Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Powell Agonistes

Not too long ago, Colin Powell was legitimately described as the most trusted man in American politics. Today he is perceived to struggle in a battle to rehabilitate his credibility, the most recent effort being a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert. I missed the show itself, as I was returning from an extended fishing holiday in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. [How was the fishing you ask? Quite good thank you. We had several fish fries comprised of some nice bass and plenty of panfish. I even managed to catch and release a couple of brookies despite my general incompetence with a fly rod.]

Upon my return, I got a flavor for the reaction to Powell's interview, when I re-immersed myself in the political pool by taking a deep dive with a quadruple twisting plunge on MSNBC, watching Tucker, Matthews, Olberman and Scarborough back-to-back-to-back-to-back. All had pointed questions for Powell.
CARLSON: "Powell‘s willingness to vote for a Democrat in ‘08 is interesting as well as the obvious rebuke he gave the Bush administration. But consider the opposite angle, though he has escaped the deep public anger absorbed by the president, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, any number of others in this administration, Colin Powell was the chief salesman of the decision to invade and occupy Iraq. So the question is, why would Barack Obama want his advice in the first place?"

MATTHEWS: "Why didn‘t Colin Powell just resign? Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has criticized this administration since he left office. But why did he salute the boss if he did not fully support the war? Where was Powell‘s tough talk against the administration when it would have counted?"

ROBACH (substituting for Olberman): "We know that Colin Powell did not advocate going to war, but he tells Tim Russert that once the president decided to do it, he, Powell, was with him all the way. Have we ever heard Colin Powell say that the president and that he ultimately made a mistake in that decision?"

HUFFINGTON (Guest on Scarborough Country): "So many people will tell you again and again that, if it wasn‘t for Colin Powell putting his enormous credibility behind the selling of the war, they would not have been behind the war. So I think it‘s really sad. It‘s a little bit like watching George Tenet, you know, come out, after all the damage has been done, and then singing a very different song. And, you know, of course, it‘s great that he wants to close down Guantanamo, not tomorrow but this afternoon, but where was that kind of moral authority when the country needed it? "
DWSUWF finds these questions for Colin Powell to be disingeuous, and a distraction from the important comments that Powell made in the interview. The questions are echoed and amplified by disngenuous bloggers on both the right and left. [SIDEBAR: Don't you just love the word "disingenuous"? It is such a great high-brow way for DWSUWF to say they are all "so completely full of sh*t their eyes are brown."]

Colin Powell is speaking out. This is exactly what we need him to do. The Powell Doctrine, forged from the lessons learned in Viet Nam, served this country well in the first gulf war and as a guiding set of principles for our involvement in other military conflicts. The irony of Colin Powell being a primary enabler for the US involvement in a conflict that so clearly violated the tenets of the doctrine that bears his name has not been lost on us. The only one who can solve the riddle of of Colin Powell is Powell himself.

Powell has been a recurring topic at DWSUWF, and taken to task for failing to contribute to the national dialog prior to the 2006 mid-term elections. In September, DWSUWF posed the question "whether Colin Powell might, in the judgement of history, carry the label of being to Iraq what McNamara was to Vietnam". A few weeks later, still questioning his silence, DWSUWF posted an Open Letter to Colin Powell, concluding with this:
"Your experience with the military, with this administration, with the field of conflict in Iraq, with both failed and successful US conflicts, means you are uniquely qualified to help the American people find the right path through this thicket, by shedding some light on the problem. Permit me to be blunt. As an American citizen that supported this war to a large extent because of your support of it, and your eloquent arguments before United Nations in January of 2003, I do not find it acceptable for you to withhold your assessment of the status and outlook for this war now. Quite frankly, you owe this country the benefit of your honest assessment now. You owe us your complete, unexpurgated, unvarnished view."
In all honesty, DWSUWF did not expect Colin Powell to respond to a letter from this blog, and was not surprised that he did not. Regardless, his statements and appearances in the MSM over the last few months have addressed many of the very concerns expressed in that letter. It is critically important for Powell's evolving perspective on the war he helped sell to be publicly aired, as the country struggles to find a way to bring it to an end. He provides a unique and important perspective that is worthy of careful consideration by all Americans.

