Minister Without Portfolio

During the Iran-Contra scandal, it became clear that private citizens had been playing a critical role in the Reagan administration's foreign policy. Some of them, such as Richard Secord, had previously been government officials; others, such as Michael Ledeen, had briefly been advisers or consultants. They were not known to the public or to Congress, were not directly accountable to the government itself and did not have to adhere to the usual government rules on lobbying. Today, the Bush administration is relying on a similar army of unaccountable irregulars to devise, carry out and promote its policies in the Middle East.

The case of Richard Perle is well known: While serving as the chairman of the purely advisory Defense Policy Board, he was hired by Global Crossing to help win government approval of its sale to a Chinese-owned company. He also wielded enormous influence over the administration's Iraq policy -- helping, for instance, to formulate the administration's strategy last fall for dealing with the United Nations on Iraq. But there are other players who are not as well known as Perle. One is Bruce Jackson.

As a military intelligence officer in the 1980s, Jackson was assigned to the Pentagon in the Reagan and Bush Senior administrations, where he worked under Perle and two other leading hawks, Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney. In the late 1990s, while working for Lockheed Martin, Jackson avidly promoted the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe. Last fall the administration called on Jackson to set up the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. "People in the White House said, 'We need you to do for Iraq what you did for NATO,'" Jackson said in a phone interview.

This year Jackson was able to parlay his NATO connections into support for the administration's war plans for Iraq. As the Bush administration was desperately searching for allies, Jackson helped draw up a declaration from the foreign ministers of the "Vilnius Ten," the 10 Eastern European countries that are up for NATO membership. "The newest members of the European community agree that we must confront the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and that the United Nations must now act," the foreign ministers declared on the same day that Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations. The declaration provided ammunition for the administration, but it also created a furor in Western Europe and even in some of the Vilnius Ten countries, where the public, and even the governments, did not want to be identified as part of what one Slovenian writer termed the "war coalition."

One prominent neoconservative familiar with Jackson describes him as the "nexus between the defense industry and the neoconservatives. He translates us to them, and them to us." After Jackson had left the government, he joined Martin Marietta in 1993, which merged in 1995 with Lockheed to become part of the nation's largest defense contractor. In 1997 he became director of global development and was put in charge of finding new international markets for Lockheed.

Jackson was extremely active in Republican politics. He was finance co-chairman of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign and drafted the foreign-policy plank of the 2000 Republican convention platform. But his most important outside work was with the U.S. Committee on NATO, which he founded in 1996 and on which he served as president. Board members included Perle, Wolfowitz and Stephen Hadley, now the deputy national-security adviser but then a partner in the Shea & Gardner law firm, which represented Lockheed.

Jackson maintains that Lockheed actually disapproved of his work on the committee and even tried to fire him, but that seems difficult to believe. In the mid-1990s, Lockheed, like other defense firms, was suffering from the post-Cold War stagnation in the U.S. defense budget. The company knew that once countries from Eastern Europe were admitted into NATO, these nations would have to make their equipment, much of which was manufactured in Russia, "interoperable" with U.S. and Western European military hardware. That might well have meant that they'd have to buy new planes from Lockheed. If the countries didn't have the money, Congress could supply the loan guarantees.

In fact, Jackson and his committee played a prominent role in gaining Senate approval in 1997 for the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO saying that the cost to each taxpayer would be the equivalent of a candy bar. Jackson's committee then started preparing the way for a new group of members, later dubbed the Vilnius Ten. These were Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Macedonia and the three Baltic states. Instead of registering its disapproval of Jackson, Lockheed promoted him to vice president in 1999. In 2002, Jackson would leave Lockheed to devote himself full-time to NATO expansion and other lobbies, but by then he had become an unofficial envoy for the new Bush administration. (According to a February report in Le Monde and several Romanian newspapers, Jackson was also hired by the Romanian government to help it get into NATO. Jackson denies these reports.)

With Bush's election, foreign governments began to treat Jackson as a representative of the administration. "I would call him the unofficial U.S. ambassador to NATO," said Vigodas Usackas, the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States. Georgia's President Eduard Shevardnadze described Jackson after a visit as "an official [emphasis added] with clout, someone whose opinion is heeded in Europe and in the United States." U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns called him "an indispensable part of our efforts in reaching out to these [former Soviet bloc] governments."

For his part, Jackson now tells countries what they should do to win NATO membership. Some of his advice, such as ending corruption, is unexceptional, but other directives sound as if they come directly from the administration's political operation and its Republican backers. According to John Laughland of the Helsinki Human Rights Group, Jackson "told Bulgaria that winning NATO membership would depend on it selling the national tobacco factory to the 'right' foreign buyer." And this winter, of course, Jackson advised the NATO-candidate countries on the proper stance toward war with Iraq.

Jackson set up the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq with Randy Scheunemann as its president. Scheunemann is another envoy without accountability. While working closely with Jackson on the NATO committee, he has been a registered lobbyist for Latvia, Macedonia and Romania, and a consultant on Iraq policy to Rumsfeld. Jackson and Scheunemann's biggest success was probably the Vilnius Ten declaration, which was the product of a dinner Jackson attended in late January at the Slovak embassy in Washington with representatives of those nations. In a letter from the committee accompanying the text, Scheunemann boasted that it showed "Europe is united by a commitment to end Saddam's bloody regime."

Jackson's particular contribution was to tell the Vilnius Ten foreign ministers that signing the declaration would help win U.S. approval of their membership in NATO. "They clearly wanted to do stuff to impress upon the U.S. Senate the freedom-fighting credentials of these new democracies," he told the International Herald Tribune. According to a United Press International report, "Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria and Macedonia received private and public assurances that their NATO applications now stand a better chance."

After the joint statement had provoked an outcry, Jackson tried to minimize his own role, but in the immediate aftermath he was far less reluctant to take credit. He told the Financial Times, "The idea was to break the Franco-German monopoly over shaping European foreign policy ... . If France and Germany can tell the other Europeans what to do, we can do the same. What is good for the goose is good for the gander."

The declaration not only angered the French and Germans, it didn't sit well with some of the governments that signed it. In Slovenia, Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel came under attack for signing the declaration. On Feb. 13, he distanced himself from the declaration. "In everything that it does ... Slovenia is representing the stance that the Iraqi crisis must be resolved within the United Nations, i.e., within the Security Council," he said. When the war began, Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop finally said it had been a mistake to sign the declaration. The Slovenian press blamed pressure from Jackson, acting on behalf of the United States, for the initial decision to sign. Rupel, columnist Sasa Vidmajer wrote, had "buckled under ... Bruce Jackson's threat."

Whatever one thinks of NATO expansion and the war in Iraq, it should be clear that something is very wrong here. NATO expansion is not necessarily a bad thing. And some countries may have wanted to endorse the American invasion of Iraq. But the Bush administration shouldn't be holding entry into NATO hostage to support for its war in Iraq, or trying to gull the public about the size of its "Coalition of the Willing." Even worse, it shouldn't be getting a private citizen -- with no accountability to the public, the Congress or even the administration itself -- to do its dirty work. Will it take the Bush administration's equivalent of the Iran-Contra scandal to stop these kinds of practices?

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