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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Person of Little Integrity

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Colin Powell’s latest self-serving book, “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership,” Colin Powell is filled with vivid experiences and lessons learned that have shaped the legendary public service career of the four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. At its heart are Powell's "Thirteen Rules"—notes he gathered over the years and that now form the basis of his leadership presentations given throughout the world. Powell's short but sweet rules—among them, "Get mad, then get over it" and "Share credit"—are illustrated by revealing personal stories that introduce and expand upon his principles for effective leadership: conviction, hard work, and, above all, respect for others. In work and in life, Powell writes, "it's about how we touch and are touched by the people we meet. It's all about the people."

Colin Powell, born April 5, 1937, is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States480px-Powell Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Most Americans did not know much about Powell until after the 1991 Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) when he skyrocketed into the public spotlight for his perceived leadership in defeating the forces of Sadam Hussein. The public believed, through a great media campaign, that Powell was the brains behind the quick defeat of the Iraqi Forces when it was actually General Norman Schwarzkopf who led the coalition forces into battle. This would have tantamount to laying all the credit for our defeat of the Nazis in WWII to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff rather than Dwight Eisenhower the leader of the allied coalition in Europe and chief planner of the D-Day invasion.

In the ensuing years Powell, a professed Republican, was often considered a presidential candidate, but he never took the bait. Instead he hired on with George W. Bush and became his chief foreign policy advisor during the 2000 presidential campaign and eventually Bush’s Secretary of State.

Dan Foomkin writes in the Huffington Post:

“In his new book, former Secretary of State Colin Powell provides what may be the most authoritative confirmation yet that there was never a considered debate in the George W. Bush White House about whether going to war in Iraq was really a good idea.

In a chapter discussing what he calls his “infamous” February 2003 speech to the United Nations where he authoritatively presented what was later exposed as gross misinformation about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Powell notes that by that time, war “was approaching.”

“By then, the President did not think war could be avoided,” Powell writes. “He had crossed the line in his own mind, even though the NSC [National Security Council] had never met -- and never would meet -- to discuss the decision.”

The National Security Council, which was at the time led by Condoleezza Rice, is the president’s foremost advisory body for national security and foreign policy.

The book, “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership,” which will be released May 22, is largely a series of leadership parables from Powell, who now spends a lot of time on the lecture circuit. The Huffington Post obtained an advance copy.

Bush insisted in his own 2010 memoir, "Decision Points," that the invasion was something he came to support only reluctantly and after a long period of reflection. During his book tour, he even cast himself as “a dissenting voice” in the run-up to war. “I didn't wanna use force,” he said.

But Powell supports the increasingly well-documented conclusion that there was actually no decision-making point -- or decision-making process -- during the events between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with those attacks.”


“In Powell’s explanation of how he came to provide the misleading and inaccurate account of Iraq’s WMD capability at the UN, the former secretary of state points an incriminating finger at Vice President Dick Cheney’s office -- confirming previous reports such as the one by Karen DeYoung, in her Powell biography.

In the new book, Powell describes his reaction to the initial “WMD case” from the White House. “It was a disaster. It was incoherent,” he writes. “I learned later that Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, had authored the unusable presentation, not the NSC staff. And several years after that, I learned from Dr. Rice that the idea of using Libby had come from the Vice President, who had persuaded the President to have Libby, a lawyer, write the ‘case’ as a lawyer's brief and not as an intelligence assessment.”

Powell gives himself credit for rejecting continued appeals from Cheney to add “assertions that had been rejected months earlier to links between Iraq and 9/11 and other terrorist acts.”

All in all, Powell acknowledges that the speech was “one of my most momentous failures, the one with the widest-ranging impact.” But he also concludes that “every senior U.S. official would have made the exact same case,”

He adds: “I get mad when bloggers accuse me of lying -- of knowing the information was false. I didn’t.”

