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Colin Powell, Moral Weakling
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If Colin Powell’s life has meaning, it is as a cautionary tale about the perils of going along to get along.

Rarely has history offered such a stark example of a human being offered a clear existential choice between right and wrong. Hardly ever has so much hung in the balance for humanity and for an individual’s soul as when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to the United Nations to make the case for war.

It would be impossible to overstate the import of Powell’s February 2003 speech, in which he claimed that the United States had amassed a stockpile of evidence that proved that Iraq had retained chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction in violation of its commitments under the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire. Iraq’s government, Powell argued forcefully, presented such a clear and present danger to its neighbors that the international community, led by the U.S., had a right, even a duty, to remove it with an invasion. Former President George W. Bush and his co-conspirators had spent the better part of the previous year working to convince Americans to support a second war against Iraq over WMDs. Polls showed that voters remained unconvinced.

Possibly in preparation for a 2004 White House run — it’s hard to imagine in these polarized times, but the ex-general had long been considered a top presidential prospect by both major political parties — the even-tempered Powell had previously distanced himself from his fellow cabinet members, dominated as they were by neoconservative hotheads, throughout the first two years of his term. Powell’s credibility towered over everyone else in American politics to an extent rarely seen before and certainly never since.

When you join a gang, you’re required to prove your loyalty. “You’ve got high poll ratings,” former Vice President Dick Cheney told Powell as he ordered him to support the push for war. “You can afford to lose a few points.”

Which is why Bush and Cheney sent him to the U.N. They knew that Powell alone could close the deal with a public made recalcitrant by historical precedent. The U.S. had never before launched a full-out war without a pretext that made some sort of sense. And where the president had failed, the prestigious Powell succeeded brilliantly, with the American public as well as with key allies such as Great Britain and Australia. Seconds after he stopped talking, TV talking heads told us what we already knew: The fate of a million Iraqis was sealed. We were going to war.


There is an alternative universe in which Powell takes to the podium and tells the truth: There was no credible evidence that Iraq still had WMDs. I have often imagined the stressed-out secretary of state, music swelling Hollywood-style, beginning to read the litany of lies about anthrax, chemical decontamination trucks, falsified Iraqi death certificates and cooperation between Saddam and al-Qaida, an alliance that not only was not true but could not have been true, before tearing up his prepared remarks. The statesman stares into the camera and speaks the words that would have saved a million lives, assured his place in history as a “Profile in Courage” and gotten him elected president by a landslide: “They told me to come out and lie to you. I will not. I swore to protect the Constitution of the United States, not the president of the United States, so help me God, and there is no evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.”

Powell’s defenders blame Bush. They say Powell was lied to, conned.

Powell fed the rube narrative in his 2012 memoir. “I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me,” he wrote, referring to the intelligence report he used for his U.N. speech that contained false evidence of supposed Iraqi WMDs. Powell never apologized.

Actually, Powell’s instincts were on point. His conscience went missing.

He knew it was all a lie — at the time.

The weekend before his speech, Powell exploded in frustration as he read the manufactured intel reports he had been given by the Bushies. “I’m not reading this. This is bullshit!” he shouted, throwing the cherry-picked documents in the air. Then he picked himself up, took a deep breath and went out and lied the world into a war that would forever soil America’s reputation.

Weakness was baked into Powell’s personality early on. As a young officer serving in Vietnam, Powell played a minor but telling role in covering up a soldier’s report about war crimes and other atrocities committed by U.S. troops during the same period as the My Lai massacre. Rather than investigate the allegations, which were accurate, Powell smeared the whistleblower as a coward. The whistleblower’s career faltered as Powell’s soared.

Powell’s memoir made clear that he understood the gravity of his shilling for the Iraq War. “It was by no means my first, but it was one of my most momentous failures, the one with the widest-ranging impact,” he wrote. “The event will earn a prominent paragraph in my obituary.”

• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Colin Powell, Iraq War 
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  1. Anonymous[638] • Disclaimer says:

    Sadly it’s too late to kill him.

    • Replies: @Poupon Marx
  2. Trinity says:

    Colon Bowel, Another Affirmative Action Ne’er Do Well.

    There I fixed that for ya.

  3. windship says:

    The Nubian Scapegoat

  4. meamjojo says:

    Postmortem is worthless. He’s dead. Move on.

  5. Powell and Rummy, dead, the rest of the criminals still to go, dying comfortable, wealthy and celebrated. Powell though, he knew better. I’ll place him as number 1 shitbag in the group. He could and should have resigned. They could never have gone forward without his enthusiastic cooperation. James Earl Jones couldn’t have put on a better performance. Rest in pieces, ‘general.

    • Replies: @anon
  6. Unfortunately this was not a one-off. Five years later it was the venerable Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama that was instrumental in giving the neoplhyte Senator legitmacy. At the time, Obama’s resume was practically non-existent. The smooth-talking Bill Ayres protege had accomplished nothinhg that possibly justified Presidential consideration.

