Powell Sheds Bush 43 And His Team
"Are Iran and Syria regimes that I look down upon? I certainly do. But at the same time, I've looked down on many people over the years, in the course of my military and diplomatic career, and I still had to talk to them."
--Colin Powell, yesterday
At a time when Harry Reid indicated bipartisan support for a 2-3 month increase in troops for Iraq, Colin Powell’s realignment with the Bush 41 folks and his rejection of the Bush 43 nutcase cabal is complete, if albeit way too late:
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the United States is losing what he described as a "civil war" in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.
"I agree with the assessment of Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton," Powell said, referring to the study group's leaders, former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former Indiana congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D). The situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating, and we're not winning, we are losing. We haven't lost. And this is the time, now, to start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this situation around."
The summer's surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad failed, he said, and any new attempt is unlikely to succeed. "If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question . . . is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish? . . . Is it something that is really accomplishable? . . . Do we have enough troops to accomplish it?"
Although he said he agrees with Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, that there should be an increase in U.S. advisers to the Iraqi military, he said that "sooner or later, you have to begin the baton pass, passing it off to the Iraqis for their security and to begin the drawdown of U.S. forces. I think that's got to happen sometime before the middle of next year."
And here comes the break with the Wise Man of the Apocalypse:
Before any decision to increase troops, he said, "I'd want to have a clear understanding of what it is they're going for, how long they're going for. And let's be clear about something else. . . . There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."
He added: "That's how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained." The "active Army is about broken," Powell said. Even beyond Iraq, the Army and Marines have to "grow in size, in my military judgment," he said, adding that Congress must provide significant additional funding to sustain them.
And now the smack down of Bush and Condi:
Powell also agreed with the study group's recommendation that the administration open talks with Syria and Iran as it seeks a solution to the Iraq problem. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have explicitly rejected talks until Syria ends its destabilizing influence in Lebanon and its support for anti-Israel militants, and until Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment program. The administration has charged both countries with aiding the Iraqi insurgency.
"Do they get marginal support from Iran and Syria? You bet they do," Powell said of the Iraq militants. "I have no illusions that either Syria or Iran want to help us in Iraq. I am also quite confident that what is happening in Iraq is self-generated for the most part. The money, the resources, the weapons are in Iraq already."
He added: "Are Iran and Syria regimes that I look down upon? I certainly do. But at the same time, I've looked down on many people over the years, in the course of my military and diplomatic career, and I still had to talk to them."
Don't underestimate the impact of these remarks inside the Pentagon.
With these remarks, Powell has left behind his days as Bush’s Secretary of State. He won’t escape responsibility for his role in enabling the debacle instead of fighting it directly, but he wants to set himself apart from Bush, Cheney, and Rice from this point on.