April 26, 2005
Colinoscopy: examining Colin PowellBy Ed Lasky
While President Reagan enjoyed a reputation as the 'Teflon President,' able to prevail against critics determined to besmirch his reputation, one figure handily eclipses him in his ability to avert any criticism by the mainstream media: Colin Powell.
Knowledgeable insiders have long characterized Powell's meteoric rise from colonel to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as based on exceptional skills at bureaucratic infighting and deft wielding of the press leak stiletto. But the general public sees only the picture of high—minded public servant. In the wake of the disclosure that he is attempting to use his wiles to torpedo the nomination of John Bolton as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, it is high time to break out the kryptonite and honestly appraise the record and actions of Colin Powell.
Powell's image has been enhanced immeasurably by his military service. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, was injured, and was awarded a variety of medals. All most commendable. However, many seem to grant him a special status out of a seeming view that he served the nation as a matter of noblesse oblige.
Rarely mentioned is the fact that at the time Powell joined and graduated from the ROTC (1958), there were not any signs of imminent military action. ROTC provided one of the few avenues of advancement for young black men of that generation in America. He most certainly did develop a fine record in Vietnam — as did many others.
Capitalizing on his record, he was able to move from Vietnam to Washington, where he became a White House Fellow, worked in the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Defense. Among the mentors who nurtured his rise was Caspar Weinberger who, as Secretary of Defense, made Powell his senior military assistant. (This relationship of trust was subsequently abused, as we shall soon see.)
During this time, Powell was called to testify in private sessions with Congress regarding the Iran—Contra arms scandal. Powell was apparently one of only five Pentagon employees who knew of the shipment of arms to Iran, yet he escaped any and all of the repercussions that have continued to this day to trail everyone else involved in this affair. Thus began a long and symbiotic relationship between Mr. Powell and various members of Congress.
Gulf War I
As noted in The New Republic, Powell dismissed intelligence reports predicting an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and opposed a naval force to deter one. After the invasion, he actively advocated against the use of force to liberate Kuwait.
Powell instead promoted sanctions to coerce Hussein to leave Kuwait . Sanctions would have been as ineffectual as the Oil—for—Food program was in dissuading Hussein from continuing his violations of human rights, and would have allowed him to further threaten his neighbors, the world's oil supply, and to continue to despoil the Kuwaiti people. Even Brent Scowcroft, one of Powell's mentors, was
"frankly appalled at the undertone of the discussion, which suggested resignation to the invasion and even adaptation to a fait accompli."
President George H.W. Bush ignored Powell and rallied the world to push Hussein out of Kuwait. As Iraq's military forces were being systematically destroyed by allied forces, Powell called for a halt on further military actions. This preserved Hussein's power as well as key components of his military forces.
When Iraq's Shiites learned that President Bush was hoping that the Iraqi people would rise up and overthrow Hussein, they began to rebel. Saddam ordered his helicopter gunships to massacre many thousands of Shiites. General Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell negligently had approved Hussein's retention and use of these helicopters.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. John Yeosock, Commanding General of Third Army, had left Safwan and the so—called cease—fire talks in disgust. Convinced that General Schwarzkopf had been 'rolled,' he instructed his staff to plan for immediate resumption of offensive action. Several courses of action were developed to lay siege to Baghdad and to execute a Market—Garden type operation to seize the bridges over the Euphrates in Basra to cut off the escape routes of the Republican Guard. US ground forces would then have ground the remainder of Saddam's army to a pulp. Of course, these plans were all for naught.
While the United States military under Schwarzkopf and Powell sat on their hands during the slaughter, Paul Wolfowitz got wind of this tragedy and immediately ordered the military to defend the Shiites. (Wolfowitz, despite his Jewish background, is to this day considered a hero to many Shiites for this singular act.)
However, Wolfowitz could not prevent the horrors that followed from the refusal to depose Hussein: the ethnic cleansing, torture of Iraqis, sponsorship of terror around the world, and a continuing pattern of violations of UN Security Council Resolutions. Powell's aversion to finishing the job left the region's Shiites with the image of the United States as a paper tiger which looked the other way as Shiites were subjected to genocide. This parlous state of affairs left us with a task that was immeasurably more difficult 10 years later.
Do these tests seem vaguely familiar? They should.
'We are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it.'
