In fact, the only thing that Powell -- the wise and steady statesman, the "grown-up," the "moderate" -- can find to criticize in the conduct of the war he helped launch is the fact that it wasn't savage enough to begin with. We should have "surged" those sand monkeys from the git-go, he told CNN, as he aligned himself with the genocidal philosophy of noted moderate, grown-up legal philosopher Glenn "Gomer Says Hey" Reynolds, noted for his Augustinian endorsement of the "more rubble, less trouble" school of warcraft. From CNN, here are Powell's words from an exchange with reporters following his endorsement of Obama on Sunday:
I'm well aware of the role I played [in the Iraq war]. My role has been very, very straightforward. I wanted to avoid a war. The president agreed with me. We tried to do that. We couldn't get it through the U.N. and when the president made the decision, I supported that decision. And I've never blinked from that. I've never said I didn't support a decision to go to war.
Here is one outright lie right out of the gate -- a brazen, blazing, breathtaking lie: "We tried to do that [avoid the war]. We couldn't get it through the U.N." This is murderous bullshit of the highest order. Before the invasion, Bush and Powell claimed they were being forced to consider war because of Iraq's alleged non-compliance with past UN demands to destroy its WMD arsenal and programs. In late 2002, the UN duly authorized -- and Iraq accepted -- a vigorous program of inspections to verify compliance -- or discover non-compliance. This process was going on, successfully, with cooperation from the Iraqis, when George W. Bush ordered the UN inspectors out of the country, before they finished their work, so that he could launch a military invasion -- which was now unnecessary by the very criteria that he and Powell had set out publicly.
But the kibosh on the UN process was necessary precisely to preclude the possibility that the inspectors would discover the truth: there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there were no active programs to develop WMD in Iraq, and all such programs had been dismantled years before. (Both the Clinton and Bush Administrations had mountains of evidence to support this conclusion, and almost nothing to refute it. Yet both encouraged this blood libel to increase in hysterical virulence year after year.) For if the UN had been allowed to complete its work in 2003, then the Bush administration's main public casus belli, the threat of WMD, would have evaporated.
So let's be clear about the facts. Bush and Powell did indeed get from the UN a perfect mechanism for avoiding war with Iraq -- if that had been their goal. Instead, Bush destroyed this process in order to launch the invasion -- and Powell supported that position. He still supports it today. He's "never blinked from it."
Here's more from the moderate, honorable man, who is now completely rehabilitated in the eyes of "progressives" everywhere. (Indeed, even the Guardian on Monday proclaimed him a figure "of enduring moral authority."). Powell:
And the war looked great until the 9th of April, when the statue fell, everybody thought it was terrific. And it was terrific. The troops had done a great job. But then we failed to understand that the war really was not over, that a new phase of the war was beginning. And we weren't ready for it and we didn't respond to it well enough...
We now see that things are a lot better in Iraq. Maybe if we had put a surge in at the beginning, it would have been a lot better years ago.....
It wasn't wrong to kneecap the UN and unilaterally invade a country that hadn't attacked you and slaughter their people and destroy their society and drive more than four million of them from their homes; no. What was wrong, according to the moderate grown-up, was not laying even more shock and awe on the victims from the beginning. "Surge" through even more of their houses, terrifying children and rounding up the menfolk in even larger concentration camps; "surge" them with even more hired sectarian killers; "surge" all over their sorry hides with even more "smart bombs" and "drone missiles" and 500-pound blockbusters; "surge" them with "fraternity pranks" like the Cabinet-approved regimen of physical and psychological torture that leaked briefly into the light at Abu Ghraib. Yes, the original invasion just wasn't tough enough, didn't kill and dispossess nearly enough people -- not for a moderate, steady figure of enduring moral authority like Colin Powell. Shoulda surged 'em harder. Shoulda closed our hearts to pity, as that guy with the funny little moustache used to say. (Now there's someone who knew how to surge!)
Powell then goes on with the by-now ritual praise of General David Petraeus and the "surge": the campaign of ethnic cleansing, bribing and arming of sectarian extremists, death squads, local government torture, and "close air support" in civilian areas that -- along with the indispensable role played by Iran in supporting the allies it shares with Washington in the Iraqi government -- has "reduced" the violence in Iraq to a level that approximates the very worst civil conflicts since World War II.
Of course, Obama shares this view of the surge, having recently declared it "a wild success." And we have every indication that Obama shares this further sentiment that Powell voiced in his remarks:
And so, my concern was not my past or what happened in Iraq, but where we're going in the future. My sole concern was where are we going after January 20 of 2009, not what happened in 2003.
Well, if I had committed a hanging offense in 2003, I'd want to concentrate on 2009 too. And Obama seems to concur; he wants to "move on," to avoid any unseemly "partisan" wrangles over the past. The fact that a gang of militarist extremists -- including good old moderate Colin Powell -- murdered a million innocent people in a blatant war crime committed in America's name is not something that would be "fruitful to pursue," to quote Obama's own ringing phrase about his adamant opposition to any impeachment proceedings against the Bush Faction.
But beyond Powell's understandable anxiety to shift attention away from the period of his criminal complicity, look again at this passage from his statement. Meditate on it, let it sink in deeply:
...my concern was not my past or what happened in Iraq, but where we're going in the future.
His concern is not "what happened in Iraq." This encapsulates perfectly the view of the entire bipartisan foreign policy establishment. They simply could not care less about what happened in Iraq: a million dead, four million dispossessed, social, economic, cultural ruin, torture, murder, destruction, suffering: It not their "concern." They do not give a damn. The only thing that matters is "where we're going in the future;" i.e., how can we -- not "we the people" but "we" the elite, "we" the deciders, "we" the wielders of imperial power -- retain our dominance, our privilege and the proper deference that is our due from the lesser peoples of the world.
And now this man -- a willing and defiantly unrepentant conspirator in mass murder, a lifelong servant and abettor of the worst excesses of a rampant militarism that has destroyed the constitutional republic and replaced it with a hideous "commander-in-chief" state -- is now going to be whispering in the ear of our "transformational" president-to-be, providing the "foreign policy wisdom" that the young prince still lacks.
This is the "change" we have been promised, the "change" that millions of people -- in America and around the world -- have desperately longed for: a proven liar and mass murderer, standing in the inner circle of power again, alongside the "anti-war" "progressive" -- just as he stood shoulder to shoulder with George W. Bush...and just as he would even now be standing shoulder to shoulder with manic militarist John McCain, if he were 10 points up in the polls.
Mr. Eric Blair once described this nightmare scenario very well: "Four legs good, two legs better."