Global Research, January 28, 2013
“If a mandarinate ruled America, the recruiting committee on September 11 would have had to find someone like Cheney.” Washington Post author Barton Gellman in his book “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency”
Terrorism. Emergency plans. Political careers. The history of 9/11 can be written from many angles.
But whatever point of view is chosen, Dick Cheney is a central figure. “Principle is okay up to a certain point”, he once said, “but principle doesn´t do any good if you lose the nomination”. He´s surely an elusive character. Not less than Donald Rumsfeld, his close companion. Both of their lifes are inseperably bound with a dark side of recent American history. The core of the following story was originally told by the authors James Mann and Peter Dale Scott whose thorough research is deeply appreciated. Yet a lot of background information was added. Thus a bigger picture slowly took shape, showing a plan and its actors …
Cheney and Rumsfeld were an old team. Major parts of their careers they had spent together. Both had no privileged family background. Cheney´s father worked as an employee for the department of agriculture, Rumsfeld´s father had a job in a real estate company. The families´ living conditions were modest. Both sons could go to university only with the backing of scholarships.
Rumsfeld, born 1932, chose political science. He was a rather small and sturdy person, but with energetic charisma. While at university he engaged in sport and was known as a succesful ringer. Later Rumsfeld went to the Navy to become a pilot. The Navy hat paid a part of his scholarship. At the end of the 1950s he eventually started his career in politics as assistant of a congressman. Meanwhile father of a young family, and following a short intermezzo at an investment bank, Rumsfeld himself ran for Congress, at the age of 29 only.
The prospects in his Chicago home district were unfavorable. He was inexperienced and almost without any voter base, compared to the other candidates. But the dynamic and ambitious Rumsfeld impressed some of Chicago´s business leaders, such as the boss of pharma heavyweight Searle. They paid for his campaign. With this economic power in his back also one of Chicago´s newspapers supported him. Rumsfeld won the election in 1962 and went to Washington as a republican representative.
At the beginning of the 1960s he visited lectures at the University of Chicago, where Milton Friedman was teaching, one of the most influential economists of his time. Friedman was one of the founding fathers of neoliberalism. He called for less influence of the state and praised the self regulation of the markets. In 1962 his bestseller Capitalism and Freedom was published. Rumsfeld was impressed by these thoughts. In a speech honoring Friedman 40 years later he remembered: “Government, he has told us, has three primary functions: It should provide for the military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. And it should protect citizens against crimes against themselves or their property.” (1) This self-imposed restriction of politics was also the core of Rumsfeld´s belief while he served in Congress in the 1960s.
An apprentice in politics
Cheney, 9 years younger than Rumsfeld, meanwhile studied political science as well. First at Yale, where he left soon because of poor grades, then at a less prestigious university in the Midwest. Contrary to the forceful Rumsfeld he appeared rather defensive, quiet and cautious. His imminent recruiting to the Vietnam war he avoided by getting deferred from military service because of his study at the university and the pregnancy of his wife, until he couldn´t be recruited because of his age in 1967.
At the age of 27 Cheney was looking for a job in Washington. He applied for an internship at Rumsfeld´s office. But Rumsfeld rejected him. The failed interview was embarrassing for Cheney who in later times liked to tell the story of this flop as an anecdote. But soon both men found together.
Under president Nixon, Rumsfeld had switched in 1969 from Congress to government. First he ran the Office of Economic Opportunity. There he administered federal social programs – not exactly one of his major concerns, but still one step forward in career. Rumsfeld was looking for new staffers to pass on work. By recommendation of a befriended representative he employed Cheney as his assistant. Cheney was a diligent worker and quickly made himself indispensable. Whoever wanted something from Rumsfeld, learned soon to try it via Cheney.
Rumsfeld´s career developed. People started becoming aware of him nationwide. He looked good, was energetic and had a catching smile. His intelligence was outstanding. But he also liked to exaggerate and escalate conflicts and often was unnecessarily blunt to others. Soon he became president Nixon´s advisor (who would praise him as a “ruthless little bastard”). Three years later he went to europe becoming NATO´s ambassador there – escaping from Washington shortly before the Watergate affair would kill the careers of many of Nixon´s advisors.
In the mid of the 1970s politics in America went through a time of upheaval. The economy was in crisis. With the lost war in Vietnam, nationwide student protests and Watergate the leadership of the superpower showed internal signs of decay, culminating in Nixon´s resignation in 1974. Successor Gerald Ford appointed Rumsfeld to become chief of staff with Cheney shadowing him closely as his deputy.
Now both men had arrived in the centre of power. The position of chief of staff was seen as highly influential in the White House. He was the closest advisor to the president, controlled his schedule and also decided who would meet him. After Nixon, Watergate and the extensively publicly discussed CIA scandals the new administration had to fight with a damaged reputation. This difficult situation, with a relatively weak president, increased the importance of the chief of staff.
Rumsfeld and Cheney were partners now and had great influence on president Ford. When he reshuffled his cabinet abruptly in 1975 in the so-called “Halloween massacre”, firing among others the CIA director and the secretary of defense, many suspected Rumsfeld being the wirepuller. Fact was at least that he and Cheney were profiteering.
