On Monday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell told me that he and his department’s top experts never believed that Iraq posed an imminent nuclear threat, but that the president followed the misleading advice of Vice President Dick Cheney and the CIA in making the claim. Now he tells us.Having been called a traitor myself, for everything from not supporting the war to questioning the president’s choice of ties, it is not a word I wish to throw around lightly. It has a meaning: someone who violates one’s allegiance toward one's country or sovereign. Although the popular wisdom these days is that Bush = America, it comes at the cost of ignoring the reality that Americans = America.
...“The CIA was pushing the aluminum tube argument heavily and Cheney went with that instead of what our guys wrote,” Powell said. And the Niger reference in Bush’s State of the Union speech? “That was a big mistake,” he said. “It should never have been in the speech. I didn’t need Wilson to tell me that there wasn’t a Niger connection. He didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. I never believed it.”
When I pressed further as to why the president played up the Iraq nuclear threat, Powell said it wasn’t the president: “That was all Cheney.” A convenient response for a Bush family loyalist, perhaps, but it begs the question of how the president came to be a captive of his vice president’s fantasies.
More important: Why was this doubt, on the part of the secretary of state and others, about the salient facts justifying the invasion of Iraq kept from the public until we heard the truth from whistle-blower Wilson, whose credibility the president then sought to destroy?
Whether Scheer didn’t ask this final question of Powell, or whether he simply didn’t give an answer, I don’t know. But I do know the answer nonetheless: It was kept from the public because Colin Powell decided his allegiance to the president was more important than the right of the American people to have their Secretary of State be their ally. When Colin Powell traded on his integrity to make the case for Bush’s war at the UN, he violated his allegiance to the people he was meant to serve.
And it wasn’t just any old lie, was it? It was a lie by a man who was widely regarded as being the most trustworthy even by administration opponents. It was a lie that contributed to the nation going to war—a war that has had the inevitable result of making Americans less safe, as its battlefields have becoming a breeding ground for the virulent anti-American sentiment that fuels the very terrorist networks from which this war was purported to protect us. It was a deliberate and knowing lie, and his misplaced loyalty not only undermined our trust, but our safety. If there’s a better word to describe that than traitorous, I don’t know what it is.
And the best he’s got is, “That was all Cheney.” No, Mr. Powell. It wasn’t all Cheney. It was the president whose loyalty trumped your responsibility to the rest of us, and it was you.
(Thanks to Maha for the link to Sheer.)