The Nelson Report, 20 October 2005
POWELL AIDE NUKES CONDI/RUMMY/CHENEY
SPEAKING FOR POWELL? NOT EXACTLY. . .
SUMMARY: Bearing in mind Oscar Wilde's advice that "revenge is a dish best eaten cold", how does one grasp the intention of former Colin Powell aide, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson's highly emotional, if fact-based and personal eye-witness account of the massive, collective failures and misdeeds of Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld. . .and the current President Bush? (see link to full transcript below. . .)
Either first hand at The New America Foundation, or vicariously, courtesy of the Financial Times and IPS, Washington types watched this latest example of Republican auto-genocide with the delighted, if slightly stunned expressions of a pack of hyenas on the receiving end of fresh elephant, with no lions in sight. But what they wanted to know was "Is Wilkerson speaking directly for Powell and Armitage?"
The answer: not exactly. On the one hand, there is no question from private remarks and public grimaces, some reaching back to early 2001, neither Powell nor Armitage had or has much trust or respect for Rice, and they share with other senior Republican wisemen the conviction that Rumsfeld is quite literally mad, and Cheney a dangerous, vindictive monomaniac.
On the other hand, such views are normally dispensed as pearls before very closed groups of friends and retainers, often with the intent that rumors, if not full quotes, reach the ears of eager ink-stained wretches of the press, so that the Powell/Armitage reputation for speaking truth about power remains unsullied, and hopefully well-represented in the history books.
Just how brave they were up-front, in the face of the misdeeds of Rummy/Cheney/Rice being decried, is a question on which the history books may be slightly less generous than the daily press, but that's not our topic for tonight. . .except to note Wilkerson's stunning frankness in stressing the obstacles placed in the Powell/Armitage path directly by Rumsfeld/Cheney, or indirectly, through Rice's failure to perform the intended function of a National Security Advisor.
Implicitly, President Bush must be faulted for not seeing how he was being manipulated by Rumsfeld/Cheney. We noted in a Report several years ago an eye-witness account of Cabinet meetings discussing Iraq WMD which confirms the picture painted yesterday by Wilkerson: the gist of our quote was that "Rummy and Cheney spend their time spinning-up Bush, while Condi sits there saying nothing, leaving Powell totally isolated and ineffective." This was from a then-DOD source, we should add.
Back to Wilkerson: a careful read of the full transcript shows that he spent most of the time in a calm, if impassioned examination of how the national security function is supposed to work, both according to the 1947 law establishing the modern structures of power, and the practice of successful NSC's and good "foreign policy presidents".
Wilkerson and Powell worked for GHW Bush, and Wilkerson is unstinting in his praise of Poppa. And it must be noted that for all of his harsh words about the current President Bush's foreign policy operation, Wilkerson gives credit to Bush for taking a strong stand (by implication against Cheney and Rumsfeld) on not having a war with N. Korea. And he is complimentary of Rice as Secretary of State, crediting her successes to her strong personal relations with Bush. . .in fatal contrast to the Powell/Bush dysfunction.
But he blasts Bush for "cowboyism" for the disastrous treatment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae-jung, when the then-president of South Korea was publicly humiliated by Bush in March, 2001, thus setting the stage for what became the current nuclear standoff with N. Korea.
Another topic of emotional importance in Wilkerson's talk, which clearly echoes Powell's personal concerns, was his denunciation of the "torture memo" and its effects, predicting "ten years from now, when we have the whole story, we are going to be ashamed."
What is he hinting? In some of the private chats noted above, Powell and Armitage have quoted President Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney as leading a collective round of ridicule when Powell, at Cabinet meetings, and Armitage, at Subcabinet, sought to put limits on mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. . .long before the cancer of Abu Ghraib. We reported on this at the time of last year's Senate hearings (the title of one was "A Fish Rots From The Head"). It will be interesting to find out if any of this was discussed with Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, as he ponders conspiracy indictments. . .but that may be another story.
Our point in mentioning it tonight is that we think this casts light on Wilkerson's performance yesterday. . .it's hard to read between the lines and escape with anything less than his profound sense of shame and remorse that he and colleagues he so obviously considers authentic American heroes could have failed so badly to overcome the calculated, willful ignorance and mendacity of their opponents in the Bush Administration.
We cannot quote what Wilkerson actually said about DOD's Doug Feith, for example, because many of your spam-gards will block the words. Given the locale, it was quite astonishing, however accurate. Just cast your mind back to what the deposed Gen. Tommy Franks said about Feith. Wilkerson’s point wasn't to show-off by being obscene. . .we think it was just one of many genuine cris de cour that came pouring out yesterday.
This leads to our final point for tonight. The Bush Administration may well be imploding before our eyes, with incalculable complexities for the country, as a leadership vacuum makes rational government even more difficult that it is already, and Democrats remain rudderless and devoid of a coherent idea. Yet the number of deeply patriotic, honest, self-less and effective men and women in this Administration is no less than any other, and a great deal more than some. It is literally heart-breaking to witness the death of a dream.
As a Democrat who has spent his professional life in Washington, you have to feel deeply for your Republican friends, and what they are going through right now. That it brings back memories of Bill Clinton's personal abuse of his colleagues, and his country, is just one shared moment.
For a professional soldier like Wilkerson it surely goes beyond that, to a sense of betrayal. Men and women are being asked to lay down their lives for liars, incompetents. . .the Doug Feith's of this world. . .and the superiors who do no better. . .Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice. . .and Bush.
No wonder Colin Powell looks ashamed as he talks about his pre-Iraq war WMD testimony to the UN. . .he was the witting tool of fools. What could be worse, for any patriot?