Colin Powell: Conned or Con-Man?

Exclusive: A decade ago, President George W. Bush was hurtling toward an aggressive war against a country not threatening the United States. Only a few people had a chance to stop the rush to war with Iraq, but one Colin Powell instead joined the stampede, recalls ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Ten years ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations in a speech which routed what was left of American resistance to the Bush/Cheney push for invading Iraq. The next day, the Washington Post’s editorial pages spoke for the conventional wisdom, filled with glowing reviews of Powell’s convincing arguments.

Today, of course, we know that much of what Powell said on Feb. 5, 2003, was wrong. He himself has acknowledged that the speech was a “blot” on his record.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell. (Photo credit: Charles Haynes; Wikimedia Commons)

We also know that then-CIA Director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin knew full well that key data that they were giving Powell was highly dubious or outright fraudulent. It was not simply “mistaken,” as George W. Bush and his careerist defenders still claim.

There is also circumstantial evidence that Powell was a willing co-conspirator, despite his repeated insistence that he didn’t know he was spreading falsehoods to justify an aggressive (and thus illegal) war. It’s clear that he was eager to please his bosses and thus was predisposed to do whatever he was told.

But the question remains: Was Powell a full-fledged participant in the fraud or was he duped by CIA officials who were taking direction from Vice President Dick Cheney and other war hawks? It seems to me likely that Tenet and McLaughlin (and in a larger sense Bush and Cheney) exploited Powell’s long-held tendency toward careerism (or as his acolytes put it, “being a good soldier”) to easily overcome Powell’s misgivings.

From his days as a young officer in Vietnam through his long climb up the ladder of the U.S. national security bureaucracy, Powell never bucked the system. Indeed, that’s the secret to understanding how Powell ascended to become a four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.

Whether the question was joining other early Vietnam military advisers in warning President Lyndon Johnson about the hopelessness of that conflict, or participating in President Ronald Reagan’s illegal Iran-Contra operation, or finding less violent ways to deal with international disputes under President George H.W. Bush, Powell consistently chose to be a yes man and do what his bosses wanted. [For details on Powell’s past, see the book, Neck Deep.]

Jury Still Out

Still, in my view, the jury is still out on whether Powell was more conned regarding the Iraq War than con-man. Like anyone else, he is entitled to some benefit of the doubt, though to this day he has resisted providing any comprehensive explanation of his deceptive speech or admitting that the invasion of Iraq was wrong.

Powell has limited himself to some handwringing about how the speech was a “blot” on his record, not that it contributed to the unnecessary deaths of nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He still insists that the war was justified.

It’s also true that Powell remains one of the important links in the chain of excuses used to fend off allegations of war crimes against the architects of the invasion. As long as each link in that chain doesn’t admit wrongdoing and points to the link in the chain next to him or her as providing justification for whatever was done, no single link can be found guilty and surely not the entire chain.

The Bush-Cheney team used a similar chain of reinforcing justification to evade responsibility for illegal torture. The CIA’s torturers point to authorization from the CIA brass, which points to approval from Bush and other senior White House officials, who point to the Justice Department lawyers who created legal excuses and other evasions, some of which were suggested by the CIA torturers, the CIA brass and the White House officials.

Thus, regarding the false testimony on the Iraq War, Powell  resists stating clearly that Tenet and McLaughlin lied to his face or admitting that he agreed to deliver the deceptions with his trademark gravitas and sincerity because he wanted to stay in President Bush’s good graces.

Slam or Sham Dunk?

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff at the time, has described his boss as dubious about elements of the intelligence that he was getting from not only Vice President Cheney’s office but from the CIA.

Surely, Powell understood that the intelligence on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s links to Islamist terrorism was weak and that evidence of his “weapons of mass destruction“ was far from a “slam dunk,” as Tenet famously assured President Bush on Dec. 21, 2002. The appropriate adjective would have been sham, not slam.

Even Bush has said he was underwhelmed at McLaughlin’s presentation of the evidence that day and put a must-do-better on the CIA’s report card. So, with their wrists slapped at the White House, Tenet and McLaughlin returned to the CIA and redoubled their efforts to fulfill their role in this chain of self-reinforcing arguments for giving Bush and his neocon advisers their war of choice in Iraq.