Rumsfeld now took over the command at the Pentagon. There he started expensive and prolonged defense projects like the Abrams tank and the B-1 bomber, building economic impact for decades. At the same time the 34 years old Cheney moved up to become chief of staff in the White House. Now he was no longer only assistant but an authority with relevant beliefs. One of his rules went: “Principle is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn´t do any good if you lose the nomination.” (2)
However soon just that happened. After the defeat of the Republicans in 1976 both men dropped out of government. Together with their families they spent holidays with each other in the Caribbean. Rumsfeld remembers the relaxing break with pleasure: “We played Tennis, boated, and spent time in the sun talking about life. Cheney grilled steaks and made chili.” (3)
Back home Cheney started capitalizing his Washington insider knowledge by working for a consulting company, helping wealthy clients with their investment decisions. But soon he returned to politics. At the end of the 1970s he went as elected Congressman to the House of Representatives. Yet the stress and pressure had their effect on the cautious and restrained Cheney – at age 37 he suffered his first heart attack.
Rumsfeld on the other hand found his new place for a longer time in private business. Dan Searle, the Chicago pharma magnate who had financed his first election campaign 15 years before, now entrusted him his whole company, appointing him to Searle´s CEO. Financially Rumsfeld climbed to new heights with that job. As CEO he got 250.000 Dollars a year, about four times more than as secretary of defense. (4) And also in his new job he made no half measures. Within short time Rumsfeld fired more than half of the employees, generating a huge increase in corporate profit. The business newspapers praised him as an outstanding manager.
In the 1980s the Republicans came back to power with Ronald Reagan. The new president conjured up the threatening picture of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and increased military spending. The Cold War gained new momentum.
The Armageddon Plan
At this time the White House also developed a secret emergency plan, put in action however only at September 11th, 2001 for the first time. Initially it should guarantee that the government could continue its operations even after a Soviet nuclear strike. The plan was called COG (Continuity of Government) and called for a very special emergency measure: when disaster struck, three teams should be sent to different places in the country, replacing the government. Each team would have an own “president” as well as other people standing in for the different departments and government agencies. If one team would be killed, the next one could be activated. So the planners hoped to keep control over the military and the most important parts of the administration, after an atomic bomb or another disaster had wiped out the government in Washington. (5)
These worries about a possible “decapitation” of the national leadership were deemed very seriously because exactly this course of action was also part of the U.S. war strategy towards the Soviets. (6)
The COG plan existed not only on paper. It was exercised in reality regularly in the 1980s. Once a year the teams, each consisting of a “president”, a “chief of staff” and about 50 staffers, were secretly flown from Washington to a closed military base or a bunker somewhere in the United States. There they played the emergency scenario for several days. Not even their closest relatives knew about the location or purpose of the exercise. (7)
Richard Clarke, later anti-terror coordinator under the presidents Clinton and Bush junior, recalls one of the maneuvers at that time:
”I remember one occasion where we got the call. We had to go to Andrews Air Force Base and get on a plane and fly across the country. And then get off and run into a smaller plane. And that plane flew off into a desert location. And when the doors opened on the smaller plane, we were in the middle of a desert. Trucks eventually came and found us and drove us to a tent city. You know, this was in the early days of the program. A tent city in the middle of the desert — I had no idea where we were. I didn’t know what state we were in. We spent a week there in tents, pretending that the United States government had been blown up. And we were it. It’s as though you were living in a play. You play-act. Everyone there play-acts that it’s really happened. You can’t go outside because of the radioactivity. You can’t use the phones because they’re not connected to anything.” (8)
Part of every team was one authentic secretary, leading a government department also in real life. He had to play the president. Yet his real life portfolio didn´t matter – at one point even the secretary of agriculture played the president. In the end the secretary taking part in the exercise was usually just the one being dispensable. Apparently more important was the role of the chief of staff. This part was routinely played only by a person who had been White House chief of staff also in real life. (9)
Therefore Rumsfeld and Cheney were regular participants of the secret annual COG exercises. Other attendants described them as being involved in shaping the program. (10) So at a time when the two men had no position whatsoever in government (Rumsfeld, as mentioned, was boss of a pharma company, Cheney was congressman), both of them disapeared every year for a few days to practice the take-over of the government after a disaster.
Above the law
The plan was secret also because it bypassed the constitution. Since the presidential succession was already explicitly fixed by law: if the president died, the vice president took over, then followed by the speaker of the house, after him the longest serving senator, then the secretaries of state, treasury, defense and so forth. However the COG plan simply ignored this well balanced constitutional arrangement. In an emergency it called instead for a president who was not democratically legitimized at all.
The plan was authorized with a secret directive by president Reagan. According to his security adviser Robert McFarlane Reagan personally decided who would lead the individual teams. The COG liaison officer in charge inside the National Security Council was Oliver North, who later became known as the key person in the center of the Iran-Contra scandal. (11)
Only incidentally, in connection with that scandal, the first details of the secret plan came to light in 1987. Under president Reagan Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had coordinated a series of steps building in effect a shadow government, Congress didn´t know about, let alone having approved it. The Miami Herald wrote about this in 1987: “Oliver North helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. (…) From 1982 to 1984, North assisted FEMA, the U.S. government’s chief national crisis-management unit, in revising contingency plans for dealing with nuclear war, insurrection or massive military mobilization.” (12)
That the COG plan, suspending the constitution, could indeed not only be activated in case of a nuclear war, was laid out in a further directive authorized by Reagan in the last days of his presidency in November 1988. According to this directive the plan should be executed in a “national security emergency”, defined rather vague as a “natural disaster, military attack, technological emergency, or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States”. (13) In effect this meant a massive undermining of democratic principles. The COG plan, executed unter the circumstances mentioned, could also be used as cover for a coup d’état.
Meanwhile Cheney and Rumsfeld went on secretly exercising the take-over of the government during their annually running maneuvers. Belonging to this inner circle of potential state leaders had to be an uplifting feeling for both men. In case of a huge disaster the fate of the nation would lie in their hands.
Reach for the presidency
Read Full Article Here