Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Harvard President Quits, U.S. President Doesn't

It's not what you know. It's what you can get away with.

Dr. Lawrence H. Summers has resigned as president of Harvard University after a stormy five-year tenure. After a stormy five-year tenure as president of the United States, George W. Bush appears to have no intention of leaving.

Dr. Summers alienated many Harvard professors with his "bullying and arrogant" leadership style. Mr. Bush's bullying and arrogant leadership style has alienated a major section of the U.S. and world population.

Dr. Summers came into office hailed as once-in-a-century leader. Mr. Bush took office as a self-acclaimed "uniter." Both men miserably failed to live up to their early promise.

But the two presidents' careers are not entirely identical.

Dr. William C. Kirby stepped down as dean of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences three weeks ago. Kirby's resignation marked the beginning of the end for Dr. Summers.

When Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill resigned in 2003 over disagreements with his boss on tax policy, it was just the beginning for Mr. Bush. A year after he left the administration, O'Neill went public with his criticisms of Bush and his policies.

In a 2004 interview with Leslie Stahl of CBS, O'Neill said that at cabinet meetings, Mr. Bush was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection."

O'Neill accused Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an "honest broker" and of being part of a "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to protect him from views contrary to established policies. It was Cheney who told O'Neill, "You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter," and who asked O'Neill to resign after a heated debate over tax cuts.

But O'Neill's most important revelations concerned administration planning to invade Iraq long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” O'Neill said, adding that going after Hussein was "topic A" ten days after the 2001 inauguration. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’"

O'Neill was the primary source for The Price of Loyalty, the book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind that uncovered the facts behind the run up to the invasion of Iraq. From his interviews with O'Neill and other government officials who attended the Iraq meetings, Suskind learned that the Iraq plans envisioned deploying peacekeeping troops and holding war crimes tribunals. The plans also proposed ways to divvy up Iraqi oil wealth.

In the course of his research, Suskind obtained a Pentagon document dated March 5, 2001 titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts." The document contained a map of potential oil exploration areas.

Suskind told CBS: “It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions. On oil in Iraq.”

Suskind was surprised (and perhaps appalled) that during the 2000 campaign, Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore team for being too interventionist. "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions," Bush had said, "then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

Suskind remarked, "…the administration had said 'X' during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing 'Y.' Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

O'Neill and Suskind confirmed what those who had been tracking the rhetoric of the neo-conservative think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) suspected all along. Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, and others had been conspiring to invade and occupy Iraq and grab its oil since some time in the 1990s, well before George W. Bush announced his plans to run for the GOP presidential nomination.

In PNAC's seminal Rebuilding America's Defenses, published in September 2000, the architects of what would become the Bush administration's foreign policy freely admitted their aspirations to secure control of the Middle East--and hence its oil reserves--through military force, even if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power.
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The PNAC neocons realized, though, that the road to their dream of a global American empire was "likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor." (Italics added.)

9/11 gave the Bush foreign policy team just the "catastrophic and catalyzing" event they needed to slip their hidden agenda past the American public and the global community. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Had the president of the United States been someone like Harvard's Dr. Summers, Paul O'Neill's forced resignation and the subsequent discoveries of the administration's policy machinations would likely have led to impeachment proceedings. But George W. Bush is no Lawrence H. Summers. Summers' mistake was that he didn't surround himself with a protective phalanx of ruthless ideologues, a dogmatic political party, and the religious right. If he had, he'd no doubt still be president of Harvard.

The O'Neill affair didn't cause Mr. Bush to skip a beat. He replaced O'Neill in the Treasury Secretary post with John Snow: the same John Snow who just awarded control of six American ports to Dubai Port World. This same John Snow was the chairman of CSX, the rail firm that sold its international port operation to Dubai Port World a year after Snow left CSX to take the Treasury job.

Imagine how the faculty would have reacted in Dr. Summers had let his comptrollers pull a stunt like that at Harvard. Tar, feathers, and a rail might have been involved.

But in the Land of Winkin', Blinkin', and Bush, this kind of under the table hanky-panky is a time honored family tradition.

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