At CIA’s Langley headquarters, McLaughlin and Tenet swept up every scrap of dubious intelligence and assembled it to justify war. The significance of the CIA’s role in this perverted process became clear to CIA analysts on Feb. 5, 2003, when they saw Tenet sitting solemnly behind Powell as the Secretary of State exaggerated the evidence on WMD and spoke of a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the other key “justification” adduced for war on Iraq.

CIA analysts at the working level had stood firm against the alleged al-Qaeda link and thought they had successfully beaten back “intelligence” conjured up by Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointing to operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Rumsfeld described the evidence as “bulletproof” though Gen. Brent Scowcroft, then chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, labeled it “scant.” And the normally taciturn CIA ombudsman came out of the shadows to tell Congress bluntly that never in his 32-year career with the agency had he encountered such “hammering” on CIA analysts to reconsider their judgments on operational ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Powell’s Doubts

According to Wilkerson, Powell recognized how flimsy this evidence was just four days before his UN speech. “Powell and I had a one-on-one, no one else even in the room, about his angst over what was a rather dull recounting of several old stories about Al Qa’ida-Baghdad ties [in the draft speech],” Wilkerson said. “I agreed with him that what we had was bull___t, and Powell decided to eliminate all mention of terrorist contacts between AQ and Baghdad.

“Within an hour, [CIA Director George] Tenet and [CIA Deputy Director John] McLaughlin dropped a bombshell on the table in the [CIA] director’s Conference Room: a high-level AQ detainee had just revealed under interrogation substantive contacts between AQ and Baghdad, including Iraqis training AQ operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

Though Tenet and McLaughlin wouldn’t give Powell the identity of the al-Qaeda source, Wilkerson said he now understands that it was Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who later claimed he gave the CIA false information in the face of actual and threatened torture.

Not realizing that the new intelligence was tainted, “Powell changed his mind and this information was included in his UNSC presentation, along with some more general information from the previous text about Baghdad’s terrorist tendencies,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson’s account underscores how the Bush administration’s reliance on harsh interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects influenced the rush to war with Iraq, while also pointing out how the need to justify the war gave impetus to the use of torture for extracting information.

These and other charges in Powell’s speech were the kind of consequential fraud that, in my view, should land the perpetrators behind bars. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Senate Cries Foul

In June 2008, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report based on a five-year investigation of the pre-Iraq-war intelligence. Two of the committee’s six Republicans, Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe, approved the committee’s findings, making the vote 10 to 5.

Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, summed up the findings: “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent.  As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

The report noted that Powell had said, “Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.” Not so, concluded the committee.  The report stressed that, “Much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for inclusion in Secretary Powell’s speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect.”

How might this happen with analysts at the working level, who used to be able to depend on career protection in honoring their ethos of speaking truth to power? One example may suffice.

Here’s what we know about the handling of “Curveball,” the Iraqi defector who gave German intelligence the fairy tale about mobile biological weapons factories. Remember those vivid “artist renderings” featured in Powell’s speech? Beautifully “rendered” mobile laboratories fabricated in the village of Potemkin.

It turns out that only one U.S. analyst had met with the now-completely-discredited Curveball, the source of that fabrication. In a last-ditch attempt to warn his superiors the day before Powell’s UN speech, this analyst wrote an e-mail to the deputy director of CIA’s Task Force on WMD raising strong doubt regarding Curveball’s reliability.

I personally became almost physically ill reading the cynical response from the deputy director of the CIA Task Force, but it is a sign of the mood among CIA’s malleable managers at the time.

The deputy director replied: “As I said last night, let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say, and the powers that be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about.” (That e-mail message and similar material were released in July 2004 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee.)

Tyler Drumheller, then chief of the European Division of CIA’s Directorate of operations, called Tenet the evening before Powell’s UN testimony, appalled when he found out that Powell intended to include Curveball’s information in his speech, but also was brushed aside by Tenet.

And so, Powell ended up telling the UN Security Council, and the world, that the alleged germ-producing vehicles were “one of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq.”

Was Powell lying? On Curveball, at least, I am inclined to think that Powell was taken in by the shysters at CIA’s top level, though you could argue that an experienced old hand like Powell should have known better. He might well have concluded, like the CIA Task Force deputy director, that Bush had long ago made up his mind about invading Iraq and that only a fool would stand in the way.

