We Don’t Need Powell

7 Feb

Colin Powell at the UN, 2003I don’t care if the Republican party needs an African-American, to make it look less racist than the Democratic coalition, but Colin Powell is persona non grata. Joe Scarborough’s general argument is a good one, just ditch Powell’s participation in it. I will never forgive him for his shameful performance at the United Nations on February 5, 2003. Democracy Now‘s Aaron Mate and Amy Goodman interviewed Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, about the process that led to this debacle.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you—where did the information come from? Explain how you did put this together.

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: The information came from, in our intelligence system at the time, the 16 entities that compose our intelligence services, and spoken for by the then-master of that intelligence community, George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, and vouchsafed multiple times by his deputy, the DDCI, John McLaughlin. But it came from a much wider array, Amy. It came from Israel. It came from France. It came from Jordan. It came from Germany. Indeed, it came from almost every intelligence service that, at one time or another, had fed into the U.S. process with regard to Iraq. And frankly, we were all wrong. Was the intelligence politicized in addition to being wrong at its roots? Absolutely. And the leader of that politicization was the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney.

AARON MATÉ: Now, Colonel, you’ve talked about how some of the intelligence actually came from torture. Can you tell us about that?

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: The seminal moment, as we were out at Langley and Colin Powell was getting ready to throw everything out of his presentation that had anything to do with terrorism—that is, substantial contacts between Baghdad and al-Qaeda, in particular—as he was getting—he was really angry. He took me in a room by myself and literally attacked me over it. And I said, “Boss, let’s throw it out. I have as many doubts about it as you do. Let’s throw it out.” And so, we made a decision right there to throw it out.

Within 30 minutes of the secretary having made that decision and instructed me to do so, George Tenet showed up with a bombshell. And the bombshell was that a high-level al-Qaeda operative, under interrogation, had revealed substantial contacts between al-Qaeda and Baghdad. In fact, they included al-Qaeda being trained by the Mukhabarat, the secret police of Iraq, in how to use chemical and biological weapons. This was—this was a bombshell.

Only later—much later—did we learn that this information came from Shaykh al-Libi, who was waterboarded, probably in Cairo, with no U.S. personnel present. We also learned that, within days of his having given this information under torture, he recanted. We learned also that the Defense Intelligence Agency, having seen that recantation and having seen other data about how the information was obtained in the first place, had issued a burn notice on it. That is to say, this is worthless; don’t pay any attention to it. Later, George Tenet would say that due to a computer glitch, that burn notice, that DIA statement not to trust al-Libi, never was revealed to the secretary.


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