war. Another wing, represented among others by former Chevron director Rice, was more reluctant to share the spoils of war with other capitalist nations.
Thus, reports the Nov. 19 Washington Post, “when asked how Washington should treat European opponents of the U.S.-led invasion [of Iraq],” Rice replied, “‘Punish France, ignore Germany, and forgive Russia.’” Rice already has her sights set on Venezuela, according to the Nov. 20 Washington Post. The article said that she “was quoted recently as describing Mr. Chavez as ‘a real problem’ and saying that ‘the key there is to mobilize the region to both watch him and be vigilant about him and to pressure him when he makes moves in one direction or another.’”
Rice’s former employer, Chevron Texaco, “ranks among the top oil producers in Argentina, Colombia, and in Venezuela, where it has developed the Hamada Field, with estimated recoverable reserves of about 1.9 billion barrels.” (taken from Chevron’s website). In the spirit of Powell, who for decades helped maintain U.S. military power to protect U.S capitalism’s valued worldwide economic interests, Rice has stated that “power and values are married completely.”