    The Republican party had made honored Powell for decades, culminating in his becoming the first black Secretary of State. How did he repay rhem? By shamelessly choosing race over country by promoting Obama. Surely he must have known of Obamama’s left wing heritages and his personal ties to the racist Jermeiah Wright. Without Powell’s blessing it is questionable whether Obama achieves prominence much less defeats the heavily favored Hillary Clinton. This was disloyal and disgeraceful of Powell.

    Imagine a political world without Obama: no corruption of the bureaucracy and probably no deterioration of race relations ushered in by Barry’s incessant playing of the race card. All of these laudatory obituaries of Powell are the usual mainstream claptrap. If he had an ounce of integrity America probably could have dodged the Iraqi Wae bullet or the Obama plague. Or both.

    • Agree: P. Cleburne
    • Replies: @Jim Christian
  7. Trinity says:

    Cue: Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones

  8. PJ London says:

    Ah yes,
    Robin Cook, Home Secretary, 3rd highest politician in the UK, respected by all people and parties, at home and abroad, did what you suggested and stood in Parliament and made speech that got him a standing ovation from his peers.
    Told Blair and the world that it was based on a pack of lies and rumours and that his conscience would not allow him to support such murder.
    Unfortunately, shortly after his speech, this very fit and active man suffered a heart attack whilst running alone.
    Powell may not have been brave, but he lived to a ripe old age.

    • Replies: @SafeNow
    , @Verymuchalive
  9. Ragno says:

    Sooner or later I was bound to agree 100% with a Ted Rall column; and now that it’s happened, here’s hoping it never occurs again.

  10. @Kent Thoreau

    Agree most points, but the traitorous, war-mongering McCain would have started a war with Iran that we’d still be fighting. And we’d still have every single depravity you detail. McCain was the same grade of creep as Powell, Hillary, Pompeo, Rummy and Cheney and dozens of others. Be glad McCain didn’t get in.

  11. TG says:

    Well said, Mr. Rall, well said. Kudos.

  12. reading says:

    A king may move a man, a father may claim a son. That man can also move himself.And only then does that man truly begin his own game.But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say “but I was told by others to do thus” or that “virtue was not convinient at the time. This will not suffice. Remember that. ———– kingdom of heaven

  13. @Anonymous

    Once he failed himself and realized what he was, that led to complete abandonment of his integrity and manhood. This culmination emerged in his ringing endorsement for Barry Hussein Soetoro Obama Davis. He said that his presidency would be “transformational”. His wife was a clinical bi-polar manic depressive, hidden from the public.

    He was easy prey for the (((Cult))). Dishonor before death. May his remains be scattered over a sewage plant.

  14. Cuffy says:

    A disgrace to the human race, then again, he might not have been human at all, but the concoction of a malevolent brew from the bowels of Hades…..

    • Thanks: Trinity
  15. General Step ‘N Fetchit for the Deep State is dead. Lloyd Austin, gits yo office on da’ phone…

  16. sarc
    I like that vaudville picture of him shaking the vile of powder at the congress critters.
    It really scared the shit out of them.
    An Emmy and a blank check to make war, please?

  17. anon[409] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jim Christian

    Colin Powell still could have reached pretty close to the finish line of the life he was competing with other dirtbag unconstructed scum like D Feith, E Abram, C Rice,Alberto Gonzalez, Tony Blair and John Yoo and could have regained position of elderly statesman and then reached at the rehabilitated status of Bush the Jr monkey . He could have enjoyed periodic appearances on the TV had he played the character of -in-your-face screw you America .But he offered apology and expressed guilt . He was done .Deal with the Jew devils can’t earn him forgiveness from either Iraqis ,deceased and wounded veterans and 5 millions dead Iraqis . Thats in the deal itself
    It is in fine prints .

    • Replies: @Robert Dolan
  18. SafeNow says:
    @PJ London

    Thanks for this, I hadn’t known about Robin Cook. Was there a U.S. equivalent?

  19. @anon

    Powell was a shabbos goy for the neocons……Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Wurmser, Kristol.

    PNAC is the reason we had the Iraq War.

    Powell was a stooge, yes, but not the engineer.

  20. Baxter says:

    When this country finally receives its entirely self-inflicted death-blow. No heart will be moved by the suffering the American people will endure. The actions of our political elite over the past twenty years are easily forgotten by the naval-gazing, empty-headed, invertebrate-like jelly-spined, passive fat-bodied, drugged-up American public. Our collective national memory is short. But…other people in many parts of the world may not so easily forget. Mr. Powell helped seal American credibility in the 21st century-we don’t have any!

  21. @PJ London

    Robin Cook, Home Secretary, 3rd highest politician in the UK, respected by all people and parties, at home and abroad,

    Cook was an unashamed advocate of the “humanitarian” bombing of Serbia in 1999.

    This was after he became foreign secretary in 1997 and claimed to be inaugurating an “ethical forign policy”. This involved arms sales to Indonesia, Pakistan and sundry other states not following an “ethical foreign policy”.

    His actions over Iraq are likely to have been the result of personal pique, not moral probity. Blair was by-passing him in decision-making over Iraq. Also. Cook’s personal life had become messy.Time to get back to the back benches.

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