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• • •
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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:

Red arrows

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.

Blue arrow

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.

Red arrows

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.

Blue arrows

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

While both aspects of US empire are important, the financial arm would be limp and useless without the military's muscle. The aim of empire is not military domination as and end but as a means of achieving economic domination.

Posted by: Colin at April 18, 2005 11:49 AM

Also, as to not appreciating it, you should recall that prior to 9/11, there was a fairly robust movement in the U.S. that was ostensibly opposed to "economic globalization", but was in practice pretty much a critique of U.S. economic foreign policy and its adjunct institutions - the FTAA, IMF/WB, WTO, etc. That it got blown out of the water by the dramatic events of the past few years is no surprise; it was a difficult effort to begin with, and the fact that it gained the social currency it did is heartening by itself.

Posted by: saurabh at April 18, 2005 12:23 PM

This fellow went to my old college, and also, apparently, my old parish. I don't know which I ought to find more upsetting. But since I am now very used to being ashamed of fellow Yalies, I'm gonna focus on the thought of all this happening in the very beautiful St. Vincent Ferrer church.

Also, as a resident Catholic, I can confirm it is very odd to end a funeral with the National Anthem. I've sung other patriotic songs at Mass -- the ones that mention God -- on the 4th of July and such, but never "The Star Spangled Banner." I don't think the late Pope would approve (although, of course, his deep affection for America's economic policies has been so often documented in recent days, so maybe he'd make a liturgical exception in this case).

Posted by: inkywretch at April 18, 2005 01:05 PM

I continue to be more and more ashamed of fellow Yalies (I'm one, too), but mostly because every time a new asshole hits the scene, he seems to share my alma mater. Cases in point: Bolton (BA and JD) and Negroponte (BA). I suppose we should all be thankful that Cheney dropped out. Who knows how venal he might have become with two more years of indoctrination? WTF were they teaching down on the main campus while I was busy studying electrons?

(PS To be fair, I increasingly run across the names of Yale alumni working on the side of good, if in less powerful positions, obviously. Case in point: mentioned in the Chris Floyd interview, Anne Barnard, Iraq correspondent for the Boston Globe, is an alumna, too.)

Posted by: Aaron at April 18, 2005 03:42 PM

On the second scanned program sheet, wtf is that prayer/poem/etc?
Begins "Thy grief and bitter passion"...
Whether he wrote it, or someone else did or whatever it seems to be a rebuttal of the things he'd done and the things done by those in attendance?

Posted by: LamontCranston at April 18, 2005 09:53 PM


Yes, that's why I've always thought Clinton was a much better imperialist than Bush. He always kept the actual $$$ goal in mind. By contrast, the frothing lunatic wing of the Republican party seems to think the whole point is to stand over the body of your vanquished adversary, screeching.

But it's been like that for a long time. As I like to say, the Democrats and Republicans have generally represented the sane evil people and the insane evil people, respectively. Their long-running argument goes like this:

REPUBLICANS: Let's kill everyone and take their money!
DEMOCRATS: I like the way you're thinking. I really do. But if we keep at least SOME of them alive and working for us, we can make even MORE money in the long run!
REPUBLICANS: You commie!


I think you're exactly right: "it was a difficult effort to begin with, and the fact that it gained the social currency it did is heartening by itself." But also keep in mind that the anti-IMF/World Bank/WTO movement is thriving everywhere else on earth. And it will regain strength here soon, as we learn that they're happy to do to us everything they did to people in other countries.

inkywretch & Aaron,

As I like to say: whenever two or more people gather together to destroy what's best about America, you can be sure at least of one of them went to Yale.

[ ],

I've been meaning to read Confessions of an Economic Hitman for a while. Do you have any further thoughts on it?


I noticed that too. That's actually the continuation of a hymn that begins on the previous page, which I didn't reproduce. It's called "O Sacred Head."

It's disquieting/hilarious to imagine Henry Kissinger joining hands with the various billionaires to sing:

Thy grief and bitter passion
were all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression
but thine the deadly pain
Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 19, 2005 06:43 AM

American financial policy.

In a word: Africa

Posted by: Alexis S at April 20, 2005 02:59 PM

Jon: just to say thank you for an especially illuminating post.

And ignore the guy who suggested OCR - much prefer the scans - at least one can appreciate the typography!

Posted by: Shahryar at April 25, 2005 09:28 AM

Chris Kennan, son of George F. was the first husband of Domi Enders until she left him for another-- (a woman) while he was social secretary to David Rockefeller. He studied at Yale and after Domi moved on, he became the third, some say fifth husband of the infamously much-married Libbet Johnson of Baby Oil fields, but judging by the funeral lineup, CJK and the Enders clan stayed on relatively good terms...maybe you should spend more time reading W and less time scanning Foreign Affairs...

Posted by: intheknow at April 27, 2005 02:01 PM

Just bought an Enders autograph on ebay , and was researching him . Sounds like a pretty good guy,thanks for the info. Fought communists in Cambodia and Central America, his stock rose high in my book. I know that upsets you socialists, anything or anyone that promotes freedom in the world without your controlling how that freedom is distributed makes you want to scream. I for one say thank you Thomas O. Enders, job done well, may you rest in peace.

Posted by: Ed at October 27, 2005 12:44 AM
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