19 October 2005

Gen Powell like others begin to speak out....

Beyond the Miller-Libby game: people died.

Six weeks ago, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said publicly that the pre-war speech he gave to the United Nations in early 2003 claiming vast evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be nonexistent was a "painful" and lasting "blot" on his career.

Though his language of regret was bitterly potent, and it was Powell's first in-depth interview since leaving office in January, the nation's press gave it subdued play, far from the front page, and let it die after one day's run.

"I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world," he told ABC's Barbara Walters, "and it will always be part of my record. It was painful. It is painful now."

Powell blamed the detailed misinformation he spread before the U.N.-about stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and an active nuclear weapons program-on "some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good, and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up. That devastated me."

His U.N. speech, delivered on February 5, 2003, less than two months before the U.S. invasion, did not sway the U.N. to support the war, but it did raise support for it with the American public.

Powell brought it up because it seemed to link directly to another story-the Plamegate investigation-that definitely is getting a lot of attention.

Wilson came back and reported he had found nothing to bear out the story. The documents supporting it seemed inauthentic. (Later it was established that they were actually forgeries. It was a hoax.) But the Bush administration brushed aside Wilson's findings and began presenting the story as authentic to Congress's key intelligence committees to rally votes for the war. Colin Powell, not told the Niger intelligence was bogus, was one of the presenters. Bush got his congressional war vote in early March.

Joseph Wilson, frustrated that his findings had been trashed, finally went public with an op-ed piece for The New York Times on July 6, 2003, laying out his information and accusing the administration of "twisting" intelligence to justify the war. With this, the White House's Plamegate smear campaign-which seems to have begun months earlier out of the office of Cheney, the administration's leading hawk-apparently revved into high gear.

The day after Wilson's Times piece appeared, the White House retracted its Niger story. It was the first admission of falsehood or distortion in its case for the war.

The president has yet to admit he told massive untruths about WMDs and the Iraqi threat in his State of the Union address in late January 2003, just before U.S. forces went into battle. He even included the bogus Niger uranium story. Powell, in his U.N. speech some days later, removed the Niger story.

How does all this dovetail with Patrick Fitzgerald's Plamegate investigation? Let us count the ways. All the participants and the subject matter connect to the false claims about WMDs.

This leaked information is a direct outgrowth of all the untruths the Bush administration told to scare and con the public into supporting the war, then, at heart if not legally, the case is really about abuse of power by the executive branch.

What I find fascinating is that we're about to learn what happens when you bamboozle the public with empty words and false image-instead of trusting them with the truth, or something close to it. So then it becomes a game wrapped in a hoax-and the only goal is to get elected, not do what's good for the country.

And with a war, lots of people die. There's got to be some penalty for "leaders" who play that game-perhaps something more than a permanent blot on their record.

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