There's no doubt about it: Colin Powell is a great
he showed yet again at the U.N. Security Council last week. On
television, he exudes confidence and authoritative judgment. But Powell
much of his touted credibility to the fact that he's functioning inside
media bubble that protects him from direct challenge.
Powell doesn't face basic questions like these:
You cite Iraq's violations of U.N. Security Council
resolutions to justify the U.S. launching an all-out war. But you're
aware that American allies like Turkey, Israel and Morocco continue to
violate dozens of Security Council resolutions. Why couldn't other
claim the right to militarily "enforce" the Security Council's
against countries that they wish to bomb?
You insist that Iraq is a grave threat to the other
of the Middle East. But, with the exception of Israel, no country in
region has made such a claim or expressed any enthusiasm for a war on
If Iraq is a serious threat to the region, why doesn't the region feel
You say that the Iraqi regime is committed to
Iraq hasn't attacked any country for more than 12 years. And just eight
before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the U.S. envoy to
gave what appeared to be a green light for the invasion when she met
Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi transcript of the meeting quotes Ambassador
Glaspie: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your
dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me
emphasize the instruction ... that Kuwait is not associated with
Mr. Powell, why don't you ever mention such information?
Washington tilted in favor of Iraq during its war with
in the 1980s. Like other U.S. officials, you emphasize that Saddam
"gassed his own people" and used chemical weapons against Iran, but you
don't talk about the intelligence data and other forms of assistance
the United States provided to help Iraq do those things. If the history
Baghdad's evil deeds is relevant, why aren't facts about U.S.
When you warn that the U.N. Security Council "places
in danger of irrelevance" if it fails to endorse a U.S.-led war on
aren't you really proclaiming that the United Nations is "relevant"
the extent that it does what the U.S. government wants?
If Colin Powell faced such questions on a regular basis,
media halo would begin to tarnish. Instead, floating inside a media
he moves from high-level meetings to speeches to news conferences where
tough questions are rare. And when Powell appears as a guest on
media outlets, he doesn't need to worry that he'll encounter
who'll challenge his basic assumptions.
Tacit erasure of inconvenient history -- including his own
integral to the warm relationship between Powell and U.S. news media.
There's a lot to erase. For instance, in January 1986, serving as a top
to Pentagon chief Caspar Weinberger, he supervised the transfer of
missiles to the CIA, and then sought to hide the transaction from
and the public. No wonder: Almost half of those missiles had become
the Iran-Contra scandal's arms-for-hostages deal.
As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell
diligently on behalf of the contra guerrillas who were killing
Nicaragua. In December 1989, Powell -- at that point the head of the
Chiefs of Staff -- was a key player behind the invasion of Panama.
The Gulf War catapulted Powell to the apex of American
stardom in early 1991. When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll
that war, Powell said that such numbers didn't interest him.
At the U.N. last Wednesday, in typical fashion, Powell
himself as an implacable foe of terrorism -- much as he did on Sept.
2001, when he denounced "people who feel that with the destruction of
buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a
purpose." While aptly condemning the despicable hijackers who murdered
thousands of people on that day, Powell was also using words that could
applied to a long line of top officials in Washington. Including
At this point it seems that only a miracle could prevent
Bush administration from going ahead with its plans for a horrific
Iraq, sure to kill many thousands of civilians. The U.S. leaders will
demonstrate their evident belief that -- in Colin Powell's apt words --
"with the destruction of buildings, with the murder of people, they can
somehow achieve a political purpose." To the extent that the media
around them stays airtight, Powell and his colleagues are likely to
To read more, see the Norman Solomon archives.
When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll
the Gulf War, Powell said that such numbers didn't interest him.