Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama's Emerging Senior Team

By Ben Trott

Numerous rumours (and a few official announcements) continue to abound as to likely senior staffers in the impending Obama administration. The New York Times yesterday claimed Hillary Clinton had accepted Obama’s alleged offer of the position of Secretary of State. On whom may get the job of Attorney General, the Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman, in his regular US Elections 08 email bulletin, explained on Thursday,
‘Many on the left… responded with enthusiasm to the growing signs that Obama would appoint as his attorney general Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney-general under Bill Clinton. Holder is a forthright critic of the administration of justice under Bush: in a speech earlier this year, he called Guantanamo an "international embarrassment" and said that "for the last 6 years the position of leader of the Free World has been largely vacant... we authorized torture and we let fear take precedence over the rule of law." He would be the first black occupant of the post.’
If parts of the left have been enthusiastic about Holder being considered for Attorney General, it is certainly the exception to the general reception Obama's appointments - or really, the rumours of likely appointments currently doing the rounds - have received.

Jeremy Scahill, US investigative journalist best known for his book on the Blackwater private security firm, has written a piece for, This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House. The piece provides a brief biography on some of the characters likely to play a key role in the shaping of US foreign policy over the next 4 years, including Madeleine Albright, Joe Biden, John Brennan, Hillary Clinton, and Rahm Emanuel.

Scahill argues that while ‘the verdict is still out’ on a few of those likely to receive senior positions,
‘many members of his inner foreign policy circle - including some who have received or are bound to receive Cabinet posts - supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Some promoted the myth that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. A few have worked with the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, whose radical agenda was adopted by the Bush/Cheney administration. And most have proven track records of supporting or implementing militaristic, offensive U.S. foreign policy.’
Most notable are the number of foreign policy advisors drawn from the Clinton era, of which Scahill reminds us,
‘Clinton took office and almost immediately bombed Iraq (ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged plot by Saddam Hussein to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush). He presided over a ruthless regime of economic sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and under the guise of the so-called No-Fly Zones in northern and southern Iraq, authorized the longest sustained U.S. bombing campaign since Vietnam.

'Under Clinton, Yugoslavia was bombed and dismantled as part of what Noam Chomsky described as the "New Military Humanism." Sudan and Afghanistan were attacked, Haiti was destabilized and "free trade" deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade radically escalated the spread of corporate-dominated globalization that hurt U.S. workers and devastated developing countries. Clinton accelerated the militarization of the so-called War on Drugs in Central and Latin America and supported privatization of U.S. military operations, giving lucrative contracts to Halliburton and other war contractors. Meanwhile, U.S. weapons sales to countries like Turkey and Indonesia aided genocidal campaigns against the Kurds and the East Timorese.

'The prospect of Obama's foreign policy being, at least in part, an extension of the Clinton Doctrine is real.’
The entire article can be read online here.

UPDATE: Michael Tomasky, Guardian America editor, has put together a list of who appears to be getting (or very likely to get) which job. I've pasted Tomasky's blog entry here below, linking to the Wikipedia pages giving an overview of some of these key figures. I've also spelled out in full some of the abbreviations in his original post.
'Here's who we've got, or appear to be getting, so far:

Treasury: Tim Geithner
State: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Defense: Robert Gates
Justice: Eric Holder
HHS [i.e. Health and Human Services] (plus heath care czar): Tom Daschle
DHS [i.e. Department of Homeland Security]: Janet Napolitano
Commerce: Bill Richardson
National Security Agency: Jim Jones
Office of Management and Budget: Peter Orszag

That's really a strong list. Really strong. But I do note that there's not yet one roaring liberal tiger in the bunch. I know, I know, he has to send centrist signals and all that. But surely there's room for one. Maybe at Labor? That would seem the obvious place. Worth keeping an eye on.'

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