Speaking of how presidents and pundits keep spinning us into war, I just fond this from February: Norman Solomon had a debate with Lawrence Wilkerson on the tenth anniversary of Colin Powell’s infamous UN speech on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. I knew it would be good. Wilkerson is some kind of liberal hero now because he admits that he and Powell totally screwed up on that speech and more generally in the Bush White House. My position is different. I’m glad that both men admit that they were wrong, but that is hardly enough to turn them into heroes.
In the debate, Solomon is ruthless. And frankly, Wilkerson deserves it. Most of his apology really comes down to, “We were wrong, but who could have known?! No one knew!” Well, that’s not true. I, for one, knew. And then he claims that he didn’t know at the time that Bush and Cheney were hell bent on going to war. I don’t buy that for a second. A person would have to be clueless to not know what his superiors were doing. What’s more, in Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke makes clear that Powell knew what the administration was all about even on 9/11.
Of course, Wilkerson couldn’t justify the worst thing he and Powell did if he didn’t claim that they had no idea that Bush was determined to go to war. Right before the speech, CIA director George Tenet shows up with the smoking gun: a senior al-Qaeda member admitted that Iraq was training the group in the use of chemical weapons. Even under the best of circumstances, you’d have to say, “Really?!” Outside of a movie, any reasonable person would be skeptical. But not Wilkerson-Powell! They just slammed that bit of “evidence” into the speech and ran with it.
Solomon didn’t even talk about any of this. His main point was that lots of people thought the case for war was trumped up. And Wilkerson is either disingenuous or stupid. Regardless, he isn’t a person we should be celebrating.
The debate descended into a lot of them shouting at each other. But it is nice to see someone in the military called on his shit for once. And Wilkerson’s response was fairly weak. Basically, he claimed that no one on the inside could have known anything. At one point he complained that Solomon is in the wrong because his group never met with Powell’s staff. Solomon seemed taken aback by this. It doesn’t seem credible that Powell’s office would have met with Solomon’s group; they would have dismissed it as a knee-jerk anti-war group. Regardless, just look at all the good that was done by the groups they did listen to.