Ten years ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations in a speech which routed what was left of American resistance to the Bush/Cheney push for invading Iraq. The next day, the Washington Post’s editorial pages spoke for the conventional wisdom, filled with glowing reviews of Powell’s convincing arguments.
Today, of course, we know that much of what Powell said on Feb. 5, 2003, was wrong. He himself has acknowledged that the speech was a “blot” on his record.
We also know that then-CIA Director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin knew full well that key data that they were giving Powell was highly dubious or outright fraudulent. It was not simply “mistaken,” as George W. Bush and his careerist defenders still claim.
There is also circumstantial evidence that Powell was a willing co-conspirator, despite his repeated insistence that he didn’t know he was spreading falsehoods to justify an aggressive (and thus illegal) war. It’s clear that he was eager to please his bosses and thus was predisposed to do whatever he was told.
But the question remains: Was Powell a full-fledged participant in the fraud or was he duped by CIA officials who were taking direction from Vice President Dick Cheney and other war hawks? It seems to me likely that Tenet and McLaughlin (and in a larger sense Bush and Cheney) exploited Powell’s long-held tendency toward careerism (or as his acolytes put it, “being a good soldier”) to easily overcome Powell’s misgivings.
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