May 25, 2009
from flickr by dfarber
There is no one, it seems, that the U.S. mainstream news media loves more than Colin Powell, a "moderate" Republican who gives a careerist journalist the chance to do some smart positioning in the "center." But the truth about this retired four-star general is that he is the ultimate careerist.
That was apparent again during Powell's May 24 interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" as Powell juxtaposed himself as the reasonable Republican in contrast to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who vowed last week that there was "no middle ground" in the "war on terror."
The press coverage of Powell's CBS appearance focused on his reaffirmation of his membership in the Republican Party--after Cheney and talk show host Rush Limbaugh suggested that he should or had already left the party--and on Powell's reasonable talk about the GOP's need to be "more inclusive."
Given far less attention was Powell's disingenuous response to Bob Schieffer's question about the ex-Secretary of State's knowledge regarding "enhanced interrogation techniques," which the International Committee of the Red Cross and virtually all other objective observers say constituted torture.
Powell, who was a member of President George W. Bush's Principals Committee which oversaw the interrogation policies, claimed to have been kept mostly out of the loop. He asserted that he was "not privy" to the legal memos authorizing the abusive treatment.
"I think it was unfortunate but we had a system that kept that in a very compartmented manner," Powell said. "And so I was apart that these enhanced interrogation techniques were being considered. And they were judged not to be torture at the time."
Powell also repeated the all-purpose Cheney-Bush excuse for all manner of sins: "9/11."
"Facing the possibility of a 9/11, you had to give some--some flexibility to the CIA," Powell said. "It's easy now in the cold light of day to look back and say, you shouldn't have done any of that."
So what was it? Did Powell participate in the Principals Committee as it--according to some reports--"choreographed" the torture sessions or didn't he? Did he favor giving the CIA "some flexibility" or was he "apart" from the abusive techniques, including the near-drowning of waterboarding, that he says "were judged not to be torture"?
For a Washington press corps that has been up in arms challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the CIA obscured key details of the harsh interrogations from congressional leaders, it was impressive to see how little skepticism was evinced by Powell's claim of ignorance from his seat on Bush's Principals Committee.
Powell deflected attention from his dubious torture explanation by boldly rejecting one of the new absurd "wedge" issues developed by the Republican Right, that it would be dangerous to bring accused terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay prison to the United States for trial or incarceration. But Powell then maneuvered himself back to the "center" by also criticizing President Barack Obama's handling of the Guantanamo issue.
While saying that the Guantanamo prisoners could safely come to the United States, Powell faulted Obama for not moving faster on the prison closing and "frankly giving enough time to opponents of it to marshal their forces as to why we shouldn't do this."
Glass-House Stone Throwing