Friday, October 22, 2021

Ted Rall: Colin Powell, Moral Weakling

 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."

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, "The Stringer." Order one today. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.



Anonymous said...

Iraq used poison gas on Kurds. They had WMDs and that lunatic would have deployed them in Chicago if given half a chance. Hindsight is for cowards

Anonymous said...

False flag operation.

Anonymous said...

10:13 PM
What does Iraq using poison gas on Kurds in 1998 have to do with the United States illegally declaring war in 2001 and murdering over one million people over OIL? Bush didn’t give a fuck about some Kurds.

Better yet, the United States provided Iraq with intelligence against Iran knowing Sadaam would use the poison gas:

Foreign Policy magazine reveals in 2013 that the United States provided Iraq with intelligence on preparations for an Iranian offensive during the war knowing Baghdad would respond with chemical weapons.

"The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn't have to. We already knew," said retired Air Force colonel Rick Francona, a military attache in Baghdad during the 1988 attack.

Anonymous said...

It has been widely reported that Iraq signaled that they had WMDs. They WANTED the world to think they had them It was mainly their enemy Iran that they wanted to fool because they didn’t want another war with Iran. And whether they did or not at the time, they would have eventually. Sadam was issuing chemical weapons two decades earlier.

Ted Rall is an asshole. RIP General.

Empires Always Decline said...

And right wing propaganda is for morons. Sadam never had WMD's. He was also Reagan's fair-haored boy when we were 'tilting against Iran.

At least a million people died or were displaced because of a criminal invasion based on a tissue of lies. Go back to Fox News, where you belong.

Anonymous said...

General Powell always seemed the type whose analysis consisted of wetting a finger and checking the wind direction.

Anonymous said...

Pretty classless. Surprised Kingfish posted this. Trump has broken the right.

Anonymous said...

Colin Powell knew his deputy Richard Armitage was the source of the leak about Valerie Plame working for the CIA. He allowed others to be maligned and blamed and did nothing to stop it.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad day when chicken-shit critics can wait for a great man's death to disparage his whole life of service to this country as if they knew the man personally. Nobody, and I mean nobody including Washington, Lee, Grant, Pershing, Patton, Marshall, McArthur, and yes Powell becomes a three or four star general without marching to the beat of the politicians in power. That is a grim fact. If we start throwing mud because they followed the orders of lesser men we might as well burn our constitution and our military system. Go get a Napoleon if that's what they want. Yes Powell made mistakes, they all did. But he was still a great leader of men. It's time for respect. RIP

Anonymous said...

Ted Rall: I pray that God will not judge your and my whole life by your high standard. I won't make it but obviously you've been perfect. Congrats.

Anonymous said...

Like what's left of them today after the BHO purge, he was more a politician than a general. That's how the "Eye of Sauron" came to now be focused against all who do not agree with the totalitarian aspirations - Americans.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who broke with the Republican party to vote for a racist, socialist Democrat (Obama) has no morals period IMO.

Anonymous said...

When they outlaw chemical weapons, only outlaws will have chemical weapons.

Anonymous said...

Uh...Powell also believed what he was told about WMDs. Tenet and Cheney kept him in the dark.

Powell's mistake was in trusting the reliability of the information he was given by the Vice President and head of the CIA without independently verifying it's authenticity. Ironic, isn't it that Rall and others casting stones are making that same mistake?

Ted Rall is announcing to anyone with an ounce of decency that he is intellectually and morally lazy and just plain tacky. His opportunity to get reliable information on this subject was a helluva lot easier to do than Powell's.

By the way, the allies and those in intelligence and UN inspectors that tried to give us accurate information about WMD's were lambasted by FOX, the late Rush Limbaugh and every other conservative /Republican in the country as either a commie or weak kneed liberal or naive. Scooter Libby even outted one of our spies,remember?

Don't y'all remember anything? Or follow a story of the day all the way through ever?

Anonymous said...

Trump did nothing but give people permission to remind themselves of their right to free speech and what might be true....regardless of whose "feelings" it offends.

The first half of Colin Powell's life/legacy was that he was a patriot warrior, father, husband. The second half of his life he pretty much admitted that he had sold out as a bureaucrat.

There are no perfect heroes, and many a scoundrel might have some redeeming quality.

Anonymous said...

Keyboard warriors gone keyboard. Thank you for your service General. The world is better off without Saddam.

Anonymous said...

How does Powell get skewered and the masterminds, Bush and Chaney, get a pass? Both are nothing short of war criminals.

Anonymous said...

Downright hateful.

He had his faults, but he was a patriot. Quite classless.

Anonymous said...

Powell was political,, even in the army.
He proved the old saying: There is ALWAYS someone willing to let others to shed THEIR blood.

Kingfish said...

A little point diversity never hurt anyone. I came across Mr. Rall the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Although a leftist, he is a big defender of open debate and free speech.

Good job, Kansas. I knew you would blow it.

Gen. Powell was a stellar soldier. He was decorated for bravery in battle multiple times and graduated from Ranger school. He was backed by Cap or is Cap Good enough for you chicken hawks? Most criticisms of Mr. Powell come after he became Secretary of State.

Even if he did indeed believe the CIA about WMDs, that doesn't excuse the whole Scooter Libby fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Peggy Noonan’s column was much better.

Anonymous said...

Well put KF, but the problem is that free speech and open debate that is useful requires listening to the other side and a willingness to admit you may have missed critical facts in forming your opinion.

As my Dad put it, " I fought for freedom of speech, but those who died ought to be respected enough for their sacrifice that those opining in the public arena to know what the hell they are talking about and NOT LIE for political gain or expediency".

Of course, Dad saw what Goebbels did in real time and figured out it would take less time to spread the same kind of propaganda here with advances in widespread communication and that literacy would no longer play a role. And, so it has.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Kingfish will be less biased in the new week.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS