Capital Watchers Say Powell May Bail on White House
U.S. War Sickens Iraqi Kids
Condit Stitches Career Back Together
Vidal Dissects a Broader McVeigh Plot
How the Sick Go Broke

Capital Watchers Say Powell May Bail on White House


How the Sick Go Broke

From Bleeding the Patient, as reported in Norton’s Bankruptcy Advisor:

• 45.6 percent of all bankruptcies can be traced to medical debt.

• 326,441 families blamed sickness for bringing them down in 1999.

• 269,757 more families had big medical debts when they went bankrupt.

The biggest guessing game in Washington during these dog days of August is how long Secretary of State Colin Powell can stand to play Stepin Fetchit to George Bush's stumblebum foreign policy team. Despite Powell's lofty title and global reputation, he has largely operated at the fringe, leaving the spotlight—and the power—to an inner circle of real players like VP Dick Cheney, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"I've heard rumors he's unhappy over there," says one Senate Foreign Relations Committee source. "He's not the kind of person you would expect to hang around if he's simply the messenger boy. He has too much international stature in his own right than simply to carry out odd jobs for Karl Rove or Dick Cheney."

In an article on Sunday, The New York Times took note of Powell's low profile, noting that Rice has been the one making diplomatic trips to places like Russia and justifying White House strategy in public speeches, while the secretary of state "has yet to give a major address laying out his vision for America's role in the world."

A former chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Powell has been made to look like a fool on several occasions since Bush took over. After Powell announced that the dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea begun by Clinton would continue, he was swiftly overruled by the White House. That was a dreadful embarrassment, since the decision was made while South Korean president Kim Dae Jung—who wants to keep talks open—was in D.C.

Powell is the only member of the Bush team to support the nuclear-test-ban treaty, which has been nixed by Bush. Rice has said it's time to disengage from the Balkans. Powell told NATO the U.S. would tough it out in Bosnia and Kosovo. Powell thinks Israel has gone too far in its policies toward the Palestinians, while Cheney has openly sympathized with Israel. This spring, Powell supported having international observers help stabilize the conflict, but the White House summarily reversed his position.

Time and again Powell says there are no real differences between himself and the rest of the administration. "Do we have differences? Sure," Powell told the AP. "Do we argue about things? Sure. Do we have to debate issues from time to time? Yes."

But everybody else in the capital is wondering just how long Powell can be the fall guy for the Bush clique. Christie Whitman appears to have survived a similar hazing, in her role as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Whitman, a rising star in the GOP, found herself hung out to dry by Bush on issues ranging from global warming to arsenic in drinking water.

Now the resignation watch once focused on Whitman has shifted to Powell, who has more to risk. A potential contender for the White House himself, Powell can ill afford to have people in his own State Department or on Capitol Hill—not to mention the American public—questioning his authority. A shift may be inevitable, but seasoned observers say it won't come suddenly. "There appears to be a bit of a divide developing," says Richard Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, who adds that no one expected the general to back Bush's agenda 100 percent. "It would be difficult to get Powell out, but there is an uneasy relationship behind the tenure."

U.S. War Sickens Iraqi Kids
America the Vicious

Doubts that the U.S. sanctions against Iraq were intended to wreck the civilian infrastructure have been dispelled by declassified government documents reaching back to 1991.

In the September Progressive, Thomas Nagy cites a January 22, 1991, Defense Intelligence Agency report entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities." It states, "Iraq will suffer increasing shortages of purified water because of the lack of required chemicals and desalination membranes. Incidences of disease, including possible epidemics, will become probable unless the population were careful to boil water." The document calculates that "it probably will take at least six months [to June 1991] before the system is fully degraded."

And then, matter-of-factly, the Defense Intelligence people list off the maladies that may come from ruining the water supply: cholera, diarrhea, diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, kwashiorkor, measles, meningitis, pertussis, and typhoid.

As we know, a brutal war was launched against Iraq anyway. Bare statistics suggest the attack on the civilian population enjoyed considerable success. Richard Walton, in the May/June issue of Dollars and Sense, points out, "In 1989, just before the Gulf War began, there were 7110 deaths of children under five from respiratory infection, diarrhea, gastroenteritis, and malnutrition. Within a year of the war and the imposition of sanctions, the number of deaths had risen to 27,473. By 1994, the figure stood at 52,905, and in the first 11 months of 1999, it soared to 73,572. That's a ten-fold increase over ten years."

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