Friday, September 09, 2005

Powell Calls U.N. Speech a 'Blot' on His Record

In 35 years of service as a soldier, Colin Powell earned a reputation as the quintessential disciplined warrior. As secretary of state in President Bush's first term, Powell was widely seen as a disciplined, moderate -- and loyal -- voice for the administration. Now out of government service, Powell is airing openly his disappointments and frustration on everything from the invasion of Iraq to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
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Making False Case for War Still 'Painful'

When Powell left the Bush administration in January 2005, he was widely seen as having been at odds with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney over foreign policy choices.

It was Powell who told the United Nations and the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat. He told Walters that he feels "terrible" about the claims he made in that now-infamous address -- assertions that later proved to be false.

When asked if he feels it has tarnished his reputation, he said, "Of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."


You could call it a blot on his record. You could call it a lot of things. I say it is a blot like the one Katrina revealed: the blot of poverty and prejudice on Amercan society. It isn't some small flaw on an otherwise admirable narrative. It is the fundamental truth finally showing through a thin coat of whitewash. And the truth here is that Colin Powell followed orders. He had some good ideas, and some good military instincts. (Remember the "Powell Doctrine"? He sure didn't.) But in the end, he shut up and did what he was told. And if he was told to lie, or to push an ill-conceived and poorly planned Oedipal, petroleum-soaked orgy disguised as a war, so he did. And when the shit hit the fan, he mostly kept his mouth shut. Even now, as he kinda sorta speaks out, he does so in such a milquetoast, bland fashion that he seems hellbent on avoiding the possibility that his words might actually have an effect. Powell knows where the bodies are buried, but he still isn't telling. He wants to salvage his reputation, but he seems unwilling to take any actual risks in order to right the larger wrongs.

The lesson that was learned, but lost, from Vietnam was that soliders should not just follow orders. I think Powell knew that once, but the invitation to run with the big dogs overwhelmed the knowledge, and conscience, he pushed aside in exchange for power.

The blot is the record, General. It is all we will remember, unless you begin to write a new one based upon honesty and courage. Most of us are trees falling in a forest that no one hears. If you speak truth to power -- clearly, forcefully, without regard for your own access to or approval by your former masters, the world will hear.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Elisabeth3 said...

This isn't the first time Powell bowed to power. What about his denial to look into MaiLai? That event seems to have faded away but it shows a fatal flaw in his character. He has integrity but is so cowed by those in power around him, that integrity takes a back seat. Too bad but courage in the face of power trumps integrity with a price.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Sandy47 said...

mr. powell is far too easy on himself. Too much of his career was predicated on covering up military wrong-doing and telling whoppers on behalf of the neocons.

At this late stage with perhaps 100,000 plus dead Iraqis and perhaps as many as 40,000 dead Louisianans, why should we care that he in essence is now sorry he hitched his political wagon to that of the fundamentally flawed g.w. bu$h?

Sorry colin; the time to speak was before your UN address. Now, you and how you feel are beyond inconsequential; and besides, I'm not buying the remorse thing. I think you're applying a new coat of paint.

1:20 PM  

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