‘Made an Honest Man of Me’

In former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s memoir, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, published last year, Annan reports that several weeks after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the embarrassing failure to discover WMD Powell visited the UN to privately exult with Annan over initial reports that U.S. forces believed they finally had found something in Iraq, those mobile weapons laboratories.

“Kofi, they’ve made an honest man of me,” Powell declared, according to an excerpt from the book.

Writing about Powell’s demeanor, Annan noted that “The relief, and the exhaustion, was palpable. I could not help but smile along with my friend, and wanted to share in his comfort,” even though Annan remained dubious. “I could only be impressed by the resilience of this man, who had endured so much to argue for a war he clearly did not believe in.”

On May 29, 2003, President Bush, while visiting Poland, also jumped at the prospect that his WMD claims had been vindicated. He declared on Polish TV, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.”

But these supposed mobile weapons labs turned out to be more sham dunk. Under mounting pressure to point to some WMD proof in Iraq, CIA analysts misrepresented a tractor-trailer outfitted to inflate balloons used for artillery as one of the promised mobile bio-labs.

On May 28, 2003, CIA analysts had cooked up a fraudulent six-page report claiming that the trailer was proof that they had been right about Iraq’s “bio-weapons labs” after all. They then performed what we Army officers used to call a “night-time requisition,” getting the only Defense Intelligence Agency analyst sympathetic to their position to provide DIA “coordination,” to make the discovery look more legit.

When the State Department’s intelligence analysts learned of this subterfuge, they “went ballistic,” according to their Director, Carl Ford. It fell to Ford to tell Powell there was a serious problem that the President had been misinformed and that no bio weapons lab had been found.

When Tenet learned that Ford would not be part of the team that he would not become one of the links in the chain the CIA director called Ford on the carpet, literally, the following day. No shrinking violet, Ford held his ground at CIA headquarters, telling Tenet and McLaughlin, “That report is one of the worst intelligence assessments I’ve ever read.”

This vignette, and several like it, are found in Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, who say Ford was still angry over the fraudulent paper years later. Indeed, Ford told the book’s authors that Tenet and McLaughlin had taken a personal hand in this abortive attempt to salvage some credibility for the notorious Curveball.

Ford told the authors: “It was clear that they [Tenet and McLaughlin] had been personally involved in the preparation of the report. … It wasn’t just that it was wrong. They lied. … they should have been shot.”

Too bad the outspoken Carl Ford made the incorrect assumption that he could rely on his credibility and entrée with Secretary Powell to thwart the likes of Tenet and McLaughlin, as they peddled their meretricious wares at CIA headquarters.

Col. Wilkerson, whom Powell had put in charge of overseeing the UN speech, rued the fact that he did not insist that Ford take part on his team. “I wanted Carl or even more so, one of his deputies whom I knew well and trusted completely, Tom Fingar, to be on my team.”

Key Intelligence Kept From Powell?

Some honest intelligence analysts surely would have been important if the goal was to make a truthful presentation to the United Nations. But it’s clear from a historical perspective that honesty was not foremost on the Bush administration’s agenda; it was trying to extract a Security Council resolution giving legal cover to the invasion.

For instance, we now know that, with the help of Allied intelligence services, the CIA had recruited Naji Sabri, Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, and Tahir Jalil Habbush, the chief of Iraqi intelligence. They were cajoled into remaining in place while giving the United States critical intelligence well before the war and before Powell’s speech laying the groundwork for the war.

In other words, at a time when Saddam Hussein believed that Sabri and Habbush were working for him, they had been “turned” into U.S. agents, providing information that was evaluated and verified. The trouble was they weren’t saying what Bush and his neocon advisers wanted to hear. The pair independently affirmed that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So, what to do? Former CIA officials have said that this information on the absence of WMD was then concealed from Congress as well as from senior U.S. military officers and from intelligence analysts, including those working on the infamous Iraq-WMD National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1, 2002. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, Naji Sabri’s U.S. counterpart, was kept in the dark.

As Col. Wilkerson noted, Vice President Cheney was the real person in charge of foreign policy, intelligence and Iraq War. Knowledgeable officials at State, CIA and elsewhere were forced to look on as what we used to call “straphangers,” when they were allowed in the room at all.

I vividly recall Wilkerson fielding a question from Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, at a congressional hearing on June 25, 2006.

