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Colin Powell, Leave This Administration!
April 30, 2002
By birdman

An article by Alan Sipress in Friday's Washington Post spoke of a rift within the Bush administration that many people had suspected for quite some time. State department officials feel that Secretary Colin Powell is being "undercut" by others in the Bush administration. The staffers, admirers of Powell and highly loyal to him felt "discouraged" at the failure of his recent trip to the Middle East.

They point to the administrations unwillingness to stand behind Powells efforts to pressure an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and to accelerate peace talks between the two parties. These same officials feel that their efforts are still being thwarted as they work toward negotiations to create a Palestinian state. It seems highly unlikely that such a story would have ever found its way into the Post unless some people at State, and perhaps even Powell himself, had wanted it to be there.

The disagreements between State and Defense are hardly new. There has been tension almost since September 11 over Iraq and peacekeeping in Afghanistan but the problems have bubbled over lately over the Israel-Palestine question.

It was the State Department that had to try to soften the tone of Bushes bellicose, ill-considered "axis of evil" speech that unnerved allies and inspired criticism in Congress. Powell tried to reassure the allies that the administration wasn't ruling out diplomacy and had made no decisions on invading Iraq while the hawks in the Defense Department were making plans to do just that.

When Dick Cheney couldn't build support for an Iraq invasion on his worldwide trip and the Middle East spiraled out of control the administration dispatched Powell on a diplomatic suicide mission that was doomed from the start. And each time Powell is sent out to play "good cop" he earns more contempt from right-wing pundits and websites and makes the neocons in the administration more determined to limit his power.

The extreme right has never forgiven Colin Powell for questioning the wisdom of the Gulf War and has frequently blamed him for the failure to press the war to Baghdad and remove Saddam Hussein (although there is no indication that there was any intention on the part of the first Bush administration to do so).

The second Bush administration wanted Powell at State because he was the possibly the most popular man in America and conferred instant respectability on the Bush team which at the end of the 2000 election badly needed it. Once he was at State, however, and especially after 9/11, the Bushies had no further need for Powell preferring to let Rumsfeld and a collection of think-tank hawks make foreign policy.

The General, it seems, had too much use for diplomacy and was too busy trying to make peace.

It's ironic that in an administration dominated by people who found a way to remain comfortably in the US during the years when Powell was in Vietnam that the General would be regarded as some kind of Birkenstock wearing hippie peacenik. Bush and Cheney and Ashcroft and Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz all found a dire need for higher education during the Vietnam draft era and when their student deferments ended they relied on influence or finagling or luck to stay civilians.

It's even more ironic that the administrations only other prominent Vietnam veteran is its second most prominent powerless figurehead. Tom Ridge, the bearer of the useless title of Director of Homeland Security, holds an occasional meaningless press conference and color codes alerts while business law professor (hey, he had to get a deferment somehow) John Ashcroft wields the real power.

Colin Powell is a good soldier. He does now what he and those like him have always done. He follows orders, even the ones he has questions about. But there comes a time when even the good soldier has to step up and speak out for what he thinks is right.

So, Mr. Powell, I urge you to leave this administration full of chickenhawks. You have never been anything but a showpiece to them just like the black speakers and entertainers that they trotted onto the stage at their convention in Philadelphia two years ago. They have no intention of using your considerable expertise and experience to help bring peace to the Middle East. They view you as window-dressing, a harmless decoy that they can ignore for the most part and occasionally use to distract domestic and international attention from their policy mistakes.

You deserve better and I'm willing to wager that you can advance the cause of your more reasoned diplomatic vision by a cleaning out your desk and holding a press conference. Tell the assembled reporters that you're not going to beat your head against the Defense Department wall any longer. I guarantee that those in the administration that never had any intention of listening to you would be paying attention then if only because they knew they'd have a whole lot of questions to answer about your departure.

So leave and give the damn chickenhawks hell on the way out the door. It would be one more service that you can perform for America and it might just accomplish more than you ever could in your present situation.

Quit this administration, Mr. Powell. It would be your finest hour.

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