Following Orders Is No Excuse
By Paul Craig Roberts
02/07/06 "ICH" -- -- "A hoax on the American people, the
international community, and the United Nations Security
That is how Secretary of State General Colin Powell’s February
2003 Iraq WMD speech to the UN was described last Friday (Feb.
3) on PBS by one who ought to know, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson,
chief of staff to Secretary Powell.
In a February 2005 interview with Barbara Walters on ABC News
"20/20" program, Powell himself declared his UN Iraq speech to
be a blot on his reputation.
Since departing the Bush administration, both Wilkerson and
Powell have made it completely clear that they had serious
doubts about the "evidence" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
and malevolent Iraqi intentions that was loaded by the White
House into Powell’s UN speech, a speech designed by
neoconservatives to initiate the invasion of Iraq. Both Powell
and Wilkerson knew that the "evidence" was greatly overstated if
not an outright fabrication.
What if Secretary Powell had shared his doubts with the UN? What
if instead of reading the Speech of Lies Powell had addressed
the UN as follows:
"As a loyal soldier following orders I came here today intending
to deliver the Bush administration’s evidence against Saddam
Hussein. Now that I am standing here before you, I find myself
caught in conflict between following orders and doing the right
thing. I should have resolved this conflict before I arrived. I
do so now by delivering the speech to you in its written form –
here it is – but I refuse to deliver it out of my mouth. I
cannot participate in an act of deception against the United
Nations Security Council, the international community, and the
American people. I have no confidence in the evidence in the
speech. Under the Nuremberg Standard established by the United
States in the trials of Nazi war criminals, following orders is
no excuse. I will not participate in the war crime of naked
aggression against another state. I hereby resign as Secretary
of State of the United States."
Powell would have saved the world from a strategic blunder, the
disastrous consequences of which are only beginning to unfold.
The maelstrom set in motion by the treachery of the
neoconservatives, people who Powell has described as "crazy,"
has already cost tens of thousands of dead and wounded and
hundreds of billions of dollars, destroyed America’s reputation,
and radicalized Middle East politics.
If Powell had refused three years ago to deliver the Speech of
Lies, we would not now be watching an identical duplicity being
rolled out against Iran. The ultimate cost of the deception
being practiced on the American people will dwarf the terrible
price that has already been paid.
Why didn’t Powell do the right thing? His own reputation would
have been forever secure as a man of integrity. Why did he
sacrifice his integrity to the crooked scheme of his commander
Alas, that is the way our generals are bred. In the politicized
US military, no officer can advance beyond the rank of Lt. Col.
unless he toes the political line. The game is played to advance
in rank as high as possible, collect the pension, and be
rewarded for compliant behavior with consultancies. Real
leadership means making waves, and that is not tolerated.
Even in rare instances of a real man, concerned with the honor
of his country and the safety of his troops, reaching the top,
he is powerless to prevent disastrous mistakes of the ignorant
civilian authorities. Consider the fate of US Army Chief of
Staff General Eric Shinseki, who correctly informed Secretary of
Defense Rumsfeld that the US invasion force was not sufficiently
numerous to successfully occupy and subdue Iraq once the pitched
battles were over. Shinseki was fired for telling the truth – as
was Secretary of the Army Thomas White, Lt. Gen. John Riggs, and
four-star general Kevin P. Byrnes. Riggs was framed, demoted,
and retired for saying that the US army was overstretched in
Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops. Byrnes, who was in
charge of Army training, was framed on adultery charges for
objecting to bottom of the barrel recruitment policies that
accepted criminals and immigrants with a lack of English
proficiency. Nothing like having an army that can’t understand
The only way a military can constrain their civilian masters
from cooking up a war is to resign in mass. If every general and
colonel had resigned, there would have been no invasion of Iraq.
But this would require a military with leadership and a
tradition of sticking together. A military in which promotion is
the highest virtue is powerless to prevent disastrous mistakes,
such as the invasion of Iraq.
The Bush administration went to war on the basis of its fantasy
that if merely a few US troops marched into Iraq, the regime
would collapse and the population would welcome Americans as
liberators with flowers and kisses. It was to be a "cakewalk
No general officer in the US military believed that. Yet few
spoke out (Marine General Anthony Zinni was a notable
exception). The entire US military command could only produce a
handful of men to warn of the looming catastrophe. Who can
forget the orchestrated media dismissals of "over-cautious
generals" that greeted these few? The reason Colin Powell
disgraced himself is that he could not free himself of the
conditioning that breeds success in the US military.
Who today will stand up to stop the potential Armageddon of a US
attack on Iran?
Dr. Roberts [send
is Chairman of the Institute for Political Economy and Research
Fellow at the
Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the
Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for
National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S.
Treasury. He is the co-author of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions.
Copyright © 2006 Creators Syndicate
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