I can recall of no incident where a former Secretary of State or Chief of the Army, since General George McClellan ran for the presidency as the candidate of the Democrat Party after being fired by Lincoln for his mishandling of the Union forces in the Civil War.

McClellan was nominated by the Democrats to run against Abraham Lincoln inGeorge_B_McClellan_-_retouched the 1864 U.S. presidential election. Following the example of Winfield Scott, he ran as a U.S. Army general still on active duty; he did not resign his commission until Election Day, November 8, 1864. He supported continuation of the war and restoration of the Union (though not the abolition of slavery), but the party platform, written by Copperhead Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, was opposed to this position. The platform called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy. McClellan was forced to repudiate the platform, which made his campaign inconsistent and difficult. He also was not helped by the party's choice for vice president, George H. Pendleton, a peace candidate from Ohio.

Powell, like McClellan, is a political animal more concerned with his reputation and place at the Washington political table than in is integrity. In a recent interview on the Sean Hannity FOX News Powell clamored for the lack of compromise with our political system. He focused most of his disparaging remarks against conservatives and Tea Party members. He also went on to claim our Founders were great compromisers. This is nonsense. You do not compromise on principles. Powel would still be a slave if Lincoln had compromised on the issue of slavery. We would still be a colony of Great Britain if our Founders had compromised on the Declaration of Independence.

Powell hasn't signaled yet whom he plans to endorse in this election cycle. He broke with his party to support President Barack Obama in 2008, but he stayed mum when asked this week if he planned to do the same this time around. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama "appreciated" Powell's endorsement in 2008 and gave reasons why he should back Obama again.

Powell noted last Wednesday that Romney has been "catching a lot of heck" from mainstream figures in the Republican foreign affairs community who he said "were kind of taken aback" by Romney's Russia claims.

"Look at the world. There is no pure competitor of the United States of America," he said. "All the problems we talk about in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran — they count about 700 million people in a world of seven billion. What are the rest of them doing? They're increasing their economies, they're building wealth, they're educating their kids, and they’re building their infrastructure. That's what we need to be doing."

What Powell does not talk about is his lack of integrity when it comes to getting back a people he did not agree with. There are few spectacles more sad than to see a man burn down his own integrity. Watching someone who has lived their life according to a certain ethos, in this case I will be referring to “Duty. Honor. Country.”, and callously cast that lodestar aside for no discernible reason other than to settle a score shames those who witness the act nearly as much as it shames the perpetrator.

Some very few times we are given the opportunity to appropriately redress a wrong. I say appropriately because a wrong needs to be righted in the same manner in which it was inflicted. A private apology never atones for a public insult. When that opportunity presents itself and is declined one is left with no other possible conclusion than one is dealing with a person devoid of honor and integrity.

Last August retired general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell was presented with the golden opportunity to right a grave injustice he inflicted upon colleagues, upon the man to whom he owed his loyalty, and upon his nation. He not only declined to do so, he dismissed the notion that he had anything to do with the wrong.

Of course I’m referring to the infamous Valerie Plame Affair wherein a CIA employee operating in deep cover at CIA headquarters in Langley had her cover accidentally “blown” by the late Robert Novak after her blowhard husband wrote an op-ed about what he may or may not have learned while “drinking sweet mint tea” with various kleptocrats in Niger. We all know the story on that. The source was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff (I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby) was eventually and shamefully convicted of having different recollections of a conversation than did Tim Russert.

The Plame Affair re-entered the news last August with the publication of Vice President Cheney’s (say it again and savor the way it rolls off the tongue Vice President Cheney, Vice President Cheney) memoir, “In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir.

In his memoir, Vice President Cheney has this to say (by way of Politico):

“Cheney recalls that during the CIA leak investigation, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage stayed silent: “And, it pains me to note, so did his boss, Colin Powell, whom Armitage told he was [Robert] Novak’s source on October 1, 2003. Less than a week later, there was a cabinet meeting. The press came in for a photo opportunity, and there were questions about who had leaked the information that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. The president said he didn’t know, but wanted the truth. Thinking back, I realize that one of the few people in the world who could have told him the truth, Colin Powell, was sitting right next to him.”