Jones:  “My point is as a congressman who trusted what I was being told. … And I wish I’d the wisdom then that I might have now. I would have known what to ask. …  So where along the way how did these people so early on get so much power that they had more influence … in the administration to make decisions than you the professionals?”

Wilkerson: “I’d answer you with two words. Let me put the article in there and make it three. The Vice President.”

So, even if Powell suspected he was being lied to by Tenet and McLaughlin, he would have been unlikely to call them out on it with the Vice President and his bloated staff standing foursquare behind the whole charade.

The UN speech was hardly Powell’s first display of abject acquiescence. The Bush administration documents on the crafting of imprisonment and torture policy show Powell, though a military man knowing the risks to American soldiers from the U.S. government casting aside legal conventions against torture, unwilling to stand up for what he knew was right, i.e. not to torture or play word games about torture.

A year before his UN speech, rather than confront President Bush personally on White House pressure for legal wiggle-room for torture, Powell asked State Department lawyers to engage White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Cheney’s legal adviser David Addington in what Powell knew would be a quixotic effort, absent his personal involvement.

Powell’s lawyers put in writing his concern that making an end-run around the Geneva protections for prisoners of war “could undermine U.S. military culture which emphasizes maintaining the highest standards of conduct in combat, and could introduce an element of uncertainty in the status of adversaries.”

But when Gonzales and Addington simply declared parts of the Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “obsolete,” Powell caved, acquiescing in the corruption of the Army to which he owed so much. We know the next chapters of that story. They are entitled CIA “black sites,” Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Powell was right in his position on torture but timid about risking his political status. He knew that Cheney would badmouth him to the President. Once again, Powell put his career before his principles and before what ultimately would be in the best interests of the United States of America.

Briefing the Bosses

I personally know Colin Powell and consider him more a tragic than a venal figure. When he wore only two stars, as military assistant to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (1983-1986), I would brief Powell, as a courtesy, on my way in to what had to be a one-on-one briefing of his boss with the CIA’s President’s Daily Brief and other highly sensitive substantive material.

Not surprisingly, Powell was interested in learning what I was about to tell his boss. So, I would usually make it a point to arrive at the Pentagon five or ten minutes early in order to fill him in to the extent I could.

From that experience, as well as from briefings of Weinberger on his occasional visits to the West Coast, I came to consider Powell a very clever, reasonably smart, highly ambitious, and when he thought it was necessary highly obsequious functionary.

Suffice it to say that, despite his two stars (to my none), he was almost always polite, and extremely careful to abide by the rigid guidelines regarding one-on-one delivery of the PDB, for example. Only once did he try, unsuccessfully, to wrest the PDB from my hands so that he, not I, could take it into Weinberger’s hotel room.

I interpreted Powell’s subsequent deferential demeanor toward me as a sign of his acute awareness that my boss at the time, CIA Director William Casey, had the ear of President Ronald Reagan much more often than his boss, Weinberger.

I thought of this as I watched Powell’s obvious attempts two decades later to become a full-fledged member in good standing of the George W. Bush team. Powell knew only too well that “slam dunk” Tenet, with Cheney’s encouragement, was a high scorer. Clearly, Powell knew that Tenet and Cheney were working hand-in-glove on conjuring up “intelligence” to justify the attack on Iraq.

Colin Powell was hardly the only senior official thoroughly intimidated by the Vice President and his minions. Even so, could Powell have brought himself to believe that Tenet and McLaughlin would lie to his face in portraying Curveball’s fairy tale as authentic and corroborated? I think that would have been difficult for Powell.

One of Rumsfeld’s dicta (reflected in the Teflon he still wears) was: “Some people think they can lie and get away with it.” This observation raises another key question: How did Cheney, Tenet and their co-conspirators think they could get away with it, when no WMD, much less Iraqi ties with al-Qaeda, were found?

They should be asked this under oath in a formal inquiry into the Iraq War, a process that the United States has not undertaken even though its ally, the United Kingdom, at least asked some official questions (though little more) into how the disaster unfolded. Presumably, if such an inquiry were ever held in the United States, the participants the links in the chain would simply point to the interlocking others on either side.

