Feb. 6, 2003 -- HARTFORD (apj.us) --
Has Colin Powell been taken over by the pod people? Is this Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Sequel to The Sequel?
One can't help but wonder this while watching the retired general in front of the United Nations with his little spools of film and vials of "evidence," his eyes as rheumy and beady and bloodshot as Rumsfeld's or Cheney's.
Has he "gone over"? This is the Secretary of State, mind you, the president's presumed chief diplomat and global peacekeeper. And here he is beating the drums for war, queasily holding his little cannisters the way one holds a stool sample or urine specimen at the doctor's office.
Maybe those initial fears -- which sounded like partisan grumbling at the time of his confirmation hearings -- about handing the job of maintaining peace to a warrior were well-grounded. Maybe what seemed to be marginalized grouses about giving this soldier such a delicate diplomatic duty as the Secretary of State were actually quite justified.
Let us never forget what happened on March 16, 1968, in the village of My Lai in Vietnam, where between 172 and 347 people were systematically executed by American soldiers. All of the victims were unarmed elderly, women and children (some little babies), even while the American press officer filed a release that reported 128 Viet Cong had been killed and 13 suspects had been detained. The reason the numbers of dead above wavered so widely was that, by the time Seymour Hersh did what great American reporters used to feel was their job -- investigate and expose crimes -- the bodies were rotted in their ditches and some remains had been disturbed and dispersed by the continued traumas of war. But it was a massacre, plain and simple.
Colin Powell, then Major Powell, was put in charge of investigating it. Actually, he was told by his commanding officer to handle the matter of a letter that had been sent by one of the soldiers who'd been at My Lai on March 16, and whose conscience was tormented by the experience.
Rather than investigate what the soldier told him, Powell investigated the soldier and concluded, in his report, that only "isolated incidents"had occurred and that "[i]n direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."
The case was closed. Major Powell handled his first diplomatic duty with great aplomb and delicacy. He, of course, has never adequately addressed My Lai to this day and avoids all questions related to it.
So, maybe Colin Powell didn't have his body and soul snatched by Rove's Pod People. Maybe he was like this all along, a conscienceless lackey who would do whatever his commanding officer told him to do. Sure fooled me, though. I thought the guy had some stature and decency. Or maybe Colin has simply cracked under the pressure from these other guys in the Bush Adminstration who have pus and petroleum and bile running through their veins and ducts instead of blood and sweat and tears.
But here he is, America's peacekeeper, begging for war on the world's largest stage, at the world's biggest venue. There is a palpable sense of desperation to Colin Powell now. He is not only becoming the beard for the Boy Who Cried Wolf, he is watching his legacy slowly gurgle down the commode of history, stuffed in with all the other unflushable excrement from the Bush Adminstration.
Partly because I had mistakenly thought Powell was a voice of moderation, I am really feeling desperate now. Nightly my dreams are of incinerated cities with stick-like Giacometti figures lurching through smoldering landscapes, bloated corpses splayed in ditches with vultures pecking at their entrails, ribbons of pink viscera strewn between trees. The other night Nixon's cobwebbed corpse rose from his tomb to do battle with Kim Il Sung. It seemed like comic relief after my dreams about Bush
My letters to my Senators and Congresswoman were, not so long ago, well-reasoned (I thought), unhysterical and bullet-pointed arguments about why so and so should not vote for such and such piece of legislation favored by Bush.
Now my letters are abject pleas that contain sentences like, "My wife and I are terrified of the Bush Adminstration. We are seriously considering taking our 19-month-old son and moving to another country to get out of harm's way. We do not want to be incinerated. Please do something. Anything. The situation is desperate." Or rhetorical questions like, "Honorable Sir, do you wake up in the middle of the night, sit up blinking your eyes in horror, knowing that you gave this fake cowboy and sociopathic ex-governor unlimited power? Do you regret this? If not, what f---ing planet are you living on that my family and I are definitely not living on?"
And there's Colin Powell, the former last great hope of the American people, the guy that poll after poll show is more trusted than any other Bush staffer (in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, he was trusted by 63% of respondents to 24% for Bush), there he is begging, pleading, cajoling for carnage.
Will we ever have another day in this once great nation when we are not being whipped into war frenzy and terrorist fear by even the likes of Colin Powell?
Showdown With Saddam my ass. It's more like Invasion of the Bush
Body Bag Snatchers.
Bisbort is a columnist for the Hartford Advocate. His most recent
book, co-written with Parke Puterbaugh, is California Beaches, the 3rd
edition of which will be published in April by Avalon/Foghorn.