I used to have sympathy for Colin Powell, the supposed adult among the neocon kindergartners who pushed this nation into war in Iraq. Now I see him merely as a boxer who has taken one too many dives. And he has been doing so to protect a no-good mob.
The on-the-ground reality in Iraq was darn ugly last week: cities beyond the control of the United States military or the new Iraqi government, rising American casualties (not only did the number of dead American GIs top 1000, the rate of US troops killed in action has increased), and mounting civilian deaths in US military attacks. So the Bush White House–looking to keep the bad news from Iraq from shaping the presidential campaign in these final weeks–dispatched Secretary of State Powell to the Sunday morning shows to do what he does best: put forward a reassuring and realistic spin. On Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked if Iraq was heading toward civil war. Powell calmly replied,
It’s always a possibility, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. We have leaders in the interim government who represent every element of Iraqi society. We have Kurd, Shiias, Sunnis. They’re all working together. What are they working together for? To end the insurgency, to build up Iraqi security forces so they can take care of their own security and to get ready for an election with the help of the coalition and the help of the U.N. These are dedicated men and women who get up every day in order to keep their country together, to work for a political outcome that reflects the will of the Iraqi people and they’re being attacked by insurgents.
And so it is a difficult time. There’s an insurgency that has to be put down, and when that insurgency is put down, what the people of the world will see are Iraqis in charge of their own destiny, moving toward an election that will provide for a representative form of government, the creation of a constitution and the ratification of a constitution, and it’s going to be something they’ll be able to be proud of.
And so this is a difficult time as this insurgency still rages and as we work to bring it under control, but it will be brought under control. It’s not an impossible task. And when it has been brought under control, you’ll find that the forces that keep Iraq together are stronger than the forces that pull it apart.
In other words, there is nothing about which to worry. When George W. Bush–or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Paul Wolfowitz–make such an argument, it seems self-serving and absurd. But Powell has that magic touch: he concedes the problems, promises it will work out in the end, and those who want to believe can believe. He certainly is no Scott McClellan, who has the air of a waiter carrying far too many plates and is but a second away from dropping the entire load.
But Powell can only prettify the mess so much. And he can only do so by resorting to disingenuousness. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Powell, “John Kerry now says that Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. Is any of that right?” Powell replied: