Blacks in Bush cabinet are token

Bangkok Post - Thursday, November 06, 2003

US Reverend Jesse Jackson will deliver the keynote speech, 'Can the United States become a force for peace? _ the US after the war on Iraq', at Thammasat University today. Here he looks at the role of black people in today's Bush administration.


Condoleezza Rice, US President George W. Bush's national security adviser, does not represent the black community and is being used by a White House which ''carefully manipulated images of race'', the Reverend Jesse Jackson said here Tuesday.

''She does not make any pretence of representing the black community,'' the Rev Jackson said. ''She represents the Bush administration, whose civil rights policies at home are deplorable, whose judicial appointments are biased against civil rights.

''Often her image as an African-American woman is to soften the image of the face of the administration, whose policies are driven by [Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and [his deputy Paul] Wolfowitz and [chairman of the defence policy board, an advisory panel to the Pentagon, Richard] Perle and [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [the energy company] Halliburton and [construction giant] Bechtel.

''I know that the Bush forces have carefully manipulated images of race while [having an] unwillingness to talk with the NAACP,'' he said, referring to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People's quest to meet Mr Bush.

The Rev Jackson, a spokesman for civil rights since the 1960s and an assistant to the late Martin Luther King Jr, made the remarks shortly after arriving in Thailand, where he is due to speak today at Thammasat University on the US war on Iraq.

The Rev Jackson, a Baptist minister and president and founder of the Rainbow/PUSH (People United To Save Humanity) Coalition, said Ms Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell ''are not being duped, they are too intelligent to be duped'' by the White House.

''They joined the administration willingly and they support its policies. He represents an administration whose civil rights policies and civil liberties policies and worker policies at home leave much to be desired, whose Africa policies leave much to be desired.

''I always say to Powell and Condoleezza _ very brilliant people _ that I respect them very much, but we are on different sides of history.''

Earlier on Tuesday, the Rev Jackson told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand: ''Those who are now being used to articulate this [Iraq] war are, I think in a manipulative way, black and brown.''

At the start of the US-led invasion of Iraq, the international media were often briefed by an African-American spokesman and a Hispanic spokesman, he said. ''That was the international face of the war. And then, back home, you had Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, [who] would go on each network TV, every Sunday. Those are the faces of that war.

''And since you couldn't see the faces of the [American servicemen] killed and the injured in the paper, it kind of blunted the edge of the true nature of the soldiers.

''For example, in the army, 50% of the women are black. In the army, the males [are] 35% black and 15% Latino. Those in the war are disproportionately poor people _ whether white, black or brown _ because they don't have the draft system.

''But the most able Americans go to the big universities. For them, the war is academic because it did not affect their lives. There are no caskets coming back to Harvard or Yale or Princeton or Columbia or Berkeley or UCLA.''

The Rev Jackson also said the Bush administration was hiding the war, including the 16 American servicemen who died when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Iraq on Sunday.

''When those bodies come home this week, they will not allow the American media to cover the caskets coming in, nor will the Pentagon release the pictures of those who are dead, [while] trying to dumb down the sensitivities of the American people,'' the Rev Jackson told the packed news conference, which included foreign diplomats, businessmen and activists.

Neo-conservatives in Washington were also deceiving and dividing America, he said. ''Neo-conservatives, they are ancient conservatives. It is almost a revival of civil war lines, of those who are with the Union and those of the Confederates and, by and large, that [neo-conservative] element has supremacist ideas at home about race and religion and foreign affairs.

''These right-wingers are devastating'' America.

- Richard S. Ehrlich is a former UPI correspondent who has reported news from Asia for the past 25 years.