Last month I wrote a post on Colin Powell entitled, Trading Honor for a Pack of Lies in which I described the admission by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell's assistant that Powell had been fed intelligence which was anything but an intelligence document. It was, as some people characterized it later, sort of a Chinese menu from which you could pick and choose."
In the post I wrote
To this day, I believe that Colin Powell believed what he said, and if one could ask him I believe he would regret his propagation of a lie. As Secretary of State, he had an absolute right to know what anyone else in the administration knew, yet they knowingly fed him lies, and therefore fed him to the wolves.
Well, it happens that this week, Powell answered that question, and many others, in an wide-ranging interview he gave to ABC news.
In addition to his role in the run-up to the Iraq war, Powell discussed the response to Hurricane Katrina.
His insights are valuable, because they are correct. In fact, he also verified everything I wrote in the initial post when he said,
He told Walters that he feels "terrible" about the claims he made in that now-infamous address — assertions that later proved to be false.
When asked if he feels it has tarnished his reputation, he said, "Of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."
Although he does not blame former FBI director George Tenet, he says,
"There were some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good, and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up. That devastated me."
Addressing the Katrina response, Powell said, "I think there have been a lot of failures at a lot of levels — local, state and federal. There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done. I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why."
Exactly right. The dangers to New Orleans have been documented in article after article, report after report, and yet requests for funds to maintain levees, build higher levees, and upgrade and build pumps and other drainage systems were routinely ignored by Congress, except to be cut. (see, the US news article, Why Didn't Anyone do Anything about the Warnings?. Al Naomi, a senior project manager for the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of engineers, told U.S. News in June that his proposal entitled, 'Benefits of category 5 Protection: Loss of Life Prevented; Makes evacuation manageable," (to upgrade protection in the city to withstand a level 5 hurricane) is still awaiting federal funding--for a feasibility study.
Powell also said, "When you look at those who weren't able to get out, it should have been a blinding flash of the obvious to everybody that when you order a mandatory evacuation, you can't expect everybody to evacuate on their own. These are people who don't have credit cards; only one in 10 families at that economic level in New Orleans have a car. So it wasn't a racial thing — but poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in this country. And it happened because they were poor,"
He also said that he was reluctant to go to war in Iraq, but once the President made the decision to do so, he supported it.
Now, there are some things I disagree with Mr. Powell strongly about, including his insistence that we must remain in Iraq, but clearly he stood, as I perceived him then, head and shoulders above the rest of the Bush administration.
And I was wrong about one thing in my August post. I ended by saying, To paraphrase MacArthur, (Powell)...is now just an old soldier fading away.
Apparently he isn't fading away after all. And that is a good thing.