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"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show
"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket
"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming
April 18, 2005
How America Works
Several years ago I helped organize a political event. We invited Gore Vidal to speak at it, and while in the end it didn't work out, during the process I got to speak with him.
We mostly talked about the American empire, or whatever it is, and Vidal's description of it in his books. I made a long-winded argument that the financial arm of our empire—basically the IMF, World Bank, and WTO—has actually killed more people than the military arm. There was a pause. Then Vidal said: "Well... let's call it a tie."
I still laugh every time I think of that. Anyway, to this day I think everyone pays too much attention to the military aspect of US foreign policy, and not enough to the economic aspect. And even when people do pay attention to the economic aspect, they often don't appreciate the degree to which US military and economic policies are intertwined. Moreover, this shouldn't be surprising, since the military and economic policies are run by exactly the same people.
This is demonstrated by a peculiar anthropological artifact I possess: the program from the funeral of Thomas Ostrom Enders, a high-level member of the US foreign policy establishment.
I should say immediately that I wasn't at this funeral, nor do I have any connection to Enders. The program fell into my hands by coincidence. So I won't make any jokes about this, since it seems disrespectful. Enders was a human being with a family. He also helped kill hundreds of thousands of other humans.
Who Was Thomas Enders?
As I say, Enders was an elite member of the US foreign policy establishment, perhaps one level down from someone like Henry Kissinger.
Enders is best known for two things. First, he was the State Department's chargé d'affairs in Phnom Penh during the early seventies, where he directed the illegal bombing of Cambodia. This killed an unknown number of Cambodians—100,000? 500,000? 700,000?—and set the stage for the Khmer Rouge.
Second, Enders was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs from 1981 to 1983, where he helped run the Reagan administration's gruesome policy in Central America. Among other things, he helped cover up the notorious El Mozote massacre in El Salvador. He also praised Guatemala's Rios Montt, a genuine Nazi, for his "effective counterinsurgency" as Montt was engaged in literal genocide. (During this time Enders worked closely with John Negroponte, then US ambassador to Honduras.)
But this was only the military part of Enders' career. There was also a significant economic aspect.
Enders was from a wealthy Connecticut family that had sent members to Yale for generations. Enders himself graduated from Yale at the top of his class in 1953.
Enders then entered the foreign service and, before his time in Cambodia, had been Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Monetary Affairs. After Cambodia he was Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, and led the American response to the 1973 oil crisis. Then he was US ambassador to Canada, where he pushed for the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, a precursor to NAFTA. To cap it all off, after his time in the Reagan administration he was a managing director of Salomon Brothers until his death in 1996. (I've taken many of these details from a biography of Enders here.)
This entanglement of US diplomatic and financial leaders is glaringly obvious from other pages of the funeral program:
Here they are, the people who run the world:
Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat is an Argentinian billionaire. (Or near-billionaire, depending on economic conditions—recently she had to sell some of her Gauguin, Degas, Miro and Matisse paintings at Sotheby's.) She owns Argentina's largest cement company, as well as media outlets like La Prensa.
Henry Kissinger needs no introduction.
David Rockefeller, beyond being a Rockefeller scion, founded the dreary Trilateral Commission.
Deryck Maughan at the time of Enders' funeral was Chairman of Salomon Brothers. He has since been knighted and become Chairman and CEO of Citigroup International.
As you see, the funeral's concluding rite was the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner. I don't believe I've ever been to a funeral at which this happened. You may draw your own conclusions about what this says about Thomas Enders and/or me.
Among the palbearers:
Christopher Kennan is most likely the Christopher Kennan who is the son of the late US foreign policy guru George Kennan.
Frieder Roessler used to be Director of Legal Affairs at the WTO.
Among the honorary palbearers:
Albert Beveridge is the former president of the George Marshall Foundation and (I believe) grandson of Senator Albert Beveridge, who gave a famous 1900 speech supporting the US colonization of the Philippines. Here's an excerpt:
The Philippines are ours forever... And just beyond the Philippines are China's illimitable markets... We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world.. And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength and Thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world.
Paul Boeker was Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Finance and Development, then US ambassador to Bolivia and Jordan. He later was President of the Institute of the Americas at UCSD, which aims to be a "significant catalyst for promoting development and integration, emphasizing the role of the private sector, as a means to improve the economic, political, and social well-being of the people of the Americas."
Everett Briggs was US ambassador to Honduras, Panama and Portugal. He recently signed a letter supporting John Bolton's nomination to be US ambassador to the UN.
Gustavo Cineros is a Venezuelan billionaire media baron. He's a longtime supporter of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americans, and may have been involved in the coup attempt against Hugo Chavez.
Richard Gardner was US ambassador to Spain and Italy, as well as member of Clinton's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle.
Charles Anthony Gillespie was US Ambassador to Chile and Colombia. He later explained that "Plan Colombia" (an aid package designed to defeat Colombian rebels) was packaged as an anti-narcotics program because "that's what sells." He's now a partner at the Scowcroft Group (founded by Brent Scowcroft). According to his online biography, "he organized and led the State Department's effort to achieve implementing legislation for the North American Free Trade Agreement."
Patrick Maugein is chairman of the French oil company SOCO international. He's a close friend of Jacques Chirac, and may have illegitimately received oil vouchers from Iraq during the nineties under the UN Oil for Food program.
Eduardo Mestre is Vice Chairman of Evercore Parners, an investment firm, and the son of a well-known Cuban radio mogul.
Edward Ney was US Ambassador to Canada. According to this article, he was also head of the advertising firm Young & Rubicam, and helped create George H.W. Bush's 1988 Willie Horton ad. The PR firm Burson-Marsteller, a subsidiary of Young & Rubicam, was instrumental in the push for NAFTA.
Alberto Verme is now head of Global Investment Banking for Citigroup.
Paul Volcker, of course, was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve before Alan Greenspan. He more recently led the investigation of the Oil for Food Program.
Count Wilhelm Wachtmeister is the former Swedish ambassador to the US, as well as "dean of the diplomatic corps and a favorite tennis partner of the first President Bush."
So, there you have it. In the US empire, military and economic decisions are made by exactly the same people. So it shouldn't be surprising if they are considering exactly the same issues in both cases.
Of course, those on the receiving end of these decisions might put it another way: the military and economic decisionmakers are two fingers on the same fist.Posted at April 18, 2005 11:27 AM | TrackBack