Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Colin Powell: Conned or Con-Man?

We've heard about the young Colin Powell's role at the My Ly Massacre at http://www.consortiumnews.com/archive/colin3.html, but an article at Consortiumnews.com on February 4, 2013 asks the question, "Colin Powell: Conned or Con-Man?", and gets a few answers that some would rather not see:

"Exclusive: A decade ago, President George W. Bush was hurtling toward an aggressive war against a country not threatening the United States. Only a few people had a chance to stop the rush to war with Iraq, but one – Colin Powell – instead joined the stampede, recalls ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

Ten years ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations in a speech which routed what was left of American resistance to the Bush/Cheney push for invading Iraq. The next day, the Washington Post’s editorial pages spoke for the conventional wisdom, filled with glowing reviews of Powell’s convincing arguments.

Today, of course, we know that much of what Powell said on Feb. 5, 2003, was wrong. He himself has acknowledged that the speech was a “blot” on his record.

We also know that then-CIA Director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin knew full well that key data that they were giving Powell was highly dubious or outright fraudulent. It was not simply “mistaken,” as George W. Bush and his careerist defenders still claim.

There is also circumstantial evidence that Powell was a willing co-conspirator, despite his repeated insistence that he didn’t know he was spreading falsehoods to justify an aggressive (and thus illegal) war. It’s clear that he was eager to please his bosses and thus was predisposed to do whatever he was told.

But the question remains: Was Powell a full-fledged participant in the fraud or was he duped by CIA officials who were taking direction from Vice President Dick Cheney and other war hawks? It seems to me likely that Tenet and McLaughlin (and in a larger sense Bush and Cheney) exploited Powell’s long-held tendency toward careerism (or as his acolytes put it, “being a good soldier”) to easily overcome Powell’s misgivings.

From his days as a young officer in Vietnam through his long climb up the ladder of the U.S. national security bureaucracy, Powell never bucked the system. Indeed, that’s the secret to understanding how Powell ascended to become a four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.

Whether the question was joining other early Vietnam military advisers in warning President Lyndon Johnson about the hopelessness of that conflict, or participating in President Ronald Reagan’s illegal Iran-Contra operation, or finding less violent ways to deal with international disputes under President George H.W. Bush, Powell consistently chose to be a yes man and do what his bosses wanted. [For details on Powell's past, see the book, Neck Deep.]

Jury Still Out

Still, in my view, the jury is still out on whether Powell was more conned regarding the Iraq War than con-man. Like anyone else, he is entitled to some benefit of the doubt, though to this day he has resisted providing any comprehensive explanation of his deceptive speech or admitting that the invasion of Iraq was wrong.

Powell has limited himself to some handwringing about how the speech was a “blot” on his record, not that it contributed to the unnecessary deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He still insists that the war was justified.

It’s also true that Powell remains one of the important links in the chain of excuses used to fend off allegations of war crimes against the architects of the invasion. As long as each link in that chain doesn’t admit wrongdoing and points to the link in the chain next to him or her as providing justification for whatever was done, no single link can be found guilty and surely not the entire chain.

The Bush-Cheney team used a similar chain of reinforcing justification to evade responsibility for illegal torture. The CIA’s torturers point to authorization from the CIA brass, which points to approval from Bush and other senior White House officials, who point to the Justice Department lawyers who created legal excuses and other evasions, some of which were suggested by the CIA torturers, the CIA brass and the White House officials.

Thus, regarding the false testimony on the Iraq War, Powell resists stating clearly that Tenet and McLaughlin lied to his face or admitting that he agreed to deliver the deceptions with his trademark gravitas and sincerity because he wanted to stay in President Bush’s good graces.

Slam or Sham Dunk?

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff at the time, has described his boss as dubious about elements of the intelligence that he was getting from not only Vice President Cheney’s office but from the CIA.

Surely, Powell understood that the intelligence on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s links to Islamist terrorism was weak and that evidence of his “weapons of mass destruction“ was far from a “slam dunk,” as Tenet famously assured President Bush on Dec. 21, 2002. The appropriate adjective would have been sham, not slam.

Even Bush has said he was underwhelmed at McLaughlin’s presentation of the evidence that day and put a must-do-better on the CIA’s report card. So, with their wrists slapped at the White House, Tenet and McLaughlin returned to the CIA and redoubled their efforts to fulfill their role in this chain of self-reinforcing arguments for giving Bush and his neocon advisers their war of choice in Iraq.

At CIA’s Langley headquarters, McLaughlin and Tenet swept up every scrap of dubious intelligence and assembled it to justify war. The significance of the CIA’s role in this perverted process became clear to CIA analysts on Feb. 5, 2003, when they saw Tenet sitting solemnly behind Powell as the Secretary of State exaggerated the evidence on WMD and spoke of a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the other key “justification” adduced for war on Iraq.

CIA analysts at the working level had stood firm against the alleged al-Qaeda link and thought they had successfully beaten back “intelligence” conjured up by Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointing to operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Rumsfeld described the evidence as “bulletproof” though Gen. Brent Scowcroft, then chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, labeled it “scant.” And the normally taciturn CIA ombudsman came out of the shadows to tell Congress bluntly that never in his 32-year career with the agency had he encountered such “hammering” on CIA analysts to reconsider their judgments on operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Powell’s Doubts

According to Wilkerson, Powell recognized how flimsy this evidence was just four days before his UN speech. “Powell and I had a one-on-one — no one else even in the room — about his angst over what was a rather dull recounting of several old stories about Al Qa’ida-Baghdad ties [in the draft speech],” Wilkerson said. “I agreed with him that what we had was bull___t, and Powell decided to eliminate all mention of terrorist contacts between AQ and Baghdad.

“Within an hour, [CIA Director George] Tenet and [CIA Deputy Director John] McLaughlin dropped a bombshell on the table in the [CIA] director’s Conference Room: a high-level AQ detainee had just revealed under interrogation substantive contacts between AQ and Baghdad, including Iraqis training AQ operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

Though Tenet and McLaughlin wouldn’t give Powell the identity of the al-Qaeda source, Wilkerson said he now understands that it was Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who later claimed he gave the CIA false information in the face of actual and threatened torture.

Not realizing that the new intelligence was tainted, “Powell changed his mind and this information was included in his UNSC presentation, along with some more general information from the previous text about Baghdad’s terrorist tendencies,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson’s account underscores how the Bush administration’s reliance on harsh interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects influenced the rush to war with Iraq, while also pointing out how the need to justify the war gave impetus to the use of torture for extracting information.

These and other charges in Powell’s speech were the kind of consequential fraud that, in my view, should land the perpetrators behind bars. But you don’t have to take my word for it."

For the rest of the story, click here --> http://consortiumnews.com/2013/02/04/colin-powell-conned-or-con-man/.

"...the kind of consequential fraud that...should land the perpetrators behind bars."  The kind of fraud that all Conservatives practice should land them behind bars, but until the People realize the extent of the vast right-wing criminal conspiracy, that day may be far off in the future.  It's nice that Mr. Powell has come out on the side of gay marriage, gays in the military, and President Obama in both elections, BUT does this make up for the past lies, the previous history of Colin Powell?  Making up for the blots on his legacy is helpful, but it doesn't bring back the lives lost in his Last Lie.


"Against stupidity the very gods
Themselves contend in vain."

Friedrich Schiller (German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. 1759 – 1805)