Kaplan reported that Powell's fellow officers thought this was absurd because Powell offered the opposite advice away from the cameras. Regardless, the press and the people latched onto this John Wayne—like phrase and found a new hero. This romance continued; Powell made good copy and Powell was able to enhance his personal power after the war.
David Frum, President Bush's former speechwriter, called for Powell's firing upon the release of Woodward's book since it became clear that Powell was violating the accepted role of the Secretary of State and was actively betraying the administration.
However, once in office, Powell proved to be an abysmal failure. He pushed for continued efforts to get the UN to approve military action against Hussein, an effort that not only was futile but allowed opponents to rally the against America and for Hussein to prepare his defenses. Powell allowed himself to be fooled at the UN by the French, who promised a limited measure of support for action if Powell were able to persuade the administration to continue to deal with the UN. France betrayed this 'deal' and embarrassed Powell and America.
Powell was also a proponent of the noxious use of the phrase 'cycle of violence' when addressing the issue of Israeli self—defensive measures against Palestinian terrorism. By equating terror to defensive actions, he legitimized and encouraged continued terror against Israel. President Bush must have put a stop to this 'diplomaticese' after 9/11, but its frequent use by Powell helped to create an environment in which terror could be seen as at times an acceptable course of action.
Perhaps if Powell had traveled more he would have been enlightened about the nature of the threats facing the world. But despite repeated entreaties he adopted a restrained attitude towards travel and rarely spent time overseas. In contrast, Condi Rice has hit the ground running and has already traveled 70,000 miles in office at State.
His friends in Saudi Arabia
Perhaps Powell was picking up on the prejudices of his Saudi Arabian friends. He has, for example, weekly racquetball games with the Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the famous bon vivant in Washington D.C., who has also been known to entertain visitors at his $40,000,000 Aspen estate. As a matter of fact, Powell does seem to have a fealty to Saudi Arabia. During his tenure at State, few objections were raised against the constant funding of extremism and terrorism by the Saudis and their restrictions which prohibit the practice of other religions within the kingdom.
This attitude may also reflect Powell's ties to Frank Carlucci — also a mentor early in his career — and currently deeply involved in the extraordinarily successful investment partnership known as the Carlyle Group. Carlyle has received huge investment funds from Saudi Arabia. Now that Powell is retired from "active and visible government service" one would not be surprised to see him become one of the partners at Carlyle Group, able to reap millions of dollars with the help of the plutocratic Saudi royal family. After all, Prince Bander bin Sultan famously boasted of his success in cultivating powerful Americans:
Hume Horan was the ex—Ambassador to Saudi Arabia who recently passed away. He was also a noble exception to the rule of ex—diplomats being bought off by the Saudis. He says of his former colleagues who are now on the Saudi dole:
There have been some people who really do go on the Saudi payroll and work as advisors and consultants. Prince Bandar is very good about massaging and promoting relationships like that.
I think that Colin Powell may well be running interference for the Saudis in trying to derail the nomination of John Bolton, who is undoubtedly viewed as a threat by the Saudis. Bolton has expressed his contempt for tyrannies, for the corruption and fecklessness of the UN, and for its widespread anti—Americanism and anti—Semitism.
Bolton has declared that his role in forcing the United Nations to overcome its noxious Zionism is Racism Resolution was one of the highlights of his life. Should Bolton become the American Ambassador to the UN, one could expect that he would meet the Saudis head—on and try to restrain their and the Arab League's power within the United Nations. This would not go down well with the Wahabbi billionaires.
Powell has taken up the cudgel in ways already beneficial to the Saudis. David Frum has characterized Powell as the 'deadliest bureaucratic knife—fighter in the whole Bush Administration' and he has carried this 'skill' with him after he left office. He and his joined—at—the—hip ally Richard Armitage have been busy preparing background information to be used against John Bolton during his confirmation hearings.
As the well—respected columnist Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post noted,
"...it is strange that a family that prizes loyalty would reward a figure who so distinctly lacks it...."
Yet the mainstream press (so avid to reveal flaws in other's curriculum vitae) has given Powell a pass. Have they been so bamboozled by his charms that they have been seduced into an obedient blindness? Is the media afraid to criticize one of the most admired black men in America (this alone is condescending)? Is the media afraid to lose one of its prime sources of insider information? Is the media afraid of offending a man who can still achieve great political power?
Or are they afraid to admit that the figure that they colluded to create is an emperor with no clothes?