If there is one American politician I have great admiration for, it’s Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State. OK, former politician!
Typically of a former general, he acted in a manner that was perceived by some Americans as too dovish. Dear readers, former soldiers are usually dovish unlike what cartoons may wish to portray them. Those people have seen blood or had committed young men into battles that killed some or many. They might have written some letters of condolence to bereaving parents and new widows or even orphans. Many have experienced being under combat fire.
By contrast, the most hawkish US politicians (and indeed of other nationalities too) would usually be those who have never been to battle, or experienced the combat/battle traumas and decision making that soldiers do. Typical of these ultra hawkish politicians is Dick Cheney, Vice president of the USA. Cheney had 5 deferments from the draft to Vietnam. Today, with the luxury of never being fired upon or been in a combat zone he talks tough, and may explained why he is the chief architect of the US invasion to occupy Iraq.
Cheney is also termed as a chickenhawk – you work it out why this fowl-ish or foul-ish label has emerged with the ascendancy of the Bush Jnr Administration. I give you a hint – look the credentials of the members of the Bush Administration, both 1st and 2nd terms, here.
Powell is a still a much sought after personality by the media because he may be expected to give balanced accounts, and not like the BS of Cheney and his "last throes" of the Iraqi insurgency. Whenever he made any statement or provided any revelation, like the good soldier he has been in the military as well as a member of two Bush Administrations, he has never badmouthed his boss.
Interviewed by David Frost (whom I thought had been recruited by al Jazeera?) Powell shot at those European nations for pretending not to know that their countries were (or even are) used by the USA either as a staging point or the destination for extraordinary rendition, or in layman’s term, torture centres. Powell said the shock exhibited by those nations has been hypocritical considering those arrangements with the US have been in place for many years.
He admitted that not only US moral authority was under pressure at the moment, but that many in the world considers the US as unilateralist, a powerful nation that doesn’t give a stuff about what the rest of the world thinks. I reckon in mentioning the ‘unilateral’ bit, Powell, for all his loyalty to Bush, might be indirectly giving Dick Cheney an elbow in the ribs because Cheney is well known to be contemptuous of the world ever since the USA emerges from the debris of the Cold War as the sole superpower.
But Powell again showed his American-ness by declaring that impression of the USA was not quite fair. Sorry Mr Powell, it is what it is – an impression! And we know ‘impression’ sends people to war, as it did with America who had the impression, spun up no doubt, that Iraq had WMDs which could reach London in 45 minutes – the ‘45 minutes’ credit is Tony Blair’s.
Powell also talked about the extremely poor relationship between him and Cheney-Rumsfeld. He bemoaned the terrible quality of intelligence that had been mis-employed to launch the invasion of Iraq. Now, what he said next was most telling. He cried out that what truly upset him more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of the Iraqi WMD intelligence sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced up to the State Department. Could he be indirectly averring that Cheney cut off those doubts deliberately because the neo-cons were set on the war?
When a country has a foreign affairs simpleton for a President and the VP is one devious neo-con with Iraqi oil on his mind, the doubts by the American intelligence community on the state of Iraq’s WMD would naturally be bothersome facts that would not see daylight under a Cheney hand. Cheney is known to have visited CIA Headquarters several times prior to the invasion.
"Often maybe Mr Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney would take decisions into the president that the rest of us weren't aware of. That did happen, on a number of occasions."
The USA had been condemned numerous times for launching a war without adequate planning for the postwar situation. Powell revealed that his State Department had in fact made very detailed post-war planning for Iraq, but they were discarded by Rumsfeld, and unfortunately for the Iraqi people and over 2000 dead American soldiers, Rumsfeld disagreement was backed by the White House - though Powell didn’t particularly specify who in the White House, the President as it is usually understood, or the VP Dick Cheney?
Powell said: "Mr Rumsfeld and I had some serious discussions, of a not pleasant kind, about the use of individuals who could bring expertise to the issue. And it ultimately went into the White House, and the rest is well known."
Good article KTemoc!ReplyDelete
Interesting observation that old soldiers are often less gungho than officials about going to war - because soldiers know its horrors.
Also true that Cheney etc were selective about which intelligence fitted their WMD reasoning.
Its unfortunate that Powell's soldier's creed of "serving the Commander in Chief" led Powell to misrepresent the WMD issue in the UN against Powell's better judgement.
Between the lines it seems Powell had a gut feeling (and unofficial contacts suggesting) there were no WMD's. He had to make a moral judgement to back up his boss no matter what.
Absolutely right that he "backed" his Boss to the hilt - that's a loyal soldier for you. When Boss man asked him to do something, a soldier would do it - there's more good than bad in the soldier's creed of loyalty, though in Powell's case, the result was terrible. But one wonders whether a Powell flamboyant resignation would have stopped the war?ReplyDelete
Mind you, he was, to use a colourful Malaysian saying, squeezing his balls (gritting his teeth), when he took the BS intel to the UNSC. He has never stopped expressing his regret (shame) for that, but without ever badmouthing Bush.
UN's Arbour on renditionReplyDelete