The thinking of Team Bush apparently assumed that after the successful removal of “ruthless dictator” Saddam Hussein, the thankful Iraqis would accept an indefinite U.S. occupation, grant permanent military bases along with access to Iraqi oil, and embrace Israel. Amid such “success,” who would be petty enough to criticize the heroic “war president” and his brilliant neocon advisers over the little detail about the absence of WMD?

If the Iraq War had played out that way, Colin Powell also could have basked in the glow of victory. Who would have talked about a “blot” on his record?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. An Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early 60s, he then served as a CIA analyst under nine CIA directors, from the administrations of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

39 comments for “Colin Powell: Conned or Con-Man?

  1. Matt Palmer
    February 8, 2013 at 15:50

    Recall, also that the Bullshit/Chicanery administration covered Picasso’s “Guernica” that hung on the wall outside the United Nations theatre where Powell put on his big show?

  2. Matt Palmer
    February 8, 2013 at 15:43

    “Colin Powell ‘is an Uncle Tom’. So too, Condo Rice”. (That is quoting, paraphrasing, Harry Belafonte)

  3. BillB
    February 6, 2013 at 00:02

    “Now he has the nerve to resurface and reinvent himself as a statesman.”

    And he has many accomplices in the media giving him loads of help.

  4. Emilio
    February 5, 2013 at 17:32

    Any sentient being who lived through the Bush thuggery presidency knew fully well that Powell stood barefaced to the world and lied his ass off. He performed his role in the debacle admirably, from the viewpoint of the regime, but history will remember his totally disgusting show. Now he has the nerve to resurface and reinvent himself as a statesman. Nothing this man can ever do will rehabilitate him as a human being.

    • cá»™ng đồng
      February 5, 2013 at 22:26

      ” Now he has the nerve to resurface and reinvent himself as a statesman. Nothing this man can ever do will rehabilitate him as a human being.” But the very same can be said about William Jefferson Clinton on whose watch and at whose insistence hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children died as a result of keeping on the sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But Bubba does seem to have managed to re-invent himself (at least in the eyes of “liberal” worshippers) as a “statesman”, without mentioning also the fate of Aristide in Haiti and the majority of the Haitian people. Whether Democrats or Republicans, these criminals share the same hegemonic mind-set…and now we have the most glorious of them all, Barack Obama…who, no doubt, looks upon Mr. Powell (and definitely Mr. Clinton) as a model to emulate… At least we knew from the start that George W. Bush was a fool and mere puppet…who actually needed 5 Supremes to get him elected…

  5. Old Guy
    February 5, 2013 at 16:26

    When they said the Iraqis were hiding SCUDS in caves did anyone ask if there are caves in Iraq? Try parking your car in a cave for 12 years and see if it runs. Would those SCUDS have worked even if they could find anyone who remembered to fire them? How dumb are the media and the American people?

    Enriching uranium requires a lot of electric power to turn the centrifuges. Did nobody notice that Iraq couldn’t even keep the lights on when Rumsfeld assured us that they were enriching uranium?

    Inspectors had full access and were finding nothing when they had to be recalled so the bombing could proceed.

    Perhaps we were too eager for a second season of Desert Storm so we could see more A-rabs and their children blown to bits on live TV. It was good for ratings.

  6. Old Guy
    February 5, 2013 at 16:19

    When they said the Iraqis were hiding SCUDS in caves did anyone ask if there are caves in Iraq? Try parking your car in a cave for 12 years and see if it runs. Would those SCUDS have worked even if they could find anyone who remembered to fire them? How dumb are the media and the American people?

    Enriching uranium requires a lot of electric power to turn the centrifuges. Did nobody notice that Iraq couldn’t even keep the lights on when Rumsfeld assured us that they were enriching uranium?

    Perhaps we were too eager for a second season of Desert Storm so we could see more A-rabs and their children blown to bits on live TV.

  7. bobzz
    February 5, 2013 at 03:47

    “Wilkerson said he now understands that it was Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who later claimed he gave the CIA false information in the face of actual and threatened torture.” This gets my attention: an al-Qaeda operative operative giving information. Was this a part of al-qaeda strategy, feeding the Bush-Cheney desire to divert attention from the war in Afghanistan? I don’t know, but it would make sense. Al-Qaeda was most happy when the US went into Iraq because it took pressure off them in Afghanistan. OR, if Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi saved his own bacon due to the threat of torture, what does it say about the role of torture in extracting good information?

