The Wartime Opportunists By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Make way for the wartime opportunists.

Corporate interests and their proxies are looking to exploit the
September 11 tragedy to advance a self-serving agenda that has
nothing to do with national security and everything to do with
corporate profits and dangerous ideologies.

Fast track and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. A corporate
tax cut.

Oil drilling in Alaska. Star Wars. These are some of the preposterous
"solutions" and responses to the terror attack offered by corporate

No one has been more shameless in linking their agenda to the terror
attack than U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick. Writing in
the Washington Post last week, Zoellick proclaimed that granting
fast-track trade negotiating authority to the president -- to assist
with the ramming through Congress of a Free Trade Area of the
Americas, designed to expand NAFTA to all of the Americas, among
other nefarious ends -- was the best way to respond to the September
11 tragedy.

"Earlier enemies learned that America is the arsenal of democracy,"

Zoellick wrote, "Today's enemies will learn that America is the
economic engine for freedom, opportunity and development. To that
end, U.S.

leadership in promoting the international economic and trading
system is vital. Trade is about more than economic efficiency. It
promotes the values at the heart of this protracted struggle."

No explanation from Zoellick about how adopting a procedural rule
designed to limit Congressional debate on controversial trade
agreements advances the democratic and rule-of-law values he says
the United States must now project.

The administration has identified fast track as one of the handful
of legislative priorities it hopes to see Congress enact this year.

Getting fast track passed isn't big business's only priority for
the shrinking legislative calendar. The Fortune 500 has been
whimpering since George Bush was elected president and top
administration officials told the business community to silence
their demand for corporate tax cuts until after passage of the
inequality-increasing personal income tax cut.

Even before the September 11 attack, business interests and the
anti-tax ideologues were increasingly making noise that corporate
tax cuts were the solution to the coming recession.

Now they are beginning to argue that capital gains tax cuts and
corporate tax breaks are America's patriotic duty.

In releasing a study purporting to explain how a capital gains cut
would spur economic growth, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU)
touted a capital gains tax cut -- a tax break that exclusively
benefits the wealthy -- as an anti-terrorism initiative. "By reducing the
rate at which capital gains are taxed, President Bush and Congress could
help revitalize the sagging economy and bring new revenues to Washington
-- decidedly aiding our war against terrorism," said NTU director of
congressional relations Eric Schlecht.

Not wishing to be outdone, Senator Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, didn't
wait long to explain how the terror attack makes it imperative to
open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). "There is no
doubt that at this time of national emergency, an expedited
energy-security bill must be considered," the Alaska senator
announced last week. "Opening ANWR will be a central element in
finally reducing this country's dangerous overdependence on unstable
foreign sources of energy," he said.

Neither Murkowski nor the oil companies pushing for opening ANWR
have ever been able to offer a coherent explanation of how using
up U.S. oil reserves heightens energy security. Security rests in
maintaining the reserves. Real energy security and independence
can only come from renewables (particularly solar and wind) --
where the supply is plentiful and infinitely renewing. Only a
failure of public and private investment leaves the country (and
the world) unable to harvest renewable energy efficiently.

And, of course, the purveyors of Star Wars couldn't let the
opportunity pass them by. The Center for Security Policy --the
center of a web of defense industry-backed think tanks and
organizations pushing for a National Missile Defense program --
urged President Bush in advance of his address to Congress to
announce that "this Administration will use every tool at its
disposal to ensure that the resources and latitude needed to develop
and deploy missile defenses are made available."

A missile defense system -- even if it overcame the technical
obstacles which have so far proved insurmountable, after billions
spent -- would have done nothing to stop the September 11 attack.
Nor would it do anything to stop any other conceivable terrorist
attack on the United States, none of which involve might missile
delivery systems.

Opportunism and cynical manipulation of tragedy are nothing new in
Washington. But the proposals to exploit the September 11 tragedy
for narrow corporate aims mark a new low.

The United States is emerging from a national mourning period. Now
is the time to proceed with caution and care, as the nation seeks
to address legitimate security concerns (e.g., airport security)
and tend to victims of the attack. It is no time to rush through
proposals on matters essentially unrelated to the attack, especially
damaging and foolhardy proposals that have been unable to win
popular or Congressional support when the public has had a chance
to consider them dispassionately, and on the merits.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate
Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington,
D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate
Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy
(Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999).

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman