Colin Powell: A Tragic Superhero
I had an interesting revelation when hearing that Colin Powell has opined that Guantanamo should be closed right away, “this afternoon”. To most of us, this is probably tinged with more than a little irony given his record at the White House. After all, this is the man that, back in 2003, delivered a PowerPoint full of faulty and invented intelligence to the UN ahead of an attack that had already been decided. He also tacitly supported Guantanamo simply by being largely silent about it while in office.
I once had a humorous conversation about the best lame superpowers a sort of anti-action-hero might have: stacking needles and perfect hindsight came out on top. I’m not sure if Powell can do the former, but he’s mastered the 20/20 hindsight bit perfectly. But … If you begin to dig around, some interesting information surfaces.
1) See this interview on YouTube – In a recent Meet the Press interview, Powell places the blame for that infamous UN presentation on CIA higher-ups (including George Tenet) that convinced him their sources were solid. He sets himself up as an unwilling decoy for their manipulations. This, to me, is a pretty weak defense for a man whose own instincts were clearly sounding alarms at the time.
2) See this clip on YouTube – CNN (of all places) aired a report in which Powell’s chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, expresses the doubts he and Powell had about presenting the world with a “Chinese menu” document, which he categorizes as being anything but an intelligence report. He wishes he hadn’t been involved at all and muses about Powell hypothesizing back then whether 500,000 troops would comb Iraq end to end only to fail in their search for WMDs. Once again, we get a portrait of Powell as a hesitant and unwilling accomplice, which does not cut it for me.
3) Read this article at The Guardian – UK’s The Guardian does some analysis of its own and suggests Powell broke his loyalty with Bush’s administration and weighed in on Gitmo at a strategically important moment, helping to turn the tide against the Republicans. They go on to suggest that Powell was the one quietly fixing Dubya’s mistakes, particularly during the 2000-2004 first term, all the while the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rove cabal was plotting against him and working hard to make sure Bush didn’t listen to his advice (this is why, we’re told, he didn’t travel with the President much). The article also talks about the end of his support, tacit or otherwise, for the administration. In a linked speech, his aide (the above-mentioned Wilkerson) lambastes the Bush government for their mistakes and sets the stage for Powell’s own coming out of the anti-Bush closet.
This made me feel even worse about him as a man. As harsh an accusation as cowardice is, I am tempted to level it at him. Not only did this man wait until he was safely mothballed as a politician with responsibility and power, he also held on until Wilkerson blew his fuse. Only then did he shed himself of loyalty to the people he used to work with.
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