DWSUWF highlighted more recent Colin Powell quotes in these posts (Thank you Mr. Powell, One more Rum & Mac for the road) while commenting on his 12/17/06 interview with Bob Scheifer on CBS News' Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER: "Let me ask you about the retirement ceremony they had for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The vice president said Secretary Rumsfeld is the finest secretary of defense in the history of this country, or words to that effect. What is your assessment?

Mr. POWELL (paraphrased): Well, that's the vice president's judgement. As we all know, Rumsfeld had his nose so far up Cheney's fat ass, I am surprised they could pull him out to fire him.
More Powell quotes:
"So if it's grave and deteriorating, and we're not winning, we are losing."

"...this looks like a civil war, and we ought to call it that."

"I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purpose of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work..."

"...I think you have to talk to a country like Syria.

"The current active Army is not large enough, and the Marine Corps is not large enough, for the kinds of missions they're being asked to perform."

"... we are a little less safe in the sense that we don't have the same force structure available for other problems."

"But sooner or later, you have to... begin the drawdown of US forces. I think that's got to happen sometime before the middle of next year, at least the beginning of this. You cannot--we cannot walk away."
To this list we can now add Powell's comments from his Sunday (6/10/06) appearance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert:
"The current strategy to deal with it... —the military surge, our part of the surge under General Petraeus—the only thing it can do is put a heavier lid on this boiling pot of civil war stew... The solution has to emerge from the other two legs, the Iraqi political actions and reconciliation, and building up the Iraqi security and police forces. And those two legs are not going well."

...at the end of the day, when this civil war resolves itself, as every civil war eventually does resolve itself, one way or the other, and we see a government emerge that does represent the interests of its people, then maybe that’s the best success we can hope for, even though it might not be a government... we would have designed in Philadelphia based on Jeffersonian principles."

" ...the president is not satisfied with the way in which the war has been managed. Now, you can, you can move the deck chairs around, and you can bring in new people and you can change the organizational arrangements, but, ultimately, the president has the responsibility. "

"Once the government in Baghdad came down, everything came down. And it was our responsibility then, under international law as the occupying authority as well as the liberators, to be responsible for restoring order, and we didn’t have enough troops there to restore that order nor did we have the political understanding of our obligation to restore that order."

"... the case that we took to the world and the case that we took to the American people rested not just in his human rights abuses or his cheating on the Oil for Food program, it rested on the real and present danger of weapons of mass destruction that he could use against his neighbors, or terrorists could use against us. That was the precipitating issue in my judgment, and it turned out those weapons were not there... they all came to the conclusion there are none, and they’re not buried in the ground, they weren’t shipped to Syria. We got it wrong."

"Guantanamo has become a major, major problem for... the way the world perceives America. And if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I’d close it. And I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system."
Powell did not back away from his support of the war in 2003. Consequently the unasked and unanswered question for Colin Powell still goes begging: General Powell, even accepting that the decision was based on wrong intelligence, how do you justify your suppport for a military action that unambiguous failed to meet the tests of the Powell Doctrine?

Colinn Powell put his reputation on the line, performing in the role of Huckster In Chief, pitching the war in Iraq during his January, 2003 address to the United Nations. Notwithstanding, Powell is now making strong, direct statements that provide a valuable and important contribution to the dialog on Iraq, from a voice that is uniquely qualified to offer observations, recommendations and opinions. His MSM appearances sharpen the focus of his critical view of the administration's handling of the war, as well as his own complicity in its outcome. His words are a valuable resource for those Americans struggling to understand our remaining limited options in Iraq.

Divided and Balanced.™ Now that is fair.

No comments: