SOCORRO, New Mexico (STPNS) -- When I heard Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute being interviewed as one of National Public Radio?s very first guest commentators following NPR?s broadcast of George W Bush?s speech concerning Iraq last Wednesday, my ears perked up. Who was this guy, and why was his organization being given such a prominent soapbox on this issue? A little investigation was in order.

The content of Bush?s ?new strategy? would provide a powerful clue to anyone better informed than I was at the time. Contrary to the widely-publicized recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to redeploy troops from Iraq and open diplomatic talks with Syria and Iran, Bush & Co. decided to increase troops in Iraq, while offering nothing but threats to Iran. Surely the president was sipping a different Kool-Aid than we thought.

As it turns out, as a member of the privately-funded American Enterprise Institute, Frederick Kagan enjoys much more influence with this president than the congressionally-funded United States Institute for Peace, which facilitated the Iraq Study Group?s investigations.  As a matter of fact, Bush?s new plan bears much more resemblance to a competing AEI plan advanced by Kagan titled ?Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,? than it does anything recommended by the Iraq Study Group. Case in point: the preference for private counsel over public discussion has always been the primary signature of this president?s administration.

The influence of the AEI think tank reveals how the United States is run today. More than two dozen of its alumni have served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government?s many panels and commissions. In a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse, former Exxon-Mobil CEO and current vice chairman of the AEI board Lee Raymond, has just been named by Bush to head his latest study group on future energy policy.

Among the legion of American Enterprise Institute ?scholars and fellows? are Dick Cheney, the late Kenneth Lay, Supreme Court justice Atonin Scalia, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, Newt Gingrich, Iraq war co-architect Richard Perle, and White House torture enabler John Yoo. Significant in Middle East policy, AEI member Irving Kristol, known as the godfather of neo-conservatism, is also the genetic father of William Kristol, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, which infamously paved the way for an invasion of Iraq long before 9/11/01.

As a so-called ?think tank,? the mountains of material AEI members produce and distribute to Congress and the public at conferences and in the media are free of formal academic review, and reflect the worldview of its patrons, who are among the world?s richest foundations and corporations. In the case of AEI, the Heritage Foundation and other conservative echo chambers, the mission is to nurture globalized free-market capitalism, even at the point of a gun. By way of advocating a renewed spike in defense spending, the Project for a New American Century?s Web site challenges, ?Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests??

AEI has been morally challenged from its inception in 1943. Founder Lewis H. Brown was president of Johns-Manville, the largest asbestos manufacturer in the United States. Johns-Manville blazed a path for cigarette manufacturers of later years by waging a massive, 40-year cover-up of the severe health effects asbestos caused among its workers. Today AEI continues as a heavily-funded megaphone for the 1 percent of the population which controls 33 percent of the wealth. 2005 revenues were $37.9 million with corporate support up 22 percent over the previous year.

AEI?s stated mission, which includes ?to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism -- limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and responsibility, vigilant and effective defense and foreign policies? would more accurately be summed up as ?the domination of the rights of capital, without consideration for national borders, workers and their families, or the limited resources of the earth.? Concepts like ?freedom,? ?entrepreneurship,? even ?the American people? have been co-opted to refer only to the ruling class of millionaires and corporations. When AEI invokes ?individual rights? they really mean ?property rights;? when they say ?small business? one should interpret the opposite.

Bush?s plan for escalation in Iraq is essentially the wish of the same power elite who advocated an elective invasion in the first place. The writing on the wall now spells reward only for those who profit from the misery of war.

The Pencil Warrior suggests an enlightening Internet search for the term ?power structure research.? Dave Wheelock is a member of the Oneida Nation who works and lives in Socorro. Mr. Wheelock?s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Mountain Mail.