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Colin Powell, Not Qualified for Government Service

by DAVID SWANSON

Barack Obama would like to bring Colin Powell into his new  administration. But Americans consider Powell only marginally more  credible than how the rest of the world views him, and the rest of the  world thinks he lies like a rug. Powell either wholeheartedly backed the  biggest crime thus far this century, or he secretly opposed it but  worked to make it happen anyway. I’m not sure which is worse, but either  disqualifies him for future office.

Can you imagine having an opportunity to address the United Nations  Security Council about a matter of great global importance, with all the  world’s media watching, and using it to… well, to make shit up — to lie  with a straight face, and with a CIA director propped up behind you, I  mean to spew one world-class, for-the-record-books stream of bull, to  utter nary a breath without a couple of whoppers in it, and to look like  you really mean it all? What gall. What an insult to the entire world  that would be.

Colin Powell doesn’t have to imagine such a thing. He has to live with  it. He did it on February 5, 2003. It’s on videotape.

I tried to ask him about it in the summer of 2004. He was speaking to  the Unity Journalists of Color convention in Washington, D.C. The event  had been advertised as including questions from the floor, but for some  reason that plan was revised. Speakers from the floor were permitted to  ask questions of four safe and vetted journalists of color before Powell  showed up, and then those four individuals could choose to ask him  something related — which of course they did not, in any instance, do.

The panel that had been assembled to lob softballs at Powell served its  purpose well. It was moderated by Gwen Ifill. I asked Ifill whether  Powell had any explanation for the way in which he had relied on the  testimony of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law. He had recited the claims  about weapons of mass destruction but carefully left out the part where  that same gentleman had testified that all of Iraq’s WMDs had been  destroyed. Ifill thanked me, and said nothing.

I wonder what Powell would say if someone were to actually ask him that  question, even today, or next year, or ten years from now. Someone tells  you about a bunch of old weapons and at the same time tells you they’ve  been destroyed, and you choose to repeat the part about the weapons and  censor the part about their destruction. How would you explain that?

Well, it’s a sin of omission, so ultimately Powell could claim he  forgot. “Oh yeah, I meant to say that, but it slipped my mind.”

But how would he explain this:

During his presentation at the United Nations, Powell provided this  translation of an intercepted conversation between Iraqi army officers:

“They’re inspecting the ammunition you have, yes. “Yes. “For the possibility there are forbidden ammo. “For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo? “Yes. “And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the  scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there.”

The incriminating phrases “clean all of the areas” and “Make sure there  is nothing there” do not appear in the official State Department  translation of the exchange. Powell was writing fictional dialogue. He  put those extra lines in there and pretended somebody had said them.

For most of his presentation, Powell wasn’t inventing dialogue, but he  was presenting as facts numerous claims that his own staff had warned  him were weak and indefensible.

Powell told the UN and the world: “We know that Saddam’s son, Qusay,  ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam’s numerous  palace complexes.” The January 31, 2003, evaluation of Powell’s draft  remarks prepared for him by the State Department’s Bureau of  Intelligence and Research (“INR”) flagged this claim as “WEAK”.

Regarding alleged Iraqi concealment of key files, Powell said: “key  files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in  cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence  agents to avoid detection.” The January 31, 2003 INR evaluation flagged  this claim as “WEAK” and added “Plausibility open to question.” A Feb.  3, 2003, INR evaluation of a subsequent draft of Powell’s remarks noted:  “Page 4, last bullet, re key files being driven around in cars to avoid  inspectors. This claim is highly questionable and promises to be  targeted by critics and possibly UN inspection officials as well.” That  didn’t stop Powell from stating it as fact and apparently hoping that,  even if UN inspectors thought he was a brazen liar, US media outlets  wouldn’t tell anyone.

On the issue of biological weapons and dispersal equipment, Powell said:  “we know from sources that a missile brigade outside Baghdad was  disbursing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare  agents to various locations, distributing them to various locations in  western Iraq.” The January 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim  as: “WEAK. Missiles with biological warheads reportedly dispersed. This  would be somewhat true in terms of short-range missiles with  conventional warheads, but is questionable in terms of longer-range  missiles or biological warheads.”

