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Silent Powell's no hero on Iraq
Silent Powell's no hero on Iraq
From New York Daily News
You know who has been anything but a hero in the lost war in Iraq?
After watching the excellent CNN Presents documentary "Dead Wrong" with David Ensor a few weeks back - it's about the President's commission on the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraqi war - it turns out it wasn't failure at all.
Instead, the case for invasion was a roaring success of warmongering spin, lies, cherrypicking and deception.
The chicken hawk neo cons of the Bush administration, who were salivating for war, drooling to send anybody's kids but their own to fight and die, needed a patsy to sell the case for war in Iraq to the world.
They needed someone beyond reproach. They needed a man with military and street cred. So they went to the only man with combat experience in the upper echelon of the Bush administration, the son of a Jamaican immigrant from Fox St. in the South Bronx, a guy who was educated in the rough-and-tumble public schools of New York City where 9/11 had happened, who graduated with a B.A. in geology from CCNY.
They went to Colin Powell.
They sent another New Yorker, George Tenet from Queens, to Powell with his casebook, called the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE.
Powell was skeptical. Even George Bush didn't think you could sell the NIE to Joe Public.
"It was anything but an intelligence document," Col. Larry Wilkerson, then Powell's chief of staff, told CNN. "It was, as some people characterized it later, some kind of Chinese menu from which you could pick and choose."
So Powell sat down with Tenet and the administration hawks and went over the NIE point by point for weeks. Finally, when he was assured everything in it was accurate, he insisted that George (Slam Dunk) Tenet sit directly behind him on camera as he delivered his case for war to the UN on Feb. 5, 2003.
And, man oh man, was this Bronx boy ever used as the chump of the new century.
Powell sat at the table, with Tenet from Queens right behind him, face like RICO indictment, and told one falsehood after another about Iraq's nuclear-capable aluminum tubes, mobile chemical plants, all kinds of biological warfare storage plants and possible nuclear stockpiles in Iraq.
He showed charts, spy satellite photos and surveillance tapes. It was like a double feature at the Nagasaki Bijou.
And all baloney. Worse, not even Boar's Head.
But that day, Powell made the difference in the minds of a lot of fence-sitters, like my brother Tommy, who marched under Powell when he was the ROTC Brigade Commander at CCNY in 1955.
"He was the big cheese in ROTC," Tommy said in this space last year. "I was from Brooklyn. He was from the Bronx. We all looked up to him in parades and formations at Lewisohn Stadium, and he was just a guy people admired.
"So when he gave the speech about the dangers of WMD in the hands of this tyrant Saddam Hussein, I believed him. I thought it was a justifiable war.
"Now I feel like I've been lied to. I think they used Powell. I think the CIA and George Tenet gave the President and his advisers soft intelligence filled with subjunctive sentences. And then sent Powell out to deliver the declarative sentences about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction."
Powell spun his case like a snake-oil salesman and left the world in shock and awe. Many believe that Powell only half believed it himself. And if that is the case, the blood of those 1,800 soldiers who have died so far in Iraq, and the human suffering of the 15,000 others who have been maimed and wounded, is on his hands, never to be washed off. He must wear that legacy with the medals on his chest, like a neon sign that says, "I'M THE PATSY WHO SOLD BUSH'S WAR IN IRAQ TO THE WORLD."
David Kaye, our chief weapons inspector, admits, "We were all wrong."
Powell's main guy, Wilkerson, said of Powell's presentation to the UN, "I look back at it and still say it's the lowest point of my life. I wish I had not been involved with it."
Former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin also admits the case for war was flawed.
But now that the war has been lost, and Iraq is an official Islamic state, I scan the papers and airwaves every day looking for Powell screaming from a rooftop, declaring that this war was started on lies. Demanding that a withdrawal date be announced. Imploring Bush to stop the killing and the dying.
Tenet from Queens is under a rock. And Powell from Fox St. says nothing.
Now you never want to call a man of Powell's distinction a coward, but these days he sure isn't acting like a hero.
Originally published on September 4, 2005