New Prez in a Military Mood


WASHINGTON, D.C., FEBRUARY 16—President George W. Bush put the heat on an otherwise quiet week by ordering an airstrike against Iraq. Military leaders said the operation, assisted by British fighter planes, was a matter of self-defense. reported some 24 planes hit a total of five targets, in the first action of its type in nearly two years.

When not taking the rockets out for a spin, the new commander in chief spent much of his time under the hood of America’s military machine.

Defense: Bush set out, in a general sort of way, plans for revamping the military by introducing futuristic weaponry and scrapping weapons that don’t work. Pending a system-wide review by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush said the 2002 budget will include $2.6 billion for defense research and development. He also announced next year’s budget will include $5.7 billion in pay raises and bonuses for the troops, along with improvements in health care and housing.

Though Bush stressed his continued support for NATO, he also expressed unease over the use of National Guard troops running overseas operations “to keep people apart, warring parties apart.” He said he wanted the guard and reserve to get “more involved in homeland security.” Guard and reserve units now fly support missions from Germany into the Balkans, and from Puerto Rico into Central and South America.

Submarine Disaster: After a submarine carrying dignitaries crashed into a Japanese fishing boat in Hawaii, killing several people, Bush ordered a review of the military’s policy of allowing civilians to participate in military exercises. The navy ordered a halt to civilian tours following the disaster.

Department of State: The Bush administration turned its back on the GOP right wing when Secretary of State Colin Powell, in his first visit to the United Nations, pledged strong support for the organization’s work on social and economic problems. Powell also said the Bush regime will not tighten sanctions on Iraq, but insists Saddam Hussein get rid of his weapons of mass destruction, and let observers make firsthand inspections to ensure he’s not amassing banned weapons.

Powell again said the administration was opposed to the International Criminal Court. Clinton signed on to the treaty, but the Bush administration has no plans to send it to the Senate to be ratified.

Armitage Redux: Bush frightened liberals by naming Richard Armitage, the tough Vietnam covert warrior, as deputy secretary of state. Armitage is all for getting rid of Saddam Hussein. In one speech last year, he said our priorities ought to be the well-being and security of our nation, allies, and friends. He added, “It is the height of insincerity to suggest that AIDS is at the top of our national security list.”

Environment: While White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card held up numerous environmental rules issued by Clinton in his final days, Bush added Michigan and New Hampshire to the list of states whose pollution credits can be traded on the open market. The practice of trading credits began under Clinton, and is in line with Bush’s aim to solve problems via the marketplace.

Ashcroft Watch: The new attorney general reviewed plans for a criminal investigation of Clinton’s pardoning of Marc Rich. Ashcroft appointed Larry Dean Thompson, a black Republican, federal prosecutor, and friend of Clarence Thomas, as his deputy. He also named Theodore Olson, the lawyer who won the election for Bush by convincing the Supreme Court to stop the manual recount in Florida, as solicitor general.

Mexico: At week’s end Bush traveled to Mexico for talks with new president Vicente Fox, aimed at allowing more Mexican workers into the U.S. and developing Mexico’s huge oil and gas deposits for export to the U.S.

Energy: He ordered federal agencies to expedite the approval process for new power projects in California, a request made by the state’s Democratic governor Gray Davis.