Just as the denouement of the Plame case was dominating the news earlier this month, another former diplomat revealed that he had felt his own grave doubts about Iraq around the time of Wilson's trip to Niger. This much more celebrated Washington veteran, though, kept his qualms off the record. Thus it was newsworthy when Colin Powell revealed at the Aspen Ideas Festival that he'd counseled President Bush against the conflict. "I tried to avoid this war," Powell said. "I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers."It goes without saying that you should read the whole thing, although I would hope that when this story goes to film, they can come up with a better star than Jennifer Lopez.
Had he not hewed to the behavioral standards of the Washington elite, Powell might have called attention to his dissent back when it counted. He might have resigned in a high-profile huff, taken to the airwaves to play up war's dangers, written a self-aggrandizing tome that made him look like the government's last honest man. He could have optioned a feature film in which the upstanding ex-General faces down the Cheney cabal. Perhaps he'd have been photographed chatting up J-Lo about the script, or been quoted calling Rumsfeld a "scumbag." The sideshow might have penetrated the consciousness of a general public that was even then lining up for Freedom Fries and making death threats to the Dixie Chicks.
But he didn't--and the results, in spilled blood and wasted treasure, diminished national reputation and paralyzed national politics, are still with us. Alas, even Powell's reputation hasn't been saved by his choice. He's one of the few people in the world who might have stopped the Iraq train wreck; instead, he's just an ex-secretary of State who confers decorously with fellow has-beens in Aspen. There's a reason a nobody like Joe Wilson is the one pitching his story to Hollywood: The blowhard, it turns out, is the one who mattered.
July 19, 2007
The Constant Gardener: An excellent New Republic article, on why a blowhard like Joseph Wilson serves his country better than a mere diplomat, such as Colin Powell: