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Dante said the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis preserved their neutrality. That's why I see this homage about Powell from another one of his chief apologists as the most disturbing element of all.

Many still want to think that Colin Powell was a decent man, a fine leader and a capable administrator. The middle-distance historian nods wisely to say that Powell was the reins on the out-of-control chariot, who saved us from even worse disaster.

Bull. I don't buy it. Instead I think the decent, capable leader fostered the worst crime of all, serving as the grease on which we slid off the tracks of the earth And why? The seduction of being the insider. The survival instinct of a man clinging to a slippery slope. The hubris of believing that no system is so corrupt that your purity can't outlast it. A medieval theologian would call it what it was: the deadly sin of pride. Powell would have been better with a dollop of Thomas More's humility, understanding that the highest art of serving your country can mean letting your king kill you instead of sacrificing your most sacred principles.

Powell was, for my money, a most dangerous element in the early Bush kleptocracy. He was the calming presence who muffled outrage, the moderate voice who silenced critics, the symbol whose blackness was held up to mask dripping white fangs. When we needed our rage, our criticism, our bright lights of journalism and fair play, Powell was there to bury them all alive.

He compounded his mealy-mouthed role by failing to quit at an early time when it could have made a difference. In fact, the principled resignation seems to be a lost art in politics. What greedy, fearful piggies we are, clinging to phantom powers and hiding in our own moral shadows. At one time American power and splendor was defined by our dreams and unified principles. We wanted to save the world, and we had an idea how to do it. Now we find glory only in grotesque excesses. We've taken the world's huddled masses and spit them back out as shock and awe.

Our best ideas about the right way to live are long since stolen, and our chief desire, as we reach the saturation point of pure materialism, is to save ourselves. We are a sad, haunted and uninspiring people. Our compromised rectitude has withered us into a claustrophobic nightmare, Mrs. Haversham in her attic. We seem eager only to suck the life out of more vital, youthful countries.

And when the histories are written by those young successors in decades to come, they won't be written in American English. But in any language Powell's role and reputation in this administration of mass destruction will sink deeper. As long as I live I will not forget the lie-the desperate, defeated lie-in his eyes as he made a miserable and now-long-discredited case for war in front of the credulous U.N. Security Council. He knew exactly what he was doing, but he had persuaded himself that keeping his chair was worth losing his soul. He was and is a victim only of his own self-delusion.

Burn, buddy, burn.

Originally posted to newsing on Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 08:32 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So terribly true (4.00)
    Most couldn't believe that they couldn't believe him.

    Such betrayal...such insidious betrayal.

    If you voted yes on the war in Iraq, I will vote no on you.

    by trinityfly on Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 08:36:15 AM PDT

  •  Not just a betrayal of the country at large ... (4.00)
    but a more personal betrayal of the soldiers he says he cares so much for. It wasn't my life he was putting on the line, but the lives of the men and women of the armed forces ... and he knew it. Just to kiss the kazoo of some petulant frat boy.

    vulgus vult decipi -- Phaedrus

    by fritzrth on Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 08:41:39 AM PDT

  •  I would only add... (none)
    ...that the Security Council was incredulous, not credulous.

    Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on. --Winston Churchill

    by rmwarnick on Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 08:41:55 AM PDT

  •  When the Iraq War lie (4.00)
    is fully revealed, Powell's role must not be ignored.
  •  What homage are you referencing? (none)
    Did you forget a link or am I in need of a return to bed?
  •  No betrayal (none)
    It was no betrayal.  Powell has always been a "true believer" in the neocon agenda, as Rise of the Vulcans made clear.  The only reason he pushed back on the weaker elements of intelligence is that he was the public face of it - always the hardest place to be.  

    I'm not sure how hard he pushed back on Iraq.  Its true he probably thinks that Cheney is a whacko, but thats only by degree.  They are cut of the same cloth.

  •  Colin always was a pig.. (4.00)
    Someone who would cover up the Milai (sp.?) massacre  does not have a lot in the ethics department. Where would we be if, when this propaganda started, he resigned, held a press conference and said this was all lies. Allegiance to the administration, Colin? How about allegiance to the men and women who would die or be maimed physically or psychologically forever? And we're talking in the tens of thousands here.

    The Powell-is-a-decent-guy myth has now been debunked.

    Next stop: the McCain-is-a-nice-moderate-Republican myth.

  •  In many ways, Powell is the WORST of them (4.00)
    A blindly loyal person who stands by and does nothing in the face of great evil and corruption is more disgusting to me than the people actually doing the dirty work.

    Fuck Colin Powell for his silence and refusal to stand up and be a man.  He is letting America down.

    Fairness is a liberal value

    by diplomatic on Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 09:00:05 AM PDT

  •  I can just picture Powell's memoirs (none)
    long after Bush is out of office, where he's going to apologize for what was done, he was just following orders, etc.  

    I know its coming..

    I won't be reading...

    He knew what he was doing.  He also knew that he lent a lot of credibility to the Iraq effort, and a lot of people went on his recommendation.  Had he said no, I'm not signing off on this, and you can replace me (heck he stepped down two years later anyway) then we would not have been in this mess.

  •  I agree... (none)
    ...that Powell is morally as low as they come. This is the man who could, if he had any scruples or sense of decency, blow the whistle on the whole Iraq pack-of-lies. But he remains silent, either from fear of reprisals or: he has been well paid-off.

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