Cheney ' Cabal'
hijacked foreign policy
By Edward Alden in Washington
10/20/05 "FT" -- -- Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of
others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus,
deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US
weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former
Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.
In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush,
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until
last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the
vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the
secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that
made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being
“Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in
secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the
Mr Wilkerson said such secret decision-making was responsible
for mistakes such as the long refusal to engage with North Korea
or to back European efforts on Iran.
It also resulted in bitter battles in the administration among
those excluded from the decisions.
“If you're not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the
bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting
disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq,
in North Korea, in Iran.”
The comments, made at the New America Foundation, a Washington
think-tank, were the harshest attack on the administration by a
former senior official since criticisms by Richard Clarke,
former White House terrorism czar, and Paul O'Neill, former
Treasury secretary, early last year.
Mr Wilkerson said his decision to go public had led to a
personal falling out with Mr Powell, whom he served for 16 years
at the Pentagon and the State Department.
“He's not happy with my speaking out because, and I admire this
in him, he is the world's most loyal soldier."
Among his other charges:
■ The detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was “a concrete
example” of the decision-making problem, with the president and
other top officials in effect giving the green light to soldiers
to abuse detainees. “You don't have this kind of pervasive
attitude out there unless you've condoned it.”
■ Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and now
secretary of state, was “part of the problem”. Instead of
ensuring that Mr Bush received the best possible advice, “she
would side with the president to build her intimacy with the
■ The military, particularly the army and marine corps, is
overstretched and demoralised. Officers, Mr Wilkerson claimed,
“start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam. . . and
all of a sudden your military begins to unravel”.
Mr Wilkerson said former president George H.W. Bush “one of the
finest presidents we have ever had” understood how to make
foreign policy work. In contrast, he said, his son was “not
versed in international relations and not too much interested in
“There's a vast difference between the way George H.W. Bush
dealt with major challenges, some of the greatest challenges at
the end of the 20th century, and effected positive results in my
view, and the way we conduct diplomacy today.”
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