There is the Plame Affair in a nutshell.

All Colin Powell had to do to stop the budding scandal is stand up and tell the truth. Whether in private to his boss, President George Bush, or in public is immaterial.

Subsequently, Powell was invited on to Face the Nation to talk about Cheney’s book. This is what he had to say about his role in the Plame Affair:

Then he goes on to talk about the Valerie Plame affair, and tries to lay it all off on Mister Rich Armitage in the State Department and me. But the fact of the matter is when Mister Armitage realized that he was the source for Bob Novak’s column that caused all the difficulty and he called me immediately, two days after the President launched the investigation and what we did was we called the Justice Department. They sent it over the FBI. The FBI had all the information that Mister Armitage’s participation in this immediately. And we called Al Gonzalez, the President’s counsel, and told him that we had information. The FBI asked us not to share any of this with anyone else, as did Mister Gonzalez. And so, if the White House operatives had come forward as readily as Mister Armitage had done, then we wouldn’t have gone on for two more months with the FBI trying to find out what happened in the White House. There wouldn’t have been special counsel appointed by the Justice Department who spent two years trying to get to the bottom of it. And we wouldn’t have the mess that we subsequently had. And so if the White House and the operatives in the White House and Mister Cheney’s staff and elsewhere in the White House had been as forthcoming with the FBI as Mister Armitage was, this problem would not have reached the dimensions that it reached.”

From this point on I’ll borrow heavily from the Washington Post’s housebroken conservative, Jennifer Rubin:

The extent of the dishonesty is quite stunning. In a Cabinet meeting on October 7, 2003, the White House press corps bombarded President George W. Bush with questions about who the leaker was. Bush said he didn’t know, but there would be an investigation to get to the bottom of it. Powell, who had been told by Armitage just days earlier that Armitage was the leaker, sat there next to the president, stone silent. Not very loyal or honest, was it?

Moreover, the notion that Armitage’s slip was somehow inadvertent is belied by Bob Woodward’s taped interview in which Armitage repeatedly mentions Joe Wilson’s wife, evidently doing his best to get Plame’s identity out there. This was no slip of the tongue. Woodward testified that when he spoke to Libby sometime later that Libby never said anything about Plame.

At issue here is not simply Powell and Armitage’s deception and undermining of their commander in chief. There was a victim, one whom neither Powell or Armitage has ever apologized to. The person who ultimately paid the price for this was Scooter Libby. Had the president and the country known about Armitage, a special prosecutor would never have been appointed. Libby was eventually convicted on the basis of a he-said-he-said dispute between his recollection and that of the late Tim Russert. (Charges concerning Libby’s alleged comments to Judy Miller were dismissed, and he was acquitted on the count involving Matt Cooper.) A compelling case for Libby’s innocence can be found in this account by Stan Crock.”

I never had a problem understanding Powell’s discomfiture with the Bush Administration. If Powell was ever an actual Republican, he was of the Nelson Rockefeller variety. He was not up to competing with Donald Rumsfeld for influence, especially in the aftermath of 9/11. He was brought into the administration to give it credibility in foreign policy — and one can hardly recall without pain the image of him appearing with then-candidate George Bush on the campaign trail and looking like he’d rather be having a root canal — and found foreign policy playing the role of horse-holder to two wars. Having said that, he owed a debt of loyalty to the President who appointed him and to the nation. He also owned common courtesy to a fellow human being, Scooter Libby, whose career and reputation he helped destroy to settle some perceived slight. He still owes us all the candor he failed to deliver back in 2003, candor he eschews in his latest self-serving book.

He didn’t and in the process has proven himself to be a petty and inconsequential man.

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