Powell: Redemption calls for truth to the country
Colin Powell leaves the office of Secretary of State with considerably less
political stature that he took in. It can be said that General Powell, the
good and loyal soldier, Vietnam War hero and dignified commander of the
first Gulf War, was hung out to dry.
Gen. Powell was the man chosen by the Bush team to make the exaggerated
and, ultimately, patently false case on Weapons of Mass Destruction before
the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. In a reversal of the
famous Adlai Stevenson moment, when the respected statesman caught the
Soviets in a blatant lie on behalf of Pres. John Kennedy, and who presented
before the UN detailed and accurate intelligence, this time the big lie was
told by the United States. Powell delivered it on behalf of the president
and his neo-con circle and has had to live with a diminishing sense of
personal status ever since. In retrospect, it was perhaps the worst display
of American statesmanship in history. Nevertheless, his assertions,
multiplied on Fox News Channel and hundreds of talk shows, convinced the
majority of the American people that a war on Iraq was central to U.S.
public safety, that WMD were known to exist in Iraq, etc.
Several books now tell the tale of Powell's considerable experience in the
world miserably losing to the positions of Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, a favored member of the Bush's hawkish inner circle, led by Vice
President Dick Cheney and including Powell's replacement, National Security
Adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Powell, pundits claim, was successful in
holding off some of the wilder neo-con tendencies but ultimately failed to
convince the president on the need for a multilateral approach to global
politics. He was caught in the unenviable if not unbelievable position of
fronting for the very administration that was dismantling his own "Powell
Doctrine," in ways he must have known would come to haunt the country.
All three central tenets of the much-touted Powell Doctrine - the gathering
of international political consensus; the definition of achievable goals,
and; the commitment of overwhelming force - have been discarded by this
administration even though events continue to support their merit. The
Powell Doctrine was the culmination of 50 years of patient alliance-making
by the United States foreign service over 10 administrations and it
contained a great deal of wisdom. The Bush Doctrine of striking first
whenever and wherever is by comparison simply a tactic elevated to
doctrine. It lacks cohesive vision and understanding of the world's peoples
and the need for pragmatic and informed decision-making.
As the president streamlines his cabinet and completely shakes up the CIA,
it appears the lone empire mode is about to entirely take over America's
global campaign. Perhaps too bad for America and too bad for Colin Powell,
he stayed too long. The good soldier and patently decent human being who
fell heavier on the president's sword than he might have realized over four
long years leaves government service now as a man who misled the nation and
the world. Powell failed to overcome the administration's and America's
ignorance and disregard for the sufferings and aspirations of the rest of
the world, which should figure in foreign policy much more centrally.
What might have been a secular-driven, rational effort world wide to
eradicate the tactic of terror from international politics is quickly
becoming a war of civilizations - an old war, we would remind our fellow
Americans - between Christianity and Islam. The approach has its
consequences, none of them good. As hatred for Americans grows around the
world, terrorism will only grow apace. America can kill, and kill it will,
but the national character will be demeaned; and a society, nasty on
purpose, now unwinds. Foreign policy is now in wanton escalation, where the
precision of restraint for strategic action is actually called for, but
still largely ignored.
If Powell would redeem himself to conscience and patriotic intellect, he
would write a testimony of his true perspective and provide his sense of
our time and the direction this country is headed in these troubled days.
The four star general would have to take the shackles off his conscience,
however, and call forth what his deepest beliefs tell him that the country
must know about to fight the war and win the peace.
Such a mission, if Powell chose it, might finally tell us the actual
measure of the erstwhile American hero.