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    Inside U.S.A.: Colin Powell: The Case of The Shrinking General
    Posted on Thursday, January 09 @ 01:22:15 UTC
    Topic: Powell and Bush
    Powell and Bushby Ben Roberts

    Ask anyone in America what they think of Colin Powell as part of the Bush team, and for the most part you will get words of endorsement and support. The same is not the case for the other well known personalities who make up the Bush Administration. Even George Bush will say the same thing the average American would say about Powell. In fact Bush said as much when, a few months ago, he had a rare meeting with Powell during the height of a spate of violence between the Israelis and Palestinians, and asked him to go over there and use some of your political capital to calm and stabilize the situation. If anyone recalls, Powell at the time was balking at suggestions that he go to the region, and actually said there was little he could accomplish by going there. Then the heat from the American public got so hot on Bush for his bungling inaction in the face of such wanton violence and death in the region, that he ran out of the kitchen and begged Powell to put out the fire for him. Being the professional soldier that he is, Powell obediently complied with the wishes of his Commander in Chief.

    General Colin Powell commands a lot of respect. He is a black man who came up through the military ranks, served his country, and achieved the pinnacle in the post of Joint Chiefs of Staff. Blacks are proud of Powell, and so are whites, because what he has attained is testament to the belief that democracy is an equal opportunity employer, where one can achieve anything. Some months ago Tony Blair, in a speech hailing the American system of government, made reference to Powell in this regard. So it is clear that Powell commands respect at home, abroad, and from his boss. The question then is why is General Colin Powell treated like a private by the Bush Administration in which he serves? To answer that we have to go back to Bush, and his taking the reins of power.

    The biggest feather in Bush cap when he came into office and presented his team, was his announcement of Colin Powell as his Secretary of State. Bush needed Powell to take the job more than Powell needed the job. Powell could have just as easily thrown in his lot with the Democrats or gone into a lucrative life in the private sector with the military industrial complex. At the TV press conference announcing Powell as Secretary of State, Powell looked more presidential than Bush. There was Bush looking like a clueless raw recruit standing next to Powell, who stood there towering over him, and looking stately and experienced to boot. There was something wrong with the picture. It was almost comical. Bush handlers and those who had his ear certainly saw this inconsistency, and decided to keep Powell at arms length and on a short leash, while milking his stature for all it was worth. And Powell, being the consummate soldier who always carries out the orders of his commander, has facilitated the ambitions of the Bush team to his own detriment. Here’s what I mean:

    When Powell complied with Bush request to go to the Middle East to calm the Arab Israeli conflict he was given an around the world ticket. Instead of going immediately to the disaster area in Tel Aviv and the West Bank and Gaza, he took a cruise, going to Morocco, where the king asked why he was coming to see him instead of going to the stricken area. At a stop in the United Arab Emirates, he was seen by low level diplomats. In Egypt, Mubarak refused to see him. Can you believe that? Clearly Powell was put in a holding pattern by Bush Inc., until the Israeli army operation in West Bank and Gaza wound down. Then when he got there he took both Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat to task, demanding the former to get out of the area, and the latter to get a handle on suicide bombings. Powell was, and is, the man most suited to deal with the situation. He is a General who outranks Sharon and Arafat, both accomplished military men who have fought all their lives, despite what you think of them. So we should have gotten movement. Right? Wrong. Because here’s what happened next.

    Powell got a call from Condeleeza Rice telling him to clam up, and refrain from saying anything more about Israel moving out of the West Bank and Gaza. Bush and his confidants, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld had had a meeting and decided that Powell should be quiet. And since they could not tell him, as Bush almost never talks privately with Powell (How odd. Given the state of the world and the need for a reasonable foreign policy, Bush should be meeting with Powell more than any of his team.), they had Rice make the call. Powell must have knives sticking out all over his back. The rug was pulled out from under him. Powell returned home with the only thing achieved being a loss of his capital and shrinkage of his stature. Mission accomplished. Bush happy.

    Within days of the Iraqi submission of its 120,000 page declaration of its weapons to the UN, Powell was oddly in Colombia lauding US good relations with that country, promising aid, and doling out gifts like Santa Claus. Then his reason for his being there became crystal clear. The Colombian ambassador to the UN was set to assume revolving leadership of the Security Council. On arrival, he promptly hijacked the single copy document and turned it over to the American government. In other words he was the inside man for the heist, in which Powell was the bag man. The Bush team removed 8,000 pages (they kept using the term redact. Sounds nicer. It means edit, touch up, or make scholarly revisions) from the document before the Security Council got to see it. Call it what you like, the document was confiscated, tampered with, and altered so America and the world could not see the list of US companies that had been illegally assisting Iraq in its drive to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

    Immediately after, Powell came out and reported smugly to the media that Iraq had not made a true declaration. How do we know? Bush Inc., had altered the document. This is shameful. If the term Ugly American applies to describe American behavior, then this is the right occasion. Wanna bet your lifesavings that Bush did not once again tell Powell to go down there and use some of your political capital so we can avert a media disaster, avoid the wrath of the American public, and not look bad in the eyes of the world. One thing is certain. The Colombian ambassador to the UN definitely had a good Christmas, and got everything he wanted from Santa Claus Powell. And what did Americans get, other than cancellation of their unemployment and jobless benefits?

    This past December Colin Powell was the front man for the Administration in unveiling a new Middle Eastern policy. At the Heritage Foundation in Washington he gave a speech outlining something called the US Middle East Partnership Initiative. He proudly announced that America had placed $29 million dollars into a fund for this program which required matching monies from Arab countries. He also explained that women from Arab countries had been hosted in this program and had come to the US and observed American elections, and American freedom of expression. Let’s hold our breath and say a prayer to heaven that they did not observe the Florida circus show that put his boss in office. The initiative seems very progressive from a foreign policy standpoint, and is a move in the right direction. But there are a few problems with it in the context of the larger world. Other Arab nations are required to chip in and match the $29 million. How ridiculous does that look in the face of Israel about to present the US with a request for $15 billion of American taxpayer money? How tepid when compared to the US gift last year of $20 billion to Russia to put its nuclear weapons in temporary storage. There is an expression that ‘kisses go by favor.’ Colin Powell has no doubt heard this expression. Maybe in this instance his boss once again told him to go out there and use some of .... You know the rest.

    Not very long ago respected musician Harry Belafonte angrily lashed out at Colin Powell with words to the effect calling him a house slave who forgot that he had come from out in the fields. His statements seemed very harsh, and might have been said differently. This is not an apology for Belafonte, but coming from the same Caribbean heritage as Powell, he must be quite displeased with what he sees. Here is a man with so much potential. The first time a black man has had such unprecedented power in the halls of American government and the world. He is part of a club called the Bush Administration which desperately needs him to give them legitimacy, yet they treat him like an outsider, exploiting his capital and stature only when it facilitates their interests. In the process he is shrinking like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, and losing his good standing at the expense of their agenda. Seeing this must definitely annoy and frustrate Harry Belafonte. At this rate of shrinkage General Colin Powell will, in short order, be reduced in stature to private. This might be the intention of Bush and his confidants, because then and only then does Bush have a shot at looking like a President.


    Ben Roberts is a newsletter editor, freelance writer and published author. His book, Jackals of Samarra, was published in January 2001. Ben can be contacted by email at: grandt730@aol.com


     
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