    • gregorylkruse
      February 5, 2013 at 15:02

      Maybe torture is effective. We may never know.

      • bobzz
        February 6, 2013 at 17:25

        what we know is that Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi recanted his story a week later.

  8. barry eisenberg
    February 5, 2013 at 02:43

    con man

  9. barry eisenberg
    February 5, 2013 at 02:43

    Con man.

  10. barry eisenberg
    February 5, 2013 at 02:42


  11. john hawk
    February 4, 2013 at 22:50

    ..does anybody out there remember how to spell ‘traitors’..?

  12. F. G. Sanford
    February 4, 2013 at 21:51

    There is a persistent and universally employed subversion used to exculpate perpetrators from the suspicion of collusion, and thereby discredit those who would propose OBVIOUS explanations based on means and motive. Whereas the normal person concedes that argument, explanation and evidence produce rational conclusions, we are nevertheless swayed in this recent atmosphere of media manipulation by ARGUEMENT ALONE. The persistent false argument is this: “So many people couldn’t keep such a secret for so long without someone admitting the truth”. But serious historians routinely prove this is a totally false assumption. Collective guilt, fear of prosecution and the verdict of posterity are powerful and effective incentives to stick to a story. The future verdict may be uncertain, but the condemnation of history is eternal.

    Historian Heike Gortemaker, in her analysis of the life of Eva Braun, meticulously explores times, dates, places and interconnections based on travel arrangements, guest lists, social registers, marital and family interconnections, presence or absence in photographs of known and dated gatherings, hotel reservations, official and holiday gatherings, train schedules, financial transactions, bank transfers, receipts, dated press releases, diplomatic records, court documents, and a sea of other material which amounts to irrefutable physical evidence. Conversations denied with claims of, “I wasn’t there”, reveal lie after lie when family photo albums clearly show both parties in the picture. “I had no idea”, when the parties are related by marriage falls flat on its face. “We never discussed politics” when bank records indicate regular political contributions is a hollow excuse. But all of these ploys were consistently and successfully floated by major war criminals during the denazification trials that followed Nuremberg. They stuck to the same story all the way to the end, even when fear of prosecution no longer loomed large. Heinrich Hoffman, who passed himself off as merely a political photographer, traveled to the front, but denied knowledge of political crimes. Pictures in his personal collection of mass-murder victims hardly support his protests of ignorance. He made millions through his connections to the regime, but walked away nearly scot-free.

    Most of the “inner circle” got away with mass-murder. At the least, they were co-conspirators or accessories after the fact. Careful analysis of who, what, when, where and how irrefutably proves one thing: THEY ALL KNEW. Not only that, but they all approved. The most innocent of the lot, by virtue of being safely locked away in Great Britain, not to mention the fact that he was certifiably nutty as a pecan pie, was Rudolf Hess. He spent life in prison. The guiltiest, by virtue of enabling the war economy, was Albert Speer. He only got twenty years. Sticking successfully to the “I had nothing to do with politics, I was just a technocrat” story carried him clear to the grave.

    In plain English, the discussion here also portrays mass-murder, albeit a little left of the hump in the bell curve established during WWII. Just as was true of Albert Speer, Karl Brandt, Friedrich Braun, Heinrich Hoffman and the prominent intellectual, financial and industrial families privy to the “inner circle”, they all knew. And, they all approved. But they’ll all repeat the same story. They’ll “deny, deny, deny” all the way to the end…even if it’s just for the sake of posterity. Sadly, critical thinking seems to whither in the same breeze.

    • Hillary
      February 5, 2013 at 07:59

      “the discussion here also portrays mass-murder, albeit a little left of the hump in the bell curve established during WWII.”

      Not forgetting two million plus German civilians who died 1945 -47 in their forced removal from eastern Europe – ordered by Churchill.
      Or other death camps.
      WWII 60 Million dead ? Only the bankers gain from war.

  13. Hillary
    February 4, 2013 at 21:13

    “Powell never bucked the system. Indeed, that’s the secret to understanding how Powell ascended to become a four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.”

