Yesterday, on National Public Radio, Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state in the Bush Administration, talked about how his famous speech to the United Nations about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction came to be (starts around 1:18). In a calm tone devoid of anger, or even regret, Powell recounts how the intelligence community assured him that the “information I had was correct” and then concedes “some of it turned out not to be.” “Some” being the fact that Hussein had WMD when he didn’t. If you listen to this, you wonder why Powell wasn’t highly suspect of the case for war when someone on Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff — Scooter Libby — was given the responsibility for preparing the original document rather than a member of the intelligence community. Powell was certainly aware of how hell-bent Cheney was on taking the country to war in Iraq.
Maybe this will remind us that fame and professional success aren’t honorable in and of themselves. Powell, who grew up on Kelly Street in Hunts Point and was honored by his induction on the Bronx Walk of Fame several years ago, exhibits no remorse or regret in this interview about his speech, even though it helped pave the way for an unethical war that killed 4,477 American service members. He just calmly lays the blame on others.
Bronxites tend to be proud of the famous Powell who rose from humble roots to become the most powerful military officer in the land.
We shouldn’t be.
Powell shouldn’t be lionized in our classrooms or on our boulevards. He, and the immoral war he helped bring about, should be studied and discussed thoroughly and honestly. Simply being influential and powerful shouldn’t be the characteristics by which we determine who to honor, praise and respect. How influence and power are used should be.