In August 2018, in the course of researching a book on the lead-up to the Iraq war, I went to see Powell at the office in Alexandria, Va., that he has maintained since leaving the Bush administration in early 2005. Powell, who is now 83, is as proud and blunt-speaking as he was during his career in public service. Over the course of our two hourlong conversations, he made clear that he was all too aware of the lonely turf he was destined to occupy in history.
It was not the turf that anyone, least of all Powell himself, would have imagined for him in 2001. He entered the Bush administration as a four-star general of immense popularity and political influence. He left it four years later, discarded by Bush in favor of a more like-minded chief diplomat, Condoleezza Rice. He mournfully predicted to others that his obituary’s first paragraph would include his authorship of the U.N. speech.
Some readers may be curious why Consortium News on Saturday devoted space to three lengthy articles analyzing a single New York Times piece about events that happened 17 years ago.
It is simply because we are still living today with the serious consequences of those events, namely:
- Terrorism and continued instability in the Middle East
- Continued, even worsened, political manipulation and corruption of intelligence.
- Continued, and even worsened, manipulation and corruption of the news media.
Iraq is still an unstable country. Extremist groups such as the Islamic State arose because of Iraq’s instability. The invasion of Iraq is now universally seen in the U.S. as the nations’ worst foreign policy blunder perhaps in history. To prevent another such crime of aggression, this needs to be repeatedly stated.
As Ray McGovern pointed out in his piece, the politicization of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion manifested itself again in the Russiagate affair, when DNI James Clapper refused to conduct an NIE on the allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.
An obvious piece of opposition research (both sides engage in it) was taken as the basis of an FBI investigation into a presidential campaign, which was then amplified ad infinitum by a corrupted news media, that learned nothing from its admitted errors and distortions in the Iraq story.
Both in Iraq and in Russiagate, ambitious journalists were not skeptical about what anonymous intelligence and other official sources told them, either being used or actively participating in the deception.
What we have witnessed is the normalization of the politicization and corruption of both the intelligence and media professions. This is why we brought three writers with direct personal experience to help make the story of Colin Powell and Iraq relevant to today.