    Ray McGovern is exactly right —
    Having studied Colin Powell’s personal history one has to agree that he “went along to get along” in the extreme. His dictum of using overwhelming force on the enemy is well known but not so well known is his complete disinterest in appalling “enemy” causalities that resulted.
    The CIA´s Susan Lindauer in her book states that Powell totally knew that his WMD story was false and just looking at the video of Powell’s UN presentation with Tennant and Negroponte sitting very uncomfortably behind him must surely be one of the most embarrassing and shameful episodes in US History.
    Powell’s performance was excellent in showing his ridiculous diagrams which had been previously exposed as nonsense by German and other intelligence sources.
    The MSM and neocons like Rham Emanuel of course maintained “everyone had the same intelligence , everyone was deceived and therefore no one should be singled out for blame or punishment”.

    • BillB
      February 5, 2013 at 13:18

      “The MSM and neocons like Rham Emanuel of course maintained “everyone had the same intelligence , everyone was deceived and therefore no one should be singled out for blame or punishment”.”

      Of course, they didn’t listen to people such as Robert Fisk with years of experience in the Middle East who ripped Powell’s presentation apart very quickly after Powell finished selling his soul – yet again.

    • BillB
      February 5, 2013 at 16:35

      “Powell never bucked the system. Indeed, that’s the secret to understanding how Powell ascended to become a four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.”

      The same thing can be said for many, probably most, of the generals, admirals, high-ranking civilian officials and big names in, as Ray would say, the fawning corporate media. Among the high-ranking civilians we might properly include Powell’s son Michael, an apparent chip off the old block, who helped consolidate the media when he was chairman of the FCC under Bill Clinton, another slick operator.

      But Powell and others like him are only part of the problem. That we have a populace that had so much faith in Powell and others with similar ethics is really scary and perhaps a greater cause for concern.

  14. A. Pseudonym
    February 4, 2013 at 20:53


    • James Edwards
      February 5, 2013 at 09:22

      A comment befitting a puerile Pseud

  15. Otto Schiff
    February 4, 2013 at 20:35

    War mongering has become a bad habit of US presidents And vice
    presidents and generals.
    We have a proliferation of military cemeteries to show for that.
    We the people are getting what we are voting for.

  16. Morton Kurzweil
    February 4, 2013 at 19:31

    Anyone watching the act on television at the UN by Powell that it was a magic show with mirrors and misdirection.
    Ariel pictures of WMDs, trucks with ‘poison gas cylinders’ under wraps, and all the verbiage added up to nothing.
    Powell may or may not have known what he was doing, but he had a personal agenda that took precedence over his duty to this country.

  17. Bill Slavick
    February 4, 2013 at 18:49

    Ray might well have added to the record of Powell exceptional gullibility or complicity in deceit his lies, joined with the infamous Roger Noreiga’s (and before them Jesse Helms and the CIA) regarding President Aristide in justifying the US coup that removed him in 2004 and then lying that Aristide chose to be taken to the Central African Republic in exile! The US mass media continue complicit in the tarring of the beloved, twice overwhelmingly elected President whose two CIA operative (Cedras and the Fraph fellow) and then direct removal launched bloodbaths that led to thousands of democrats’ deaths and, such methods twice failing repeatedly to persuade the Haitian people to elect a US pawn, maneuvered to ban the two largest parties from the last presidential election and game the runoff so that two Duvalierists opposed one another. Today’s news bemoan Martely’s failure to win the peoples’ confidence as a major obstacle to progress there!!!

  18. cộng đồng
    February 4, 2013 at 18:17

    Being a Vietnam war veteran – as was Powell – I’ll admit that I have little experience of high level dealings in government, but it has always seemed to me that someone such as Powell who had spent so much time in high policy circles and knew so many people in the Pentagon and CIA on a relatively intimate basis could have just picked up a phone and called someone he knew and trusted in the CIA or Pentagon and gotten an honest appraisal of what the actual situation was. I can only conclude that his “going along to get along” make-up stopped him from doing just what I surmise he could have done — he was probably afraid of what he would really find out, and then be in a real quandary. But given the history of non-prosecution (or even indictment) of high level officials in the USA for international war crimes (that are otherwise manifest to all knowledgeable people, everywhere), he most likely figured the courts would never catch up with him, and even if they did, would probably only give him a slap on the wrist. After all, to many higher officials and many other Americans, what the hell are a few hundred thousand “rag-heads” ? (case in point: Madeilene Albright’s statement about 500,000 Iraqi children’s deaths as a result of Clinton’s continuation of sanctions against Iraq as being – I paraphrase – “difficult but worth it.”)

