The Cabinet of Dr. Clinton

THE WARM WASHINGTON welcome for China's General Chi on his official state visit here tells us as much about the shape of U.S. foreign policy in Clinton's second term as did the president's appointment of his national security team last week. The general, who as defense minister is being given the red-carpet treatment by the Clinton administration, has even been invited to address the cadets at West Point. But Chi is also a notorious mass murderer, for he commanded the Chinese army units that killed untold thousands of civilians in and around Beijing when the government was putting down the democracy movement at Tienanmen Square.

Those gloriously naive Chinese students who erected a giant papier-mâché Statue of Liberty to stare down Mao's portrait at the Gate of heavenly Peace have been flushed down an Orwellian memory hole by the Clinton administration, for their tank-crushed bodies have become human sacrifices on the votive altar of international trade. Naked commercial interests now dictate U.S. foreign policy to a greater degree than ever, and--as The New York Times reminded us in a front-page story last Sunday--many of the key decisions on our relations with China and other countries in the last term were made in the National Economic Council under its then-chair, Robert Rubin (the survivor of the Goldman Sachs arbitrage scandals), where trade rep Mickey Kantor regularly bested the feeble protests from the State Department.

Kantor is returning to his lucrative international law practice to cash in on his government service on behalf of the multinationals, but with Rubin now at Treasury and more powerful than ever, the game of musical chairs involving Madeleine Albright, Tony Lake, and Sandy Berger ensures that the profits-first, human rights-last ethic of the administration's foreign policy will remain unchanged.

George Mitchell would have been infinitely preferable as Secretary of State to Albright, but his ethnicity worked against him: Mitchell is Lebanese, and his friends are convinced he was done in by the fat cats of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, many of whose funders helped launch and still sustain the Democratic Leadership Council. Al From, who plied his trade at AIPAC before becoming the DLC director, is a weightier-than-ever Clinton counselor these days, and has been close to Albright ever since they both worked for Sen. Ed Muskie two decades ago. Besides, the appointment of a visible woman at State makes it easier for Clinton to shove Janet Reno out the door for her sin of appointing too many special prosecutors in the scandals involving Clinton and his cabinet. Mitchell, who gave up a Supreme Court nomination to stay in the Senate and fight for Hillary's failed health care scheme, has a right to feel ill-used.

The doing-in of Maine's Mitchell removed the geographical impediment to the appointment of Maine's William Cohen at Defense. Don't forget that Clinton, in his second debate with Bob Dole, boasted that "there is only a 1 percent difference on defense spending between my budget and the Republicans.'" And if you're going to have a Republican policy on defense spending, you might as well put a real one in charge of it. An AIPAC favorite who, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, regularly filled his campaign coffers with big bucks from defense contractors, Cohen has consistently supported ever-expanding Pentagon budgets, even in these austere times: Just last year, he voted for a Strom Thurmond amendment that would have added a whopping $98.5 billion to Clinton's proposal for increased Pentagon, pork. No wonder the hard-right American Security Council gave him a 100 percent rating.

Tony Lake, who commanded the off-the-shelf "let the mullahs arm the Bosnians" secret policy in violation of the U.S.-supported U.N. arms embargo, is an avid interventionist, but if a tough veteran of the military-intelligence bureaucracy like John Deutch couldn't tame the CIA's operations directorate, the betting is that the boys at Langley will eat Lake's lunch. Lake's replacement at NSC, his deputy Sandy Berger, is an international trade lawyer by profession, so his choice reconfirms the primacy of the profit motive in foreign policy.

If you want to make a personal gesture against all this, remember that 90 percent of all toys sold in the United States are made in China, many by slave labor. So when you're Christmas shopping for the kiddies, think of General Chi.

 
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