Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Monday, October 20, 2008

  Out of the Past

If we want to see anything like real transformation in Washington, we won't assume that a Democratic victory in November will achieve it. We'll have to continue to demand change from the next administration and fight for it. Joe Biden nearly admitted as much on Sunday when he asked voters to "gird [their] loins" to pitch in with a task that'll be "like cleaning the Augean Stables". Meanwhile, Barack Obama gave us a clear demonstration that the problem we'll face is a status-quo-plus during the next four years. Today Obama said he plans to make a discredited former member of the Bush administration a top adviser or even an official in his own administration. Predictable, yes, and perfectly depressing. To judge by the foreign policy advisers he has surrounded himself with, it doesn't really seem to matter how thoroughly any of Washington's hawks have been discredited by their support in the past for disastrous policies and for George W. Bush, or by events of the last 8 years. If voters want an end to all that, they're going to have to demand it. Now would be a good time to start making that known, before the policy landscape has been carved up by discredited ghosts out of the past.

Here is the AFP:

Former secretary of state and US military leader Colin Powell would serve as an advisor to a Barack Obama administration, the Democratic presidential candidate said Monday.

"He will have a role as one of my advisers," Obama told NBC in an interviewed aired Monday. "He's already served in that function, even before he endorsed me."


"Whether he wants to take a formal role, whether there's something that's a good fit for him, I think is something that he and I would have to discuss," Obama said.

While I'm not surprised by the move, never the less it's depressing as all hell. Powell has never acknowledged that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, unnecessary, and fundamentally a blunder of both military and foreign policy; nor that he played a crucial role in selling it to the US public; nor that he tried to pawn demonstrably false allegations off in his infamous UN speech. In fact as he made clear on Meet the Press just yesterday, Powell still refuses to come clean or to hold himself accountable for the disaster he helped to create.

MR. BROKAW: I want to ask you about your own role in the decision to go to war in Iraq. Barack Obama has been critical of your appearance before the United Nations at that time. Bob Woodward has a new book out called "The War Within," and here's what he had to say about Colin Powell and his place in the administration: "Powell ... didn't think [Iraq] was a necessary war, and yet he had gone along in a hundred ways, large and small. He had resisted at times but had succumbed to the momentum and his own sense of deference--even obedience--to the president. ... Perhaps more than anyone else in the administration, Powell had been the `closer' for the president's case on war."

And then you were invited to appear before the Iraq Study Group. "`Why did we go into Iraq with so few people?' [former Secretary of State James] Baker asked. ... `Colin just exploded at that point,' [former Secretary of Defense William] Perry recalled later. `He unloaded,' Former White House Chief of Staff] Leon Panetta added. `He was angry. He was mad as hell.' ... Powell left [the Study Group meeting]. Baker turned to Panetta and said solemnly, `He's the one guy who could have perhaps prevented this from happening.'"

What's the lesson in all of that for a former--for a new secretary of state or for a new national security adviser, based on your own experience?

GEN. POWELL: Well, let's start at the beginning. I said to the president in 2002, we should try to solve this diplomatically and avoid war.

Solve what exactly? The refusal of Hussein to admit to having weapons programs he didn't actually have?

The president accepted that recommendation, we took it to the U.N. But the president, by the end of 2002, believed that the U.N. was not going to solve the problem, and he made a decision that we had to prepare for military action.

Bush continued to say until March of 2003 that he was looking to avoid war and to back UN inspections in Iraq. After Hussein had permitted inspectors to search for weapons, what was the problem that could possibly be "solved" by going to war?

I fully supported that. And I have never said anything to suggest I did not support going to war. I thought the evidence was there.

If true, a clear disqualification for Powell to be offering future presidents advice. Even I, without the benefit of high-level briefings, could see there was no adequate evidence for the charges that Bush and Cheney were leveling.

And it is not just my closing of the whole deal with my U.N. speech. I know the importance of that speech, and I regret a lot of the information that the intelligence community provided us was wrong.

In other words, Powell still disavows responsibility for the "facts" he vouched for.

But three months before my speech, with a heavy majority, the United States Congress expressed its support to use military force if it was necessary.

Never mind that Congress was fed misleading information, war simply wasn't necessary except by the convoluted logic that it became necessary because Bush wanted to go to war.

And so we went in and used military force. My unhappiness was that we didn't do it right. It was easy to get to Baghdad, but then we forgot that there was a lot more that had to be done. And we didn't have enough force to impose our will in the country or to deal with the insurgency when it broke out, and that I regret.

Finally some "regret" for Powell, though not any responsibility as such. And what he regrets is not having started an illegal war, killed myriad innocent Iraqis, wrecked their country and ruined America's standing in the world while provoking increased hatred in the Middle East. Powell merely regrets that we didn't do all that "right".

MR. BROKAW: Removing the weapons of mass destruction from the equation...

GEN. POWELL: I also assure you that it was not a correct assessment by anybody that my statements or my leaving the administration would have stopped it.

Shorter Powell: I just went along for the ride because I knew the brakes were nonfunctional.

MR. BROKAW: Removing the weapons of mass destruction from the equation, because we now know that they did not exist, was it then a war of necessity or just a war of choice?

GEN. POWELL: Without the weapons of mass destruction present, as conveyed to us by the intelligence community in the most powerful way, I don't think there would have been a war. It was the reason we took it to the public, it was the reason we took it to the American people to the Congress, who supported it on that basis, and it's the presentation I made to the United Nations. Without those weapons of mass destruction then Iraq did not present to the world the kind of threat that it did if it had weapons of mass destruction.

Shorter Powell: The President's fear-mongering is no longer operative. That load of blather serves as a useful reminder that this "ambitious man with a weak moral compass" first gained notoriety for his double-talk during the Vietnam War.

MR. BROKAW: You do know that there are supporters of Barack Obama who feel very strongly about his candidacy because he was opposed to the war from the beginning, and they're going to say, "Who needs Colin Powell? He was the guy who helped get us into this mess."

GEN. POWELL: I'm not here to get their approval or lack of approval. I am here to express my view as to who I'm going to vote for.

Brokaw's question is entirely to the point, given the likelihood that Obama will want to give the (still) discredited Powell a job after receiving his endorsement. Who does need, or more to the point want, Colin Powell?

And for that matter, Brokaw also pointed out that some might consider Powell's opinion of the candidates to be pretty worthless.

MR. BROKAW: ...We'd like to share with our audience some of what you had to say about the two men who are at the top of the administration. At the convention in 2000, this is Colin Powell on President Bush and Dick Cheney at that time.

(Videotape, July 31, 2000)

GEN. POWELL: Dick Cheney is one of the most distinguished and dedicated public servants this nation has ever had. He will be a superb vice president.

The Bush/Cheney team will be a great team for America. They will put our nation on a course of hope and optimism for this new century.

(End videotape)

MR. BROKAW: Was that prophetic or wrong?

GEN. POWELL: It's what I believed. It reflected the agenda of the new president, compassionate conservatism. And some of it worked out.

That pretty much speaks for itself about the worth of Colin Powell's opinions and advice. Shame that Obama is already looking to tie himself publicly to the unrepentant Powell.

Obama admitted that he had asked Powell to hit the campaign trail on his behalf, but Powell refused.

"You know, I won't lie to you. I would love to have him at any stop he wants to participate in," Obama said.

crossposted at

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