  19. Doug Vaughn
    February 4, 2013 at 17:10

    From the very beginning the controversy about whether or not Iraq posssessed WMD obscured the more fundamental issue of what difference it made one way or another. Iraq had never shown any belligerent intent to use such weapons against us – even had they in fact existed. Nor did Iraq have any way to do so. The whole controversy was pointless and absurd. The real issue is on what basis one commits one’s country to war and to what ends? These are questions neither the media nor our selected leaders bothered with. Instead they used unjustified fear tactics to scare the public into going along with a major crime. We hanged Nazis after WWII for the crime of starting an agressive war. How soon we forget.

  20. Suzanne Benning
    February 4, 2013 at 17:01

    I watched Colin Powell’s speech at the U.N. that day and had a very strong feeling that he was very uncomfortable about what he was saying. I thought that others would also notice and was surprised to read the NYT opinion about his “convincing” revelations. My woman’s intuition was correct but I have always wondered why no one challenged him at the time or commented on his dubvious demeaner.

    • gregorylkruse
      February 5, 2013 at 14:51

      I think you might have invented a new word. I like it.

    • deke4
      February 6, 2013 at 09:11

      I knew Powell’s UN speech was pure fabrication just as soon as he mentioned mobile wmd labs. What man let alone scientists familiar with the disaster vials of wmd could cause would agree to work in a van where hitting a pothole, or hitting another vehicle and cause spillage of such dangerous poisons?

  21. BillB
    February 4, 2013 at 16:59

    If I recall correctly, State Department intelligence staff indicated in a “60 Minutes” presentation that they knew Powell was talking hogwash at the UN. See Some time later, Dick Durbin (D-IL) revealed on C-Span that the senate intelligence committee was given intelligence that was the opposite of what the Bush-Cheney-Rice-et al gang were putting out for public consumption. Durbin kept that private because of proscriptions against revealing what he was told in those committee meetings, so he, as apparently others did, passed on a chance to be a profile in courage when one was desperately needed.

    • kbroo
      February 4, 2013 at 21:03

      a few years back, laura flanders on wbai in nyc interviewed the head of powell’s state dept. intelligence team ( i forget his name) who made quite clear that they had found–and presented to powell– that there was no evidence for the assertions powell was later to make in his u.n speech. as far as i’m concerned, powell knew that what he was presenting were fabrications. he needs to be put in the docket with bush, cheney, and rumsfeld.
      btw, unfortunately, link to cbs piece referred to above couldn’t be found.

      • BillB
        February 5, 2013 at 13:10

        Try this link: (.html missing above). The intelligence staff member in that interview might have been Greg Thielmann.

        • kbroo
          February 6, 2013 at 00:37

          yes, thielmann. great interview i
          f you can find it on flanders’ wbai program.

      • gus smith
        February 7, 2013 at 13:09

        I’m trying to recall the man’s name. He loudly proclaimed the poor intelligence, misuses of info, et. al. but was dismissed from relevance, and his position as advisor.

      • Matt Palmer
        February 8, 2013 at 15:27

        Quite agreed. There were no honest mistakes from these miscreants because they were never honest.

  22. Jym Allyn
    February 4, 2013 at 16:10


    Thank you for your articulate, intelligent summation of Powell’s fealty and the explanation as to why President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and Visor Donald Rumsfeld were conspicuously absent at the 2008 and 2012 Republican Conventions.

    It should be obvious to everyone except the unwashed FucHeads that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld should be tried as war criminals, not only for their lies, but also for the unnecessary deaths of ~4500 American soldiers.

    Perhaps time and the truth will punish them for their sins.

    • John
      February 5, 2013 at 21:51

      What about the destruction of Iraq and the slaughter of its people?

  23. John Opperman
    February 4, 2013 at 16:09

    Powell may have been ‘conned’, but his history is one of eagerly lapping it up, as evidenced by his denial and coverup efforts of Mi LI and simular.
    Despite the need of an icon of his stature and race, regrettably he was just another notable person and military officer ‘on the take’ .

    • hammersmith
      February 5, 2013 at 10:13

      Powell always was and is an ambitious man. To deny his culpability is to question his intelligence.

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