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Out Damn Blot: A Letter to Colin Powell

By       Message Ray McGovern       (Page 1 of 6 pages)     Permalink

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August 15, 2008

Dear Colin,

You have said you regret the "blot" on your record caused by your parroting spurious intelligence at the U.N. to justify war on Iraq. On the chance you may not have noticed, I write to point out that you now have a unique opportunity to do some rehab on your reputation.

If you were blindsided, well, here's an opportunity to try to wipe off some of the blot. There is no need for you to end up like Lady Macbeth, wandering around aimlessly muttering, Out damn spot...or blot.

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It has always strained credulity, at least as far as I was concerned, to accept the notion that naiveté prevented you from seeing through the game Vice President Dick Cheney and then-CIA Director George Tenet were playing on Iraq.

And I was particularly suspicious when you chose to ignore the strong dissents of your own State Department intelligence analysts who, as you know, turned out to be far more on target than counterparts in more servile agencies.

It was equally difficult for me to believe that you thought that, by insisting that shameless George Tenet sit behind you on camera, you could ensure a modicum of truth in your speech before the U.N. Security Council. You were far savvier than that.

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That is certainly the impression I got from our every-other-morning conversations in the mid-80s, before I went in to brief the President's Daily Brief to your boss, then-Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, one-on-one.

I saw the street smarts you displayed then. The savvy was familiar to me. I concluded that it came, in part, from the two decades you and I spent growing up in the same neighborhood at the same time in the Bronx.

On those Bronx streets, rough as they were, there was also a strong sense of what was honorable -honorable even among thieves and liars, you might say. And we had words, which I will not repeat here, for sycophants, pimps, and cowards.

Your U.N. speech of Feb. 5, 2003 left me speechless, so to speak - largely because of the measure of respect I had had for you before then.

Outrage is too tame a word for what quickly became my reaction and that of my colleagues in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), as we watched you perform before the Security Council less than six weeks before the unnecessary, illegal attack on Iraq.

The purpose - as well as the speciousness - of your address were all too transparent and, in a same-day commentary, we VIPS warned President George W. Bush that, if he attacked Iraq, "the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic."

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That's history. Or, as investigative reporter Ron Suskind would say, "It's all on the record."

You have not yet summoned the courage to admit it, but I think I know you well enough to believe you have a Lady Macbeth-type conscience problem that goes far beyond the spot on your record.

With 4,141 American soldiers - not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens - dead, and over 30,000 GIs badly wounded, how could you not?

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 

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