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Monday, October 18, 2004

Colin Powell: An Alternate Legacy

Colin Powell, the current Secretary of State of the US is the highest ranking African American in the history of our country. His appointment and tenure should be a cause for celebration in our still incomplete journey as a nation, and as a world, towards racial equality. Yet, during his time in office, he has become a man forced to degrade and humiliate himself. We have witnessed Mr Powell's compromise of his own beliefs and integrity, as he was forced not only to silence himself with respect to what he knew was the truth about Iraq, but to repeat and fortify clear falsehoods. The cost to him personally was made all that more tragic, by taking place on the world stage before his peers. It is our only hope that this competent and accomplished man can be judged, when the history texts of the future are written, from a more philosophical point of view.

I could only feel sympathy for the man during the Fall of 2002 and the Spring of 2003, during the run up to war in Iraq as I watched his public statements change. This intelligent human being gradually altered his voice from sensible moderation and diplomacy about Iraq, to the fallacies of administration pre-war slogans.

How embarrassing it must have been for Mr. Powell to listen to the State of the Union address in January of 2003 while our President lied about Saddam's attempt to purchase yellow cake uranium from Niger. Mr Powell, and his colleagues across the globe knew by the Fall of 2002, that the uranium documents were forgeries. While the world community either laughed at the reference to Niger, or roared with disapproval, Mr Powell was forced to lessen his proud career and allow this gross misrepresentation to pass. His presence at the joint session that night was at best, a painful approval of fallacious rhetoric, and the deliberate presentation of forged intelligence data. ( ).

How mortified he must have been when he was subsequently forced to present the United Nations with the charade of American proof regarding Saddam's "imminent threat". Armed with no direct evidence, Mr Powell was forced to betray his life in the military and its attendant proclivity for hard documentation, facts, and "actionable intelligence". How his anxiety must have boiled, knowing that he would be appearing before this body, and for this purpose, without the benefit of even one unambiguous photograph, not a single hard drive, or an unequivocal transcript of a cell phone conversation to convince the world. I can only imagine that his personal shame continued, knowing full well with his colleagues across the globe, that the aluminum tubes for nuclear devices were pipe dreams. How deep the feeling must have been for him, to publicly rebuke Hans Blix, while each of them knew that he was deliberately misrepresenting the case. ( ).

My own sympathies for him deepened as he further made the American case by joining the chorus of Pennsylvania Avenue about the connection between Saddam and bin Laden. In this, he was armed with even less than the drawings he carried to the UN. How his discomfort must have ached, in making the case for an illusory nexus of evil, again in the face of overwhelming and contradictory evidence. ( ).

Colin Powell however was degraded further in the assertion an Iraq-al Qaeda link during that part of 2003, with the addition of a humiliating irony, known to many at the time. From November 2001, until its mysterious disappearance in October of 2004, the US State Department website and map did not even list Iraq as a country in which al Qaeda operated. For three solid years, beginning in the immediate aftermath of 09/11/01, the official website of his agency, contradicted his public statements about the alleged link with Saddam and bin Laden. ( ) How utterly absurd.

His personal journey of public compromise however continued, as he joined the leader of the free world and the National Security Adviser on the stump, invoking the specter of nuclear weapons on the road to war. ( ). Colin Powell's oppression under the famous and maniacal thumb of the Bush cartel's obsession, with its dark insistence on obedience over conscience was carried out publicly, in the full view of his counterparts across the globe. We can only begin to imagine what he must have felt before the eyes of his peers in the international community.

In the short term, it is true, that Colin Powell has spent his reputation as a mouth piece for an administration that is the most aggressive, and openly deceptive group of people who have ever occupied Washington, DC. One can only ask why, such a man of presumed integrity, who certainly knew in advance that he was being told to support outright fabrications, might have done these things. Let alone, why would he deliberately act in these ways, in front of his global colleagues and other's who knew that he knew. One can only hope that the history texts will find a kinder interpretation for Mr Powell, and a generosity to his legacy.

One possible future would be to examine his tenure as a mission of political necessities, where he purposely sacrificed himself in the present, in order to hold the office for its full term and accomplish not victories of diplomacy, but a victory of race. Perhaps his greatest conquest then will be to have furthered the journey to racial equality. Through his mere presence in the office, elevated by merit, diligence, intellect, and judgment, he has forever raised the bar in American politics not only for African Americans, but for all statesmen to come. By his perseverance and seflessness in these matters of shame, Colin Powell then has indeed triumphed nobly.


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