"A hoax on the American people, the international
community, and the United Nations Security Council."
That is how Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell's February 2003 Iraq WMD speech
to the UN was described
last Friday (Feb. 3) on PBS by one who ought to know, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson,
chief of staff to Secretary Powell.
In a February 2005 interview with Barbara Walters on ABC News' 20/20
program, Powell himself declared
his UN Iraq speech to be a blot on his reputation.
Since departing the Bush administration, both Wilkerson and Powell have made
it completely clear that they had serious doubts about the "evidence"
of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and malevolent Iraqi intentions that was
loaded by the White House into Powell's UN speech, a speech designed by neoconservatives
to initiate the invasion of Iraq. Both Powell and Wilkerson knew that the "evidence"
was greatly overstated if not an outright fabrication.
What if Secretary Powell had shared his doubts with the UN? What if, instead
of reading the Speech of Lies, Powell had addressed the UN as follows:
"As a loyal soldier following orders, I came here today intending to deliver
the Bush administration's evidence against Saddam Hussein. Now that I am standing
here before you, I find myself caught in conflict between following orders and
doing the right thing. I should have resolved this conflict before I arrived.
I do so now by delivering the speech to you in its written form – here it is
– but I refuse to deliver it out of my mouth. I cannot participate in an act
of deception against the United Nations Security Council, the international
community, and the American people. I have no confidence in the evidence in
the speech. Under the Nuremberg Standard established by the United States in
the trials of Nazi war criminals, following orders is no excuse. I will not
participate in the war crime of naked aggression against another state. I hereby
resign as secretary of state of the United States."
Powell would have saved the world from a strategic blunder, the disastrous
consequences of which are only beginning to unfold. The maelstrom set in motion
by the treachery of the neoconservatives, people whom Powell has described as
"crazy," has already cost tens of thousands of dead and wounded and
hundreds of billions of dollars, destroyed America's reputation, and radicalized
Middle East politics.
If Powell had refused three years ago to deliver the Speech of Lies, we would
not now be watching an identical duplicity being rolled out against Iran. The
ultimate cost of the deception being practiced on the American people will dwarf
the terrible price that has already been paid.
Why didn't Powell do the right thing? His own reputation would have been forever
secure as a man of integrity. Why did he sacrifice his integrity to the crooked
scheme of his commander in chief?
Alas, that is the way our generals are bred. In the politicized U.S. military,
no officer can advance beyond the rank of lieutenant colonel unless he toes
the political line. The game is played to advance in rank as high as possible,
collect the pension, and be rewarded for compliant behavior with consultancies.
Real leadership means making waves, and that is not tolerated.
Even in rare instances of a real man, concerned with the honor of his country
and the safety of his troops, reaching the top, he is powerless to prevent disastrous
mistakes of the ignorant civilian authorities. Consider the fate of U.S. Army
Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who correctly informed Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld that the U.S. invasion force was not sufficiently numerous to successfully
occupy and subdue Iraq once the pitched battles were over. Shinseki was fired
for telling the truth – as was Secretary of the Army Thomas White, Lt. Gen.
John Riggs, and four-star Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes. Riggs was framed, demoted, and
retired for saying that the US army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan
and needed more troops. Byrnes, who was in charge of Army training, was framed
on adultery charges for objecting to bottom-of-the-barrel recruitment policies
that accepted criminals and immigrants with a lack of English proficiency. Nothing
like having an Army that can't understand orders.
The only way a military can constrain its civilian masters from cooking up
a war is to resign en masse. If every general and colonel had resigned, there
would have been no invasion of Iraq. But this would require a military with
leadership and a tradition of sticking together. A military in which promotion
is the highest virtue is powerless to prevent disastrous mistakes, such as the
invasion of Iraq.
The Bush administration went to war on the basis of its fantasy that if merely
a few U.S. troops marched into Iraq, the regime would collapse and the population
would welcome Americans as liberators with flowers and kisses. It was to be
a "cakewalk war."
No general officer in the U.S. military believed that. Yet few spoke out (Marine
Gen. Anthony Zinni was a notable exception). The entire U.S. military command
could only produce a handful of men to warn of the looming catastrophe. Who
can forget the orchestrated media dismissals of "over-cautious generals"
that greeted these few? The reason Colin Powell disgraced himself is that he
could not free himself of the conditioning that breeds success in the U.S. military.
Who today will stand up to stop the potential Armageddon of a U.S. attack