American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Background Checks: Colin Powell and John Ashcroft
John M. Swomley, for many years the executive secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and active in the campaign against peacetime conscription, is Professor Emeritus of Social Ethics at Saint Paul's School of Theology.
Colin Powell, the first black Secretary of State who has been touted by the media as illustrating Bush's concern for diversity, is not representative of African-Americans and is no civil rights model. He is not an experienced diplomat. He is a thorough militarist.
Powell was President Reagan's National Security Advisor during the period when Reagan supported the Contra military attacks against the Sandinista Nicaraguan government, and shares with Reagan and Oliver North responsibility for the Central American debacle. He is no hero to progressive Central Americans, but encouraged the most reactionary military counter-revolutionists.
During the Bush administration that followed Reagan, Powell was Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. James Petras, on the faculty of the State University of New York in Binghamton, wrote that "in 1985, when Washington attempted to mobilize all of its regional assets to impose a total economic blockade against Nicaragua and to build up its armed pressure in Honduras in preparation for a possible invasion, Noriega (nationalist head of Panama's Defense Forces) refused to ... follow the lead of the other Central American clients [of the US]."
Carlos Russell, Panama's former Ambassador to the Organization of American States, claimed that a combination of US racism and support of the white oligarchy in Panama was a major factor in the subsequent US war against Panama. Russell, a political scientist who taught at Brooklyn College, noted that Panama is a predominantly black country.
General Colin Powell, US commander, was "the butcher" of Panama. Russell said that according to his sources, more than 7000 civilians, most of whom were black, were killed in the invasion and thousands were injured. The homeless were about 20,000. He asserted that "the US callously wiped out thousands of Panamanian lives just so it could experiment with the Stealth bomber and other high-tech weaponry." He said, "they used the Panamanian people like they were guinea pigs."
By contrast, more than 120 of the top 500 US corporations and six of the top ten oil companies are in Panama, as well as 130 major banks from over 30 nations. Those foreign corporate interests were able to avoid US taxation by locating there. Powell did not bomb the business district. However, there was an unintended consequence: thousands of looters ravaged business neighborhoods.
Powell's next major military adventure was in the Gulf War against Iraq, where he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He and Dick Cheney worked together to orchestrate the war. He and President Bush made the decision to call off action against Saddam Hussein after achieving a partial victory there. Now Powell says he is going to "re-energize the sanctions" against Iraq.
He also said he would begin working toward the construction of a missile defense system, despite Russian objections and the discouragement of many experts. He is clearly a militarist, not a diplomat.
Bush's appointment of John Ashcroft, former governor of Missouri and defeated candidate for re-election to the Senate, to be Atorney General is notable not only for Ashcroft's extreme right-wing views in general, but in particular those against women. As Senator, he introduced legislation that would define personhood and citizenship as beginning at fertilization. The bill had no exception for abortion if a woman's life or health were threatened by pregnancy. It would even prevent emergency contraception after a woman is raped and made pregnant.
It adds insult to the injury he has already brought to African-Americans, to place him in charge of protecting their civil rights. Ashcroft blocked the appointment of Ronnie White, an African-American state judge, to the Federal bench. And in 1998, Ashcroft was a member of a small minority in the US Senate who voted against the confirmation of Dr. David Satcher, an African-American, as Surgeon General of the US.
His voting record in the Senate shows consistent opposition to
funding school breakfasts for low-income children, to minimum
wage increases for workers, and to health coverage for uninsured
children. His voting record on Social Security and Medicare is
opposed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security