This claim was again flagged in the February 3, 2003, evaluation of a  subsequent draft of Powell’s presentation: “Page 5. first para, claim re  missile brigade dispersing rocket launchers and BW warheads. This claim  too is highly questionable and might be subjected to criticism by UN  inspection officials.” That didn’t stop Colin. In fact, he brought out  visual aids to help with his lying. Powell showed a slide of a satellite  photograph of an Iraqi munitions bunker, and lied:

“The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are  storing chemical munitions . . . [t]he truck you […] see is a  signature item. It’s a decontamination vehicle in case something goes  wrong.” The January 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as  “WEAK” and added: “We support much of this discussion, but we note that  decontamination vehicles – cited several times in the text – are water  trucks that can have legitimate uses… Iraq has given UNMOVIC what may  be a plausible account for this activity – that this was an exercise  involving the movement of conventional explosives; presence of a fire  safety truck (water truck, which could also be used as a decontamination  vehicle) is common in such an event.” Powell’s own staff had told him  the thing was a water truck, but he told the U.N. it was “a signature  item…a decontamination vehicle.” The UN was going to need a  decontamination vehicle itself by the time Powell finished spewing his  lies and disgracing his country.

He just kept piling it on: “UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute  an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological  weapons,” he said. The January 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this  statement as “WEAK” and added: “the claim that experts agree UAVs fitted  with spray tanks are ‘an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack  using biological weapons’ is WEAK.” In other words, experts did NOT  agree with that claim.

Powell kept going, announcing “in mid-December weapons experts at one  facility were replaced by Iraqi intelligence agents who were to deceive  inspectors about the work that was being done there.” The January 31,  2003, INR evaluation flagged this claim as “WEAK” and “not credible” and  “open to criticism, particularly by the UN inspectorates.” His staff was  warning him that what he planned to say would not be believed by his  audience, which would include the people with actual knowledge of the  matter. To Powell that was no matter.

Powell, no doubt figuring he was in deep already, so what did he have to  lose, went on to tell the UN: “On orders from Saddam Hussein, Iraqi  officials issued a false death certificate for one scientist, and he was  sent into hiding.” The January 31, 2003, INR evaluation flagged this  claim as “WEAK” and called it “Not implausible, but UN inspectors might  question it. (Note: Draft states it as fact.)” And Powell stated it as  fact. Notice that his staff was not able to say there was any evidence  for the claim, but rather that it was “not implausible.” That was the  best they could come up with. In other words: “They might buy this one,  Sir, but don’t count on it.”

Powell, however, wasn’t satisfied lying about one scientist. He had to  have a dozen. He told the United Nations: “A dozen [WMD] experts have  been placed under house arrest, not in their own houses, but as a group  at one of Saddam Hussein’s guest houses.” The January 31, 2003, INR  evaluation flagged this claim as “WEAK” and “Highly questionable.” This  one didn’t even merit a “Not implausible.”

Powell also said: “In the middle of January, experts at one facility  that was related to weapons of mass destruction, those experts had been  ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors. Workers from  other Iraqi military facilities not engaged in elicit weapons projects  were to replace the workers who’d been sent home.” Powell’s staff called  this “WEAK,” with “Plausibility open to question.”

All of this stuff sounded plausible enough to viewers of Fox, CNN, and  MSNBC. And that, we can see now, was what interested Powell. But it must  have sounded highly implausible to the U.N. inspectors. Here was a guy  who had not been with them on any of their inspections coming in to tell  them what had happened. We know from Scott Ritter, who led many UNSCOM  inspections in Iraq, that U.S. inspectors had used the access that the  inspection process afforded them to spy for, and to set up means of data  collection for, the CIA. So there was some plausibility to the idea that  an American could come back to the UN and inform the UN what had really  happened on its inspections. Yet, repeatedly, Powell’s staff warned him  that the specific claims he wanted to make were not going to even sound  plausible. They will be recorded by history more simply as blatant lies  facilitating the murder of over a million human beings.

DAVID SWANSON can be reached at: david@davidswanson.org

 

 

 

 

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David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition.

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