Politics

Powell Agonistes

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Powell at the UNNot too long ago, Colin Powell was legitimately described as the most trusted man in American politics. Today he is perceived to struggle in a battle to rehabilitate his credibility, the most recent effort being a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert. I have been traveling, missed the show on Sunday, but I got a flavor for the reaction to Powell’s interview yesterday when I took a high dive into the political pool with a quadruple twisting plunge on MSNBC, watching Tucker, Matthews, Olberman and Scarborough back-to-back-to-back-to-back. All had pointed questions for Powell.

CARLSON: “Colin Powell was the chief salesman of the decision to invade and occupy Iraq. So the question is, why would Barack Obama want his advice in the first place?”

MATTHEWS: “Why didn‘t Colin Powell just resign? Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has criticized this administration since he left office. But why did he salute the boss if he did not fully support the war? Where was Powell‘s tough talk against the administration when it would have counted?”

ROBACH (substituting for Olberman): “Have we ever heard Colin Powell say that the president and that he ultimately made a mistake in that decision?”

HUFFINGTON (Guest on Scarborough Country): “… where was that kind of moral authority when the country needed it? “

I found their questions to be a bit disingenuous, and distracting from the important comments that Powell made in the interview.

Colin Powell is speaking out. This is exactly what we need him to do. The Powell Doctrine, forged from the lessons learned in Viet Nam, served this country well in the first gulf war and as a guiding set of principles for our involvement in other military conflicts. The irony of Colin Powell being a primary enabler for the US involvement in a conflict that so clearly violated the tenets of the doctrine that bears his name has not been lost on us. The only one who can solve the riddle of of Colin Powell is Powell himself.

Powell has been a recurring topic at DWSUWF. Last September, I asked “whether Colin Powell might, in the judgement of history, carry the label of being to Iraq what McNamara was to Vietnam”. A few weeks later I wrote and posted an Open Letter to Colin Powell, concluding with this:

“Your experience with the military, with this administration, with the field of conflict in Iraq, with both failed and successful US conflicts, means you are uniquely qualified to help the American people find the right path through this thicket, by shedding some light on the problem. Permit me to be blunt. As an American citizen that supported this war to a large extent because of your support of it, and your eloquent arguments before United Nations in January of 2003, I do not find it acceptable for you to withhold your assessment of the status and outlook for this war now. Quite frankly, you owe this country the benefit of your honest assessment now. You owe us your complete, unexpurgated, unvarnished view.

In all honesty, I did not expect Colin Powell to respond to a letter from my blog and doubt whether he ever saw it. Regardless, his statements and appearances in the MSM over the last six months have addressed many of the very concerns expressed in that letter. It is critically important for Powell to continue to publicly air his evolving perspective on the war he helped sell, as the country struggles to find a way to bring it to an end. He provides a unique and important perspective that is worthy of careful consideration by all Americans.

Excerpted from and continued on Divided We Stand United We Fall.